Thursday, May 08, 2014

Honoring and Remembering Dr. Alan J. Friedman

We were very saddened to hear that Dr. Alan J. Friedman, former director of the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) and great contributor to after school science and informal science education, passed away on Sunday May 4th, 2014.  As a coalition we work through the activities of our members, to which Alan was an active contributor and supporter. In that spirit, below we’ve compiled some of the many remembrances, memorials, and tributes to Alan that have popped up across the country in the last days. The warmth, reverence, depth, and sincerity of these offerings emulate his infectious spirit and convey the incalculable influence he had on the field of informal science education.

Trained as a physicist, Alan served as the director of the NYSCI from 1984-2006, where he transformed the museum from “an empty shell, the old exhibits removed and an inch of water on the floor” to a dynamic institution full of exhibits that ranged from “microscopes to windmills to the ‘world’s first three-dimensional dynamic model of an atom,” according to his obituary in the New York Times and a recent NYSCI blog post on the subject.

Prior to his tenure at NYSCI, Alan worked for twelve years at the Lawrence Hall of Science. As recounted in the Hall’s touching tribute to Alan, he established their planetarium and its interactive format, which served as a model for science centers worldwide. The Hall honored him with an Excellence in Science Education award in 2008.

Alan also served on the board of trustees for the Noyce Foundation, and recently presented on an AAAS panel on science after school with Coalition leaders Carol Tang and Elizabeth Stage.

In honor of Alan’s legacy at NYSCI and in the larger field of informal science education, his NYSCI colleagues created a site, Thinking of Alan , which has served as a powerful sounding board for the many people whose lives Alan touched over the years. Many CSAS leaders, members, and contributors have added remembrances to this site, including Lucy Friedman of TASC, Dennis Bartels of the Exploratorium, Elizabeth Stage of the Lawrence Hall of Science, Anita Krishnamurthi of the Afterschool Alliance, Ron Ottinger of the Noyce Foundation, and Carol Tang, former CSAS director and now program officer at the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, among many others. These leaders’ reflections span Alan’s extraordinary work as an innovator in and champion of science education, and as a mentor to many.

As Dennis Bartels noted in his post on the NYSCI site, Alan was a giant in our field. He will be sorely missed, but his legacy continues to be advanced through the many people he inspired and the organizations he guided.

A memorial service for Alan will take place on Saturday, June 14th 2014 at 11:00 a.m. Please RSVP to Nancy Schenk,

Monday, May 05, 2014

Passing the Torch: Advancing Opportunity for Quality Science Learning

After 10 years of work, the Coalition for Science After School will sunset operations at the end of June. To celebrate the accomplishments of the STEM in OST field and (more importantly) to advance the next decade’s work, in March the Coalition held a Summit that brought leaders in the field together for three days of reflection and discussion to envision the next decade of STEM in out-of-school time.

The Summit was a great opportunity for networking and forging connections across the field. Some attendees had been involved in the Coalition since its inception, while for others, the meeting was their first exposure—all were forward-thinking and committed to advancing more opportunities for quality STEM learning in out-of-school time.

Together, we co-created a history of the field over the last 10 years. Lots of great work has happened over the past decade, but a few things came through loud and clear: 1) The expansion and impact of state and regional after school networks is a significant development that has momentum; 2) There is an emerging conceptual framework that describes supportive ecosystems for STEM learning across settings; 3) While great strides have been made in connecting out-of-school STEM learning and science-rich institutions, important work remains to be done.

Diagram that maps conversation at the Summit regarding the last decade of work in the STEM in out-of-school time field. 

Looking toward the future, the meeting also illuminated some important opportunities and challenges facing us moving forward. As a movement, we need to:
  • Define and implement quality STEM programming in out-of-school time – to make quality programming a reality in every local community, program staff need effective professional development.
  • Ensure that STEM learning experiences are equitably distributed to young people across the country – in order to accomplish this, we need clarity on what equity looks like, responding to local needs in different communities
  • Confront the leadership gap – emerging leaders at the program level need professionalization, training and support to achieve quality STEM learning for all young people; leadership at all levels of the field should also be nurtured.
  • Produce more research and evaluation to help make the case about the importance of STEM in out-of-school time settings for both cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes. Research findings must be communicated to practitioners and funders to advance the field through evidence-based practices.
  • Deploy savvy advocates at the state and national level to champion quality STEM learning, and create shared messages and a vision for the future of the movement that will help make the case to the right people at the right time.
  • Meaningfully engage important stakeholders like scientists and other STEM content experts as volunteers and mentors for youth and program staff.
  • Pursue concerted collaboration with formal education systems, especially in light of the new Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Standards.
  • Increase collaboration in online offerings—to ensure they build upon and work in concert with each other
  • Invest in capacity building and strategies to sustain successful initiatives
  • Keep talking – the field needs sustained communication and connections to encourage deep cross-pollination of ideas.  Periodic gatherings of leaders are needed to illuminate differences in perspective and generate ways in which different part of the field can work together.

Lots of ideas and connections came out of the Summit that may lead to work to address many of these challenges. 

As the Coalition for Science After School passes the torch on advancing the cause of STEM in out-of-school time to the many other organizations engaged in this important work, now is the time for each of us to ask, “How can I chip away at these opportunities in my daily work?” And as a collective movement, how can we contribute to providing access for all young people to quality STEM experiences in their local communities?