Monday, March 26, 2012

Western Region 4-H Science Academy

The Coalition is at UC Davis this week for the Western Region 4-H Science Academy.  We are honored to be participating and learning with the 4-H leadership about curriculum, professional development, evaluation and partnerships for high quality science programs within the 4-H organization.  It is clear that 4-H is a leader in informal science learning, so we are very excited to be here!

The Academy kicked off today with Alan Friedman who gave a presentation called "What kids learn about science outside of school is a nice enrichment to what they learn in school - or is it actually the other way around?"

We're thrilled that Coalition Director Carol Tang will give the keynote talk tomorrow on quality science after school for all youth.  Her talk will be streaming live tomorrow at 8:00AM PST, so we invite you to listen in!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How Kids Learn Conference: CSAS Presentation

Coalition Director Carol Tang recently presented at the How Kids Learn Conference in Berkeley, CA.  She talked about why STEM and after school make such a great pair.  One of her central points is that both STEM learning and after school learning principles celebrate process, discovery, creativity and self-direction over product.  They also both rely on teamwork and mentoring relationships.

If you are an out-of-school time science educator, you will especially appreciate Carol's presentation of the best predictor of which students will become scientists.  And if you are an after school educator with little or no science background, hear about why you might actually be better at leading science learning than someone with a formal science background!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Another presenter at the conference was Erik Peterson, the  Policy Director at the Afterschool Alliance.  His presentation offered perspectives that parents, policy makers and educators have about after school learning.  He also talked about the tension between the importance of unstructured play and the pressure to map after school activities back to improved school performance and test scores.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

As Girl Scouts Turn 100 We Look Towards Equity in STEM

This week the Girl Scouts of the USA turned 100!  In honor of this very special birthday there have been many wonderful tributes to this esteemed organization and the woman who started it all.  But unless you were - or still are - a Girl Scout, you might not know the following fun facts:

  • The Girl Scouts is the largest organization for girls in the world, with 2.3 million girl members and 890,000 adult members working primarily as volunteers.
  • Michele Obama is the Honorary National President, as has been the tradition for all First Ladies to hold this position since Lou Henry Hoover in 1929.
  • More than 50 million American women were Girl Scouts. 
  • 53% of all women business owners are previous Girl Scout members.
The Girl Scouts, like most of the girl-serving organizations I admire, does a great job emphasizing the achievements made by women as a group and as individuals.  But those of us dedicated to equity in education can't help focusing on how much further we have yet to go, especially in STEM.  The following chart is from the American Association of University Women's 2010 report Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The report illuminates some evidence as to why, despite all of the tremendous progress made by and for women in the STEM fields, we still see such profound female underrepresentation in science and engineering.  Some of the findings include stereotypes, gender bias and the general culture found in science and engineering departments in colleges and universities.

If you are curious about investigating this Why So Few? question at your organization, here are a few resources that might be helpful.

Words Matter: Speaking and Writing about Gender in Science
This short paper from provides great suggestions about how to communicate about issues of gender in science.  The words that we choose when describing inequities, beliefs and trends really do matter, not only in published form but also when speaking to colleagues, parents and children.  Whether you are considering raising an issue of inequity at your organization, planning a discussion for a professional development workshop, or talking to kids about specific stereotypes that you have noticed, this document is a good read to help you think deeply about the words you choose.

STEM Equity Pipeline Archived Webinars
The STEM Equity Pipeline is a project of the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity, a national organization committed to the advancement of equity and diversity in classrooms and workplaces.  They frequently host informative webinars on topics including mentoring, marketing and assessment; if you missed one, all of the webinars and presentation slides are archived for you here.

The National Girls Collaborative Project newsletters and listserv
The National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) is designed to bring together girl-serving STEM organizations that are committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM.  Their newsletter and listserv are great ways to stay in touch about gender and diversity related issues in the STEM fields.  The NGCP also has a free webinar coming up about funding on Wednesday March 28, 2012.

The Coalition for Science After School's LinkedIn group discussion page
Right now on LinkedIn, CSAS group members are having a very interesting discussion about why there is a decrease in the number of women in the Computer Science field.  While some people think that women and girls feel 'intimidated' by numbers, other people have theorized that girls are less attracted to CS because they have aspirations for careers that help people, and computers are not thought of by girls as helping people.  What do you think?  Connect with other CSAS members, join our group and share your experiences!

As for the future of girls, women and the Girl Scouts?  It's up to all of us to make it.  Check out this great article from the Make Magazine blog about the past, present and future of the Girl Scouts - including some great ideas for potential badges for STEM explorations!  

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Guest Blogger: Schmahl Science Workshops

Schmahl Science Workshops is based in San Jose, CA and has been a Coalition member since September, 2010.  The organization is a non-profit partnership of students, parents, teachers, scientists and engineers who have come together to foster the innate curiosity and love of science that exists among children.  Mentorship is key and Schmal Science; experienced scientists and engineers develop relationships and deliver programs to children throughout Silicon Valley.  CEO Belinda Lowe-Schmahl is our guest blogger this week and shares some of her personal inspiration for providing science after school.

The Gift of the Mentor

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder….. he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in” - Rachel Carson

I know from personal experience know how much a mentor can influence and redirect lives. 

It is often said that “it takes a village to raise a child.” I would argue that there is an embedded assumption in this proclamation.  We assume the “village” is functional and has the best interests of the child in its heart. But what if the village is dysfunctional?  What if the villagers do not want to be role models?  Who can forget Charles Barclay making just this claim in the 1990s?

As a young child, my family moved frequently. No roots, no extended family to guide my brother and me.  One day when I was walking home from school I stopped to admire a beautiful cactus garden.  Tending the garden was a very old lady (who actually was probably as old as I am now) named Lola.

Noticing my interest, Lola invited me into her “world.”  She said, “Why don’t you pick out one plant each day.  I will teach the mysteries and science of each cactus.”  I was enchanted.  Our friendship grew.  One day she presented to me a pin.  It was her Brownie pin from when she was a little girl.  She talked to me about the Girl Scouts, and said she would be happy to let my mom know about a local troop.  Before I knew it, I was Brownie and for the first time I was in a safe village where I could explore and learn.

When I look back on my life, I can see many mentors who have guided and nourished my life.  But if it hadn’t been for Lola, I don’t know if my interest in science and nature would have taken root as deeply. 

The difference between a child with curiosity and a child lost to drugs, alcohol or gangs can be as simple as meeting a Lola.  Whether it is an afterschool program aid, a science teacher, a scoutmaster or troop leader, someone who takes an interest in a child can make the next scientist, teacher or president.  If we don’t influence that child, he or she might search out that adult role model in a gang.

This is the true purpose of out of school time. It is more than science fairs and science workshops, more than summer camps and afterschool programs.  It is about creating a Village that will mentor its children so that they become citizens of character.  And how will we know when we have created that citizen? In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “It is when their most persistent and urgent question is, 'What am I doing for others?'"