Monday, March 28, 2011

Bring Science & Literacy Program to Your Afterschool Site

The Franklin Institute has teamed up with the Free Library of Philadelphia to offer an exciting and innovative program that combines hands-on science and literacy skill-building. According to their website, LEAP into Science aims to: 
  • Increase the capacity of influential adults for science teaching and learning;
  • Increase the capacity of libraries for science teaching and learning;
  • Understand the ways in which science and literacy can be connected in order to promote children's and families' engagement in both of these areas. 
The program is currently looking for ten new museums, afterschool sites, libraries, and all other organizations who may be interested in bringing the LEAP into Science to their communities. Programs who are accepted will convene in Philadelphia, PA this July with sites where the program is currently happening to discuss findings and be trained in program resources and evaluation techniques.

Interested in applying? Check out their website for more information and application details. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Check out the Science After School Consumers Guide!

Have you seen the Science After School Consumers Guide? The Guide grew out of early discussions amongst Coalition founding members about the need to have a guide to the high-quality, hands-on science content that is available for use in out-of-school time settings. The Lawrence Hall of Science spearheaded a project to find those resources, and conducted a review with the support of the SEDL National Center for Quality Afterschool

After an open-nomination period, submissions were reviewed for various indications of quality and categorized by grade, target audience, cost, and subject. Users can search for curricula, activity kits, instructor guides, and web sites that offer appropriate content for learning science on out-of-school time. Real educators from across the country rate and review the resources, and can submit new resources that they think are missing from the Guide.

In addition, the Science After School Consumers Guide partnered with the folks at the Science and Math Informal Learning Educators (SMILE) Pathway (which we profiled here last October) to feature free sample projects and activities from many of the resources listed in the Guide. Check out the bar on the right side of each resource's page to see the activities featured on (such as here, on the Fetch! page).

For more information on high-quality science curriculum, check out the Coalition's Afterschool Science Activities and Curricula page.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Evaluation and Afterschool

Evaluation and assessment are important components of ensuring your program's long-term success. As stated on the Coalition website:

"Program assessment and evaluation provide critical feedback for ensuring that a program is making the most of this opportunity. Additionally, these reviews can prove useful in securing funding."

Two Coalition members have recently completed major evaluation studies. Destination ImagiNation, a national non-profit afterschool program, underwent an evaluation by the University of Virginia. They found that Destination ImagiNation participants outperformed their non-participant peers on creative thinking, critical thinking, and problem-solving--all stated goals of the program.  

Project Exploration, located in Chicago, found that they have had a major impact in participants' decisions to stick with STEM education and career goals. The study was done by the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (REA) at the Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley and looked at ten years' of data collected by Project Exploration as well as surveys of more than 30% of Project Exploration participants. They also found that their youth-centered model was effective in encouraging positive youth development outcomes. You can read the full report, or listen to a podcast about the study at the National Conference on Science and Technology in Out-of-School Time presented by Project Exploration co-founder and director Gabrielle Lyon and REA Research Specialist Bernadette Chi. 

The Coalition website also has a list of tools available for program evaluation, as well as a list of independent evaluators from across the country. Looking for even more evidence of why evaluation is so important? Download this podcast from our conference in September, presented by Dr. Alan Friedman of The Museum Group. The podcast, called Three Reasons to be Eager to Do Evaluation: Your Funders, Your Organization and Your Students, presents compelling reasons why evaluation and assessment should be made a regular part of program design and implementation.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Out-of-School In the Outdoors

After a wet and snowy winter, the world is beginning to bloom again (at least in some parts of the country). All of the sprouting trees and flowers inspired me to look in the Directory to see what kinds of opportunities for afterschool science there are in botanical gardens and outdoor schools. 

At the Garden Apprentice Program (GAP) at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, high schoolers have the opportunity to learn about different aspects of horticulture and then participate in an urban agriculture project with their peers. The program is structured so that outstanding participants have the potential to work their way up and eventually become paid Senior Apprentices. This innovative program has been around since 2004 and requires a ten-month commitment with extensive training. See the GAP website for more details as well as some great pictures!

In Mississippi, the Plymouth Bluff Center offers environmental programs in an unaltered outdoor setting that includes a  river, a pond, woodlands, a cypress slough, nature trails, an outdoor teaching facility, and outdoor laboratories. The Bluff is the site of an ancient Cretaceous sea and contains fossil sites used for paleontology and geology labs. Nature trails and abundant wildlife present opportunities for unstructured learning time. There is also an outdoor Math Lab and Environmental Discovery Lab perfect for field trip visits from afterschool programs as well as classrooms! 

And on the west coast, 5th grade students in rural Lassen County in northern California can explore their surrounding environment at 5th Grade Day in the Forest. Hosted by the California Regional Environmental Education Community (CREEC), the event encourages participants to explore a variety of science concepts that correlate to California's science standards. 

Let us know in the comments what you're doing to celebrate science in the outdoors! 

P.S. Read about member activities, upcoming conferences, the Afterschool for All Challenge, and more in the Coalition's March newsletter!