This week, 20 youth finalist teams will meet at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, for the Conrad Foundation’s 2013 Innovation Summit. Teams will present their designs of a “global innovation product” developed for the Spirit of Innovation Challenge to a panel of scientists, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and government officials. Challenged to create commercially viable products to address issues of global sustainability, teams applied their STEM knowledge in innovative ways, developing products for one of four categories—Aerospace and Aviation; Cybertechnology and Security; Energy and Environment; and Health and Nutrition. These young entrepreneurs will undergo a tough evaluation on technical content and market viability from an expert panel, and the winning team in each category will receive a $10,000 grant to continue their product development.
I spoke with one of the teams, Chicks in Space, a subset of the Neighborhood After School Science Association (NASSA) from Ava, NY. MaryAnn, Lillith and Adia—ages 17, 14 and 12, respectively—are among the 5 teams competing in the Aerospace and Aviation category. Their product, the Garden of ETON (Extraterrestrial Organic Nutrition), provides a way for astronauts weary of dehydrated foods to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Through a series of experiments on plant growth in microgravity conditions, Chicks in Space developed a hydroponic gardening system that can be used in space! Their original submission video, below, follows the research and development process of the Garden of ETON.
The Afterschool Alliance and the Noyce Foundation are excited to announce the new Afterschool STEM Impact Awards! Two $10,000 awards will be awarded to exemplary afterschool programs offering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to students in grades 4 through 8.
As afterschool STEM programming grows around the nation, we want to recognize programs that are clearly demonstrating their impact on participants. Such programs highlight the power of afterschool programs as key partners in STEM education reform and can also serve as best-practice models.
In addition to the cash award, winners and other notable applicants will be promoted nationally through a variety of opportunities—they will be featured in a special series of Afterschool Alliance issue briefs, invited to participate in webinars, co-present at national and state conferences, and generally highlighted as model programs.
- Afterschool programs that are a strong partnership between an afterschool provider and a STEM-rich institution(s), which include science centers or museums, nature centers, universities, government labs, STEM-related businesses, or other similar institutions. Programs may focus on any STEM topic.
- Afterschool programs that have a strong computing and/or engineering component. Computing is not about learning how to use technology—it’s acquiring the skills and knowledge required to create technology. For the purposes of this contest, computing includes but is not limited to coding, programming mobile apps, and software or hardware design. Engineering programs should be rooted in the engineering design process, and students should be developing and building a solution to a problem.
Additional details are available on the award website, along with a link to the online application. Applications are due by May 15, 2013.
Know an afterschool program that’s perfect for this award? Share this opportunity with your colleagues and friends. We can’t wait to hear about the fantastic STEM programs across the nation and the impact that they’re having on kids!
Regular followers of the Afterschool Alliance will have heard about our recent report, “Defining Youth Outcomes for STEM Learning in Afterschool,” which asked experienced afterschool providers and supporters to identify appropriate and feasible outcomes for afterschool STEM learning. The report also provides a framework to map how afterschool programs contribute to larger STEM education goals. Read our blog post for a quick overview of the report.
The Museum of Science in Boston also recently released a report describing the evaluation process of Engineering Adventures, a research-based engineering curriculum for third through fifth graders especially designed for out-of-school-time environments. Jonathan Hertel, Research and Evaluation Associate for Engineering is Elementary, writes about the learning outcomes they observed during the curriculum evaluation and the research team’s efforts to develop an assessment tool to capture those outcomes.
Engineering Adventures (EA) is an engineering curriculum created especially for out-of-school-time (OST) programs. In EA, children are introduced to the engineering design process as they ask questions, imagine, plan, create and improve solutions to real-world problems. More than a decade ago, the Engineering is Elementary team at the Museum of Science, Boston, began creating engineering curricula for use in elementary school classrooms. Recognizing that OST provides a different, but important and compelling opportunity to present engineering challenges, the team began development of the EA program in 2010.
Members of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) were recently surveyed about afterschool programs in their schools, their involvement with the programs, and views on the role of afterschool science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning. The survey results indicate that school-day staff are highly involved in afterschool STEM and clearly believe the afterschool space can support students’ learning within school hours.
Close to 8 in 10 survey respondents identified as educators; the remaining worked as administrators (6%) or played other professional roles (15%). Respondents taught multiple subjects in their schools; most teach science (93%), and smaller numbers teach math (26%), technology (19%) and engineering (15%).
Approximately three-fourths of respondents have an afterschool program at their school, and 78% of those include a STEM component. Of those respondents in schools who don't have afterschool STEM offerings, more than 9 in 10 believe they should.
For the subset of respondents whose schools have STEM afterschool programs, the programs are largely run by the school itself (68%). Other common providers are community organizations such as 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, or Girls Inc. (15%); for-profit organizations (14%); universities or colleges (11%); and informal science education organizations like science centers or zoos (11%).
About 8 in 10 respondents participate in their school’s afterschool STEM programs. Of these, 85.1% are lead teachers and 14.9% are assistant instructors. Assistant instructors co-teach with other STEM teachers, community and parent volunteers, and local STEM professionals. Others who are not teaching or assisting in the classroom sometimes serve in a leadership role, such as a director or coordinator, and may also be involved in content development and instructor training.
