At STEM Next we want all young people to access great science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning, in and out of school.
A robust STEM workforce is critical to addressing the country’s and world’s pressing challenges and keeping our economy strong. And with STEM skills, our young people can choose their path to rewarding and successful careers, where skills are in great demand, earnings are high, and unemployment is low. Of course, not everyone will become a STEM professional. But STEM skills will help all kids become critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers, and rational decision makers, preparing them to be the successful leaders, parents, and citizens of tomorrow.
STEM Next Opportunity Fund is the nation’s leader in incubating, amplifying, and scaling effective STEM learning systems in and out of school. With venture investment, we know we can scale our work to reach millions of additional high-need children.
Explore our portfolio of current and past investments below. Investors are invited to build on existing initiatives to accelerate impact, or design your own effort to advance proven collaboration, knowledge building, and scale.
Scaling up 32 states and 54 communities.
STEM Next Opportunity Fund partners with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to systemically seed and grow 32 statewide afterschool networks that seek funding and policy advances to support out-of-school STEM programs, professional development, and curriculum. STEM Next Opportunity Fund is a co-founder of the national STEM Learning Ecosystem Initiative. The initiative includes 54 communities and regions across the country working collaboratively through cross-sector partnerships to increase STEM learning in and out of school and create pathways to STEM careers. Also, STEM Next has worked with the leadership of the Every Hour Counts urban intermediaries to incorporate STEM learning in afterschool and summer linked to the Next Generation Science Standards and leveraging social-emotional learning strategies.
Creating powerful research and tools.
Noyce/STEM Next Opportunity Fund has made sustained research investments to better understand what constitutes high-quality informal STEM education. These investments were incorporated into a seminal 2015 National Academy of Sciences Board of Science Education report that noted that out-of-school STEM programs are well-suited to building interest in STEM. The report showed that STEM programs also helped young people identity as a STEM learner. These findings reinforce research cited in the President’s Advisory Council on Science and Technology in its 2010 report to the President, also funded by Noyce.
STEM Next Opportunity Fund supports and disseminates new ground-breaking research. With an innovative research design, a team from the PEAR Institute at Harvard University and McLean Hospital and IMMAP: Institute for Measurement, Methodology, Analysis & Policy at Texas Tech University surveyed nearly 1,600 youth and their program leaders in 160 programs across 11 states. They collected and analyzed data from observations of programs, student self-assessment and teacher/facilitator questionnaires to create a fascinating new look into STEM in afterschool.
Reaching 18 million youth.
STEM Next Opportunity Fund is forging the first-ever national partnership among the leading youth-serving organizations (4H, YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, Girls Inc.), focused on embedding high-quality STEM programming into the most under-served and unserved communities. With increased capacity and collective vision and strategy, these partners effectively provide quality STEM programming infused with positive youth development principles and strategies.
STEM Next is engaging learners everywhere by:
- By Linda Kekelis and Ron OttingerSTEM Next Opportunity Fund has been committed to quality STEM programming for all youth, both as a funder and advocate for out-of-school-time programs and professional development for national youth-serving organizations. As part of our commitment to closing the opportunity gap in STEM, STEM Next is investing in family engagement with research, resources, and advocacy.With the closure of schools, libraries, community centers, childcare facilities, and out-of-school programs, families are left to care for their children’s physical, emotional, and educational needs in unprecedented ways. This is hard for every family; it’s especially hard for families that were struggling to meet their basic needs before COVID-19 hit. Circumstances vary greatly and impact how parents can support their children’s learning. Not all parents are working from home. Not all families have home computers and Internet access. In a survey conducted by Education Week, 41 percent of school leaders reported they could not make remote learning accessible to every student for even one day. Families are having to step in to support their child’s learning when they don’t know how they will put food on the table, pay the rent, or return to work.Organizations are stepping up and offering support to youth, parents, and educators. We are seeing lots of great educational resources shared through social media. It’s a big challenge to navigate through these online offerings, STEM activities, and parenting advice. We want to make sure that we work hardest for those families most impacted and most vulnerable. We offer five practices to support families. Let’s commit to making sure that every child and every family has access to the resources they need.1. Empower parents by conveying this message; it’s their encouragement that matters. Parents don’t need to be an expert or have the answers; they don’t need to be the teacher during these stay-at-home times. STEM can be intimidating for parents. Many parents don’t feel confident enough to help their child engage in hands-on STEM activities. Parents with less formal education are even less confident. Now more than ever, we can help parents understand the many ways in which they are already supporting their child. These include inviting their child to show them what they are learning and sharing a skill like cooking, sewing, or working with tools. What holds many parents back is thinking they need to be an expert. Parents don’t need to know the answers. They can support their child by talking with them, asking questions, and searching for answers together — especially in response to their child’s interests. Activities like these are expressions of encouragement that build confidence and sustain interest. Digital Youth Divas has figured out how to engage with families and lift up how they are already supporting their child. Here’s a handout from Digital Youth Divas that highlights strategies that parents play in their child’s STEM learning. These can be applied to other areas.2. Listen to parents. The programs that most successfully engage families embrace listening to and learning with families. During challenging and uncertain times it’s more important than ever to ask parents what they want and need. Go back and ask for feedback as you roll out resources and services. Feedback from parents can help with course corrections and refine what we offer and how and when we deliver support. This is our opportunity to prioritize listening and learning with families. Here are some awesome examples of teachers listening to parents. In one small school, teachers hosted a parent Google Meet before beginning distance learning so they could present their plans and ask for feedback. Another school hosted a “practice e-learning day” first and then shared a community Google feedback survey to gather feedback before designing a long-term solution. The Ohio Statewide Family Engagement Center offers an important reminder, “In times of crisis, we often jump to quick solutions. Let’s not forget some basics of family engagement: Ask families for their input, provide routine personalized communication, and give choices to families (and students) for how they can engage. Make a simple plan to keep improving!”These are challenging times as we deal with the COVID-19 health crisis and disruptions in work, schools, and community affairs. Social relationships are more important than ever while we maintain safe distance. We thank you for your efforts to adjust and find new ways to support youth and families in your communities during these uncharted times. We recognize that you are doing this work while being impacted personally and professionally.Read more
3. Go easy on helping. Avoid resource overload. The abundance of ideas and activities for learning at home comes from good intentions. And, imagine what it’s like for parents to navigate the flood of resources coming at them. Imagine what it’s like for families who aren’t able to access them. We advocate that you curate a simple set of resources for families in your community. EdNavigator does a beautiful job with its One Great Thing for Tomorrow. These daily messages offer a few great ideas — like one question for dinnertime, one simple activity to do together, and one e-learning resource. Think about how you can get a resource like this to every family in your community.
