Monday, April 26, 2010

Engaging Kids in Science

This past Thursday, Coalition Steering Committee Chair Dennis Bartels was one of the guests featured on KQED's Forum with Michael Krasny (NPR). Broadcasting from San Francisco's Exploratorium, where Dennis is the Executive Director, the program spotlighted innovative programs going on in the Bay Area, particularly those working to bring science to communities with limited resources and under represented demographics.

Congratulations, Dennis. The message about engaging kids in science is getting out!

Listen to the audio:

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Study on Afterschool STEM (part 2)

We previously published a post on a recent Lemelson-MIT survey (January 2010), and we wanted to revisit it today.

The Lemelson-MIT Invention Index is an annual survey that gauges Americans' perceptions about invention and innovation. As we mentioned in our last post, the results of this year's survey were impressive-- the index reported that 77% of teens are interested in pursuing STEM careers. According to the Index, hands-on activities outside the classroom are an effective way to engage teenage youth. Specifically, it reports, "Teens listed activities such as field trips to places where they can learn about STEM (66 percent) and access to places outside the classroom where they can build things and conduct experiments (53 percent) as the best ways to get them interested in these subjects." Another insight of the survey was the power of mentors in STEM education to increase youth interest. Students would like to know more about STEM in order to create and invent, and afterschool settings are ideal place to let youth explore and discover on their own. In informal environments, students can engage in STEM learning and meet active STEM professionals.

We are excited about these results and reinvigorated in our mission to make high-quality STEM learning opportunities available to all youth.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Youth Exploring Science—A Model for Youth Success

In case you missed the article on our current featured member, the Saint Louis Science Center, in this month's newsletter, we are re-posting it here for your enjoyment.

Youth Exploring Science—A Model for Youth Success

by Rachel D. Mahan

On Saturdays when most teenagers are still in bed, up to 200 teens facing multiple risks can be found growing plants hydroponically, fashioning star-shaped violins, and tracking climate change using frog calls. Most of these teenagers are minority students, often from neighborhoods where poverty and violence prevail. They are a part of the Youth Exploring Science (YES) program at the Saint Louis Science Center in Missouri.

Now a national model, YES is a four-year program that weaves together science concepts, inquiry-based learning, workplace skills, and college preparation. On Saturdays during the school year and daily during the summer, staff members train teens in science concepts and workplace and college skills. In turn, the teens teach these science concepts to visitors and community members.

“Today in SAS [Science After School, a YES component] we did our presentation. In my group we did an activity called bubble art, and we had to make art with paint, soap, water, and paper. It was very fun and I want to teach kids how to do it. I really think they will like it,” wrote* William, a YES teen.

The benefits go beyond the crucial hands-on science education experience. While the graduation rate for African American students in St. Louis was close to 50% in 2008, 100% of YES seniors graduated from high school. That same year, 32 of the 34 YES seniors went on to post-secondary education. These numbers remain consistent from year to year. Further, the Science Center employs several former YES teens as educators in the program.

YES was begun with 15 teens facing multiple risks in 1998 by Diane Miller, currently Senior Vice President of Schools and Community Partnerships at the Saint Louis Science Center. To be admitted, underserved youth are nominated by community-based organizations, such as community centers, at age 14.

Through their senior year in high school, the teens work and learn in one of six components. For example, Environmental Health Advocate teens are testing the effects of different growing methods on plants, Design It teens are learning to make violins from a professional violin craftsman, and Communicating Climate Change teens monitor the mating calls of frogs to help scientists understand climate change.

In addition, YES teens routinely take field trips to local, world-renowned institutions, such as the Missouri Botanical Garden, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, and the Missouri History Museum. YES also attracts internationally known presenters, such as S. James Gates, Jr., an African American physicist who is one of the President’s science advisors.

After Gates and other physicists visited, a YES teen named Justin wrote*: “But the last guy we met had told me he saw something in me because I was in honors physics and whatnot (no big deal or anything). But what he did for a living sounded cool and made me question myself on what do I really want to do for the rest of my life.”

The Youth Exploring Science program is not a place where future Professor Gateses are made; it is where future Professor Ariels (who is planning to major in biochemistry next year) and future Dr. KiOnteys (who will be pre-med next year) are made. Read more of their words at

*Author’s note: Teen blog entries have been edited for grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

White House Egg Roll Celebrates Science

At the White House egg roll this Monday, guests were invited to participate in a collection of spring-themed science activities. Part of the administration's ongoing Educate to Innovate campaign, activities for the event were suggested by science providers from across the country. Of the selected activities, two were offered by Coalition members. The Lawrence Hall of Science ran a kite-making activity, giving a chance to learn about wind energy and flight, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) offered a “Science of Spring” activity section, allowing parents and children to dissect green been seeds, look at them under a microscope, take beans home to plant, and document their progress online. Congratulations to our members for their involvement in this great event!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Young Voices on Climate Change

Over the past week, we have shared some really great videos with you via facebook (Coalition for Science After School) and Twitter (SciAfterSchool), and we thought we would take the chance to give a little bit more information about them here.

The videos/movies are brought to us by Young Voices on Climate Change, a project inspired by the children's book, How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming, written by founder Lynne Cherry. The movies give children a voice in the global conversation on climate change. By urging them: "Say Yes to Action! Say No to Fear," they inspire widespread youth involvement in this most important international action area.

Visit the website to watch the videos and learn more about the project: