Afterschool STEM Increases Interest in STEM Careers & Skills

young woman with power tool

An 11-state study showed that participation in STEM-focused afterschool programs leads to increases in youth STEM interest, identity, career knowledge, and 21st-century skills, such as critical thinking. 

Even more importantly, these gains were higher in youth who participated in higher-quality programs, as assessed using the Dimensions of Success (DoS) observation tool, which includes key facilitation practices such as encouraging youth to engage in STEM inquiry and explaining their new understandings. 

Out-of-school programs offer a low-risk environments for project-based learning that builds youth skills in effective communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills, all highly sought-after skills in the workforce. 

Students often engage in hands-on projects in afterschool that allow them to led solutions to problems in the real world. This develops critical thinking and the potential for innovation in young people (Zhao, Mathews, Mulvey, Hartstone-Rose, McGuire, Hoffman, Winterbottom, Joy, Law, Balkwill, Burns, Butler, Drews, Fields, Smith, & Rutland, 2023).


Allen, P. J., Chang, R., Gorrall, B. K., Waggenspack, L., Fukuda, E., Little, T. D., & Noam, G. G. (2019). From quality to outcomes: A national study of afterschool STEM programming. International Journal of STEM Education, 6(1), 1-21.

Zhao, M., Mathews, C. J., Mulvey, K. L., Hartstone-Rose, A., McGuire, L., Hoffman, A. J., Winterbottom, M., Joy, A., Law, F., Balkwill, F., Burns, K. P., Butler, L., Drews, M., Fields, G., Smith, H., & Rutland, A. (2023). Promoting Diverse Youth’s Career Development through Informal Science Learning: The Role of Inclusivity and Belonging. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 52(2), 331-343.


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