Thursday, October 27, 2011

Take Advantage of a Great Pre-Conference Opportunity this Monday in Sunny San Diego, CA!

We are traveling to sunny San Diego, CA this October 31st for the Step Up Your Game conference focusing on engaging older youth in afterschool. We will be hosting a pre-conference panel from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on building successful partnerships for science afterschool. We are happy to be able to offer FREE attendance to the pre-conference session for members of the Coalition for Science After School. Seating is limited!

This panel will be co-sponsored with Time Warner Cable. Our panel participants will include:

Linda Kekelis, Executive Director, Techbridge
Cassondra Williams, UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Gabrielle Lyon, Founder and Senior Explorer, Project Exploration
Liz Ferguson, Director of Education, Bio-Waves
Milinda Martin, Vice President in Communications, West Region, Time Warner Cable
Leslie Lowes, Informal Education Specialist, NASA
Katie Levedahl, Assistant Director of Out-of-School Time Programs, California Academy of Sciences
Kalie Sacco, Manager, Coalition for Science After School

Again, space is limited. If you are a member of the Coalition who will be able to attend the pre-conference, email Kalie Sacco at kaliesacco {@} berkeley {dot} edu with your name, title, and organization affiliation.

For those who will be unable to attend, check back on this blog next week for a summary of the panels. 

We hope to see you in San Diego!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What I Learned at the Association of Science-Technology Centers Conference

This is Kalie, Manager at the Coalition for Science After School, just back from four great days in Baltimore at the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) conference. I spent the first two days of the conference in the exhibit hall, where I was seated next to representatives from the Afterschool Alliance. The exhibit hall gave me a chance to meet representatives from many of our science center members, as well as introduce new people to the Coalition and the National After School Science Directory.

There is no doubt that science center leaders are interested in connecting with afterschool programs, or looking to include afterschool content in their educational programming. If you’re from a science center looking to partner with or include more afterschool programming, join the Coalition to receive our newsletter and engage with this dynamic community of out-of-school time STEM stakeholders.

Outside of the exhibit hall’s open hours, I was able to attend some interesting sessions focusing on education in science centers. I took some notes to share with our members. Descriptions of each session are below; some of them run a bit long, so skip ahead to the session titles that interest you the most:

1)   Integrating Scientists Into Educational Programming
2)   How to Demonstrate the Value of Science Centers
3)   The Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE): Year 4 Initiatives and the Future
4)   Innovative and Collaborative Sharing of Educational Resources Online
5)   Activating Young Science Learners

Thank you to the team at ASTC for putting on a great conference! I learned a lot and plan on attending again next year when the conference moves to Ohio. See you in Columbus!

Integrating Scientists Into Educational Programming
This session focused on showcasing the ways in which museums work with scientists to enhance their education programs and events. We heard from two representatives from the American Museum of Natural History, who offers a Science Café night for adults and a two-year mentoring program for high-school youth that matches them with a scientists mentor. We also heard from Elizabeth Babcock of the California Academy of Sciences, who talked about the museum’s Careers in Science program and efforts to make their scientist researchers accessible to museum visitors by opening up their glass-fronted research lab. Monique Scott of the Anchorage Museum talked about an exhibit on mammoths and mastodons and their programming that brought research scientists and community members together on the museum floor. Steve Tritz of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) told us about a great summer camp program that takes place all across the Pacific Northwest, in which students travel with scientists researchers and help them with their fieldwork.

Student connection to professional scientists is an important motivator for showing students that they can become scientists too. For example, Mr. Tritz of OMSI talked about how his program works with tribal scientists to connect American Indian students to the research that they do. Challenges in integrating scientists into education programs include finding scientists who are natural communicators to the public, as well as reaching out to scientists outside of personal networks. Several presenters mentioned that working with post-docs or graduate students has been a good strategy, as those students and recent PhDs often have an interest in outreach and a natural connection with students. For afterschool programs looking to partner with scientists, reaching out to a local college’s STEM departments could be a great way to find scientists interested in outreach.