4. Relationships, first and foremost. As you look to support families, we encourage you to put relationships first — your relationships with families and relationships within families. We can learn from bright spots created by educators like Mr. Gupton, a teacher at Louisburg High School, who called every parent of his students. His initial calls were meant to check on the well-being of his students and families. He discovered that parents weren’t aware that teachers would be available during the day. Mr. Gupton’s lesson: “Call as many as you can. Parents were excited to talk to me.” During these personal interactions, we can explore how parents might like to spend time with their children and how we can support them — retelling family stories, trying family recipes, walking, talking, reading, and being together.
5. Be vigilant and support families in most need. Last and most importantly, prioritize your efforts for families who have the least social capital and the most to lose during these times. Families in rural communities, in communities that are marginalized, families with youth with disabilities, families without access to technology for computer-based learning. We must step up and work together to make sure these families are not left behind. Think outside-the-box to develop and deliver resources to these families. Highline School District, under the leadership of Superintendent Susan Enfield, is on the forefront of equity and access. This District’s promise to know every student by name, strength, and need is essential now more than ever. Staff are supporting families during school closures, providing meals-on-the-go, getting devices to students who need them, and offering at-home learning packets available in multiple languages (English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Somali and Amheric) at schools, parks, food banks, and apartments. We encourage you to follow this District on twitter (@HighlineSchools) for ideas to support families in equitable ways.
While we didn’t have much time to prepare for COVID-19, we must start planning for the future. When youth return to schools and afterschool and summer programs, we need to be ready to address the long-term impacts of school closures, especially on the most vulnerable.
In the coming weeks we will shine a light on programs and people that apply these five practices in their family engagement. We invite you to share your successes and lessons learned on social media and tag @STEMNext. #TogetherAtHome
Linda Kekelis, PhD, is an advisor for STEM Next Opportunity Fund and founder and former CEO of Techbridge Girls. Family engagement has been a passion for Linda and at the center of the research and programs she has led. email@example.com @LindaKekelis
Ron Ottinger is Executive Director of STEM Next Opportunity Fund and former co-chair of the national STEM Funders Network and the National STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative. firstname.lastname@example.org @STEMNext
- By Linda Kekelis, Family Engagement AdvisorRead more
We don’t have the resources to listen to families. We tried but didn’t get much feedback. We don’t see parents of the children served in our programs. We would like to do more, but don’t know how. These are responses we’ve heard from organizations describing their experiences trying to involve families in their program’s design.
STEM programs with the most impact on youth engage families. The programs that most successfully engage families embrace listening to and learning with families. Whether you are launching a new program, developing resources, or revisiting your work with families, we encourage you to make listening a priority.
Five ideas from the field on how listening empowers families and improves STEM programs
Listening can take many different forms. Here are five ideas we’ve learned from STEM programs across diverse communities.
1. In one-on-one conversations parents reveal how they really feel, what they know, and what they need. Drop off and pick up are excellent times to make a personal connection and listen to parents. By welcoming parents and greeting them by name, we can build relationships in which parents feel comfortable sharing their ideas. In one-on-one conversations you might learn about parents’ interests that can help you connect them to additional opportunities in the community. The YMCA reminds us that we need to provide staff with time to be fully present to engage with parents.
2. Phone calls home can be pleasant and positive surprises for parents. Scientific Adventures for Girls makes phone calls home a priority. On these calls, staff share positive snapshots of their daughters’ engagement in their afterschool program and ideas to support their daughters’ interests. From these calls, the team has gained insights that help them improve their programs for kids and parents. Programs get creative in making calls home to remind parents about upcoming opportunities and ask for input on specific program elements. The YMCA of Anaheim enlists front office staff in making calls while others rely on parents calling parents.
3. In casual conversations among caregivers, parents may feel more comfortable sharing candid input. The Greene Scholars Program taps into these conversations. Parents who serve on committees share what they’ve heard parents talking about in informal conversations and in small groups. This information helps improve the Greene Scholars Program’s curriculum and parent workshops.
4. We can elevate the voices of families with surveys, interviews, and focus groups. These methods can help inform decisions about how to allocate resources that bridge the opportunity gap by attracting and retaining youth and their families who have been underrepresented in STEM. Putting Data to Work for Young People from RAND offers useful strategies to gather data that are accurate, complete, and at the right scale. Include an open-ended question so parents can offer ideas that you might not even have thought to ask about. You might find out like the Lawrence Hall of Science that their families first want to get to know the other families in their programs before jumping into STEM activities.
5. Sometimes we need to listen to families through a partner. A partner who is a trusted member of the community can help broker interactions with families. Techbridge Girls turned to the Somali Youth and Family Club when they wanted to better understand the interests and needs of Somali families. With this partnership Techbridge Girls gained important insights that helped them host workshops for parents that increased their confidence in being STEM advocates for their daughters.
Lessons learned on listening
I hope that these ideas inspire you to try new ways of bringing listening into your programs. As you embark on this work, here are some lessons learned from the field.
Lesson #1 Show why it matters. Explain to caregivers why you want their input and feedback. Put their ideas into practice quickly so that parents see your intentions. Digital Youth Divas heard from caregivers, especially those who had difficulty participating in the program, that childcare was a major hardship for many families’ participation. While Digital Youth Divas hadn’t budgeted for childcare, they accommodated this need, which positively impacted family turnout. If you can’t put all suggestions into practice, explain why to parents.
Lesson #2 Listen for barriers and solutions to barriers. What you presume might not be the solution to a challenge for families. At Techbridge Girls, we heard that transportation was a challenge for participation in our summer programs. However, what we thought was a solution — providing free shuttle service for girls — proved unsuccessful. If I had a do-over, I would have listened to parents for their ideas instead of leaping to solutions.
