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STEM Snacks
NOV
20
2017

STEM
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Using digital technology for outdoor exploration with PBS KIDS' PLUM LANDING

By Guest Blogger

By Brianne Keith, outreach project manager at WGBH Education.

For out-of-school time program leaders looking to get students outside more, it might seem counterintuitive to introduce digital media into their programming. After all, don’t kids already spend too much time in front of screens? Why use digital media when what you really want to do is get kids outdoors?

PLUM LANDING, the innovative PBS KIDS multimedia project that encourages children to explore the outdoors, has an answer to that question: Because digital media can actually enhance kids’ exploration of nature! The trick is creating media that actively engages kids, and harnesses the unique power of technology to inspire, teach, foster engagement, and turn it towards outdoor learning experiences.

WGBH, a leader in developing educational media for children, developed PLUM LANDING to help kids learn about the environment and inspire them to become caretakers of the planet. The project includes hands-on outdoor learning activities, games, videos, apps, and an online drawing tool and gallery where kids can share their ideas about nature—all designed to promote children’s active investigation of the world around them. The resources are NGSS-standards aligned and available for free on the PLUM LANDING website. Independent evaluation of the project showed that children who used PLUM LANDING were significantly more likely than those in a control group to show growth in their environmental science knowledge and interest in exploring the natural world.

​Building on the success of the program, WGBH has just released the PLUM LANDING Explore Outdoors Toolkit, a new set of materials designed to help kids and families in urban environments get outside, get moving, and get into nature. 

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learn more about: STEM Physical Activity
OCT
20
2017

STEM
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New commitments to equity, engagement at the CSforALL Summit

By Stephanie Rodriguez

“Power is the ability to write and author the American story… and that requires ambition to be nurtured; it requires the administration of an infrastructure that can do this.”

These words come from Dr. Kamau Bobb of Georgia Institute of Technology, explaining how institutes of higher education are, can, and should be supporting the effort to get computer science education to ALL of the Nation’s students. Dr. Bobb spoke on a panel during the CSforAll summit, addressing how the computing initiative is at the forefront of what equity in the coming century will ultimately be and offering a salient framing for why more than 400 cross-sector advocated gathered in St. Louis to celebrate successes and design for action toward achieving CSforAll. More than 170 organizations, including the Afterschool Alliance, committed to various activities and supports to bring high quality computer science to all students.

Throughout the day of celebration on October 17, advocates shared resources, policies, and coalitions that have been vital to the ongoing success of the CSforALL movement. Many hammered home how reaching CSforALL will require utilizing the complete learning ecosystem, and reaching kids in all of the places they learn. Some highlights are described below; check out the recording for more!

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learn more about: STEM Computer Science Girls
OCT
17
2017

STEM
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New AYPF article: 3 steps to afterschool STEM success

By Leah Silverberg

When making the case for afterschool STEM, one point often pops up: STEM learning experiences teach kids essential skills for their futures in college and careers. But how does that skill-building actually happen? And what strategies should afterschool programs use to harness it?

A new article from the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) highlights afterschool STEM programs that focus on career and college exploration initiatives. As part of STEM Ready America compendium, which features more than 40 authors, “Career and College Exploration in Afterschool Programs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” provides examples of afterschool and summer learning STEM programs that are preparing youth for their futures and supporting their engagement with the STEM field. Developed by STEM Next, with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, STEM Ready America discusses the importance of access for quality STEM programs, the evidence behind these programs, and the partnerships that make STEM learning successful.

In the article, AYPF highlights the best practices of three afterschool and summer STEM programs that intentionally introduce students to STEM fields, prepare them to study or have a career in a STEM field, and build skills that will benefit them in the workforce. Looking at SHINE (Jim Thorpe, Pa.), EVOLUTIONS (New Haven, Conn.), and Project Exploration (Chicago, Ill.) AYPF concluded that successful programs:

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learn more about: STEM College and Career Readiness
OCT
3
2017

STEM
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Administration and tech sector commit to STEM and computer science education

By Stephanie Rodriguez

On September 25, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Education acknowledging that too many of our kids lack access to high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, including computer science (CS).

