Summer travel season has started in earnest for me! I was honored to be invited to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago a couple of weeks ago and then in the National Research Council’sSummit on Assessment of Informal and Afterschool Science Learning. They were both very interesting meetings—and very different from each other!
The Clinton Global Initiative America (CGIA) is the domestic version of the Clinton Global Initiative, which addresses global issues. CGIA aims to solve problems in the United States as a big-vision conference where people come up with solutions to a set of identified problems—the tag-line for the conference is, in fact, “Turning Ideas into Action.” Participants are encouraged to form partnerships, find funders and define “commitments” at or after these meetings. Take a look at examples of previous commitments
The conference was split into large keynote discussions and smaller working group meetings
. The plenary panels were truly amazing; they pulled together an incredible group of people
to participate in these panels! Bill Clinton was there of course (as good a speaker as he always is!), as were several mayors and governors, presidents and CEOs of companies and philanthropic organizations, media folks, as well as scientists and engineers like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and former Director of DARPA, Regina Dugan. I had never seen Regina Dugan in action before, she was very inspiring as she described her role leading one of the most innovative research labs in the country (a plane that can fly at Mach 20 and go from New York to LA in 12 minutes!). Both Tyson and Dugan highlighted the role of inspiration in motivating an engagement in STEM, something we know about in afterschool! The major focus in these panels was on getting people back to work and spurring innovation. Lots of energetic, smart people working on solutions; it gave me hope that there are still many people out there actually doing good things in the midst of gridlock in Congress.
For the working groups, the 900+ participants had to choose from a range of topics
that spanned a variety of sectors including STEM Education
, which had a major emphasis on out-of-school-time (OST) learning spaces. The STEM education working group was the largest working group, and within this group the OST groups drew the largest participation. It was very encouraging to see the interest in OST spaces for STEM education and in a way, this was the biggest win. Conversations about STEM education are increasingly harder to have without including OST and afterschool. We still have a long way to go but we have definitely made inroads! We are now working on some commitment ideas and we’ll see where it goes.
The “Expert Summit” hosted by the National Research Council was a whole different ballgame. It was a small group, with just over 50 people representing the informal science education and afterschool fields along with academic researchers and assessment experts. The goal of this meeting was to see if we could drive toward a set of common assessment tools for science learning that happens outside of school. It was a very stimulating set of discussions and I was very excited to hear about all the work that is already happening in this arena. I came away thinking that assessment won’t be as hard we think it is—but we need to determine exactly what it is we want to assess! As someone astutely said, the problem isn’t so much technical as political. We have a political need to define outcomes and assessments; the assessment experts seemed to think the technical issues of assessment could be dealt with relatively easily. This is where our ongoing study to define youth outcomes will be of huge value to the field. People at the meeting were very excited to hear about this work, so we have an audience that is waiting to see what the field has to say about appropriate and feasible outcomes for STEM learning in afterschool! Check out the white papers
written for the summit, including one I wrote on afterschool.
Next up are trips to Dallas for the US News STEM Solutions Summit at the end of June and New Orleans for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Summer Institute at the end of July. Stay tuned for news from those meetings!