Lesson #3 Listen to families where they are. Increase opportunities to hear from more families by expanding where you hold your listening sessions. Don’t always ask parents to come to you. Consider holding listening sessions during visits at home, community center, park, cafe, library, or other place where parents are comfortable. EdNavigator really thinks outside the box; its advisors meet parents at work and hear what parents need and want to support their child’s education.
Lesson #4 Commit resources for this work. Michelle Rodriguez, Visitor and Community Experiences Director, at the Lawrence Hall of Science suggests building into grant proposals and program budgets resources to listen to families. This is particularly important when you are moving into new communities with new families. With adequate resources, you can support training and time for staff to listen and learn from families. Partners in Imagine Science-Orange County, California recommend listening to staff for their ideas to help them become better listeners with families.
Interested in learning more? Here are resources to help place listening at the center of your family engagement.
Changing the Game in STEM with Family Engagement. White Paper for Practitioners and Field Leaders to Empower Families in STEM by STEM Next Opportunity Fund. Check out pages 12–17 for practices on listening.
Cultivating a Community of Champions for Children Through Transformative Family Engagement by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Engage Every Family by Steven M. Constantino. Check out chapter 6. Check out these downloadable resources.
Human-Centered Design: An Innovative Tool for Professional Learning in Family Engagement by the Global Family Research Project
Listening and Learning with Families handout by STEM Next Opportunity Fund. Try this and give us feedback on our new resource.
Linda Kekelis, PhD, is an advisor for STEM Next Opportunity and founder and former CEO of Techbridge Girls. Family engagement has been a passion for Linda and at the center of the research and programs she has led.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: @LindaKekelis
- By Linda Kekelis, Family Engagement AdvisorRead more
Get ready. Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day will be hosted February 20, 2020 during Engineers Week. Girls want to make the world a better place. Girl Day shows them how engineers are doing just that and how they can have a place in engineering a better world. As you plan your Girl Day, here are five ideas to make it the start of something special with long-term impact.
#1 Make the most impact by reaching out to girls with promise and potential. Imagine you were a young girl who didn’t personally know an engineer. Would you know the career options in engineering or understand how to chart your path from middle school to an engineering major? Girl Day can fill in those gaps for girls with promise.
How can you leverage your Girl Day and make a real difference in the future of girls? Look for partners to help you recruit girls who might be interested in engineering, if given the chance. Reach out to groups like Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA who support youth in low-income and under-resourced communities, to schools that serve girls who are first generation on a college track, and to programs like National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) with outreach to girls who are underrepresented in engineering. Only 20% of all engineering bachelor’s degree holders are women; less than 4% of engineering bachelor’s degrees are awarded to African American, Hispanic, and Native American women combined. We can work together to change the future of engineering and girls. With your support, girls from diverse backgrounds just might see a bright future tackling local and global challenges.
#2 Step up and offer to be an informal mentor for girls. It’s not always what you know, but who you know that matters in your life’s journey. Julia Freeland Fisher provides a thoughtful reflection on the inequities in access to networks that help build social capital. Youth from wealthy families have greater access to enrichment activities like afterschool programs, tutoring, and sports that increase their access to informal mentors. These mentors offer academic and career guidance and open doors with introductions to influential persons in their networks.
You can help bridge the gap in youth’s access to networks which are “powerful levers for equity and opportunity.” Amp up the power of your Girl Day by doing more than exposing girls to engineering activities. Send girls off with your business card and let girls know that you will be available to them after Girl Day. As an informal mentor, you can provide advice on course work, offer words of encouragement, or make an introduction for an internship. You have the power of your networks to expand the networks of girls.
#3 Introduce a girl and her family to engineering. When you ask a girl about the role models in her life, she is likely to answer that it’s her parents. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between girls’ desires and their parents’ perceptions. Girls are looking to their parents for guidance about the future. Parents believe they don’t have the expertise. You might not be able to include parents in your Girl Day activities, but you can find ways to involve and support families.
Film your Girl Day and share highlights of activities with parents. Seeing what you hosted for their daughters can dispel stereotypes and show parents how the work and lifestyle of an engineer can be compatible with their daughters’ interests and talents. Provide resources for girls to bring home and share with their parents. Parents don’t need to be an engineer to be a champion for engineering. Share the message that it’s their encouragement that matters. Encouragement comes in many forms like asking questions, inviting their daughter to show them what they’re learning, or looking for books and online videos about engineering. Check out the Planning Guide for Parents by DiscoverE for hands-on activities and resources to spark a budding interest in engineering. For more ideas to empower parents, check out my blog Introduce a Girl (and Her Family) to Engineering.
#4 Connect girls to programs in the community and online. Once you’ve created a spark with Girl Day, what’s next? One-off experiences aren’t likely to sustain girls’ interest in engineering, but there are lots of engineering programs in which girls can further their interests in engineering. You can help by being intentional and stitching together connections between Girl Day and these opportunities.
You can create a resource with summer camps, afterschool programs, and weekend workshops. SWENext supports girls who are 13 years and older with programs that build leadership and confidence. Technovation Girls, Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, and Girl Scouts sponsor programs that connect girls to technology and engineering along with role models. Direct girls to EngineerGirl and The Connectory where they can find opportunities in their community.
#5 Introduce role models. There’s been lots of study on why females don’t pursue engineering. Despite the Odds from DiscoverE and Concord Evaluation Group studied what motivates young women to pursue and persist in engineering education and careers. Their findings include “Giving girls the opportunity to do meaningful engineering activities — with role models — works. It builds their interest, confidence and understanding of engineering.”
Be sure to offer training and support for role models. DiscoverE has a robust set of resources to prepare role models that include research-based ideas on messaging engineering. Techbridge Girls has best practices and videos of role models in action. Introduce girls and their parents to resources where they can find role models 365 days a year. Some of my favorites include EngineerGirl, FabFems, SciGirls, and AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors.
I am chairperson of the steering committee for the National Academy of Engineering’s EngineerGirl and an advisor on The Family Engagement Project with STEM Next Opportunity Fund. I look forward to learning about your Girl Day.
