Thursday, December 20, 2012

Let the After School Science Directory Help You

We completely redesigned the search function and look of the National After School Science Directory!  Now it's easy to discover science-rich institutions and youth development organizations in your community with our new search options.  Start with a zip code search, then expand the distance around your search to find the area you're interested in.

The new search capabilities of the Directory make it a great tool for:

Promoting your organization's after school science classes, workshops & camps
Spreading the word about your virtual and online resources
Finding potential partners in your city, state or nationwide
Discovering professional development opportunities by using the new "Program" filter

As always, listing your after school science opportunities in our Directory connects you with a national audience of kids and parents through Time Warner Cable's Connect A Million Minds Connectory!

You can also look here for a list of organizations currently registered with the Directory.

Are your winter camps listed in the Directory yet? There's still time to promote your awesome out-of-school time science programming - log in today!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Maya Science and Nasa Science

Science educators often find themselves in the position of wanting to debunk commonly held beliefs.  Earlier this week astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted about the 2012 Doomsday rumors, offering scientific reasoning in favor of all life not coming to an end in a few weeks.

NASA's Calendar in the Sky program is embracing the opportunity to educate folks as we approach the winter solstice about Maya Science and Nasa Science.  While the Mayan Long Count Calendar ends on December 21 2012, there is no evidence to suggest that the ancient Maya people believed that the world would end on that day.  They also have free astronomy lesson plans online, including one lesson focused entirely on the "Mayan Skies."

How will you celebrate December 21, 2012? If you need some ideas, join the last webinar in this series from Calendar in the Sky next week!

Title: How Are You Celebrating December 21st, 2012?
Host: Bryan Mendez, Space Sciences Lab, UC Berkeley
Date: Friday, December 14, 2012
Time: 11am PT/12pm MT/1pm CT/2pm ET
Duration: 90 minutes
Format: Online Webinar (60 min presentation with 30 min discussion period)
Registration: Please register for this webinar here

What do you have planned for your audiences to mark December 21st, 2012, the 13th Bakt'un anniversary of the Maya Long Count calendar? Are you having a "Not the end of the world" party, are you holding a special event, are you marking the solstice, are you including aspects of Maya culture? In this final Webinar of the Bakt'un, participants will share activities they have planned for December 21st, 2012, perhaps getting some last minute ideas from their colleagues from around the country.

Calendar in the Sky is a NASA-funded project led by UC Berkeley to engage the American public, particularly Latino audiences, in NASA science (space exploration, astronomy, planetary and Earth sciences, etc.) via the broad interest in Maya culture. We are conducting a series of webinars for educators on NASA science and Maya astronomy. Following the webinars, attendees will be given access to private discussion boards on the project website ( where they can discuss the webinar topics and exchange ideas and resources for educational programming with colleagues. The webinars will be recorded and archived on the website. This will be the third webinar in the series.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

STEM in Chicago in Out of School Time Conference

Organized by Project Exploration, supported by the Hive Chicago Learning Network, and hosted by the Illinois Institute of Technology, The State of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in Chicago in Out of School Time conference will convene 100+ of Chicago’s top STEM‐education stakeholders and practitioners to share and discuss the results of the city’s first ever survey of out‐of‐school time STEM education opportunities. 

Sessions will include presentations from local and national leaders involved in system-building for youth and STEM, and working groups on digital and connected learning, state-wide learning exchanges, summer strategies, and strategic collaboration for increasing diversity in the STEM workforce pipeline. 

Funding for this conference is being provided by HIVE Chicago and The After School Corporation. Research funding has been provided by the Noyce Foundation and the Chicago Foundation for Women.

The conference will be held on December 17th from 8:00am-5:00pm at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Conference goals include:
  • Sharing the results of the first citywide survey of the STEM out-of-school time opportunity landscape
  • Raising awareness about the importance of, and opportunity inherent in, out-of-school time STEM to impact students’ educational and career aspirations and achievement.
  • Discussing recommendations for a citywide strategy for building and supporting transparent K-16 pathways in STEM.
  • Bringing together leaders in the field who can collaborate to create and support student-centered pathways into and through STEM K-16, using out of school time programs as a building block.

Deadline: Register by December 14th.

WEBSITE:  Visit the conference page to register, review the schedule or learn about sponsorship opportunities: .

Apply for the Excellence in Summer Learning Award!

The National Summer Learning Association’s (NSLA) Excellence in Summer Learning Award recognizes outstanding summer programming that demonstrates excellence in accelerating academic achievement and promoting healthy development for young people between kindergarten and twelfth grade.

The initial application to be considered is easy to complete, and in addition to recognizing the Excellence Award-winning programs, NSLA will also recognize summer learning innovations with the Summer Sparks awards in high-interest categories such as:
Family Engagement,
Digital Learning, 
Health and Nutrition, 
Early Literacy, and 
New Vision for Summer School (only school district applicants are eligible for NVSS). 

