Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Six Days Left to Honor an Innovative Afterschool Program in Your Community

The Afterschool Alliance and MetLife have partnered up to honor five outstanding afterschool programs with this year's MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Awards. Only six days are left until the nomination deadline of May 31st, 2011!

In addition to $10,000 furnished by MetLife, chosen programs will be featured in an Afterschool Alliance Issue Brief. It's a great way to be highlighted on a national stage!

Nominated programs should fulfill one or more of the following guidelines (taken from the Afterschool Alliance website):

Providing Opportunities for Service Learning for Middle School Students – For exemplary middle school programs that are offering service learning opportunities to middle school youth by integrating community service with instruction to enrich learning experiences, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen their communities.

Aligning Afterschool with the School Day for Middle School – For afterschool that reinforces and complements the students’ regular academic programming in school and innovatively assists students in meeting state and local academic achievement standards in core academic subjects while also broadening their learning experiences.

Addressing Middle School Bullying - For afterschool programs that address the issue of bullying in a novel and creative way to teach children the dangers of ostracizing their peers and ways to deal with bullies.

Supporting Literacy for Middle School Students – For innovative afterschool programs that are excelling in promoting increased literacy, competent writing skills and a passion for reading among participating youth.  

 Good luck to all nominated programs! We can't wait to see the results.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Career Pathways in STEM Afterschool Programs

Out-of-school time STEM programs are often designed to inspire or spark participants' interest in pursuing STEM careers. There are a few reasons why this is important in creating, designing and/or supporting programs. First, the United States--and the world--is in need of a STEM workforce, and few students are prepared to fill that need. Check out the many statistics compiled on the non-partisan, non-profit initiative Change the Equation website citing the low numbers of U.S. students who are ready for college.

Second, despite the market crash in 2008 and the slow recovery since, STEM jobs are in high-demand. According to a recent New York Times article, six of the top ten fastest-growing occupations as outlined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are STEM-related--from biological research scientists to technology specialists to medical professionals to engineers, and many of those jobs require at least a Bachelor's degree and some specialized training.

Finally, in an environment where education programs are increasingly required to justify themselves to avoid budget cuts, tying programs to college- and career-readiness allow more stakeholders to have vested interest in those programs. Companies and corporations that require science, technology, engineering, and math graduates--or students who have skills and technical training in those fields--may seek to partner with programs that promote the development of a future workforce.

If you don't currently incorporate career exploration into your afterschool program, here are some things to consider:
  • What type of backgrounds do your students have? Students may have STEM skills or an interest in learning more, but depending on their backgrounds, they may not have the tools to put those skills into practice. Do they know about saving for college, the financial resources available to them, what entrance exams to take, and the timeline for applying? Are you equipped to provide that information, and if not, can you partner with a school guidance counselor or other community member?
  • How old are your students? At what age do you think it is appropriate to start talking about college and careers with your students? Bringing up college and career goals in mid- to late-elementary school may be a way to help encourage goal-setting from an early age.
  • Do program participants have access to real STEM professionals so they can see how their skills are put into practice? Role models and personal mentoring can be very important in supporting and shaping student interest. Check out this guide from Techbridge developed in partnership with Google for programs and professionals to get started on the mentoring process.
Great afterschool programs certainly have a place in supporting the development of a STEM workforce. To see this principle in practice, see this ten-year evaluation from renowned Chicago program Project Exploration on how high-quality science content and mentoring services can foster higher education in STEM subjects. And for even more information about different programs across the country that support STEM career exploration, see our recent LinkedIn discussion on the subject.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Social Media and Innovative Fundraising

Competition for grants and donations can be fierce, especially as traditional streams of funding dwindle or disappear due to budget cuts. One innovative way to appeal capitalize on new fundraising techniques is through new media and social networking. Here are a few different ways that afterschool programs and nonprofits can tap into new donor networks and gain community support.
  • Donors Choose, which allows small and/or non-traditional donors to support individual classroom projects. Educators post what they need to support their classroom or individual project, from art supplies to technology to innovative curriculum to support high-quality student learning. Donors can search for projects in their geographical area, subject (including math & science!), highest need, and several other criteria. Choose to donate as little as $10--or fund the entire project! This is a great way for potential donors who want to have an impact on students' lives, but who may not have the time to volunteer or the funds to make a major gift. The direct connection between the classroom and the donor shows that the funds are being put to a specific use. 
  • Chase Community Giving, a project that uses existing social networks to support organizations through social media user engagement. Facebook users vote for charities--including youth development and education organizations--to receive grants from Chase, whose total donations exceed $2.5 million. Voters can share their votes on Facebook or tweet links to vote for charities that they favor. The second round of this year's voting is set to begin May 19th--check it out and see if participating next year is right for you!
  • The Refresh Everything program from Pepsi, which encourages innovative and/or new projects to make their case and build a network of support. Each month, Pepsi gives away grants to programs and projects that support new ideas in arts & music, education, or communities. They also post a new "Pepsi Challenge" each month, from a fundraising rock concert to honoring soldiers in your hometown. Users can vote for multiple projects per day, and the Pepsi Refresh website offers a guide for promoting projects via social networking, traditional media, and other creative strategies.
How have you used unconventional fundraising techniques to make a different in your community?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Directory Update 2011

In 2009, the Coalition for Science After School partnered with Time Warner Cable's philanthropic initiative Connect a Million Minds to create the National After School Science Directory. The Directory is a fast, free way for organizations across the country to promote their opportunities for doing science, technology, engineering, and math in out-of-school time. Tens of thousands of students, parents, educators, advocates, and other stakeholders have used the Connectory to find STEM programs & events in their communities.

This month, we are working to include the many STEM opportunities that have been initiated since 2009 into the Directory, as well as updating past opportunities that have new dates. If your organization has not yet shared their opportunities in the Directory, we invite you to take advantage of this resource and share your activities on a national scale. If you have opportunities that have expired, please take a moment to log in and update those dates so that users can continue to have access to your great work. Remember, only active opportunities with current dates show up in public searches!

If you need assistance updating your entries, or have questions about the Directory, feel free to contact us at directory {at} afterschoolscience {dot} org.

Thank you for your continuing support of afterschool science. We look forward to reading more about your great work in the Directory!