Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math: The Power of Informal STEM
How Afterschool Helps
Afterschool programs provide quality, informal STEM enrichment that gets kids interested in these domains and provides them with essential 21st century skills.4 Afterschool and summer STEM programs build confidence in schoolwork, increase academic achievement, reduce dropout rates, and teach teamwork.
The STEM afterschool and summer programs are remarkable. Programs such as Zero Robotics teach a team of students how to “code” in a yearly competition that culminates in a live event broadcast from the International Space Station. Mass Audubon, using state funds, developed STEM curriculum that built interest in the environment, biology and science.
Studies have shown that adding mathematics to an afterschool program can build confidence and reduce school dropout risk. Most important, STEM afterschool programs help close the achievement gap. A meta-study of after-school programs around the country concluded that afterschool improves social, emotional and academic outcomes.7 Closing the achievement gap in STEM is critical for the children and youth of Massachusetts,
As afterschool programs have expanded their offerings, many providers and funders have seen STEM as a natural fit for the setting. The strong focus on youth development allows for youthdriven exploration that can provide students with opportunities to immerse themselves in STEM learning, which complements the school day with a different approach to teaching and learning. There is room for experimentation and failure, and time for children to develop strong relationships with mentors and peers—all while gaining knowledge and skills. These are all vital for future access and participation in STEM fields and careers.
Through My Window
Through My Window is a multimedia engineering education website that engages children and young teens in engineering through the use of narrative in their native digital environment. Developed by faculty at Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College and funded by the National Science Foundation, Through My Window targets traditionally underrepresented groups in engineering—especially girls—and provides academic enrichment in engineering, technology, and literacy.
In contrast to traditional engineering education, Through My Window applies innovative approaches to learning that engage children and young teens and support deep learning. Story is critical to the project design! Learners are immersed in story featuring relevant, diverse characters with whom they interact in novels, graphic novels, and online learning journeys. Engineering becomes idea-centered—all voices are heard, and all ideas are valued. Solutions to complex, real-world engineering problems are modeled as knowledge solutions requiring diversity of thought and learners advance their knowledge by sharing and improving their ideas with each other. Perceptions about engineering are broadened as learners see modern, relevant applications of engineering—not typical “man in hard hat” scenarios or "pink princess" portrayals of engineering and female engineers—and develop their unique STEM voices and identities.
High Quality Curriculum for Girls
This list contains STEM programs that are geared towards girls. Programs that approach the methodology differently than traditional curriculum have a better chance of retaining the interests of girls in related subject matter.
More STEM Curriculum
If you're interested in finding more high quality STEM curriculum for your program, click the link below. This list was compiled through our partners at the Afterschool Alliance, a DC based advocacy group. If you have any questions about the curriculum on this list, let us know and we can point you in the right direction.