Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Girl Scouts and Motorola Outline Keys to Engaging Girls in STEM

There is new research from Girl Scouts of the USA and the Motorola Foundation about girls' engagement in STEM. The study outlines three keys to successful programs: 1) Make it real; 2) Make it relevant; 3) Make it possible. Click here for the full press release and links to more information.

Monday, December 15, 2008

K-8 Intervention Critical to College Readiness

When I talk to people (especially those who do not work in education) about after-school programs, most picture their high school extra-curriculars - sports, clubs, etc. In reality, high quality after-school enrichment and youth development are necessary from an early age. Among other benefits they provide, these programs help youth see where school connects to the real world. This is important in helping them build their skills on a path toward success.

When one of the points on that path is college attendance, high school is very late to start an intervention. That conclusion is supported by a recent report from ACT, which finds that student readiness in 8th grade has a larger impact on college and career readiness than anything that happens academically during high school. Meanwhile, only about 20% of eighth graders are on a pace to be college-ready by high school graduation.

There are so many hours that are not used in the years before high school. Let's support the after-school programs that are trying to change that for millions of youth.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sports4Kids National Model

Thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Sports4Kids, an Oakland, CA, based non-profit, is seeking to reach more than 1 million more children with its successful model of safe and healthy play. This is a great opportunity to expand a successful program, which teaches positive behaviors through sports and playground activities.

The grant is for $18.7 million and seeks to reach 650 schools in 27 cities. For those interested in taking youth development to a larger scale audience, this is a huge step in the right direction.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nominate our After-School Science Project

Some members of the Coalition for Science After School have submitted a project for consideration by the American Express Members Project. This program grants funds to projects that have been suggested by AmEx members for worthy causes. We hope that you will help us by logging on to the Members Project site and nominating our proposal. You do not have to have an American Express card to participate.

The project is called "Afterschool Science and Technology Seminars," and the link is: http://www.membersproject.com/project/view/86H7ME

Should we receive funding for this project, it would support hundreds of individuals or organizations in starting science clubs. This would be a positive achievement for all of us and benefit the entire field. Even if the project is not selected, having it as a finalist would provide great publicity for after-school STEM as a goal.

Again, the link is: http://www.membersproject.com/project/view/86H7ME.

Here is a link that will take you straight to the "Guest Signup" page if you are not a cardmember:

All you have to do is login and click nominate. Feel free to leave comments as well. The sooner you do this, the better, since it will move up to the top of the list faster. Please also pass this link along to friends and colleagues.

Thanks for your support!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Youth Involved in Major Scientific Announcement

Today, National Geographic announced a major archaeological find in the Sahara. Follow the link to read more about the science. However, what is most relevant to readers of this blog is the involvement of Chicago-area teens in the announcement. The African gravesite was found by an expedition led by paleontologist Paul Sereno, who is also co-founder of Project Exploration, a non-profit science education organization that connects science to the public - especially minority youth. Some of those youth traveled to Niger as part of the excavation team, and still more were involved in the production of today's public announcement. Read here about Shureice, one of the junior paleontologists involved in the program. Many scientists will tell you that communicating their findings to the public is one of the hardest parts of their job. Project Exploration gives youth an early opportunity to experience the science and the communication. Visit their website announcing the find, and you should be impressed by how well they do it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Cafe Scientifique

In response to my July 8 post, debs from the Children and Youth Blog commented that the idea of pub science would be great to offer to teens as well. I found that NSF recently funded such a project, Cafe Scientifique in New Mexico. I don't know much about it, but it seems to give teens a space to have informal conversations about science and technology. Sounds like a great idea to me!

Monday, August 04, 2008

More about Girls and STEM

In case you missed this story, a recent study finds that boys and girls are performing the same academically in math. The results of this research beg the question - why aren't women in STEM careers at the same rates as men? Significant recent research has found that parents, especially fathers, impact how girls view themselves and their career options and that interest in STEM careers is a better predictor of eventual career paths than math test scores. If you have not read Engagement, Capacity, and Continuity, this may be a good time to do that. The evidence continues to grow that schools alone cannot form the pathway to STEM careers.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Navy Engineering Camp

With summer programs in full swing, the articles about summer science learning are starting as well. Here is one about a Navy-sponsored program, the Patriots Technology Training Center, in Maryland. This quote is specifically about recruiting Navy engineers, but it could probably apply to any program looking to engage kids in math and science: "We need to get the word-of-mouth to spread things. What we are finding is that kids are generating their own interest and it spreads very positively." The idea that science and engineering are "not cool" is mostly an adult construction that kids pick up on. Building submarines can be cool, as long as adults don't make kids sit in a classroom and get lectured about submarines.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

After-school Science for Adults?