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaKekelis
- Read moreThe Engineering Mindset Toolkit is a collection of resources and tools for all 50 Mott Afterschool States Networks to access and utilize while preparing responses to the Request for Proposals (RFP) and Million Girls Moonshot program planning.The resources in the Engineering Mindset Toolkit are not exhaustive. We will continue to add and modify the resources as the Initiative evolves and depending upon the needs of the Networks.The Million Girls Moonshot focuses on the Engineering Mindset which we believe compliments the STEM mindset, as well as innovation, invention, and entreprenuerial education.
Equity and Inclusion FrameworkWhile the Initiative’s goal is focused on increasing the number of girls with an engineering mindset and a STEM identity— the Initiative will benefit all students, improving the overall quality of all afterschool STEM opportunities and lifting up both boys and girls as they become future innovators.As STEM system builders we work to increase access to STEM learning opportunities in afterschool and summer learning programs. Additionally, we need to explore how to support programs to engage and nurture all young people’s interest in STEM learning. We need to address how programs are designing and implementing programming to broaden participation in STEM for learners in poverty, learners of color, learners in rural areas, and girls in STEM.Working with national experts, we have developed an Equity and Inclusion Framework that we hope will be a useful guide for supporting programs in this transformation.A framework is a way to illustrate the particular concepts and variables that are connected to a specific issue (e.g. Equity and Inclusion). It can serve as a map, illustrating connections, and a way of identifying strategies and actions for addressing the specific issue(s).Download the Equity & Inclusion Framework
One of the primary goals of engineering education is to promote the development of an engineering mindset. Also referred to as ‘engineering practices’ or ‘engineering habits of mind’, the engineering mindset refers to the values, attitudes, and thinking skills associated with engineering.
We identified 10 critical features of high-quality engineering experiences that help students develop and strengthen an Engineering Mindset (Cunningham, 2018; Cunningham & Kelly, 2017):
Activity Progression CategoriesSTEM and Engineering programs, activities, and curriculua fall into a into a set of categories that represent an education pathway for students to use as they build their engineering skills and mindset.This sequence does not reflect a linear progression of knowledge and skills. Our intent is not to recommend that students do engineering activities before participating in an engineering club or competition. This is more of a framework to think about how students might develop their skills and provide “hand-off” points between categories.These categories are:1. Engineering activities are short, hands-on experiences conducted at home or included as part of an afterschool program. They introduce kids to the creative nature of engineering and build confidence in their ability to come up with novel solutions and construct technologies. Examples include Teach Engineering.2. Engineering units are conducted as part of afterschool programs. These extended, project-based units devote more time to developing engineering mindset. They set a meaningful context for the problem, and present engineering as a multi step process that includes various phases, such as conducting background research, brainstorming ideas, building technologies, and testing/evaluating solutions. Examples include Engineering Adventures, Design It!3. Afterschool engineering clubs. Devoted exclusively to engineering, these clubs allow kids to form a community and encourage the engineering mindset by working in teams, persisting through failure and creating a culture of innovation. Examples include Girls Who Code Clubs, Future Engineers.4. Club-based engineering competition teams. These engineering clubs meet regularly under the supervision of a leader or instructor who helps prepare the club for some kind of team competition. In the club meetings, kids work together to complete a specific project that will be submitted for judging.5. Summer engineering camps. Multi-day immersion allows for powerful opportunities for kids to build relationships with peers and mentors and to develop science and engineering practices and habits of mind. Students see their own skills developing and begin to self-identify as engineers. Examples include Girls Who Code Summer Immersion, TryEngineering Summer institute.6. Engineering competitions. Many companies, governmental agencies, and nonprofits have created competitions to drive engagement in STEM. Some of these initiatives are national in scale, with substantial prizes for students. Although students may work in groups to complete their projects, membership in a club is not required.7. Mentoring opportunities connect kids with role models through work with local engineering professionals. Students build their engineering mindset through experience in academic, industrial, or governmental workplaces. In addition, students receive guidance on their career and personal development. Examples include Girls Who Code Camps.Pathways progressionv2
- Children consider problems in context: Engineers work to create solutions to specific real-world problems, and children should, too. Challenging students to build a tall tower using only drinking straws and paper clips can be engaging and fun, but it lacks purpose. A challenge that asks students to design a device that keeps important medicine cold during transport in an area ravaged by a natural disaster is an example of a problem embedded in rich context and introduces students to a more realistic vision of what engineering is. Being able to consider background information about the problem, the needs of the client, and the implications of solutions are all part of developing an engineering mindset.
- Children use a specific problem-solving process: Part of what distinguishes “engineering” from “tinkering” or “making” is the use of a multi-step engineering design process. The explicit structure of an EDP scaffolds learning and breaks the process down into a set of discrete steps. Rather than diving headfirst into a problem and learning by trial and error, engineers follow steps that support planning and testing and improving solutions. Calling out discrete phases of the process can also help children to focus on the goals of that day’s endeavor. Learning to solve problems with the explicit help of a problem-solving process is part of developing an engineering mindset.
- Children investigate the properties and uses of materials: Engineers make thoughtful choices about the materials they use to create technologies. They explore material properties and consider the advantages and disadvantages of various choices. To develop an engineering mindset, for a given challenge, students should be given a wide selection of materials to choose from, be given ample time to explore their properties, and then consider which are most appropriate for the task.
- Children consider constraints and criteria that require trade-offs: Engineers need to design to specifications. Oftentimes, these entail trade-offs. For example, the strongest material might also be heavy and difficult to work with. A design that is simple and elegant might also be very expensive. To help reinforce the engineering mindset, clear criteria for success should be stated and children also asked to work within design constraints. For example, they might be asked to design a parachute that falls slowly to the ground, but also has a canopy small enough to fit into a small shipping package.
- Children envision multiple solutions: A major feature of engineering challenges is that they can be solved in multiple ways and there is no ‘correct’ solution. In fact, brainstorming and analyzing multiple solutions, comparing the effectiveness of various designs, and making informed recommendations to a client are major components of engineering work. Children should be encouraged to brainstorm several different ways to solve problems and be given the chance to compare and contrast their ideas. This process is critical to the engineering mindset; it encourages children to innovate, take risks, and become comfortable solving open-ended problems.
- Children apply science and math knowledge to problem solving: Engineers use knowledge of math and science to solve problems. They combine that knowledge with their own creativity to design technologies. Challenges that are closely tied to the science that children are learning in school are both authentic and compelling for students. For example, engineering activities that are based on magnetism, Newton’s laws, or the basic needs of living things help reinforce engineering’s strong connections to math and science.
- Children evaluate designs and make improvements: As mentioned earlier, reflection and evaluation of ideas is critical to the engineering mindset. Children are rarely asked to evaluate their own work, and engineering provides a rich arena in which to practice these skills. Engineering designs can be tested to see how well they work and the feedback from testing can be used to revise and improve solutions. High-quality engineering activities emphasize the iterative nature of engineering design and have opportunities for revision and improvement built into them.
- Children persist and learn from failure: Every engineering challenge is different (defined by its own unique set of criteria and constraints) and there is rarely a simple and direct solution. Rather, the process of developing a functioning or high-quality solution takes time and requires perseverance. Engineering activities that present failure as an opportunity to revise and improve will help students understand that learning from failure is part of the engineering mindset.
- Children work effectively in teams: Engineering is rarely a solitary pursuit. Teams of engineers work together, bringing a diversity of opinions and skills to the problem at hand. To develop an engineering mindset, students need to experience both the struggles and rewards of working in teams. Learning to communicate and negotiate effectively develops the collaborative skills that are part of the engineering mindset.
- Children envision themselves as engineers: High-quality engineering activities have the power to build agency in students and help them identify as capable problem-solvers. When students experience the success of using an engineering design process to create technologies that solve problems and help others, they begin to envision themselves as engineers and are more likely to pursue engineering opportunities in the future.
There are many STEM and engineering curricula, programs, and activities available. We consulted with Dr. Christine Cunningham, engineering education expert, and her team to create a curated catalog of STEM and engineering resources.The STEM Resource Catalog is a non-exhaustive curated collection of STEM and engineering resources. We will be adding to and modifying the catalog during the first year of the Moonshot Initiative. The catalog is for internal use only by the Statewide Afterschool Networks.You can filter the catalog by grade level, aiudience, STEM discipline, learning environment, cost, engineering mindset features, or pathway categories.
- By Linda Kekelis, Family Engagement AdvisorRead more
Cheers to another successful Computer Science Education Week. What began as a one-hour coding challenge has expanded into a worldwide phenomenon with millions of kids taking part in Hour of Code™ in classrooms, afterschool programs, libraries, and worksites. Held the second week of December in honor of the birthday of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (and my birthday too), who was a pioneer in computing, Hour of Code and Computer Science Education Week generate audacious aspirations and actions that inspire kids in computer science.
This year’s theme, Computer Science for Good, has been especially successful at broadening participation in computing. Here are a few of the exciting efforts with diverse and far-reaching impact. CS Education Week 2019 launched at the Santa Fe Indian School. Deaf Kids Code led an app development lesson via live video to deaf classes around the world. Infosys Foundation supported Digital NEST in hosting an agtech field trip to introduce sustainable and scalable technology careers in low income and rural communities in the Central Valley in California. A new season of SciGirls premiered with episodes that explore coding, designing, and programming, including a group of girls who are deaf and hearing impaired who coded software that “paints with music.” A superhero-themed game, SuperMe, coded by Chicago Public School students is the official video game of “I Love You So Much,” Chance the Rapper’s song with DJ Khaled.
I love these bright spots and can’t wait to see them take hold and expand into more. Here are three ideas for making Hour of Code into a year of possibilities.
#1 Add family engagement into the mix
Many youth experience their Hour of Code at school. This means that one of the major influencers on a child’s learning–their family–is missing from the experience. Research shows that families have a significant impact on their children’s academic interests and outcomes and, especially for girls, play a big role in sparking their interest in computer science.
Imagine if family engagement was deeply tapped into as part of Hour of Code. Parents would see how coding expands their child’s confidence and maybe even their own. They would learn about career opportunities and how computer science aligns with their child’s creative and social interests. They would learn about classes and camps at school, public library, or community center where their child could advance their skills. If parents were actively engaged in Hour of Code, they would discover their superpower — that their encouragement matters most in their child’s sustained engagement in computer science.
There is still time to engage parents and guardians. Invite kids who participated in Hour of Code to share something they learned and something they want to know more about with their parents. Look to the digital postcards inspired by Heather Toomey Zimmerman for guidance and lessons learned to make effective links to home and family. Host a Family Code Night this winter or spring. Family Code Night provides resources to host the event along with Code On At Home, 40+ hours of games to continue at home.
#2 It takes an ecosystem: Build bridges to guide families on their STEM journey
After we ignite the interest of kids and parents, what’s next? Video games, afterschool programs, online tutorials, and summer camps. The list is endless with opportunities for parents to support their kids’ engagement in computer science. Knowing how to navigate through the myriad of resources and decide which are best for their child isn’t easy. It can be especially challenging for parents with less education and less experience with technology.
With support, youth and their families can find their way along their journey in computer science. In practice this takes program staff getting to know youth so they can advise parents on what their children show interest in and shine at and where they might go next to access programs and resources. It’s not as simple as handing parents a list of generic computer science programs. Think beyond being a provider of programs, to “serving as a guide and way-ﬁnding resource” for families.
CSforAll is helping 10 communities launch an ecosystem initiative to develop high quality, equitable computer science with support from Schmidt Futures. I encourage these EcoSystemsforCS as well as the STEM Learning Ecosystems to support family engagement and collectively move beyond random STEM programs to coordinated services for families across time and place. Be intentional and build a connected ecosystem to promote equity; be aware of what’s available, design programs that upon skill levels and different kinds of learners, and coordinate services to make them truly accessible to families.
#3 Step up for CSforAll: Take this call for action
Not all computer science opportunities are created equal. The report on computer science on access and equity from Kapor Center shines a light on the serious inequities in participation in computer science. While technology can be an equalizer, access to opportunities is often determined by gender, race, economics, ability, and geography.
For each of the groups who are underrepresented in computer science, there are programs doing right and defying the odds. Look to Youth Code Jam, Deaf Kids Code, and Tech Kids Unlimited for strategies to engage youth who are disabled. For models that empower girls check out Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, and Native Girls Code. For youth in rural communities, Digital NEST and the College Board turn challenges into opportunities that increase access to courses and work experience in computer science.
As CS for All moves beyond more computer science, it’s time to reflect on what kinds of resources best help different communities realize their goals. The time is right for this work with the release of CS for What? Diverse Visions of Computer Science Education in Practice. This report can help us identify our values and better align practices with intended impacts. As we engage in this work, we are reminded to bring as many voices to the table to understand families’ interests and needs for learning computer science.
Imagine if every parent of every child who participated in Hour of Code is empowered in the coming year. STEM Next encourages collective effort and support for family engagement to broaden participation in computer science. Imagine that this year’s Hour of Code is only the beginning. What do you imagine?
Want to learn more about supporting families on their journey in computer science? I found the work of the following research+ practice groups insightful and inspirational and hope you do too.
Dixie Ching, Rafi Santo, Christopher Hoadley, & Kylie Peppler. Not just a blip in someone’s life: integrating brokering practices into out-of-school programming as a means of supporting and expanding youth futures.
Marti Louw, Nina Barbuto, & Kevin Crowley. Designing Learning Pathways in a Complex Learning Ecology: A Research Practice Partnership Focused on Parent Brokering.
William R. Penuel, Tiffany L. Clark, & Bronwyn Bevan. Infrastructures to Support Equitable STEM Learning Across Settings.
The ‘Hour of Code™’ is a nationwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week and Code.org to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming.
Linda Kekelis, Ph.D., is an advisor for The Family Engagement Project for STEM Next Opportunity Fund. She has devoted her lifetime to supporting families and educators in encouraging youth in STEM.
Follow Linda Kekelis on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaKekelis
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By Linda Kekelis, Family Engagement AdvisorMake it a Season of STEM
This year I am switching up my usual holiday gift list and sharing ideas that make time for creativity and connection. These gifts won’t cost anything, and will provide you and your child the gift of time together. Here are STEM activities to bring joy and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to your family.
1. Learn a hobby together
Want to learn to sew or solder? Interested in exploring car maintenance or improving your cooking skills for the next bake off? Libraries are a lot more than books. Check out their free classes or look for courses at your community center. If you are more the self-taught type, get a book or find a Do-it-Yourself video online to learn a new hobby or try a new recipe with your child. You can model life lessons for your child like how to deal with challenges and set backs and how to persevere.
2. Connect over community service
Have a cause that is special to your family? You can volunteer cleaning up a beach or park or helping at a food bank or animal shelter. Ask other parents at school and work and relatives and friends for ideas. If your community has a volunteer clearinghouse, you can check out options with your child. These experiences offer opportunities to put STEM into practice and give back to others. You may find a project that leads to a family tradition and allows your child to learn they can make a difference. A Mighty Girl has a list of 30 books about community service.
3. Give the gift of your time
Create a coupon book that can be used for a STEM experience at home or in the community. Plan a trip to your local science museum and check out an exhibit or program that builds on the interests of your child. You can schedule a visit during free admission days for families. Check out parks and recreation programs to connect with nature and explore the outdoors. Hiking, biking, bird watching, working on a citizen science project, or planting a garden can bring you together and introduce the wonders of STEM.
4. Make car rides and bus rides “our time” with podcasts
All that time in carpool and on public transit got you worn out? Turn travel time into family fun with podcasts. Wondering where to look? Commonsense Media offers a list of The 25 Best Podcasts for Kids that are informative and kid-friendly. Check out NPR’s Wow in the World that inspires curiosity while sharing the latest news in science. Tumble fosters a love of science by interviewing scientists about their discoveries. But Why takes on kid-submitted questions, and with the help of experts, gives interesting answers. Involve your child, letting them pick podcasts that appeal to their interests.
5. Take apart adventures
Got a broken appliance like a toaster, clock radio, or hairdryer? Bring out the tools, take it apart, and see how it works. You can check out your ideas at HowStuffworks. We hear from some engineers that their budding interest in engineering started with a take-apart project. While TeachEngineering lessons are designed for classrooms, you can check out this lesson on dissecting a push toy car.
6. Build with boxes
What to do with boxes lying around? Think outside the box or maybe inside the box before you send them to the recycling bin. Exercise your imagination and build a house for your cat. Brainstorm, draw plans, and design your own fabulous, one-of-a-kind cat house. Build a dinosaur that can balance on two legs with ideas from Technovation. For more ideas, check out Galileo’s awesome DIY costumes, which aren’t just for Halloween.
7. Bring back bedtime stories
Books can inspire a new interest, show the value of perseverance, and introduce role models who share a love for STEM. Look through the Best STEM Books K-12 for 2019 from the NSTA and check them out at your local library. Ask your child’s science teacher or the children’s librarian at your library for their suggestions, sharing your child’s interests. Reading aloud offers benefits for the entire family and doesn’t have to stop as kids get older. While bedtime reading works for some, you may find a different time that fits better with your family’s schedule.
8. Unleash talent with tools
Kids like to make things and work with their hands when given the chance. Look around for projects that need fixing or building. You can work on a bike, build a kite, or find inspiration from one of the fun activities from Design Squad. Working with tools can be especially empowering for girls and build their confidence to help with the next household repair project.
9. Host a games and toys swap
Puzzles, games, and blocks build spatial skills and provide hours of fun. Organize a toy swap where kids can swap games and toys that they’ve aged-out on for new ones. Building blocks, LEGO sets, Snap Circuits, and science kits can find a second life and save families money. A neighborhood library in my city organizes swaps. Look online and see if there is a toy swap near you already planned. When you turn off the devices and connect over play, interruptions and distractions are replaced with conversation, concentration, and creativity.