All programs also receive detailed written feedback--highlighting both strengths and recommendations for improvement based on NSLA's quality standards. Previous winners have used the recognition in fundraising efforts and received local and national publicity. NSLA also works closely with each award winner to promote awardees to media and policymakers.  

You can learn more and download the application at Applications are due to NSLA by Friday, February 8, 2013.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Mini Grant with a Mighty Impact

Last month the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) kicked-off it's California state affiliate, CalGirlS.  Next week CalGirlS will begin accepting applications for mini-grants, which are awarded to girl-serving STEM focused programs to support collaboration, address gaps and overlaps in service, and share best practices.  As a proud partner with CalGirls, the Coalition for Science After School presents this example of a successful mini-grant project to inspire you to apply for an NGCP mini-grant!

By Linda Kekelis

What is life in the dorms like? Do you have a lot of homework? Are classes hard? Do you get homesick? The girls in Techbridge have lots of questions when they meet up with college students. They want to know what college life is like and if they have what it takes to study engineering or computer science. Role models who are one step ahead of our girls are just right for providing the academic guidance that girls need and the personal stories that girls want.

Six years ago Techbridge and the Alumni Relations Office at the College of Engineering at U.C. Berkeley applied for a mini-grant from the California Girls Collaborative. This grant helped to seed a new partnership and has proven to be a win-win for both groups. Techbridge offers training and support for students and alumnae at the College of Engineering. The Alumni Office helps recruit volunteers and host trainings. The result—well prepared role models lead activities in Techbridge after-school programs and open their research labs at the university and corporate sites for field trips.

Benefits go both ways. Girls discover how engaging engineering can be and what it takes to prepare for majoring in engineering. For girls who are first in their families to plan to go to college, these encounters are especially impactful. College students talk about scholarships that help cover their tuition and offer practical advice on courses to take in high school and internships to explore in summer. Role models find that they have just as much fun as the girls and leave inspired and reminded of why they chose engineering. An added benefit for the college students—they meet alumnae and establish mentoring relationships that may help them make networking connections and land a job when they graduate.

Over the years, Techbridge has trained more than 100 role models through this collaboration with the Alumni Relations Office at the College of Engineering at U.C. Berkeley. We continue to partner and held another well-attended training this fall.

The program has come full circle and not only have Techbridge girls gone on to the Engineering program at U.C. Berkeley, these young women are also coming back to Techbridge and volunteering as role models.

I encourage you to reach out to a new partner in your community and start a collaboration. You never know where it will take you. I look forward to hearing about your success stories that result from a mini-grant from the California Girls Collaborative Project. To apply for your mini-grant visit

About Techbridge
Techbridge offers hands-on science, technology, and engineering opportunities for girls and partners with Bay Area school districts. Techbridge also works with local and national partners to support youth’s engagement in STEM out of school.  Want to learn more about Techbridge, and find resources for supporting role models or STEM curriculum to inspire youth in your community? Visit our website at

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

#DIYandSTEM Twitter Chat Archive

Thank you to the makers, DIY and robotics enhusiasts in the science after school community who joined us today on our terrific #DIYandSTEM chat!  Folks provided so many great ideas, resources and comments so we archived it here for easy reference.

If you missed today's chat, don't worry!  The community is still using #DIYandSTEM on Twitter to share ideas, inspiration and resources.  Go ahead and post your own answers to our chat questions:

  • Q1 Why is hands-on learning important for youth?
  • Q2 What is special about afterschool and summer DIY learning opportunities?
  • Q3 How do DIY activities support STEM education?
  • Q4 What strategies can we use to engage both girls and boys in DIY and robotics activities?
  • Q5 What DIY, Maker and robotics resources or examples can we look at for inspiration?
  • Q6 How do we help youth build mastery and gain confidence with hands-on projects?
  • Q7 What makes for a high-quality hands-on STEM activity?

Not on Twitter? Post your #DIYandSTEM thoughts on our Facebook page.

We're always looking for new ways to connect with our community.  Have a great idea for the next Twitter chat?  A photo of your favorite DIY in STEM moment?  Or maybe you'd like to contribute to this blog as a guest blogger?  Let us know!

Thanks again for a great conversation today!

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Great STEM Leap

The following article was published November 8, 2012 in the ExpandEDSchools blog by The After School Corporation (TASC).  It was written by Lucy Friedman, TASC founder and President, and Coalition for After School Steering Committee member.

When you consider the range of science and tech experiences now available to students outside of classes—from cloning bacteria to earning digital art Girl Scout badges—it’s hard to believe the resistance that TASC faced when we first introduced science inquiry into New York City after-school programs. Of course that was ages ago in tech time: 2006.
Two years earlier, the National Science Foundation had convened 40 leaders from the science disciplines and after-school to see if we could inject more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) into organized after-school programs. Research was telling us that the best way to point kids toward STEM careers is to give them early, exciting exposure to hands-on science inquiry. After-school was the perfect place: no short class periods, no pressure to avoid mistakes and find the “right” answers, just time and a culture that encouraged curiosity, group projects and messy experimentation.
A group of us formed the national Coalition for Science After School, and the founding director spent a summer in TASC’s office writing a blueprint for the out-of-school time field.
Transforming paper towel tubes into spectroscopes
We taught staff how to transform
inexpensive items into hands-on science 
activities, such as these 
TASC began to introduce science curricula for non-science pedagogues into New York City programs. We ran into a wall of skepticism. Principals, teachers, heads of community organizations running after-school programs, program staff—all resisted. Many could not get comfortable with the idea of anyone but science teachers touching science.
In other cities, Coalition partners hit similar roadblocks. Many education and youth development leaders were unaware of the engagement-focused curricula designed by organizations like the Educational Equity Center for community educators to lead with curious kids. Many after-school educators did not feel confident in their own science knowledge. They feared making mistakes in front of kids. In response we made it clear that their job was not to help kids memorize facts, but to lead them in solving problems and exploring scientific questions.
We needed to help shift the whole school-and-after-school bureaucracy away from the idea that science is only for experts. The Noyce Foundation gave us support to try a two-pronged approach. We convened decision-makers, including city and school district leaders, to introduce them to the benefits of science inquiry in the hours after 3. At the same time we trained and coached after-school staff members to be science explorers alongside kids, following the same patterns and methods of inquiry as their students.
I can tell you that hands-on science became a hit with kids, sending them outdoors to places they’d never been before – fishing boats, hiking trails, tracking migrating birds. See for yourself.
dissecting owl pellets
After-school educators helped students became scientists 
in their own communities by dissecting owl pellets and testing water quality.
We named this double-barreled strategy—targeting both decision-makers and front line staff—FUSE, for Frontiers in Urban Science Education. As I shared at a meeting of Grantmakers for Education recently, FUSE is a splendid example of how foundations can leverage public investment by providing early funding for new learning models and building ecosystems of leaders and practitioners from previously isolated worlds.
New York City now requires every program to its Out-of-School Time system to include STEM or literacy learning. Thanks to the Noyce Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation—which helps statewide after-school networks build their STEM capacity—TASC worked with the New York State Afterschool Network to establish science training academies for after-school educators all across the state, including small towns and rural communities.
Girl examining leaves
In New York’s Southern Tier, home of one of the state’s most vibrant regional after-school networks, encompassing Corning and Elmira, state network leads have trained more than 30 regional after-school leaders on high quality STEM curricula. Leaders have passed those lessons along to the front-line community educators who work directly with kids. Local kids can have more fun with STEM at the Corning Museum of Glass, supported by Corning Incorporated. The synergy is impressive.
Through the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems, we’ve taken the FUSE approach to other states and cities, including Providence. For our colleagues in the Providence After School Alliance(PASA), science learning helped them achieve a goal they had long pursued. Students at Rhode Island College partnered with PASA educators to lead students in summer and after-school science. College students now partner with PASA in other subject areas.
As corporations and government invest heavily in building the skilled workforce of the future, the kid-centered, hands-on STEM movement has taken hold everywhere from Maker Faires to new schools built around game design curriculum.
To integrate more science discovery into longer school days and summers, out-of-school time systems are building new partnerships with museums, parks, colleges and other institutions. We still have far to go to reversing fear of science and equalize kids’ opportunities. But without foundations taking the lead by investing in STEM learning outside traditional school hours, the arc of change would be much slower.
Bringing partners together around STEM is not just a way to grow more science-literate Americans. It’s a great way to build more high-quality expanded learning systems too.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

#DIYandSTEM Twitter chat

Have you noticed a growing excitement around Do-It-Yourself activities, Maker communities and robotics groups in afterschool settings?  We want to talk to you about it and hear about your experiences, best practices and resources for DIY STEM activities in afterschool!

The Coalition will host a Twitter chat:
Wednesday November 14 

The topic is DIY STEM activities and the benefits of this type of hands-on learning in out-of-school time.   We have invited experts in facilitating Maker and robotics activities, and we hope you join the conversation!

To join the chat and see what others are saying:

1. Go to and search for the hashtag #DIYandSTEM
2. You do not need a Twitter account to follow the chat, but you do need one to comment or ask questions.  If you need to set up a Twitter account you can sign up at  It's free to join and only takes a minute.
3. To join the discussion, sign into TweetChat using your Twitter account and enter your tweets in the box at the top of the page. TweetChat automatically includes the hashtag for you.
4. Each tweet is limited to 140 characters (including the hashtag #DIYandSTEM) but feel free to use multiple tweets to pose a question or respond to a comment.

The Coalition's Twitter handle is @sciafterschool.  Feel free to submit questions in advance by sending us a message on Twitter.

Looking forward to seeing you on the chat!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Join the Science After School Conversation!

The following blog post is from Coalition Director Carol Tang.

As we launch our new look and new website this week, let’s take a quick look back on the last few months as we traveled across the country and talked to many of you about the importance of science experiences for youth in afterschool and summer settings.