For more information about this topic, stay tuned on our blog for a summary of the workshop we’ll be facilitating at the Up Your Game conference on October 31st in San Diego, where we will be focusing on connecting scientist volunteers and afterschool programs.

How to Demonstrate the Value of Science Centers
In this session, we heard from representatives from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) on their research and evaluation efforts to demonstrate how valuable museums and libraries—including those that focus on science content—are to their communities. IMLS recently put out a study on 21st century skills, which is available for download at their website and may be a useful tool for afterschool groups seeking to integrate skill-building STEM activities into their programs.

We also saw a video produced by the California Science Center highlighting some of their great exhibits, programs, and community recognition over the years. William Harris, Senior Vice President of Development and Marketing at the California Science Center Foundation, said that they have saved everything positive said about them over the years—ranging from local news coverage to a donation letter sent by a six-year-old visitor. These testaments to their educational impact, combined with videos of some of their most exciting exhibits and programs, was informative while also creating a deep emotional impact. He also said that they made their first video of this nature using a flip-phone camera—something relatively cheap that many people already have. Producing a video of this nature would be a great asset for an afterschool program to show potential funders and policymakers.

The Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE): Year 4 Initiatives and the Future
The Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE) is a partnership between several projects, initiatives, and institutions that seeks to bring together and advance the field of informal science educators. Funded by the National Science Foundation, CAISE is continuously growing and expanding to bring together more partners and stakeholders across multiple STEM fields. Check out their website for more information about their projects, partnerships, and constituents.

Innovative Collaborative Development and Sharing of Educational Resources Online

This session introduced participants to a variety of educational resources and tools—all collaborative in nature and available online. Many of the resources found on these sites may be useful for afterschool programs looking to increase their STEM content—or for STEM providers seeking new venues for distributing their work.

  •     NSDL SMILE pathway: This great collection of informal math and science activities from science centers all across the country can be found at Users can search for activities by content, age, cost, and many other parameters. They can also submit reviews, ratings, and suggestions for modifications for each activity. We often recommend the SMILE pathway to afterschool programs looking for short science activities that use inexpensive materials and explain their science content in an easy-to-understand way.
  • NISE Network: The NISE Network is a collaborative partnership of science institutions offering resources for understanding and explaining nanotechnology in informal education environments. The presenter, Catherine McCarthy of the Science Museum of St. Paul, also gave an enlightening talk about copyright and the potential issues of sharing digital resources. The NISE Network uses a Creative Commons license, and encourages sharing with attribution. 
  • Open Exhibits: This community-based initiative provides free software that uses multi-touch and other human-computer interaction (HCI) technology to museums and other educational organizations. They also use a Creative Commons license. This new project capitalizes on the collaborative nature of science centers and the ease of open-source software development and sharing. Many of the exhibits that have been developed through Open Exhibits use cheap technology that visitors may be familiar with, like Microsoft Kinect and Google Maps. Check out their community site to see some of the projects that have been developed.

Activating Young Science Learners
The Science Learning Activation Lab research project based in the San Francisco Bay Area seeks to identify and explain the factors that “activate” science learning in children before they reach middle school. Their working definition of activation is a dynamic state composed of dispositions, skills, and knowledge that enable success in proximal learning experiences. It is definable, malleable, and predictive of future learning choice. Identifying factors of activation has the potential to present tangible evidence to policymakers and funding organizations that learning outcomes other than test scores can effectively measure science learning and increasing the number of students who go through the STEM pipeline (that is, students who go on to choose STEM majors and careers).

The research team, which includes the Lawrence Hall of Science and the University of Pittsburgh, is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which has long supported Bay Area science research. The researchers are still formulating their tools for identifying and measuring activation. They hope to answer the question of how we, as informal science educators, can activate children’s interest and curious minds in ways that ignite persistent engagement in science learning and inquiry. Although this work is focused in the Bay Area, the research findings and any resulting models or tools for measurement can certainly be used by organizations in other areas.