10. Make together time around the TV
Get out the popcorn, nachos, or fruit on a stick and watch a TV show or movie as a family. Check out the new season of SciGirls, which is all things computer science — creative, collaborative, and with purpose— available on PBS channels. Here are movies and documentaries your family may enjoy. If You Build It follows 10 high school students who build a farmer’s market for their rural community. Underwater Dreams tells the story of a robotics team from a lower-income high school that took on university teams in an underwater robotics competition. Hidden Figures brings to light the true story of African American women at NASA in the 1950s and ‘60s.
I hope that these ideas spark a STEM connection for your family. Engaging in these activities communicates your interest in your child and in STEM. Kids have the potential for greatness as inventors and creative forces in their community. They just need the opportunity to discover their inner engineer, math mindset, or passion for science.
Linda Kekelis, Ph.D., is an advisor for The Family Engagement Project for STEM Next Opportunity Fund. She has devoted her lifetime to supporting families and educators in encouraging youth in STEM. Her favorite winter holiday memories are engineering snowmen and building ice rinks at her childhood home in Ohio.
Follow Linda Kekelis on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaKekelis
- By Linda Kekelis, Family Engagement Advisor; Ron Ottinger, Executive DirectorRead more
Computer science, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and venture capital. Imagine youth in Detroit, DC, and Des Moines bringing their talents, fresh ideas, and social justice to these works. We get excited thinking about the possibilities. Like we do when we think about the numbers of kids who are expected to participate in this year’s Hour of Code and the number of students who took the AP Computer Science Principles exam in 2019. There are lots of bright spots in computer science both in and out of school. Kids and their families across the country and around the world are designing apps for social good with artificial intelligence — made possible by Technovation. With new badges in cybersecurity and coding, Girl Scouts is offering girls cutting-edge computer science and the opportunity to connect with role models who show the personal and professional rewards of careers in technology.
But all things aren’t created equal in computer science. The recent report on computer science on access and equity from Kapor Center shines a light on the serious inequities in participation in computer science. For us, this work hits close to home. There are endless possibilities and opportunities in computer science in our state with tech giants, startups, and venture capital. And yet, far too few students in California attend high schools which offer introductory and AP computer science courses. In fact, just 3% of the 1.9 million high school students in California were enrolled in computer science in the past three years. Especially troubling, are the prospects for low-income students, underrepresented students of color, female students, and rural students due to the large equity gaps in access and enrollment in computer science courses.
The statistics are sobering, and we want to change the status quo. STEM Next has been committed to quality STEM programming for all youth both as a funder and advocate for afterschool and summer learning. We are committed to taking on this opportunity gap in computer science by advocating for family engagement in order to promote engagement in programs both in and out of school.
As part of our commitment to closing this opportunity gap, STEM Next launched The Family Engagement Project to elevate the critical role of families in supporting youth, particularly youth who are under-represented in tech, to pursue and persist in computer science. Since our announcement at the CSforAll Summit in 2018 we have invested in a number of efforts to help advance greater equity in tech. We invite you to work with us to make sure that every child and every family has an equal opportunity to access and benefit from the possibilities that computer science has to offer. Here are five ideas to support families in your community.
#1 Expand computer science programs: Engage families too
STEM Next with the Larry and Helen Hoag Foundation is supporting Imagine Science of Orange County, California on its journey to deeper family engagement. Imagine Science of Orange County is a partnership across Boys & Girls Clubs of Garden Grove, Boys & Girls Clubs of Huntington Valley, Anaheim Family YMCA, 4-H of Orange County, and Girls Inc. of Orange County. This partnership is advancing each organization’s support for families of historically under-represented youth in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). STEM Next is supporting these organizations for deeper family engagement beyond one-time showcase events at summer and afterschool programs. By understanding that family engagement doesn’t have to be just what’s done in programs, the Imagine Science team is expanding its support for families at home. We are supporting a community of practice that meets regularly to discuss research and practice on family engagement, to develop plans to listen to families and design with them, and to reflect on their work and learn together. In partnership and with a growth mindset, Imagine Science of Orange County is working to ensure that families are engaged during their afterschool programs and empowered for continued STEM engagement at home and in their communities afterwards.
For more ideas on computer science with families, look to Family Creative Learning, which is a free program of family coding events directed by Ricarose Roque with the Creative Communities research group at the University of Colorado Boulder. What we especially appreciate about Family Creative Learning is that it puts relationships at the center of its coding programs and designs with equity and access in mind. We also recommend Family Code Night, which offers resources to host an event for grades K-5 at elementary schools and youth organizations. The free event kit leads organizers through each step needed to plan and conduct a Family Code Night as well a Code On At Home flyer that has 40+ hours of games.
#2 Do more than computer science activities: Empower kids and parents to be their own brokers
Families bring different levels of knowledge and experience in computer science as well as social capital for accessing resources for their children. As you plan events and programs, we encourage you to flip the usual model of giving families resources; instead set up opportunities where families — kids and their parents — learn from one another how and where to access computer science programs.
You can learn different ways to elevate families’ role in this work from Family Creative Learning, Digital Youth Divas, and Greene Scholars programs. In these programs, parents learn from one another within casual conversations during meals, structured discussions, and debriefs at the end of programs. We especially like how Digital Youth Divas supports families in a way that recognizes and leverages existing networks, histories, cultures, and expertise in their communities and shares resources to help other organizations in this work. For example, in one activity they share research about brokering and invite families to think about how to be brokers for their child. In another activity, parents think about their child’s interests and develop a plan to connect their child to new learning opportunities that are available in their community and online.
#3 CSforAll: Be intentional and invite youth with disabilities to your tech programs
What does “for all” mean? If we consider the percentages of kids with disabilities participating in afterschool programs as an indicator, we have a long way to go to become inclusive. Don’t leave it up to families to advocate for computer science programs for their kids or to request accommodations for their child’s disability. Kids Included Together (KIT) and the National AfterSchool Association have launched a partnership to make afterschool programs a welcoming and safe place for children and youth with disabilities. The summer 2019 issue of Afterschool Today shows bright spots in this work. We especially like these ideas — creating advisory boards that include families being served, inviting families to give input on program materials and activities, asking for help to understand barriers and design solutions, and inviting parents and kids to visit programs so that they feel welcomed.