We’ve gone to Boys and Girls Club Southwest Leadership Conference in Denver, the Alameda County of Education afterschool kickoff event in Vallejo, the Bridges Conference organized by Schools Out Washington in Seattle and the 21st CCLC Summer Institute in New Orleans to talk about how high quality STEM experiences supports high quality youth development. Both the science education and youth development fields aspire to build confidence, foster curiosity and lifelong learning, build communication and collaboration skills, and support mastery.

We’ve also been meeting with national leaders in science education to ensure that afterschool opportunities are full considered and respected as an important player in increasing STEM literacy and the future innovation workforce. I spoke at a panel at the Association of Science Technology Centers, was a facilitator at the National Research Council’s summit on informal science education assessments and a co-facilitator at the 21ST CCLC STEM partners meeting. Perhaps most excitingly, we were invited to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative America 2012 summit in Chicago as part of the STEM team.  Our work with Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds and 826 National was acknowledged by President Clinton himself!

I know that as we launch our new site, we now have a new platform to increase the visibility of science afterschool among the youth development, science education, and science communities to meet our mission. But we need you, as Coalition supporters, to amplify our message and together we can find solutions to the challenges we face in bringing high-quality science experiences to all youth. Thanks for your past support and we look forward to more success stories in the years to come.

Photo credit: Clinton Global Initiative.

Carol Tang is the Director of the Coalition for Science After School and was recently honored as a “Leading Woman in STEM” by the California Science Learning Network.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Meet the Coalition: CalGirlS and Bay Area Science Festival

We are excited to be involved with two fantastic science after school events this week in the San Francisco Bay Area!

Tomorrow, November 1, we will be at the CalGirlS Kick-Off Conference in Berkeley, CA.  CalGirlS stands for the California Girls in STEM, and is the California state affiliate of the National Girls Collaborative Project.  

The Kick-Off is the launch of the statewide initiative to increase girls' involvement in STEM.  We are expecting over 100 program managers, guidance counselors, business partners, technical professionals K-12 teachers, parents and representatives from professional organizations and higher education.

Then on Saturday, November 3, we will be at AT&T Park in San Francisco for the Bay Area Science Festival Discovery Day.  This event is from 11-4 and is free to the public!  We expect 20,000 kids, parents, teachers and other folks who love science at the ballpark on Saturday.

We're thrilled to bring with us several of our local science after school partners: 4-H, the Bay Area Discovery Museum, 826 Valencia, the Alameda County Office of Education, and the brand new California Girls in STEM Collaborative (CalGirlS).  

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, we hope to see you at one of these events!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing

The National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Award for Aspirations in Computing honors women at the high-school level for their computing-related achievements and interests.  The program offers both national and local affiliate competitions.  National winnder receive $500, a laptop and a trip to the March 9, 2013 awards gala.

Since 2007, NCWIT has inducted more than 1300 young women into the Aspirations in Computing Talent Pipeline program and honored more than 50 teachers with the NCWIT Educator Award.  One past award recipient stated,

"Because of this award, I am more self-confident; I'm reminded that I can actually succeed in technology-related fields."

Visit the website to read more from past student and educator award recipients.

Applications are open now through October 31.  Apply at

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Coalition Director Carol Tang honored at CA STEM Summit!

We are thrilled to announce that Coalition Director Carol Tang was chosen amongst twelve leading women in STEM to be honored today at the California STEM Summit in San Diego!  Carol was recognized for her work in 'Ensuring all California students have access to high-quality STEM in Out-of-School time'.

Here is the official press release from the California STEM Learning Network:


Business, Education, and Nonprofit Women Leaders Honored at California STEM Summit for Achievements in Bolstering STEM Education and Job Creation Across California 

San Diego, CA – October 16, 2012 – Twelve women from across California will be honored today as “Leading Women in STEM” at an awards luncheon taking place at the 2012 California STEM Summit at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina in San Diego.  The Leading Women in STEM awards recognize their achievements in advancing innovative and effective STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education initiatives across the state and serving as exemplary role models for California women and girls. 

The California STEM Summit is a statewide leadership convening of business, government, education, nonprofit and philanthropic luminaries to spark change in STEM education and workforce development and launch new STEM education initiatives. The Summit is convened by the nonprofit California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet), which works to bring systemic change to how STEM is taught and learned in California in order to prepare the nation’s most STEM-capable graduates. 

Recognizing the dramatic need for increasing the number of women in STEM fields – only 25% of STEM jobs in the U.S. are held by women – CSLNet is highlighting accomplished women STEM leaders and supporting initiatives across California to bolster STEM education for female students, noting that women with STEM jobs earn 33% more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs. 

“The California STEM Learning Network is proud to honor these highly accomplished education, industry, non-profit and civic leaders for their innovative and successful efforts to create world-class STEM education across California,” said Chris Roe, California STEM Learning Network CEO. “Their leadership will ensure that our next generation of leaders is truly reflective of the great diversity and talent that we have in our state.”

