Last week I attended the “Reimagining Education: Empowering Learning in a Connected World” summit and was inspired and moved by the dedication and passion expressed in the room to change the current educational circumstances of young people in our nation. Everyone in attendance was focused on the goal of making sure all youth are prepared for the unique challenges of our time, equipped with the knowledge, skills and support they need to succeed. It was impressive to hear thinking around creating a new ecosystem for learning that recognizes that learning takes place everywhere and makes it relevant to young people—drawing on their interests; connecting them to their peers and to mentors; and linking both interests and relationships to academics, career and community.
I was blown away, and in some cases a little starstruck, listening to speakers that included astronaut Leland Melvin, NBA All-Star and afterschool advocate Chris Paul, Howard University student and afterschool program graduate Marcus Prince, and Digital Youth Network founder and DePaul University Associate Professor Nichole Pinkard. I walked away from the two-day event excited about the possibilities and enthusiastic to further participate in reimagining education.
|Sherry Comer is the director of afterschool services in Camdenton, Missouri, and a former Afterschool Ambassador. Her school’s FIRST Robotics team went to the FIRST Robotics World Championships in St. Louis, Missouri, this year.|
Every day in Camdenton, Missouri, R-III afterschool programs, change is happening. Students are developing 21stcentury skills that will carry them into the future to be successful in an ever-changing global economy.
Through FIRSTRobotics, 4th through 12th grade students in our rural community have gotten excited and engaged in what is often referred to as “the hardest fun ever!” Our teachers and technical mentors push them to use science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to go over, under, around and through walls that society says they can’t penetrate. FIRST is designed to create an atmosphere where students combine the excitement of sports with the rigors of STEM. Under strict rules and with limited resources and tight time limits, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It’s as close to "real-world engineering" as a student can get.
Below, watch the Camdenton 4-H LASER team's winning robot in action!
Note: These awards have a very short timeline, so don't delay!
Apply now for the NASA 2013 Summer of Innovation (SoI) Mini-Awards Program, and receive NASA STEM educational content for your program and up to $2,500 in funding. The SoI program is designed for students entering grades 4-9 and to be integrated into existing summer or afterschool programs. Programs should take place between June 17, 2013, and Dec. 16, 2013. The mini-awards application process will end on June 10, 2013, and NASA will begin notifying selected organizations on June 17, 2013. To read more about the SoI Mini-Awards and apply online, visit www.soi-mini-awards.com.
For more information about the history of the Summer of Innovation project and potential curriculum content, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/soi. To learn more about NASA’s broader education programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/education.
The president recently released his budget request for FY2014 and we wrote about the implications for afterschool in a recent blog post. The budget proposes a sweeping (and unprecedented) reorganization of federal STEM education investments—it consolidates or restructures 114 programs out of the existing 226 federal STEM programs. In the budget proposal, 78 programs are terminated and the funds from these programs ($176 million dollars) are redirected to other agencies, 49 programs are consolidated within agencies and 13 new programs have been proposed.
The $176 million from the eliminated programs would be split as follows:
- $100.3 million to the Department of Education for K-12 education programs
- $51.1 million to the National Science Foundation for undergraduate education and fellowship programs
- $25 million to the Smithsonian Institution for a new STEM engagement initiative
There are several places to get the full details of the president’s budget request for STEM education—the White House R&D budget site and the American Institute of Physics FYI analysis are good places to start.
This week, 20 youth finalist teams will meet at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, for the Conrad Foundation’s 2013 Innovation Summit. Teams will present their designs of a “global innovation product” developed for the Spirit of Innovation Challenge to a panel of scientists, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and government officials. Challenged to create commercially viable products to address issues of global sustainability, teams applied their STEM knowledge in innovative ways, developing products for one of four categories—Aerospace and Aviation; Cybertechnology and Security; Energy and Environment; and Health and Nutrition. These young entrepreneurs will undergo a tough evaluation on technical content and market viability from an expert panel, and the winning team in each category will receive a $10,000 grant to continue their product development.
I spoke with one of the teams, Chicks in Space, a subset of the Neighborhood After School Science Association (NASSA) from Ava, NY. MaryAnn, Lillith and Adia—ages 17, 14 and 12, respectively—are among the 5 teams competing in the Aerospace and Aviation category. Their product, the Garden of ETON (Extraterrestrial Organic Nutrition), provides a way for astronauts weary of dehydrated foods to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Through a series of experiments on plant growth in microgravity conditions, Chicks in Space developed a hydroponic gardening system that can be used in space! Their original submission video, below, follows the research and development process of the Garden of ETON.
Jon W. Dudas is president of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a not-for-profit organization that inspires an appreciation of science and technology in young people. FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. With support from three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and nearly $16 million available in college scholarships, FIRST hosts four robotics programs for students K – 12 and the annual FIRST Championship. For more information, visit www.usfirst.org.
I can remember when afterschool activities meant meeting the neighborhood kids for a game of kick ball in the street or at the local playground. Most of us stayed outside until our parents called us in for dinner. However, in today’s fast-paced society with many parents working outside the home—and even more negative influences preying upon our children—kickball and playgrounds no longer suffice. Parents are looking for more structure to keep their kids safe, to inspire learning, and to ignite new passions and interests. Parents want to get (and keep) their kids on the right path, and they need structured and engaging afterschool programs to achieve this. Unfortunately, the need for such solutions outpaces the supply. In communities nationwide, 15 million children are alone or unsupervised after school.
It’s officially October, which means we’re only 18 days away from the 13th annual Lights On Afterschool! We hope you’re gearing up to host a great celebration of your own to help recognize the important role afterschool programs play for kids, families and communities across the country.
If you haven’t registered your event yet, this week is the perfect time to do so. If you register by Wednesday, October 3, you’ll be entered to win a Skype session with former NASA astronaut and afterschool advocate Joan Higginbotham. As the third African American woman to go into space, Joan has actively participated in 53 space shuttle launches during her 9-year tenure at Kennedy Space Center. Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1996, she has also logged over 308 hours in space during her mission with the crew of STS– 116. She’s also a strong supporter of afterschool programs and a member of the Afterschool Alliance Board of Directors. Don’t miss this opportunity to inspire your students to reach for the stars! Register now.
Here's a little bit more about Joan in her own words: