Last month, the STEM Education Coalition released a report calling for the adoption of an informal STEM education policy agenda, to ensure that we take full advantage of the vast potential of out-of-school time as a fertile ground for high -quality STEM learning and engagement.
- Informal education as a core STEM strategy: Informal education should be a core strategy – not an afterthought – for enhancing and improving STEM education. Out-of-school programs should be supported to foster STEM knowledge and engagement independently from classroom learning.
- Integration of informal learning: Broad-based STEM education reform efforts must integrate informal STEM education opportunities – by stipulating informal programs as eligible partners for federal grants that support STEM education.
- Dedicated funding: Recognizing the unique role of informal STEM education programs in building interest, identity and skills in ways that are different from school-day learning, dedicated funding streams should support informal STEM education.
- Professional development: Federally-funded programs that support professional development of STEM educators should include teachers and afterschool educators to ensure complementary STEM teaching and learning across settings.
- Federal coordination and management: Coordination and management of federal investments in informal STEM education programs, resources and activities is needed; while informal STEM education stakeholders should have a place at the table developing federal agency priorities, goals and policies.
- Investment in Research: More research is needed to better understand learning in individual programs and also how STEM learning develops across settings and over time through a wide variety of opportunities.
“Back in 2006, a key study led by Robert Tai of UVA showed interest in STEM careers was more important than science or math test scores in predicting which 8th graders would graduate college with a STEM major. So much of that interest is sparked and nurtured in out-of-school settings – and federal STEM education programming and resources must fully recognize that,” said Ron Ottinger, STEM Next Director. “We join the STEM Education Coalition in calling for the adoption of this policy agenda.”