The Leading Women in STEM honorees are:
Dr. Joan Bissell, Teacher Education and Public School Programs, California State University Chancellor’s Office
Sandra Birmingham, STEM Pipeline Outreach Director, California State University, Channel Islands
Rachel Bondi, Chief of Mobile Innovation, Creative Artists Agency
Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (CA-11)
Dr. Pamela Clute, Assistant Vice Chancellor Educational and Community Engagement, University of California, Riverside
Judy D’Amico, Senior Director of Engagement, Project Lead the Way
Dawn Garrett, SAS Operations Director, Raytheon
Dr. Susan Hackwood, Executive Director, California Council on Science and Technology
Dr. Linda Katehi, Chancellor, UC Davis
Dr. Helen Quinn, Professor Emerita, Stanford University
Dr. Carol Tang, Director, Coalition for Science After School
Nancy Taylor, San Diego County Office of Education/San Diego Science Alliance

Honorees are being awarded for their leadership in advancing critical areas of STEM education including adoption of Next Generation Science Standards, strengthening STEM teacher pathways, advocating for strengthened public-private partnerships and alignment of resources, and ensuring all California students have access to high-quality STEM in out-of-school time.

More about the STEM Summit is at

The California STEM Summit 2012

The California STEM Summit 2012 brings together leaders in STEM fields from education, business and industry, policy, research, non-governmental organizations, and governmental agencies to create new partnerships that bring full-scale change to STEM education and workforce development. These changes will set in motion a new learning model that ensures all students have access to high-quality STEM learning opportunities beginning in pre-kindergarten through college and university. For more information

About the California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet)
The California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet) is working to bring systemic change to how STEM is taught and learned in the state in order to prepare the nation’s most STEM-capable graduates. Established as a non-profit in 2010, CSLNet brings together stakeholders from K-12, higher education, business and industry, governmental agencies, community-based organizations, and philanthropies. Through this cross-sector collaboration, CSLNet fosters innovation and helps to scale and sustain effective STEM teaching and learning in and out of school time for all students. Learn more at

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Can there be too much technology in museums?

Today I read an interesting article on about how videos, mobile apps and other technologies are a "waste of time" in artifact museums.  The authors described a recent visit to Discovery Times Square in Manhattan to see an exhibit called "Spy: The Secret World of Espionage."  Rather than having a titillating experience with cool, declassified CIA gadgets, the authors emerged feeling assaulted by too much technology.

They went on to cite the work of Dirk vom Lehn and Christian Heath, who found that museum visitors are often 'seduced' by technology, and sometimes wind up focusing on screened presentations rather than the actual artifacts on display.

I found this critical look on technology in museums both refreshing and timely, as the Association of Science-Technology Centers conference begins this week.  Although the article focuses on artifact museums it made me wonder, could there be such a thing as too much technology in our science museums, too?

Luckily, the Coalition for Science After School is headquartered at the Lawrence Hall of Science, so with this question in mind I went upstairs to take a look at one of our new exhibits.  Nano is a collection of experiences and exhibits created in part by the NISE (Nanoscale Informal Science Education) Network, and it was designed to expose people to the teeny, tiny world of nanotechnology.  I wondered how the exhibit would approach explaining things too small to see.  Would I be overwhelmed with a bank of scanning electron microscopes, or videos simulating zooming in closer and closer to an atom?

I was pleased to find that the exhibit, while it does include a video, is for the most part truly a hands-on experience.  Visitors manipulate and explore objects to observe and compare results.  The questions that arise during these experiences are further explored in the video.  I watched a young visitor and her grandmother explore ferrofluid with magnets for several minutes, delighted by the unexpected behavior of the tiny iron particles in water.  I can imagine that after having a hands-on experience with ferrofluid that watching a video about it would be much more meaningful!

My favorite part of Nano was another incredibly simple, low-tech piece:

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by too much technology in a science museum?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Guest Blogger: Bay Area Discovery Museum

This week's guest blogger is Heather Posner of the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, CA.  One widely understood theory of learning today is that children, indeed learners of any age, build meaning through a process of interacting with others, objects and the environment.  Heather's post highlights how out-of-school time educators are in an ideal position to support this meaning-making, even when it at first glance it appears that children are 'only playing'.

Encouraging Young Children’s Scientific Inquiry
Written and photographed by Heather Posner

At the Bay Area Discovery Museum we are dedicated to nurturing childhood creativity.  One of the most distilled experiences we offer is our Not-A-School Creative Enrichment program, for children ages two-year nine months – 5 years old, which runs throughout the school year. I have the great pleasure of leading children through inquiry based learning experiences which builds a foundation for science learning later on, and supports children’s natural curiosity.  

We are blessed with not only 7.5 acres within the boundaries of our museum, but all of Fort Baker (at the foot on the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito) outside our fence to explore and discover.  A particularly rich learning environment is the little beach adjacent to our site.  In good weather we visit this place nearly every week and find an abundance of life and natural materials to view and experiment with.

