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The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) field has expanded in recent years to include Arts as a way to integrate 21st century movements and mirror the forces that are transforming our economy and society today. The STEAM field seeks to encourage youth development of problem-solving and critical thinking skills, as well as skills in innovation. When introduced into Out-of-School Time (OST) efforts, STEAM has the potential to inspire youth engagement in these areas and promote positive future career paths. Your United Way can advocate for the inclusion of STEAM programs into OST efforts in your community.

Note: Many of these resources do not reflect the addition of Arts, still referring to the field as STEM. The main takeaways still apply. We encourage your United Way to reach out to local Art & Design programs in your community to develop partnerships as a way to incorporate the Arts component in OST programs.

featured resource — afterschool stem hub

The Afterschool Stem Hub is an advocacy and messaging resource around the importance of using Out-of-School Time programs to further STEM learning. A collaboration among afterschool leaders and stakeholders, this website offers insight into effective methods of communication around STEM as a means of making the case for support of STEM initiatives in OST programs. Funded by the Noyce Foundation and led by the Afterschool Alliance, this resource contains talking points, fact sheets, infographics, and much more that will be valuable for your United Way to use to advocate for OST as a critical component in the push for STEM.

tools, guides, & resources for starting or strengthening a steam program

STEM in Afterschool System-Building Toolkit (2015)
From the Noyce Foundation, this toolkit shares concrete strategies, gives state examples, and provides tools and resources to help OST programs build the quality and supply of informal science programming. The content was gathered from the experiences of the Mott-funded Statewide Afterschool Networks that have been focusing on developing statewide systems to support STEM in OST.

STEM After School: How to Design and Run Great Program Activities – Second Edition (2014)
This guidebook from ExpandED Schools provides suggestions of ways OST programs can integrate science elements into their programs and encourage increased engagement in the sciences. The methods this guidebook provides for bringing science into out-of-school programs can be adapted to a variety of OST programs, both new and already-existing. It delves into ways programs can create effective community partnerships, assess their positioning related to STEM, engage families, and much more.

Frontiers in Urban Science Exploration Research Guide: Strategies to Advance Informal STEM Education in Expanded Learning Settings (2014)
This guide was developed by ExpandED Schools, then The After-School Corporation (TASC), and Every Hour Counts as a way to provide strategies and lessons for promoting informal science learning opportunities. It provides examples of successful STEM initiatives, program resources and curriculum, models of evaluation, and partnership and funding options.

The Quest for Quality in Afterschool Science: The Development and Application of a New Tool (2013)
This paper from the National Institute on Out-of-School Time explores the Dimensions of Success (DoS) assessment tool, developed by the Program in Education, Afterschool, and Resiliency, which lets observers collect systematic data along 12 quality indicators to narrow in on the strengths and weaknesses of OST STEM programs. It describes the DoS development process and shares findings from a case study of its use.

What Afterschool STEM Does Best: How Stakeholders Describe Youth Learning Outcomes (2013)
This National Institute on Out-of-School Time paper shares the results of an afterschool STEM outcomes study. It provides a STEM Outcomes Framework for OST program staff to use to measure indicators and sub-indicators of various program outcomes. The study found that the long-term sub-indicators, such as the impact of STEM in society, were backed by less confidence among program providers, suggesting that additional focus and research needs to be done in those areas.

Know Your Funders: A Guide to STEM Funding for Afterschool (2012)
This funding guide from The Afterschool Alliance provides program staff with tips and resources for navigating funding opportunities for STEM afterschool programs.

Science After School: How to Design and Run Great Program Activities (2010)
This guidebook for program leaders, from ExpandED Learning, covers the importance of science in afterschool programs, the ways to design a science-focused program, and the available methods of finding support.

STEMfinity
This website is a valuable resource for finding project-based activities for youth from Pre-K through high school. It provides STEM Product Implementation and Professional Development opportunities for STEM program leaders, including in OST settings. The subject matter it addresses is expansive, from robotics to drone technology to 3-D printing. To directly access its large bank of free resources, click here.

Click2Science
This website is an interactive resource that covers STEM program work, from planning STEM activities to interacting meaningfully with youth during programs.

You For Youth: STEM
The organization You for Youth has a focus on STEM efforts for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. On its website, it provides information and resources related to STEM in the following four categories: Introduction to STEM, Implementation Strategies, Coaching My Staff, and Tools. The content it provides can be used by many types of OST programs looking to integrate STEM into their programming.

