Innovative partnerships bring science to afterschool

In today's increasingly competitive economy, bolstering science and technology education has become critical in order to prepare the future workforce.

Chabot Space and Science Center, Oakland, California
Agilent Technologies, Palo Alto, California
The Exploratorium, San Francisco, California

Recognizing the demand for quality science programming in the afterschool hours, two science museums and one Fortune 500 company have come up with creative ways to partner with afterschool programs to keep science learning going after the school bell rings.

  • Chabot Science and Space Center trains high school students to lead science activities for younger students at the center and in the community.
  • Agilent Technologies provides a self-contained curriculum and activities.
  • The Exploratorium identifies staff development practices that will enable afterschool staff to facilitate science activities and projects in their own programs.

The Partnership Solutions
Chabot Science and Space Center started Galaxy Explorers, a year-round program that trains high school students to lead hands-on science enrichment activities both at the science center and in the community. To help staff the program, Chabot has partnered with the Oakland Unified School District to establish a physical presence in the high schools where they can recruit students to be volunteers and interns. Chabot has also formed a connection with local afterschool programs and Boys & Girls Clubs, where the Galaxy Explorers lead science enrichment activities for the youth participants.

The Agilent After School program, geared toward youth between the ages of 9 and 14, is one of three signature education projects that Agilent Technologies has created to engage youth in science. The program involves a hands-on approach to learning, providing afterschool programs with "experiment boxes" that include materials and step-by-step instructions for implementing a range of science experiments and activities, such as balloon-powered cars and electronic circuitry games. Agilent employees and, in some cases, university science students and high school students volunteer their time to guide program participants through the experiments. The Agilent After School experiments and activities are specifically designed to support most international, federal and state standards for science education. The students' excitement about science carries over to their classroom learning, and the Agilent employees and high school and college students who volunteer in the program make personal connections with the afterschool programs and gain valuable teaching and mentoring experience.

With its Children's Educational Outreach department's 20 years of experience implementing science programs in out-of-school time settings, and with its Institute for Inquiry's 30 years of experience providing professional development for classroom teachers, the Exploratorium realized it had enough in-house experience to train afterschool staff. The museum has initiated a number of projects:

  • A collaborative research project with the Lawrence Hall of Science, supported by the Bechtel Foundation, looks at how to help afterschool staff better facilitate science activities and adapt school-day science curriculum to the afterschool environment.
  • A project with the National Science Digital Library, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), to develop resources, materials and staff development practices specifically for the afterschool audience.

The Exploratorium's afterschool professional development projects are still underway, but the museum has already integrated what it has learned from these projects into trainings and workshops for educators. It presented its findings at the California School-Age Consortium's and the National After School Association's annual conferences in 2007.

Applying These Partners' Lessons Learned at Your Program

  • Know your audience. Chabot has learned about the importance of assessing what their partners' needs really are and being flexible in the way they work to meet those needs.
  • Ensure that your partners are a good fit. When considering community organizations to partner with, Agilent Technologies asks some key questions:
    • Does the partnership make sense?
    • Does the program serve a variety of students?
    • Does the partner have a venue in which to implement the program?
    • Can they sit down with employees to implement it and advocate for it?
    • Will the organization be able to commit long-term, not just for one year or one season?
  • Consider the program's capacity. Afterschool programs tend to have a lot of staff turnover, so the Exploratorium has learned that effective curriculum for afterschool staff should both build teaching skills for long-term staff and be accessible to short-term staff.

About the Organizations
Chabot Space & Science Center is an innovative teaching and learning center focusing on astronomy and the space sciences and the interrelationships of all sciences. An important part of Chabot's mission is to provide greater access to the specialized information and facilities needed to improve K-12 science education. Chabot's student programs, offered both on-site and online, are inquiry-based and correlate to state and national science education standards.

Agilent Technologies delivers critical tools and technologies that sense, measure and interpret the physical and biological world. Their innovative solutions enable a wide range of customers in communications, electronics, life sciences and chemical analysis to make technological advancements that drive productivity and improve the way people live and work. Agilent employs approximately 28,000 people in manufacturing, research & development, sales and support capabilities around the world.

The Exploratorium is a nonprofit science museum that provides engaging and hands-on informal learning opportunities. The museum's Institute for Inquiry trains teachers and educators to implement inquiry-based science learning in classrooms throughout the country. The Children's Educational Outreach Program brings a number of the museum's resources and services to inner-city children and youth through partnerships with community-based organizations in San Francisco and Oakland.

Also housed at the Exploratorium, the Connectory is a broad-based network of leading organizations that are committed to child-centered, standards-based science learning experiences for underserved youth. The Connectory is focused on building students' science engagement, understanding and skills to help them successfully follow academic and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) career paths. As part of their work, the Connectory has created a science after school "wiki" to facilitate resource sharing.