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Snacks by Melissa Ballard
JAN
23

STEM
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The latest in STEM learning research: January 2015

By Melissa Ballard

Interested in what current research in education is saying about STEM learning?  Don’t have time to keep up with it all?  We hear you!

We’ve been a part of the Relating Research to Practice project for a while now, and we think it’s a fantastic resource.  Along with a group of researchers from the Exploratorium, the University of Washington and Kings College London, we monitor more than 10 peer-reviewed journals in science education, museum studies and the learning sciences.

Then, we write short briefs intended for educators who work in afterschool and summer programs, at science centers and museums, and in other out-of-school time settings.  The briefs are written with the interests, needs, and institutional settings of these educators in mind, with the hope that they'll be used to inform professional development, discussion, reflection and practice.

So whether you’re interested in equity, identity or environmental education—there’s something for you!

Want to get the monthly updates in your inbox? Register on the RR2P website and elect to receive the monthly digests.  And be sure to follow the RR2P project on Twitter and Facebook!

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learn more about: Science
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JAN
20

STEM
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Guest blog: Student and families coding & making together

By Melissa Ballard

Ricarose Roque is a PhD candidate with the Lifelong Kindergarten research group at the MIT Media Lab.  She leads the Family Creative Learning project, a program that engages whole families to learn together with creative technologies.  She is also a member of the MIT Scratch Team, which designs and develops the Scratch programming language and online community for kids.  Previously, she helped to coordinate the Project GUTS afterschool program in Chicago, IL and worked on other educational technology projects such as StarLogo TNG, a programming and simulation environment for kids. 

With our rapidly changing world, how can we engage our youth and our communities as creators and inventors to shape an increasingly digital society?  I believe that engaging whole families in creative learning experiences with technology can build a necessary network of support as youth participate and pursue their interests in an ever-changing landscape.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Science
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JAN
13

STEM
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Successful science center partnerships for Lights On Afterschool

By Melissa Ballard

This past October, 20 science centers and afterschool programs across the U.S. partnered up to co-host a STEM-themed Lights On Afterschool event in their community. Most partners had previously been interested in working together, but hadn’t yet found the right opportunity to do so. We worked with the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) to offer a $1,500 mini-grant that would allow each science center-afterschool pair to make the first steps in what we hoped to be a continuing partnership.

After hearing back from all the grantees, we’re happy to report that the initiative saw many successes! An average of 190 children and 50 adults attended each event, participating in a variety of hands-on science, engineering, and “maker”-style activities. Science center and afterschool partners were able to learn more about each other’s work and find common ground. Many of the Statewide Afterschool Networks and city intermediaries lent a hand, inviting local policy makers and other VIP’s.

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learn more about: Competition Events and Briefings Science State Networks Academic Enrichment Community Partners
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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

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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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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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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