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Snacks by Melissa Ballard
DEC
18

STEM
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Guest blog: New insights for improving afterschool science

By Melissa Ballard

Dr. Ann House is a researcher and evaluator who works on projects that explore innovative schools, science and STEM education, and out-of-school learning settings. She is based at SRI International’s Center for Technology in Learning, a nonprofit, independent research organization. Currently, Dr. House is leading the “Afterschool Science Networks Study” which explores the state of science offerings and the external sources of support for science in California’s public afterschool programs.

How can students keep learning science when the school day ends? Afterschool programs are a natural fit for hands-on science and the development of inquiry skills, like posing questions, designing scientific investigations, and creating explanations based on observations. Afterschool programs have the potential to boost students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

To understand the support networks underlying current afterschool science offerings, SRI conducted a five-year study funded by the National Science Foundation to examine the state of science learning opportunities in California’s After School and Education Safety (ASES) program.

 

 

 

 

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learn more about: Guest Blog Science State Policy Community Partners
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DEC
8

STEM
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Celebrate computer science education week with the "Hour of Code"

By Melissa Ballard

We live in a world surrounded by technology.  And we know that whatever field our students choose to go into as adults, their ability to succeed will increasingly hinge on understanding how technology works.  Computer science is foundational for all students today—it’s about teaching students to create technology, not just how to use it.  Yet 90% of schools don’t teach it.  Let’s change that!

This week, Dec. 8-12, is Computer Science Education week.  Afterschool programs can play a huge role in introducing students to computer science. 

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learn more about: Digital Learning Science
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AUG
4

LIGHTS ON
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Grant opportunity to partner with a science center

By Melissa Ballard

You probably already know how important partnerships are to offering quality STEM programming in your afterschool program. To help you start identifying and reaching out to potential partners, we’ve also started a new partnership—with the Association of Science–Technology Centers (ASTC)! Together, we’re offering 20 minigrants of $1,500 each to science centers to host a Lights On Afterschool event in partnership with an afterschool provider.

IMPORTANT: Applications must be submitted by a science center or museum, and they must be an ASTC-member institution located in the U.S.

This is a great opportunity to start a relationship with your local science center or museum, and to let them know about all of the great ways that they can partner with your afterschool program to facilitate quality STEM learning outside of the school day.

Read the Request for Applications and FAQ’s for more information.

We will hold an informational webinar this Wednesday, Aug. 6 at 1:30 p.m. ET. You and/or your partner science center should attend for the inside scoop!

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Funding Opportunity Science Community Partners
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AUG
4

STEM
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Guest blog: Help develop evaluation tools for STEM out-of-school-time programs!

By Melissa Ballard

This post was written by Amy Grack Nelson, an evaluator and researcher in the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Department of Evaluation and Research in Learning. 

 

 

 

Teamwork and collaboration are essential 21st century skills and becoming increasingly vital to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Afterschool programs are important environments for youth from diverse backgrounds to develop the teamwork and collaboration skills they need to enter and prosper in the STEM workforce. To help evaluators and practitioners evaluate the development of these skills, the University of Minnesota and the Science Museum of Minnesota are conducting research to develop surveys to measure teamwork and collaboration skills in STEM out-of-school-time (OST) programs. Both institutions have a long history in their commitment to STEM and afterschool education and will be working closely with STEM OST programs throughout the research process to ensure the final surveys are useful and relevant to the needs of a broad range of programs.

Before we can create surveys to evaluate these skills, we need to understand how STEM OST programs define teamwork and collaboration and how they are teaching these skills. We are inviting STEM OST educators to participate in an interview with a member of our research team about the teamwork and collaboration skills addressed in their program.  The interviews will last up to an hour and will take place over the phone. Educators will receive a $25 VISA pre-loaded card in appreciation for their time.  

We are looking for educators from a wide range of STEM OST programs that reach middle and high school youth. If you are interested in participating in this research, please fill out an interest form. We’ll then choose a sample of educators from those that express interest to help ensure we talk to a diversity of STEM OST programs.  Please fill out an interest form by Friday, Aug. 15.

If you have any questions about the study, please contact Amy Grack Nelson, Senior Evaluation & Research Associate at the Science Museum of Minnesota at 651-221-4575 or agnelson@smm.org.  

Thank you in advance for your help!

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learn more about: Evaluations Guest Blog Science Community Partners
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JUL
7

STEM
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New paper: What are the impacts of afterschool STEM?

