By Luci Manning
Maria Ortiz, an Afterschool Ambassador and the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant director for Poudre School District, calls on parents, school systems, local and state governments and businesses to help students meet the need for summer learning opportunities across the country in a piece for the Coloradoan. She writes:
“Clearly, we need more summer learning programs, and just as clearly, the problem is funding them. Right now, the federal government provides some funding for summer learning, by way of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative — the principal federal funding stream for after-school programs. But the funding is insufficient to provide summer learning opportunities for all the kids who need them. Until we can find a way to fix that with contributions from parents, school systems, local and state governments, business, and individual donors, too many of our kids will spend more time with video games and remote controls than with all the wondrous opportunities that summer learning programs can offer them.”
In just one week, elementary school children participating in the Ashland Community and Technical College summer learning camp will have created more than 30 electronic devices including burglar alarms, night lights and police sirens. In this week’s camp the young students are learning theories behind various electrical components and are putting their knowledge to the test. Craig McDavid, the program’s instructor, told the Daily Independent the time he spent at this camp as a child motivated him to have a career in science and that he hopes these children are similarly inspired. He said that “this kind of hands-on learning is the best kind of learning. It’s what brings it home.”
Students at York Middle School’s (YMS) Summer Learning Academy are gaining some real world media experience and helping their community’s nonprofits in a big way. The students created commercials to help York Adopt-A-Pet and the Palmer Museum. Matt Maltsberger, YMS social studies and media productions teacher, told the York News-Times that summer learning programs allow students to have educational opportunities outside of the traditional classroom, “I think that getting kids in a different setting—a setting that lets them express themselves—is beneficial. It’s the ideal situation for great opportunities to learn.”
By Taylor Moore
Techbridge has recently released a free, online interactive toolkit to help potential role models develop skills to engage girls and underrepresented youth in STEM. The Role Models Matter Toolkit currently provides 10 mini-lessons for role models to help plan, structure and implement their visit with students. Each unit comes with a video showing role model Josetta Jones, a patent attorney and chemical engineer, in action demonstrating each step to successfully interacting and communicating the lessons to the student participants. The toolkit provides lessons on key topics like role model impact, ice breakers for relationship development, advice on using the engineering design process and guidance on how to connect the STEM experience to possible career options for the participants. If you have any potential STEM role models looking to engage with youth, their work can benefit from this holistic toolkit approach.
Techbridge is a nonprofit based in Oakland, Calif., that offers science, engineering and technology-based afterschool and summer programs for girls. Since 2000, the organization has engaged with more than 4,000 girls in grades 5-12 in hands-on learning and career exploration. The Role Models Matter Toolkit is part of Techbridge’s Role Models Matter initiative to help prepare STEM professionals for outreach and is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation.
The Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC) and the MacArthur Foundation have announced their fifth Digital Media and Learning Competition—the Trust Challenge: Building Trust in Connected Learning Environments. The Trust Challenge will award a total of $1.2 million—in $10,000 to $150,000 year-long development grants—to institutions and organizations that look to answer questions around trust, privacy, safety and learning in an open online world. Proposals will address questions such as:
- How can learners exercise control over who sees and uses their data?
- What tools do they need in order to navigate, collaborate and learn online with confidence?
- What solutions will foster greater civility and respect in online learning environments?
- How can open technical standards create more opportunities to share and collaborate online in a spirit of trust?
Applications will be accepted Sept. 3 to Nov. 3, 2014.
Guest blog: Building collaboration among afterschool and school-day educators at the Next Steps Institute
By Taylor Moore
Emily Vercoe is the director of the Next Steps Institute, a professional development program of Earth Force. Earth Force engages young people as active citizens in their communities by providing educators with tools, relevant resources, and support to inspire the next generation. Prior to her current role, Emily developed expertise in formal and informal science and STEM through work with the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium, the Colorado Youth Program and the Boulder Valley School District.
The idea of partnerships is not a new one: we get by with a little help from our friends; it takes a village; many hands make light work. Phrases like these indicate the importance of building communities of support to achieve a common goal. At Earth Force, we believe the power of partnerships can create an enriching and interactive experience within STEM education. This is why this year’s Next Steps Institute (NSI) in Washington, D.C., will focus on Integrating STEM into Communities.
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:
While Congress remains stalled with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the 2015 budget appropriations process; states and localities are experiencing considerable momentum. Among the jurisdictions making progress in advancing funding and policy for afterschool programs are Washington, D.C., New York state and California:
- In Washington, D.C., the city council recently passed their FY2015 budget, including a modest increase in the D.C. Public Schools Out-of-School Time Program to support afterschool and summer learning programs, resulting in a total funding level of $8.4 million. Funding to support community-based organizations providing expanded learning programming was held stable and includes $10 million for 21st Century Community Learning Center grants and $3 million for the D.C. Children & Youth Investment Trust Corporation. The D.C. community schools initiative was funded at $500,000.
- In New York state last week the governor announced awardees for the first round of Extended Learning Time grants, while in New York City the mayor recently released details of a $145 million expansion of middle school afterschool programs as well as $52 million for the development of 40 community schools. The $24 million Extended Learning Time grants were awarded to nine school districts statewide, including NYC. The state Department of Education has posted a list of the winners on its website. The $52 million grant to launch the development of 40 innovative community schools will match comprehensive social services and learning programs with 40 high-need public schools across NYC. Coupled with pre-K for every child and expanded afterschool programs for middle school students, the mayor pledged to make community schools a key component of transforming the education system and lifting up every child.
- In California last week, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced 333 programs will receive a combined $51 million in state and federal grants to provide expanded learning opportunities for students to bolster student learning outside of the regular school hours. In the latest round of funding, $51 million was distributed through three grants: the After School Education and Safety program, the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers—Elementary & Middle Schools program, and the state 21st Century High School After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens program. More information on the awarded grants can be accessed through the California Department of Education’s Before & After School webpage.
Last week the Senate voted 95-3 to pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The bipartisan, bicameral bill seeks to improve the nation’s workforce development system. As discussed in a previous blog, the legislation focuses in part on providing comprehensive supports and programming for out-of-school young people. Those provisions from Title I of WIOA include:
- Expanding the definition of out-of-school youth to encompass young people ages 16 to 24 who are not attending school, have dropped out of school, and face extensive barriers to work and to completing their education. Title I targets 75 percent of youth funds to provide services for out-of-school youth.
- Addresses eligibility issues that can make it difficult for local areas to develop comprehensive, cross-system approaches to serve youth who are most in need. Title I does so by expanding the definition of low-income individuals to include those who receive or are eligible to receive free or reduced price school lunches and adding an expansive definition for individuals with a barrier to employment. Title I also incorporates a special rule that allows young people living in high-poverty areas to be deemed eligible for services.
- Requires a minimum percentage of youth funds (20 percent) to support work experiences for low-income and vulnerable young people.
From March 26-28, 2014, the Coalition for Science After School (CSAS) hosted its final summit, Passing the Torch: Advancing Opportunity for Quality Science Learning. The summit was intended to:
- Celebrate a decade of progress in strengthening and expanding STEM learning opportunities in out-of-school time
- Call attention to critical issues in ensuring that all young people have opportunities for quality STEM experiences in their local communities
- Stimulate ideas, strategies, partnerships and commitments to continue to increase opportunities for quality STEM experiences across settings
The report of the summit proceedings, A Call to Action from the 2014 Coalition for Science After School Summit, focuses on 11 areas to continue to advance the STEM in out-of-school time field after CSAS sunset its operations last month.