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Snacks by Melissa Ballard
APR
7
2016

FUNDING
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Help your students join science competitions through a new grant opportunity!

By Melissa Ballard

Conducting authentic science research is a wonderful opportunity for students to learn the true nature of science and experience the thrill of discovery. By entering science research competitions, students gain additional skills such as learning how to present their work to peers, scientists, and the public. Unfortunately, applying to and participating in science competitions can be intimidating and challenging for many students, especially for those underrepresented in STEM fields.

To address this challenge, the Society for Science & the Public (SSP) developed the Society Advocates Grant, which provides a $3,000 stipend to an individual, such as an afterschool educator or community mentor, who will serve as an advocate for 3-5 underrepresented students, helping them transition from conducting a scientific research project to completing applications for scientific competitions. No prior experience is required for students—it can be their very first time completing a science experiment for competition!

Advocates support their students by informing them about potential competitions, prompting them on deadlines, and supporting them through the process of gathering and producing the required elements of an application. SSP will provide advocates with information on major science competitions, as well as regional and local fairs. SSP will also host a convening event to help grantees become more comfortable with the process (all expenses paid).

The grant is open to anyone who is interested in applying. Applications are due April 13th, 6 p.m. EST.

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learn more about: Funding Opportunity Science
DEC
18
2015

STEM
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The latest in STEM learning research: December 2015

By Melissa Ballard

In our final round-up of research briefs for 2015 from the Relating Research to Practice (RR2P) project, we’ve got new research on developing students’ critical eye toward media, helping students address their fears about science, and using science infographics in the classroom. There are also two policy-related briefs from the Afterschool Alliance—one on the pathways STEM workers take to reach their current careers, and another on how state science standards address engineering.

Get more frequent updates by following the RR2P project on Twitter and Facebook

Reading between the lines

Developing the ability to read and critically assess science-themed media reports is of great importance, given the media’s pervasive and powerful influence on people’s beliefs and behaviors. This Oliveras, Márquez, and Sanmartí study examines a technique designed to develop high school students’ critical reading abilities. Findings suggest a progression from blind belief toward the ability to draw conclusions based on scientific information.

KEYWORDS:  Argumentation, Scientific practice, Scientific reasoning

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learn more about: Science
DEC
14
2015

STEM
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Where to go next with coding: A new resource guide

By Melissa Ballard

As Computer Science Education Week ended on Sunday, we know many of you participated in the Hour of Code, giving your students a fun and easy introduction to computer science. Thinking about what your next steps should be? Check out our new resource guide for computing!

The guide includes curricula, professional development resources, and some background reading. While there’s lots of resources on computer science and coding out there, we put together a curated list just for afterschool educators.

We’ll continue to do more around computing in 2016, so be sure to visit our computing webpage: www.afterschoolalliance.org/STEM_computing.cfm

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learn more about: Science Academic Enrichment
DEC
10
2015

STEM
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Guest blog: Hands-on STEM, all month long!

By Melissa Ballard

Written by Katelyn Wamsted, Director of Programs at Girlstart in Austin, TX. Girlstart provides year-round programming for girls and families including afterschool, summer camps, a yearly “Girls in STEM” conference, and community STEM events to get girls interested in STEM at an early age.

Throughout the month of December, Girlstart hosts DeSTEMber: 31 days of STEM fun! DeSTEMber highlights various STEM-related topics through hands-on activities, photos, and videos as part of a month-long program to drive awareness for STEM, showing kids that “STEM is everywhere”.

One of my favorite activities so far is Human Battleship. Fun, hands-on math activities can be hard to come by, but through creating a life-size version of Battleship, students learn about coordinate geometry and practice their spatial thinking skills.

New activities and full lesson plans posted every week at www.destember.org! You can also follow Girlstart on any of our various media channels to stay up-to-date.

Girlstart's mission is to increase girls’ interest and engagement in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through innovative, nationally-recognized informal STEM education programs. We cultivate a culture where risk is rewarded, curiosity is encouraged, and creativity is expected. As a result, Girlstart girls are connected, brave, and resilient. Girlstart makes girls more successful, and inspires them to take on the world’s greatest challenges.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Science Academic Enrichment
OCT
12
2015

STEM
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Guest blog: Reimagining the relationship between research + practice in afterschool

By Melissa Ballard

By Bronwyn Bevan and Michelle Choi.