Pointing to the alarming truth that 40 percent of high schools do not offer physics and 60 percent do not offer computer science1,2—a lack of access that is exacerbated in rural, low income, and minority communities—the memo directs the Department of Education to prioritize STEM education efforts in the federal grant making, with particular emphasis on CS. Specifically, the Secretary of Education is directed to reallocate at least $200 million of existing funds each year toward CS and STEM education and teacher recruitment and training, beginning in FY18. The memo was signed in the presence of students from Boys and Girls Clubs in Maryland.

On the heels of this memorandum came loud support from the tech industry. On September 26, representatives from the private sector gathered in Detroit, Mich., and together pledged an additional $300 million over five years in money, technology, and volunteers to support K-12 CS learning. This commitment, championed by Ivanka Trump, is fueled by several tech giants including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Salesforce, to name a few. The afterschool voice was well represented, with both Namrata Gupta (executive director of After-School All-Stars Bay Area) and Michael Beckerman (president and CEO of the Internet Association and board member for the national After-School All-Stars) in attendance. While the exact recipients of this commitment are not known at this time, some companies, like Microsoft and Salesforce, will continue supporting their ongoing CS investments in programs and organizations such as TEALS, code.org, and others.

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learn more about: White House STEM Computer Science
SEP
22
2017

STEM
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Guest blog: Have recent investments in afterschool STEM improved student outcomes?

By Guest Blogger

By Dr. Gil G. Noam, Dr. Patricia J. Allen, and Bailey Triggs at The PEAR Institute: Partnerships in Education and Resilience.

Percentage of youth reporting positive change in STEM-related attitudes and 21st-century skills

U.S. policymakers have prioritized boosting student interest in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) to prepare the nation’s youth for an increasingly STEM-focused workforce. High-quality STEM afterschool programs are helping to fill this growing need. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Noyce Foundation (now STEM Next) played a critical role in helping states across the country to develop systems of support for these quality afterschool STEM programs so that they can share research and best practices.

To support this effort, we at The PEAR Institute (Partnerships in Education and Resilience) at McLean Hospital and Harvard University partnered with Dr. Todd Little and IMMAP (Institute for Measurement, Methodology, Analysis & Policy) at Texas Tech University to conduct one of the first large-scale evaluations to measure the impact of afterschool programs on students’ STEM-related attitudes, social-emotional skills, and 21st-century skills. Our report was made possible through a collaboration of researchers, practitioners, funders, and 11 statewide afterschool networks.

MAY
22
2017

STEM
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Guest blog: Engaging families using the 5Rs

By Guest Blogger

By Margaret Caspe and M. Elena Lopez of the Global Family Research Project. Global Family Research Project is pleased to share tips on tapping into students’ greatest resources - their families. Please feel free to use the visual on the 5Rs in your own materials and outreach.

A second grader named David, his parents, and his baby sister walk into a library and are transported into space.

No, it’s not the plot for a new edition of the Magic Tree House.

It’s STAR_Net—a project that supports libraries in providing hands-on, interactive science and technology learning experiences for their communities. Here’s what happened:  

David’s afterschool instructor reached out to invite families to a local library event on a Saturday afternoon after parents expressed interest in enrolling their children in programs focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). On the day of the event, librarians and afterschool instructors talked with the families about their knowledge of particular space and STEM concepts. David and his dad built a model solar system and his parents were able to connect to other families by competing in a quiz show game. In essence, the library and afterschool program worked together to reimagine how afterschool programs provide learning opportunities that involve families in meaningful ways.

These processes—reaching out to families, raising up their interests, reinforcing their knowledge, allowing them to relate to each other, and reimagining services and programs—are important ways that afterschool programs and libraries can jointly enage families in children’s learning. At Global Famiy Research Project, we call these the 5Rs. When afterschool and library leaders convey the value of family engagement and support a climate of innovation with the 5Rs, it becomes possible to design exciting learning experiences for the whole family.