At the session, we heard from leaders at major Bay Area informal science learning institutions (the Lawrence Hall of Science, the Children’s Discovery Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Exploratorium) about what they hope the research can accomplish as it moves forward. The hope is that by working together, the institutions can dramatically increase the amount of science being offered to Bay Area children.

The research being pursued in this project is highly relevant for afterschool providers who are seeking to offer science content in their programs. The researchers agree that any kind of learning experience has potential for activation, and afterschool learning is certainly a part of children’s learning experiences. Keep an eye on their website for preliminary results, and we certainly hope that they will present the next stage of their findings at next year’s ASTC conference in Columbus, Ohio.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Join Us at These Upcoming Conferences & Events This Fall

One of our top priorities in the coming year is to attend conferences and events around the country to meet afterschool leaders and learn more about the latest developments in the field. Here is where we’ll be in the next month—let us know if you will be at any of these meetings and events, or suggest somewhere for us to go next!
  • Association of Science & Technology Centers (ASTC) Annual Conference: We are kicking off our conference season this weekend at the ASTC conference in Baltimore, MD. Kalie will be there with the Afterschool Alliance to talk to science centers about how out-of-school time programs are an important part about science center offerings. 
  • Up Your Game Pre-Conference Workshop: Later this month, we’ll be travelling to sunny San Diego, CA to host a pre-conference workshop at the Up Your Game conference. This conference focuses on older youth in afterschool, with sessions oriented towards middle school earlier in the week and high school later in the week. Our pre-conference workshop on the 31st will focus on building partnerships for afterschool STEM, with two panels on engaging volunteers and finding community resources. We will have speakers representing high-quality afterschool programs and resources, and the workshop will be a great way to share practices and learn how to integrate community partnerships to promote STEM in your afterschool program. There is still time to register for this conference, so we hope to see you there!
  • National Summer Learning Conference: It may be fall, but it's still a great time to talk about summer learning! We'll be exhibiting at the National Summer Learning conference in San Francisco, CA from November 15th-16th. Summer learning is an important part of providing out-of-school time education opportunities for youth, and we look forward to connecting with many great summer programs at this event.

Keep an eye out for our Steering Committee members at other conferences and events around the country. You can also find out more about where we will be in our monthly newsletter.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

STEM in Afterschool Impacts & Outcomes

The Afterschool Alliance recently released an analysis of the impacts and outcomes of STEM learning in afterschool. The report identifies evaluation studies that have been done in a wide range of afterschool programs across the country and highlights common themes, laying the foundation for future evaluation studies of STEM in afterschool.

 To find the 19 studies highlighted in the report, the Alliance cast a wide net among out-of-school time intermediaries (including the Coalition for Science After School) and program providers themselves. The report includes large national programs, (such as FIRST Robotics and the 4-H Science Initiative), statewide projects and initiatives (like After-School Math PLUS in New York and Missouri, and the Student Science Enrichment Program in North Carolina), as well as local groups (such as Project Exploration in Chicago and Techbridge in Alameda County, California).

The Alliance was able to identify three overarching themes that were examined and/or defined in the evaluation studies:

·      Improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers
·      Increased STEM knowledge and skills
·      Higher likelihood of graduation and pursuing a STEM career

Further details of how each of the evaluation studies addresses each theme—and what the actual outcomes of each theme look like—are available in the full report.

Individual organizations can take action by conducting evaluation studies of their own programs. Evaluation studies are an excellent way for afterschool organizations and programs to identify what is and isn’t working in their program, as well as provide tangible evidence of success to funding organizations and community advocates. Afterschool programs can look for success indicators in two ways:

  • Youth development outcomes:
    • Increased graduate rates
    • Likelihood of attending college
    • Better attendance in school
    • Increased community service or involvemnet
  • Science and Math education outcomes:
    • Higher test scores
    • Demonstrated understanding of math and/or science concepts through high-quality projects and schoolwork
    • Likelihood of pursuing a STEM college degree and/or career

If you’re looking for more resources on doing an evaluation study within your program, see our Assessment & Evaluation Resources page.