 

research on the importance & impact of steam

Full STEM Ahead: Afterschool Programs Step Up as Key Partners in STEM Education (2015)
This extensive report from the Afterschool Alliance examines the importance of using OST programs to further the push for STEM inspiration and education. It explains the findings from the America After 3PM survey related to STEM and the implications of these findings on the OST environment. Finally, it provides explicit recommendations for ways OST programs can improve the STEM education ecosystem to better prepare and equip students for jobs in their futures. The Executive Summary can be found here.

The Afterschool Alliance has a wealth of information on STEAM on its website. Read the following descriptions and click on the subsequent links to be directed to a specific section of The Afterschool Alliance’s website.

  • Curated for OST programs beginning to implement STEM, the “Getting Started with STEM” section includes a variety of resources, from assessment tools to curricula examples and activities to general resources.
  • Because STEM programs are not frequently a part of existing programs’ budgets, the “Funding Afterschool STEM” section can help direct programs to places where they can acquire funding for new STEM initiatives.  
  • To get a better idea of what types of STEM programs exist, program staff can visit the “STEM Program Profiles” to see examples of successful STEM afterschool program models.
  • A wealth of STEM knowledge, the “STEM Publications & Research” page presents readers with a variety of key research briefs, publications, and guides on STEM.
  • Making the case for STEM is an integral part of OST providers' responsibility if support for OST and STEM is going to happen on a national level. Program staff can use the “STEM Policy & Advocacy” page to stay up-to-date on current policy initiatives and foundations.

Examining the Impact of Afterschool STEM Programs (2014)
Commissioned by The Noyce Foundation, this report examines the role of Out-of-School Time programming in engaging youth and inspiring them to see the value of STEM and envision themselves as key actors of change within the STEM fields. It highlights key OST programs already engaging in STEM programs, demonstrates the impact that STEM can have on youth success, and draws conclusions around the importance of program evaluation. It also describes the potential long-term positive impact youth can receive from a solid background in STEM.

Effective Practices for Evaluating STEM Out-of-School Time Programs (2014)
In this article from the National Institute on Out-of-School Time, the role of evaluation in STEM OST programs is examined. The article explains why evaluation is so critical, describes the most useful types of data collection methods, and defines effective approaches to communicate findings. Also, it provides examples of the impact of these effective practices on program success.

STEM Learning is Everywhere: Summary of a Convocation on Building Learning Systems (2014)
This report from the National Research Council is a summary of a meeting held (under the same name) with a committee of experts from afterschool programs, the formal education system, and the informal education sector in February 2014. Over 100 representatives from these three sectors, in addition to policy makers, advocates, researchers, and others, gathered to explore how to create more seamless teaching and learning of STEM subjects in elementary and middle grades. It can be purchased or downloaded as a PDF for free.

Reversing Learning Loss Through the Arts in Afterschool and Summers (2013)
This article from ExpandED Learning examines the social, societal, and academic benefits of arts-focused OST programs. It shares reasons why the arts in particular is critical, profiles three successful nonprofits who integrate arts enrichment in OST programs, and draws conclusions about four foundational principles for more effective OST programming.

Tomorrow’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Workforce Starts with Early Education (2013)
This report from Ready Nation considers the importance of integrating STEM in early childhood education programs as a means of enhancing the future success of children. It makes the case for early STEM inclusion by providing explanations for the following four facts: the math achievement gap begins early, high-quality early education teaches real science and math, early math affects future abilities, and early learning builds traits and behaviors that STEM employees need to have.

Read/STEM: Linking Literacy and STEM Education (2013)
This report from The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading reveals the research-supported truth that students learn more when literacy and STEM subjects are taught together rather than focused on independently. It sets up a plan for action and references three papers off of which an action plan is being modeled, and it demonstrates the importance of linking literacy and STEM efforts.

Beyond the Pipeline: STEM Pathways for Youth Development (2012)
This report from the National Institute on Out-of-School Time looks into the downfalls of many STEM initiatives and the inequities that leave certain populations out of STEM opportunities. It brings attention to the error of considering STEM initiatives as occurring in a “pipeline” and calls for more intentional program design strategies to target populations who are historically underrepresented in science. Using the “pathway” analogy instead, this program highlights a successful program called Project Exploration and the implications it has for other STEM programming.