Apparently science after school is not just for kids. If you live in NYC, "Talking Science" offers events at a local bar that make science exciting and fun. The quote from the site that I think tells it all is: "[NPR Science Friday host] IRA FLATOW ON A BED OF NAILS!!"

Monday, July 07, 2008

Summer Invention Camp

Here is some good press for "Camp Invention." These are week-long camps using materials provided by the National Inventors Hall of Fame. According to the article, they are reaching about 60,000 kids in 47 states.

Camp Invention has a sister program, Club Invention, that is designed for use in after-school programs during the regular school year. Here is a review of that program in the Consumer's Guide to Afterschool Science Resources.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Encyclopedia of Life is Online

The Encyclopedia of Life, intended to become an online catalog of all species on Earth, began its alpha test of 30,000 pages yesterday. There are placeholders for 1 million species. (FYI, there are estimated to be 1.8 million known species on Earth, and of course more that have yet to be identified.)

This project is notable not just on its face as a remarkable collection of information, contributed by top scientists. It is also remarkable because it opens vast new amounts of information to everyone in an easily accessed way. It also shows the power of collaboration. This is not exactly citizen science, since the contributions will come from experts. However, it will take a large community of experts to make the Encyclopedia a reality. As the site grows, it should give readers a view of the inner workings of science, since there will certainly be disagreements about what species goes where, what the implications of certain connections are, etc. E.O. Wilson, the eminent Harvard biologist who inspired the site and has led its development, observes, "This great effort promises to lay out new directions for research in every branch of biology."

By making this valuable information accessible to everyone, the EOL project should inspire many years of learning opportunities at all levels.

Link to Encyclopedia of Life
Link to Tree of Life (A related site that is also great)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Legos Teach Fairness

I came across this article (via Digg) from a 2006 Rethinking Schools journal. The authors lead a before- and after-school program, and their story is about a teachable moment regarding ownership and society. The classroom Lego collection became a battleground as some kids claimed ownership of certain pieces, so the teachers developed a set of exercises and discussion opportunities to help resolve the issue. Over time, this evolved into a better understanding of how rules are formed and how societies function.

I think out-of-school programs play a critical role in helping young people understand society. Because there is less formal structure, there is some room to let the kids form the rules. There is also time to reflect on how changes in those rules affect everyone. Open discussion and free choice cannot go as far in the classroom because there is a necessary structure there. (Of course, there are your "Dead Poet Society" exceptions, but how would those kids have done on their standardized tests??)

One could read the Rethinking Schools article and worry that these teachers are preaching a form of communism - see James Clavell's The Children's Story for a fictional account. However, it is exercises in free thought and debate that allow the students to grow into adults who can appreciate the value of the world they live in without forgetting that it is imperfect.

On a related note, the Afterschool Math PLUS curriculum includes a unit on the built environment which includes a design charette similar to the activity described in the article (building Pike Place Market from Legos). However, the kids using Math PLUS probably have instructors who are promoting cooperation and fair play more directly, since this is a deliberate part of this curriculum. The results that I have seen are great - the kids design wonderful communities (to scale - it is math after all!) and most have social justice built in. So, here is food for thought: is it better to deliberately teach our kids to be fair or better to conduct exercises that let them discover fairness on their own?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Dangerous Things Your Kids Should Do

There is just too much cool stuff on the Internet! I have just discovered TED, a conference (and more!) that began as a change to gather people from "Technology, Entertainment, and Design" to share ideas. I think there best idea may be to limit presentations to 18 minutes. Seriously - can you imagine how much better most of the lectures you have attended lately would be if so edited?

Here is an example of TED that is buzzing around the 'net today and is about a technology/design program for kids. Gever Tulley of the Tinkering School talks about "5 dangerous things you should let your kids do."

Science Center Business Models

For those in the museum business, there is an interesting discussion at ExhibiTricks about the recent closing of COSI Toledo. The fact that this hand-on science center, a branch of on an existing successful center in Columbus, OH, was not able to sustain itself presents an interesting case study. I posted a long response to the story, but the short version is - science needs to be where the kids are first. We should be reaching them in their schools, community centers, and even at home.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

What Happened to Chemistry Sets?

Wired Science from KCET PBS has a great story about the old-school chemistry set. Liability, and presumably some common sense, has removed from the toy store shelves such oxymoronic projects as "preparing a safe explosive". This story shows some of those old sets, and demonstrates the interesting and exciting world of chemistry that is available in a safe and controlled environment. Yet another reason to incorporate science into informal learning - it can be fun, but it may also need to be supervised.

Get more Wired Science at their website - I could really post dozens of their stories here. They are great!