By Melissa Ballard

Today, many afterschool and summer programs include science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as a standard part of their comprehensive programming.  Afterschool providers recognize the importance of improved STEM education for their students and that hands-on, inquiry-driven STEM is in line with afterschool’s overall approach to education.  Practitioners are able to directly see the impact afterschool STEM programs have on students—they see youth engaged in and excited about STEM activities, asking questions, and wanting to learn more.  However, funders, policy makers and other stakeholders often want data that substantiates such claims and demonstrates positive changes in a variety of outcomes: interest and engagement in science, greater knowledge of STEM careers, election of school science classes, and, sometimes, improved test scores in science and math.

In this new paper, “Examining the impact of afterschool STEM programs,” we overview some of the recent research findings about the importance of afterschool and other out-of-school time experiences for STEM learning.  We then summarize evaluation data from a selection of strong afterschool STEM programs and describe the types of substantive impacts these programs are having on participating youth.  Several themes emerged in our analysis:

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learn more about: Evaluations Science
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JUN
30

STEM
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State university in Michigan receives $5 million endowment for summer STEM camps

By Melissa Ballard

On the heels of National Summer Learning Day, there’s great news for kids in Michigan.  Starting next year, Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) will host summer STEM camps for middle and high school students, thanks to a gift from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.  The foundation awarded the university a $5 million endowment to establish the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow STEM Scholar Network, which will support SVSU’s summer camps, as well as sponsor undergraduate research projects.  The four-week, 160-hour middle school camp will reach 60 students and target those who are struggling academically. SVSU will also host three 80-hour high school camps reaching 36 students, with the goal to encourage more to pursue college degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.  SVSU students and school staff will serve as mentors in the summer camp, a model based on a 2012 pilot program at a local middle school.

Afterschool and summer STEM programs engage and excite kids with real-world, hands-on learning, giving them opportunities to think about the STEM fields in new ways.  Not only will SVSU’s summer camps help students avoid losing skills they’ve gained during the school year, but they will also help build interest and new capabilities in STEM.  We hope to hear great things from this initiative!

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learn more about: Science Summer Learning Community Partners
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JUN
11

CHALLENGE
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Youth advocates hone their skills at the Afterschool for All Challenge

By Melissa Ballard

We welcomed more than 30 youth from across the country to this year’s Afterschool for All Challenge. Half came from science center afterschool programs, thanks to our partnership with the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC). Youth from this year’s MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Award-winning programs also attended. These young advocates visited Congressional offices along with their state teams and shared personal stories of how afterschool has impacted their lives. But before they got started, we helped prepare them in an intensive workshop.

The workshop started with the students brainstorming ideas about what advocacy is and how it’s done. The group focused in on one aspect of advocacy—that it gave voice to those that don’t have one—thinking about other kids in their home communities. Then, we discussed what kinds of "asks" state teams would make and how advocacy through Capitol Hill visits fits into the legislative process (and of course, we had to show the classic School House Rock video).

To prepare for their turn to speak in the next day’s Capitol Hill meetings, we spent time crafting and practicing talking points. The task was to come up with a short, succinct way to describe what they did in their afterschool programs; why it mattered to them; and to concretely describe the effect participation has had on their interests, behaviors, knowledge and skills. Our last task for the workshop was to translate these talking points into a memorable document to leave behind with Congressional staff after the meetings. Check out all the youth’s handouts in America’s Afterschool Storybook.

Feedback from both the youth and their adult leaders was overwhelmingly positive. Leaders reported that the youth’s compelling personal stories were a great impact at each office they visited. ASTC is currently working on a video capturing the reactions of the science center youth—we’ll post that next week. We’re looking forward to an even bigger and better Afterschool for All Challenge in 2015!

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learn more about: Advocacy Afterschool Voices Congress Events and Briefings Inside the Afterschool Alliance MetLife Innovator Awards Youth Development
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JUN
4

STEM
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Afterschool programs exhibit at the White House Science Fair

By Melissa Ballard

Last week, the White House Science Fair hosted more than 100 students from across the U.S. to showcase their inventions and projects. Students, either individually or in teams, had won a variety of national and regional competitions in everything from rocketry, robotics and electric vehicles. Two of these teams represented afterschool programs! Pres. Obama toured the fair, meeting all of the students, and then announced new components of the Educate to Innovate initiative, including an expansion of the STEM AmeriCorps program and a national STEM mentoring effort. 

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Obama Robotics
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