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:
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.
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.
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.
By Luci Manning
Freedom Summer organizer, Bob Moses, who led the historic African American voter registration movement 50 years ago, is back to rally for better education in Mississippi. At a Conference in Tougaloo, parents, experts and activists talked about what they can do to help students improve their test scores and prepare them for a successful future. “During the session, both panelists and audience members called for better funded schools, more access to pre-kindergarten, higher quality teachers and summer and after-school programs,” the Clarion Ledger reports.
Members of the Coast Guard taught Toledo’s Maritime Academy cadets basic swimming and treading techniques, scuba diving and rowing this summer. One cadet who was initially timid around the water now participates in the relay races and feels quite comfortable. Sheri Rodgers, an instructor at the academy told The Blade, “Because she knew all the new survival stuff, she got across the pool with confidence and with eyes big as saucers saying, ‘Look, I did it!’” The weeklong camp was funded by a grant from a 21st Century Community Learning Center.
The red-legged frog, which first gained popularity as the featured species in Mark Twain’s short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” is now a California state symbol, thanks to some civic-minded students at Sea View Elementary. The effort began in an afterschool program, and quickly gained popularity throughout the school. Sea View Elementary principal, Timothy Steele, communicated the exhilaration of the process. He told the Desert Sun, “It’s beyond exciting. It’s surreal.” Not only did the students learn about amphibians and the legislative process, but as Steele said, “we can make a difference no matter how old we are.”
As part of the 2014 Summer Learning Passport Program, New Britain students got a behind the scenes look at what it takes to publish a daily newspaper earlier this week. Over the course of the summer students will also visit the New Britain Fire Department, youth theatre, police department and Avery Beverages. At each stop of the summer learning initiative, students are taken behind the scenes to learn more about each industry.
By Jen Rinehart
At the first-ever White House Maker Faire, Pres. Obama proclaimed June 18, 2014, a National Day of Making, saying, "I call upon all Americans to observe this day with programs, ceremonies and activities that encourage a new generation of makers and manufacturers to share their talents and hone their skills."
At the White House, a robotic giraffe, cupcake bicycles, a banana piano, homemade 3-D printers and 3-D printed pancakes, fiddles and more were all on display with the goal of inspiring makers across the country.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Summer to Make, Play & Connect will keep that inspiration going throughout the summer. As part of the Summer to Make, Play & Connect, Mozilla’s Maker Party 2014—a campaign to teach Web literacy on a global scale through hands-on learning and making—will feature two months of hands-on making.
From July 15 through Sept. 15, educators and makers will host “learning parties” in schools, libraries, museums and community centers. Maker Party events feature people of all ages who are learning to code, making stop-motion animations, designing games, creating digital stories, fabricating wearable technologies, remixing websites, and so much more. Participants gain valuable Web literacy skills as they learn about the basic culture, mechanics and citizenship of the Web.
By Jen Rinehart
Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., have joined the rapidly growing Cities of Learning movement, a new effort to network citywide resources to keep youth (ages 4 to 24) engaged in educational and career opportunities when school lets out. Cities are funded by local partners and receive national support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Digital Youth Network and the Badge Alliance.
Cities of Learning offer free or low-cost opportunities for youth to learn online or participate in programming at parks, libraries, museums and other institutions. Whether through robotics, fashion design, coding competitions or workplace internships, Cities of Learning provide an array of engaging opportunities for young people to explore new interests, develop their talents, and create unique pathways toward college or a career.
Chicago launched the Cities of Learning movement in 2013 with a successful summer program that now continues year-round. This summer, Dallas, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh will kick off their Cities of Learning, with Columbus and Washington, D.C., joining the lineup this fall. More cities are planning to launch in 2015.