Bronwyn Bevan is Director of the Exploratorium’s Institute for Research and Learning. She served on the National Research Council's Committee on STEM Learning in Out-of-School Time and is widely published on issues relating to STEM in afterschool.

Michelle Choi is the Project Director for the Research + Practice Collaboratory at the Exploratorium. Her professional interests focus on designing collaborative and creative learning experiences for in and out-of -school settings.

When was the last time you read a paper or column called “What Practice Says?” In the afterschool world, though the depth and breadth of research is growing, we often retain a silver bullet rhetoric that positions research as having the answers and practice as having the questions.

But is that your experience?

There’s both common experience and actual research showing that research results frequently don’t stick and even more frequently don’t scale. At the Research + Practice Collaboratory we believe this is because research designs often fail to formally take into account the knowledge and practical realities of educators not only in the design and implementation of the studies, but also in the very framing of the research questions.

Although the field frequently looks to research to justify or prove the efficacy of our programs, in fact research is about knowledge production – it’s intended to develop insights into problems, solutions, and strategies. As research demands and activities continue to grow in afterschool, it’s worth considering how you or your organization might participate in partnerships that could produce results that you could use to strengthen your programs. 

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learn more about: Guest Blog Science
OCT
7
2015

STEM
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The Hour of Code is coming: Mark your calendars for December 7-13, 2015!

By Melissa Ballard

We know you’re right in the middle of planning an awesome Lights On Afterschool event, but don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 2015 Hour of Code, December 7-13!

The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics. Kids of all ages—from elementary to high school—choose from several tutorials to make a video game, animation, and more!

Sign up to host an Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 7-13) at hourofcode.com.

Supports for afterschool educators

This year, Code.org developed a brand-new guide especially for afterschool educators.

  • Need more guidance? Download this template lesson plan.
  • Want more teaching ideas? Here are some best practices from experienced educators.
  • Join us on Nov. 11 at 1PM ET for a special webinar with experts from Code.org!

Prizes for every host site

Every participating afterschool host will receive a thank-you gift. Sign up now to hear first about more prizes and new Hour of Code tutorials coming soon — some of the most exciting to date!

100,000 classrooms

Our friends at Code.org want to reach 100,000 Hour of Code events around the world in December. We know that afterschool engages millions of kids in STEM learning: be one of the organizers who proves anybody can learn, and every young person deserves to learn how to build technology that will impact everything in their futures.

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Science
AUG
20
2015

STEM
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The latest in STEM learning research: August 2015

By Melissa Ballard

This month’s new batch of research briefs from the Relating Research to Practice (RR2P) project includes a diverse set of topics: how afterschool educators inserted science into girls’ discussions of relationships and friendships; why leveraging learning across school and out-of-school settings is important for equity; and how conversations between students and STEM professionals enhance middle-schoolers’ understanding of math.

RR2P also released a new Connected Collection, which is a group of briefs around a hot topic in science education. This collection, “Identity and Interest Development,” helps practitioners think about how to authentically engage youth in science learning and maintain their interest long-term.

Don’t miss next week’s webinar, “Digging into Research: Interest and Identity in STEM,” on Thursday, August 27 at 2p.m. EDT. We’ll be joined by researchers Phillip Bell of the University of Washington and Deborah Fields from Utah State University. Register here.

For more updates, follow the RR2P project on Twitter and Facebook

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learn more about: Science
JUL
29
2015

STEM
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Tell us your thoughts on computer science in afterschool!

By Melissa Ballard

We need your help to better understand what the afterschool field thinks about computing and computer science education. Don’t know what those terms mean? That’s okay! We are looking for a range of practitioners to respond to this survey—from those with no familiarity, all the way to those who would consider themselves experts!

Because we value your time and expertise, we’re giving away some prizes! Complete the survey before August 7 to be in the running for a brand-new iPad Air. If completed before the final deadline of August 14, you will be entered to win a $100 Amazon gift card.

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learn more about: Science