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learn more about: Guest Blog
APR
10
2017

STEM
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Guest blog: Trump budget would devastate afterschool STEM

By Guest Blogger

By Ron Ottinger, the director of STEM Next, co-chair of the national STEM Funders Network, and the former executive director of the Noyce Foundation. Known as a leader and expert in STEM learning, Ron has spent the last nine years guiding the Noyce foundations initiatives in informal and out-of-school-time science. With STEM Next, Ron continues to work toward increasing STEM learning opportunities for youth nationally.

This blog was reposted with permission from STEM Next.  

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to afterschool programs would deny millions of American youth the opportunity to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning; inhibit the development of the nation’s future scientists, engineers, inventors, and business leaders; and cut young people off from building the skills they need to advance in school, work, citizenship, and life.

If enacted by Congress, the President’s budget would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, the single largest source of funding for afterschool and summer programs that enroll 1.6 million students across rural, urban, and suburban communities in all 50 states.

Afterschool and summer programs provide essential learning opportunities for young people. This is particularly true when it comes to STEM learning – a national priority.

And afterschool programs have the support of an overwhelming number of Americans: a recent Quinnipiac poll found 83% are opposed to cuts in afterschool funding.

The Administration has said there is no evidence that these programs are effective. That is simply not true.

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learn more about: Federal Funding Guest Blog
MAR
20
2017

STEM
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An anti-education, anti-science budget proposal

By Anita Krishnamurthi

Photo by Gage Skidmore.

As expected, President Trump’s long-awaited “skinny budget” contained deep cuts to domestic discretionary spending. Particularly disappointing to those of us in the afterschool STEM education community are the outright eliminations of the programs that help young people develop science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills, literacy and proficiency—the currency needed to be hired in our modern world.

The elephant in the room

Let’s start with the biggest concern: the budget proposes to eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, the sole federal funding source exclusively for afterschool. This program provides 1.6 million kids with innovative learning spaces after school.

Nearly 70 percent of parents with kids enrolled in afterschool programs report that their children receive some form of STEM learning opportunity in this setting. Not only that, 70 percent of all parents believe that afterschool programs should offer STEM activities and programming.

Don’t cut what works

Despite claims to the contrary, a great deal of widely available research illustrates the impact of afterschool programs, and substantial evidence documents STEM-specific outcomes. A recent multi-state study found that afterschool STEM programs are helping to close America’s skills gap. STEM Ready America, a recently-released compendium of articles from 40 experts, presents compelling evidence of the impact of afterschool STEM.

The Afterschool Alliance has long tracked outcomes and best practices in afterschool STEM programming, including a recent paper on the impacts of afterschool STEM. Our Afterschool Impacts Database offers a searchable, user-friendly collection of impacts data, and our STEM program profiles share examples of innovative afterschool STEM programs.

Additional proposed cuts in key areas for afterschool STEM

Collaboration between school and afterschool. The budget proposal does not mention the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program, the new Title IV Part A block grant program authorized under ESSA that focuses heavily on STEM education, including in afterschool. This likely implies that no funding is sought for this program.

This is a huge disappointment. The activities authorized under this grant specifically supported well-rounded learning activities with a strong emphasis on STEM education and encouraged collaboration among personnel in schools, afterschool programs, and informal programs to better integrate programming and instruction in STEM subjects.

Professional development. The budget also eliminates the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program (Title II of ESSA), which supports teacher professional development. The loss is a blow to afterschool STEM because these funds offer a way to support joint professional development and collaborations between in-school and out-of-school educators.

Programs. In addition to drastic cuts at the Department of Education, the proposal eliminates the $115 million budget for NASA’s Office of Education. This amounts to just 0.5 percent of NASA’s overall budget and less than 0.003 percent of the federal budget.