Built IT: Scaling and Sustaining an Afterschool Computer Science Program for Girls (2012)
This paper from the National Institute on Out-of-School Time highlights the need for high-quality afterschool computer science programs for girls and explains the successes within one program of this type. It provides a research-based approach to scaling and sustaining the program nationally, which can be used by other programs who want to expand their impact and reach.

Supporting Mathematics Learning Outside the Regular School Day in Afterschool and Summers (2012)
Featured in the Expanding Minds & Opportunities compendium, this article by Danette Parsley, the Director of the Center for School and District Improvement at Education Northwest, explores the benefits of and approaches to integrating mathematics programming into OST organizations. It shares insight into designing high-quality programs and provides examples of programs it deems successful in this endeavor.

Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments (2010)
This book provides practitioners—from afterschool program to library to museum staff—with key research around infusing informal science activities into already-existing programs. It explains how to determine what this type of learning looks like, how it can be measured, and what practitioners can do to make sure that all children, regardless of culture or background, get the most out of science learning experiences. It also includes a number of case studies.

The Arts Matter in Afterschool (2010)
This article from the National Institute on Out-of-School Time examines the benefits of Community Youth Arts and and integrating arts into OST programs. It explains the positive impact that collaboration between arts organizations and non-arts OST programs have on youth engagement, social development, and even academic success. In addition to explaining the positive impact, the report is transparents with the challenges that can be faced and ways to overcome them.

National Institute on Out-of-School Time: STEM Resources
This main page for STEM resources provides around 20 links to various reports, research briefs, and guides related to STEM programming.

 

examples of steam programs

Building a STEM Pathway: Xavier University of Louisiana’s Summer Science Academy (2015)
This Alliance for Excellent Education report explores how a summer bridge program for middle and high school students worked to build students’ competencies in course work related to STEM. It focuses on the preparation of students of color to succeed in STEM fields, and it provides suggestions to districts and states for improving underrepresented student groups’ participation in STEM-related careers.

How Cross-Sector Collaborations Are Advancing STEM Learning (2014)
This paper from the Noyce Foundation examines the efforts of 15 leading ecosystem initiatives throughout the country. It highlights the positive elements and the strategies of these programs so that other OST programs can implement the effective aspects and create stronger cross-sector relationships that will benefit STEM learning.

Shifting Expectations: Bringing STEM to Scale through Expanded Learning Systems (2013)
This article from the National Institute on Out-of-School Time discusses the importance of addressing the STEM gap in OST programs through changing expectations and better supporting program staff. It focuses on the national strategy called Frontiers in Urban Science Exploration (FUSE) developed by the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems and TASC to institutionalize engaging, inquiry-centered STEM initiatives in OST programs. The article highlights the work and positive youth and staff outcomes of FUSE programs in cities throughout the country.

Research Update 5: STEM Out-of-School Time for Girls (2011) 
This Harvard Family Research Project report highlights six STEM programs which took a variety of approaches to STEM education. The programs mostly serve middle- and high-school youth and are either offered exclusively to girls or at least have a focus on girls. The report covers the most significant findings from studies around these programs and examines barriers to quality implementation for female-focused STEM programs.

Gender Equitable STEM Strategies: Stories from the Field (2011)
The Great Science for Girls Unified Program of Change was a five-year initiative to address the under-representation of girls in the STEM field. It built the capacity of organizations and afterschool centers to enhance girls’ interest in STEM programs and eventually the field itself. This report is a compilation of successful strategies and best practices from the partner organizations who implemented Great Science for Girls’ evidence-based curricula into their programs.

Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network
The MOST Network is involved with a wide variety of STEM initiatives, envisioning that the work of its sySTEM initiative will provide all school-age youth in Maryland with high-quality STEM opportunities. Visit this flagship program’s website to see how they are supporting new STEM initiatives and what their STEM partners are doing.

Boston After School & Beyond STEM
Boston After School & Beyond works to expand skill development and learning opportunities for all students through coordinating between schools and the community. The STEM section of their website offers helpful research and reports around STEM learning and programming, some of which are included on this page.

 

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Have a resource you want to share? See something you've created fitting well in the Toolkit?

Email your Out-of-School Time reports, publications, best practices, case studies, blog articles, videos, media mentions, etc. to submissions@unitedway.org. We will contact you if we are featuring your resource in the OST Toolkit.