STEM is the future. Afterschool STEM opportunities spark STEM learning and prepare our nation’s children.
Preparing students’ futures for STEM careers is an exciting and solvable problem, but our schools can’t do it alone. Students spend less than 20 percent of their waking hours in a classroom, and they need more exposure to STEM subjects than that time allows. That’s why out-of-school time programs such as afterschool programs are crucial partners in STEM education improvement efforts.
When children get the opportunity to be immersed in STEM they become more fluent in it. Our goal is to give them as many opportunities as possible to gain hands-on experience with hypothesizing, experimentation and problem solving. The kinds of projects that kids tackle in afterschool STEM programs help them build relevant, real-life observation and analysis skills. Additionally, students gain and hone teamwork and communication skills—the critical 21st-century skills they will need to contribute as citizens and members of the workforce.
When we look out across the current system of afterschool opportunities, we can see that it’s patchy, like a map of charging stations with gaps in some areas—built in a way that provides fewer charging opportunities for some of our nation’s children than for others. Some students are in places with lots of opportunities to power up their STEM learning through access to great libraries, museums, science centers and afterschool programs. But other students are in charging dead zones—places where there just aren’t many high-quality learning opportunities to plug into.