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Afterschool and science centers partner to serve more youth

By Anita Krishnamurthi

The Afterschool Alliance is very excited to announce that we have formalized a partnership with the Association of Science-Technology Centers(ASTC), the professional association of science centers and museums dedicated to furthering public engagement with science. This formal partnership and the actions we will take form our Commitment to Action for the Clinton Global Initiative America. CGI America is an annual event focused on finding solutions that promote economic recovery in the United States, bringing together leaders from the business, foundation, NGO and government sectors to advance a number of domestic objectives, including education and skills development.

Afterschool programs pride themselves on forming deep and meaningful partnerships in their communities to offer programming that can engage young people. As afterschool providers continue to enthusiastically embrace STEM programming, they are staying true to the philosophy of bringing together community assets and are forming partnerships with STEM-rich institutions in their communities.

Science centers are natural partners for afterschool providers as they have STEM content expertise as well as experience teaching STEM in the out-of-school time environment, frequently provide professional development opportunities for educators, have great hands-on resources, and are increasingly looking to do more community outreach. Science centers range from very large museums in large urban centers to mid-size and smaller locations in small towns and rural areas. While some science centers are already engaged in the afterschool space, many are not aware of the potential of afterschool STEM learning and how they can partner effectively. 

The Afterschool Alliance has been working with ASTC over the past two years to increase awareness and knowledge in both the science center and afterschool communities about each other’s assets. Our new partnership deepens that commitment. Both the Afterschool Alliance and ASTC have agreed to introduce key players in the two communities at our respective annual conferences; collaborate on advocacy efforts; cross promote in social media and other communications; and continue to partner on the Alliance's annual celebration of afterschool programs,Lights On Afterschool.

Additionally, we will work together to include afterschool educators in the many professional development opportunities science centers offer to teachers.  We are especially excited about this, because it will offer a way to build the capacity of afterschool educators while preparing them to help with implementing the Next Generation Science Standards.  These standards will require a completely different way to engage in STEM teaching and learning and will require partnerships between schools and informal science education systems, including afterschool programs.

Two immediate actions we will undertake in the remainder of this year include:

  1. A half-day pre-conference session at the ASTC annual conference in October to discuss some current examples of collaboration between science centers and afterschool providers that might serve as models to others. This workshop will also facilitate closer interactions between the leadership of selected statewide afterschool networks and the leadership of science centers with a goal of building strong bridges between the communities.
  2. Launch an ASTC Community of Practice (CoP) around afterschool. The CoPs are comprised of groups of informal science education professionals who come together on issues of mutual interest and interact regularly to learn from each other and improve their practice. An afterschool CoP will provide a means to sustain and grow the dialogue between science center and afterschool professionals.

Be on the lookout for announcements about ASTC’s involvement in this year’s Lights On Afterschool, as well as resources to assist in working with science centers and structuring meaningful partnerships. In the meantime, find the science center closest to you, and start exploring what they have to offer!