One day we arrived to find a large piece of wood near the rivulet that runs down from the hillside:

One little boy put it in the water to see what would happen.  He was able to see how the wood floated downstream and tried other ways of moving the wood from place to place:

Soon enough other children became interested in his experiment.  They worked together to try to steer what they had come to think of as a boat.  They tested out whether the boat could carry passengers such as rocks and sticks:

Eventually they realized that by working together they could keep the ship afloat and the passengers safe on board:

Although some adults may wonder about the value of this type of play, it is clear that these children have in fact gone through a simplified and age appropriate version of the scientific method:

Formulate a question

One very important outcome, in addition to their process, is their use of collaboration to test theories and try new things.  This is one of the ways we in informal science education can facilitate creative thinking, by supporting children's curiosity and asking questions that inspire them to continue exploring.

Friday, September 14, 2012

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's... math?

Of all the areas of STEM, I keep hearing that the M is the toughest one to make exciting for kids in out-of-school time programs.  The thinking goes like this: Science includes exciting subject matter from whales to outer space that instantly captures kids' imaginations; Technology is overflowing with gadgets and gizmos that kids are instantly attracted to; Engineering is full of hands-on, team oriented projects, often built in competition and culminating in dramatic roof-top launches, crowds of cheering onlookers and even explosions.

What can we do to make Mathematics that exciting?

Earlier this week I heard about the work of an artist named ISHKY, who designed the world's largest ephemeral art installation.  The piece is the first 1,000 digits in the number pi, drawn by five synchronized skywriters above the San Francisco Bay Area.  I went outside around lunchtime and watched and waited.  Just when I thought I had missed it, I saw a trail of unusual white puffs headed in my direction.  And soon after that:

Watching this event, somehow simultaneously dramatic and simple, raised many questions for me.  Some were about the logistics of pulling off a stunt like this: How did they rehearse for this event? How does skywriting work?  Other questions I had were about the artist: Where did this idea come from? What does he hope to accomplish or inspire from this work?

But it turned out, most of my questions involved some kind of math. How high are those planes?  How big are they?  How much skywriting compound is each plane carrying? How close together are those planes flying? How many digits did they write from San Jose to Berkeley?  How long will it take them to fly over San Francisco?  At this height, given the visibility today and the low wind speed, how many people can see some part of this art before it blows away if they just take the time to look up right now?

Imagine all of the kinds of questions kids have.  Some, it is important to admit, are unanswerable.  Some are questions that science can answer, through experimentation, isolating variables, testing and using the right instrument to measure the right data.  Some questions are better answered through art and engineering, by following a creative process to discover the experience and 'how' of making.  And some questions, often the first that kids have about the world around them have numerical answers.  How big? How many? How fast? How heavy?

When it comes to numbers, some folks are intimidated by them, perhaps because of their concrete finality.  The idea that in math there ARE right and wrong answers is scary to some and comforting to others.  So how can after school providers help make math exciting and accessible to everyone?  Perhaps we can start by helping kids look at the kinds of questions they have, and helping them classify those questions.  Which ones can we really answer?  Which ones can we find out through experimenting?  Which ones can we discover through measuring or counting?

For me, the most exciting thing about mathematics is that it begins so simply with counting, and it continues on infinitely, not unlike the human quest for knowledge.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Guest Blogger: 4-H Science, Engineering and Technology

Our guest blogger this week is Steven Worker from the California State 4-H Office.  We are thrilled that 4-H will be joining the Coalition at the Bay Area Science Festival on November 3, 2012 at AT&T Park in San Francisco!  Read on to learn about some of the exciting after school science programs 4-H is doing.

Did you know that for the past 110 years, 4-H programs nationwide have been engaging youth in experientially-based science, engineering, nutrition, citizenship, and agricultural education? Often people are surprised at the scope and breadth of 4-H programming due to the often heard stereotype of 4-H as agriculture and livestock. Today, 4-H has projects in many different areas including aerospace to nutrition, leadership to civic engagement, and plant to animal science. Nationally, 4-H programs serve more than 6.5 million youth, ages 5-19, annual in rural, suburban, and urban settings. California 4-H involves 210,000 youth members supported by 14,000 adult volunteer educators in 4-H clubs, camps, short-term projects, and school-enrichment activities. Another often-missed fact about 4-H is the that it’s the youth outreach and education arm of the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). 4-H is housed in the University of California Cooperative Extension office in almost every county with over 800 4-H Clubs in California.

I started 4-H as an eleven year old in the 4-H rocketry project in Santa Barbara County. I fell in love with 4-H and haven’t left since! Now my professional work at the California State 4-H Office based on the University of California, Davis campus is to strengthen programs, offer professional development, develop curriculum, and evaluate efforts related to 4-H science, engineering, and technology. At our core, 4-H science and engineering programs combine the strengths of experiential education and inquiry-based science learning with a positive youth development framework that holistically addresses the developmental and educational needs of young people.