We are kicking off the New Year with a new feature on our Afterschool Storybook—profiles of STEM afterschool programs. Examples and models of successful programs are often requested by the STEM afterschool field. The Afterschool Storybook tells the stories of people and communities transformed by afterschool programs as well as the staff, volunteers and participants who believe in the importance of out-of-school time. We hope that by providing profiles of high-quality afterschool STEM programs, we can offer the field a valuable resource. The STEM in Afterschool page features STEM-specific entries that can be sorted by program profiles, participants and professionals volunteering in afterschool programs.
Our first profile is from Girlstart in Austin, TX, an organization known for providing robust, award-winning out-of-school time programs for girls. The goal of each profile is to highlight the unique features of the program. Girlstart, for example, has a unique partnership to staff their programs with talented leaders and offer wrap-around services to engage parents. Profiles also report evaluation data and outcomes, and the funding sources behind these successful programs. Staff members personally answer questions about challenges the program has faced and offer advice for success.
Every month we’ll add a new program profile, so make sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest updates. We look to add programs that have a demonstrated history of success and a unique approach to providing STEM education in their communities. If you know of a high-quality afterschool STEM program with the potential to be featured in the Afterschool Storybook, please contact Melissa Ballard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Wednesday the Afterschool Alliance hosted a webinar, the “STEM in Afterschool Virtual Tour,” to introduce our organization’s work in STEM afterschool and the resources we have available online. Our work falls into three main “bins”—field-building, policy and advocacy, and research—and we discussed our current and upcoming initiatives within those. We wrapped up the webinar with a Q&A session with our Director of STEM Policy Anita Krishnamurthi.
Webinar participants were very interested in our recently released STEM Funding Guide and our collection of high quality assessment tools and curriculum resources. We also introduced two new projects the Afterschool Alliance has been working on. The first is Relating Research to Practice, an NSF-funded project in partnership with the Exploratorium, Kings College London and the University of Washington. On the project website, you can tap into the growing body of research on teaching and learning in education. A searchable collection of research briefs translate peer-reviewed research into plain English and provide insight as to how these studies can inform the practice of professionals in informal science environments such as afterschool. In January, the website will be re-designed and re-launched with new briefs continuously added.
The second exciting project we discussed is our new report, “Youth Outcomes for STEM Learning in Afterschool.” It is often asked what afterschool can deliver for STEM learning and what outcomes and goals we can point to. We believed that this was a conversation that needed to be had with the field so that they could have a say in what goals are appropriate and realistic. We hope that this study of expert practitioners and stakeholders will provide a framework and common language to determine the appropriate niche for afterschool within broader STEM education initiatives. The report will be officially released on January 23 at an event in Washington, D.C. You can look for more information from the Afterschool Alliance on this in the upcoming weeks.
Visit our webinar archives page to view a full recording of the webinar, the presenters’ slides and a list of participants’ questions Anita answered. If you missed last week’s webinar, “Feeding America’s Children After School,” those same resources are available on the archives page and you can read a summary here.
Results are in for the third year of the Investing in Innovation (i3) competition! The Department of Education announced its 20 highest-rated applications with projects addressing key issues in education. There were 844 applications submitted in three different grant categories:
- Scale-up grants of up to $25 million are awarded to programs that demonstrate the capacity to scale-up to the national, regional or state level
- Validation grants of up to $15 million are awarded to programs that could be scaled to a regional or state level
- Development grants of up to $3 million are intended to support less-established programs with a high potential of scalability
To actually receive the i3 grant money, applicants must find matching funds from the private sector before Dec. 7, 2012. For Validation awards, the applicant must match 10 percent and for Development awards, the amount required is 5 percent. In FY2012, the Department of Education chose not to select any Scale-up applications to allow for a higher number of Validation and Development applications.
Applicants chose 1 of 6 categories—or “Absolute Priorities”— to define the core strategies of the project. Examples include effective teachers or principals, high quality standards and assessments, and STEM. Additionally, applicants could select “Competitive Preference Priorities”—such as technology and early learning— to gain additional points toward their final review score. This round, there were five projects among the 20 highest-rated that identified “Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education” as their priority. One project identified rural education as a priority, but was also STEM-focused.
One of the selected grantees, the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, NV, proposed a multi-strategy initiative to engage their students in STEM education throughout middle school and high school. Notably, their plan includes out-of-school time (OST) experiences as an integral component to improving student performance and interest in STEM.
Jon W. Dudas is president of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a not-for-profit organization that inspires an appreciation of science and technology in young people. FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. With support from three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and nearly $16 million available in college scholarships, FIRST hosts four robotics programs for students K – 12 and the annual FIRST Championship. For more information, visit www.usfirst.org.
I can remember when afterschool activities meant meeting the neighborhood kids for a game of kick ball in the street or at the local playground. Most of us stayed outside until our parents called us in for dinner. However, in today’s fast-paced society with many parents working outside the home—and even more negative influences preying upon our children—kickball and playgrounds no longer suffice. Parents are looking for more structure to keep their kids safe, to inspire learning, and to ignite new passions and interests. Parents want to get (and keep) their kids on the right path, and they need structured and engaging afterschool programs to achieve this. Unfortunately, the need for such solutions outpaces the supply. In communities nationwide, 15 million children are alone or unsupervised after school.