Dynamic expanded learning environments where hands-on, inquiry-based models take front and center, and where science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is a key part of the experience, benfits young people and helps change attitudes about their futures. For the past year, PASA has invested in this belief by helping to convene a STEM learning community, which brings together teachers and community providers to create a shared definition of inquiry-based learning that incorporates content, skills and hands-on project, research and field-based practices to create high quality after-school STEM programs for the youth of Providence.
It seems that PASA isn’t alone in believing that high quality after-school STEM experiences can positively affect student attitudes and success! A new report, entitled “STEM Learning in Afterschool: An Analysis of Impacts and Outcomes,” released by the Afterschool Alliance on Monday show that high quality programs can improve attitudes about STEM-related careers, affect positive outcomes around test scores and knowledge of STEM subjects, and improve high school graduation rates and college readiness.
Moreover, according to the report, after-school programs “are especially well-placed to help close the opportunity gap that many children and youth from underserved and underrepresented communities face.” The report’s participation data indicates that after-school environments are able to reach students that are specifically and repeatedly underrepresented in STEM fields, while providing enrichment opportunities that make STEM relevant and exciting for them.
We couldn’t agree more!
This summer, our AfterZone Summer Scholars Program brought together formal and informal STEM educators to collaborate to create exciting, hands-on, inquiry-based teaching and learning experiences that bring the field into the classroom and vice versa. We’re gearing up for the fall AfterZone Scholars program where students will work to explore and study STEM challenges while doing field work, collecting real-world data, and taking math and science out of the abstract and connecting it to their lived experience.
By getting the middle school youth of Providence excited about STEM learning, we have seen an increase in school attendance, improved math grades, and built a vibrant learning environment for youth and adults where people want to work together to improve practice while building on one another’s passions and ideas.