In 2008, California 4-H launched its 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) Initiative to strengthen its SET programs. The goals of the California 4-H SET Initiative are to improve 4-H members’ understanding of science and help address the critical need for more scientists and engineers in the workforce. 4-H SET programs help youth improve their knowledge and skills around science, engineering, and technology; connect learning with real-world situations where youth can adopt and use new science methods or improved technology to solve problems; and, in the long term, increase the number and diversity of youth pursuing higher education and careers in science, engineering, and technology fields. Evaluation of our programs demonstrates that 4-H works! Check out the latest research for California at or nationally at

I am particularly excited about four 4-H SET programs that we’ve launched in the last few years. 
Robotics: In 2010, California 4-H developed the 4-H Junk Drawer Robotics curriculum. The curriculum engages youth, ages 10 through 13, in understanding scientific concepts and processes, the engineering design process cycle, and technology creation and building. The activities provided experiences by working with household items to complete simple design challenges. Junk Drawer Robotics modules are designed around three phases – to learn (science), to do (engineering), and to make (technology). The activities were designed to be led by an adult or teen facilitator following the experiential learning cycle and promoting inquiry. When I lead Junk Drawer Robotics activities with young people, I am constantly amazed at the creativity and innovative ways youth go about designing, building, and solving the challenges. Read more about the curriculum at

Water Education: In 2010, California 4-H developed and tested a curriculum focused on water conservation and quality. The There’s No New Water! curriculum helps high school-aged youth learn about water resources while improving their science and environmental literacy. This curriculum has an emphasis on service learning where youth apply what they’ve learned in the curriculum to address youth conservation and quality concerns at home, in school, or in their community. After participating in the curriculum, one youth participant said, “I learned that we humans alone add a lot of pollution to our water system. We need to be more careful with what chemicals we use, what we do with garbage, and other waste. I really don't want to run out of clean water.” Find out more about There’s No New Water at

Family Science: For many children, having a parent or family member support an interest in science is an important part of learning science. The 4-H SLO Scientists program was conceived and piloted in San Luis Obispo (SLO) County to address the desire and need to involve youth and adults together in hands-on science. This helps improve science processing skills, science literacy and issues of family dynamics. Evaluation of this program shows that youth talk to family members about science and spend more time observing and experimenting after becoming involved. Read more at

4-H National Youth Science Day: Finally, a national movement- On October 10, 2012, millions of young people across the nation will become scientists for the day during the fifth annual 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD). NYSD is the premier national rallying event for year-round 4-H Science programming, bringing together youth, volunteers and educators from the nation’s land-grant universities to simultaneously complete the National Science Experiment. In this year's experiment, the 4-H Eco-Bot Challenge, youth will enhance their engineering skills by assembling their own Eco-Bots and surface controls to manage an environmental clean-up. Youth will then test the interaction between the Eco-Bot’s design features and various surface control configurations to determine the most effective clean-up solution for the simulated spill. Find out more at

 As these examples show, there are a variety of 4-H programs focusing on science, engineering, and technology. Of course, while I did not share any examples of agriculture and livestock, many youth are involved with 4-H projects in these areas. For me, the take home message about 4-H is that by basing programs on a positive youth development framework,  4-H provides youth with an opportunity to develop strong, positive relationships with adults while engaging in meaningful science, engineering, and technology activities which helps youth ignite a passion for learning. At the end of the day, I think most out-of-school time programs are striving to have youth become healthy, happy, thriving adults who make a positive contribution in their communities.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

#BackToSTEM Chat Archive

Thank you to members of the science after school community who joined us today on our terrific #BackToSTEM chat!  There were so many excellent ideas, resources and comments that came out of this chat, so we archived it here for easy reference.

Thanks again to our phenomenal cohosts: The National Girls Collaborative Project (@NGCProject), The Afterschool Alliance (@Afterschool4All) and the New York Academy of Sciences (@NYASK12).  Thanks also to our featured Tweeters, the Partnership for Youth Development (@NOLAYouthDev) and the Coalition's Director, Carol Tang (@CarolTang1).

If you missed today's chat, don't worry!  The community is still using #BackToSTEM on Twitter to share ideas, comments and resources.  Go ahead and post your answers to our chat questions:

  • Q1- We're about to start a new school year.  What's your favorite way to get kids excited about science and STEM learning?  
  • Q2- Do you plan to incorporate science into other after school activities?  Which ones and how? 
  • Q3- Why is it important talk to kids about careers in science? How do you start that conversation?
  • Q4- Do you have plans to incorporate a real scientist this year into your activities? How? 
  • Q5- What resources would help you feel better prepared to incorporate STEM into your program?
  • Q6- Thinking about all of the kids in your after school program, what percentage participates in STEM?
  • Q7- What lessons learned from the summer/last year will you use to make sure ALL kids can participate in STEM this year?
  • Q8- What's your favorite STEM moment from this summer that you can take into the new year?

