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.