There are a number of outstanding programs that are developing high school students into future scientists. This is particularly important given some unfortunate attitudes among students - Public Agenda’s Reality Check 2006 reports that 45 percent of secondary students surveyed would be “really unhappy if [they] ended up in a job or career that required doing a lot of math and science.” Only 39% of 12th graders who took the NAEP in 2000 reported that they were "good at science."
While in Boston, I met with representatives of the Timothy Smith Network of community technology centers. One of the many programs offered by this network is part of the After School Astronomy Project, developed in partnership with MIT's Kavli Institute. Students are engaged in actual astronomy - learning to process digital images and look for astronomical phenomena. They are even able to take their own images, using remote-controlled telescopes provided by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Other outstanding programs for high school students combine science learning with employment, either as apprentices with professional scientists and engineers or as instructors for younger children. The St. Louis Science Center offers both types of opportunities through its award-winning Youth Exploring Science program.
Perhaps the future of after-school STEM learning for high school students is being developed in Chicago. With a grant from Abbott Labs, After School Matters is developing a science component to its already successful programs in arts, technology, sports, and communications. Keep your eyes on Chicago as pilot programs begin soon.