Not on Twitter? Post your #BackToSTEM thoughts on our Facebook page.  This week we're also having a deeper conversation about Project Based Learning on our LinkedIn group page.

We're always looking for new ways to connect with our community.  Have a great idea for the next Twitter chat?  A photo of your favorite STEM moment this summer?  Or maybe you'd like to contribute to this blog as a guest blogger?  Let us know!

Thanks again for a great conversation today!

Monday, August 06, 2012

#BackToSTEM Twitter chat August 15!

Are you ready to start fresh this fall with great STEM activities in your after school program?

The Coalition for Science After School will host a Twitter chat Wednesday August 15 at 12PDT/3EDT about getting ready to start a new school year - and a new year of after school -  full of programs rich in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).  

During this conversation, you will have the opportunity to share your tips for getting kids excited about science, discuss strategies for incorporating science into other after school activities, and learn about STEM resources and best practices in after school science education.

The chat will be co-hosted by The Coalition for Science After School (@sciafterschool), The National Girls Collaborative Project (@NGCProject), The New York Academy of Sciences (@NYASK12), and The Afterschool Alliance (@Afterschool4All).  

Featured Tweeters joining us will be other special guests from community organizations who are bringing STEM into learning experiences, including the Partnership for Youth Development (@NOLAYouthDev), the Executive Director of the National Afterschool Association Gina Warner (@NatAfterSchool), and the Director of the Coalition for Science After School Carol Tang (@CarolTang1).

To join the chat and see what others are saying:
  1. Go to and search for the hashtag #BackToSTEM.
  2. You do not need a Twitter account to follow the chat, but you do need one to comment or ask questions. If you need to set up a twitter account, you can sign up at It’s free to join and only takes a minute.
  3. To join the discussion, sign into TweetChat using your Twitter account and enter your tweets in the box at the top of the page. TweetChat automatically includes the hashtag for you.
  4. Each tweet is limited to 140 characters (including the hashtag #BacktoSTEM) but feel free to multiple tweets to pose a question or respond to a comment.
The Coalition's Twitter handle is @sciafterschool.  Feel free to submit questions in advance, either by sending us a message on Twitter or emailing them to 

Looking forward to seeing you on the chat!

21st CCLC Summer Institute

Last week we teamed up with the National Afterschool Association to co-host a reception for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers' Summer Institute.  The Louisianna Children's Museum provided a fun environment for us to bring together science-rich institutions and youth development organizations.

At the reception Coalition Director Carol Tang and National Afterschool Association Executive Director Gina Warner expressed support for the work being done towards STEM programming in out-of-school time.

The Coalition for Science After School also held its annual retreat in New Orleans that week, with the purpose of connecting with many science after school stakeholders attending the 21st CCLC Summer Institue.  We are thankful that our friends at the local Partnership for Youth and Development let us use their lovely meeting space for the retreat!

Thank you to everyone who helped make the 21st CCLC Summer Institute a success!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Girls Got Game: Techbridge Hosts the League of Extraordinary Gamers

This month's guest blog is from Techbridge, an organization based in Oakland, CA dedicated to promoting girls' interest and skills in STEM.  Techbridge also develops resources for teachers, role models, families and partners.  The organization has served over 5,000 girls in grades 5-12 since the organization was founded in 2000.  This piece was written by Linda Kekelis, Executive Director of Techbridge and Eliza Smith, Administrative and Operations Assistant.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mars "Curiosty" landing on August 5

The Mars rover “Curiosity” will land on the red planet on Sunday August 5, 2012.  Here are some great ideas from NASA to get the kids (and adults) in your summer science program excited about this once in a life time event!

  • Host a Mars Gazing Party

On August 5th 2012, viewers can observe Mars in the night sky with a telescope or with the naked eye. At sunset, Mars will sit low in the western sky just above the horizon. Viewers will be able to see the orange planet Mars in between Saturn and the bright star Spica. At this point in its orbit, Mars will be roughly 300 million miles away from Earth and the Curiosity Rover will be only hours away from arriving to this distant orange dot in the night sky.

  • Get an overview of Mars
Basic Information on Mars
Mars Image Collection
3D Images

  • Information about the “Curiosity” landing spot
Destination Gale Crater: August 5, 2012 at 10:31 pm PT
Gale's Mount Sharp Compared to Three Big Mountains on Earth
National Parks as Mars Analog Sites

  • Videos
Curiosity Rover Animation
Building Curiosity: Landing System Drop Test
Seven Minutes of Terror

  • Additional Information
Official Websites:

  • Tune in to live coverage of the "Curiosity" rover landing
NASA Media Services Information for Curiosity Rover Landing on 8/5/2012
Landing Coverage begins at 12:00 a.m. EST (9:00 p.m. PST) on the NASA TV Cable Channel:

Also, lesson plans and training are available at the following website: has a Google map for displaying your Mars MSL events!

Happy space exploring, and stay curious!