You can find positive examples of what’s possible for youth with disabilities with Deaf Kids Code, Youth Code Jam, and Tech Kids Unlimited. Each of these programs defies the statistics and shatters stereotypes to create diverse and inclusive tech programs. Look to their leadership for inspiration and guidance in welcoming families and helping them see the possibilities for their children in computer science.
#4 Girls and computer science: Encouragement matters
Parents want the best for their daughters. Yet they may hold back their daughters unintentionally because of assumptions and stereotypes. In a study of parent support on the development of media skills, researchers found that boys’ interest in tech was recognized earlier than girls. Also, parents provided resources to support sons’ tech interest at an earlier age and offered more guidance when the projects were complicated. Are boys really interested in computers sooner than girls? We think it’s more likely that unconscious gender bias is at play. Encourage parents to recognize and support their daughters’ interest and confidence in technology. Confidence can play a significant role in girls’ willingness to try and persist in computer science. We recommend programs like Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code that empower girls through coding.
While parents may think that it’s their expertise, experience, or knowledge that makes for their child’s success in computer science, research shows otherwise. In a longitudinal study spanning high school through college and into the start of a career, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) identified which variables in girls’ computing experiences best predicted their persistence in computer science and technology-related majors three years later. Giving girls access to computer programming courses in high school supported by strong parental and teacher engagement arose as important factors in ensuring girls will persist over obstacles to continue studying computer science in college and entering a tech career. Encouragement by parents comes in many forms like asking questions, inviting their daughter to show them what they’re learning, and enrolling them in computing programs.
#5 Competitions and challenges: Are we advancing equity and access?
Lots of computer science opportunities are presented as competitions and challenges. FIRST Robotics, Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams, NCWIT Aspirations in Computing, and Technovation offer opportunities to compete with other youth in technology for prizes and recognition. While these programs offer positive benefits for many, we caution that they can also increase the digital divide. Ask yourself, Who thinks they’re not smart enough to apply? Who doesn’t have access to mentors to help them plan and execute successful projects? Who is overcome by challenges and failures that are part of tech challenges? These questions might help you identify ways to prevent unintentionally increasing the digital divide.
For those who host challenges we advise consideration of who might be privileged by their social capital and who might be disadvantaged by their life’s opportunities. The following promising practices from Juliet Ollard provide some helpful considerations. Start by designing competitions with those who are most excluded in mind, to make for more inclusive opportunities. Offer topics and themes that relate to youths’ experiences and interests rather than the host’s personal interests. Support teams with mixed assets and abilities from start to finish. Don’t create more one-off experiences; instead build in sustained support for long-term outcomes. Build in opportunities and support for iterating and reflecting on successes and challenges.
We hope that one or more of the ideas in this blog help you engage families in your computer science efforts. For more strategies on supporting families in computer science, visit the Family Engagement Project at STEM Next. You will find our white paper and other resources to empower families in STEM. We are committed to ensuring that every family has access to the opportunities to support their child at home and to broker opportunities in their communities. Together we can reimagine the possibilities and collectively advance CSforALL’s mission to make high-quality computer science a part of the educational experience of all K-12 students and support their pathways to college and career success.
We give a shout out to the leadership of CSforALL for its policy work at the local, state, and national levels, school and district innovation, teaching, and research. We also appreciate Infosys Foundation USA for its support of several of the programs mentioned in this blog — Deaf Kids Code, Family Code Night, Tech Kids Unlimited, and Technovation. CSforAll grants to these organizations were made in celebration of #CSEdweek 2018. We look forward to this year’s grants and the work that they support.
Linda Kekelis, PhD, is an advisor for STEM Next Opportunity and founder and former CEO of Techbridge Girls. Family engagement has been a passion for Linda and at the center of the research and programs she has led. firstname.lastname@example.org @LindaKekelis
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Tracy Callahan, Ph.D.
STEM Training, Coaching & Network Manager, The PEAR InstituteTracy Callahan, Ph.D., is the STEM Training, Coaching and Network Manager at The PEAR Institute. Her graduate research in neuroscience focused on the interactions between the nervous and immune systems. While in graduate school, she had the opportunity to mentor students, which got her thinking about how to get more youth excited about science! She pursued this interest by joining the team at Boston University’s CityLab Biotech outreach program as an educator and lab manager. She then created, developed, and directed the Biogen Community Lab for 15 years. Her passion to provide opportunities to spark interest in STEM in youth continues, but she has become increasingly interested in thinking about the importance of quality in STEM programming and its impact, especially on under-served populations. Now at PEAR, she is excited to be part of a team directly working towards assessing and improving the quality of STEM programming nationwide.
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Kristin Lewis-Warner, M.Ed.
Project Manager of STEM Research, The PEAR InstituteKristin Lewis-Warner, Ed.M., manages national STEM projects at The PEAR Institute. She holds a B.A. in Developmental Psychology and a M.Ed. in Learning, Cognition, and Development. She is a research and evaluation professional with over 15 years of experience in the education sector, with a focus in STEM learning, out-of-school time (OST), teacher professional development, and student-centered learning. Before joining PEAR in April 2017, Kristin worked as an independent consultant serving as an external evaluator on multiple Massachusetts-based initiatives. She was drawn to The PEAR Institute’s exploration of theory, research, and practice in both STEM and SEL and the use of living data to guide continuous improvement.
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Patricia Allen, Ph.D.
Senior Manager of Research and Evaluation, The PEAR InstituteDr. Patty Allen leads the Research and Evaluation Department at The PEAR Institute. Her expertise focuses on translational research in two core areas essential for 21st-century college and career readiness: science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning and social-emotional development (SED). Dr. Allen was awarded a doctoral degree in Experimental Psychology from Tufts University in 2013 and has a demonstrated record of research productivity in the areas of psychiatry, neuroscience, and STEM education. Dr. Allen supports multiple national efforts to measure and improve STEM and SED outcomes to help ensure that young people across the country have positive, high-quality experiences when they participate in STEM activities.
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Gil G. Noam, Ed.D.
Founder and Director of The PEAR InstituteGil G. Noam is the founder and director of The PEAR Institute, which focuses on two areas of research and practice: social-emotional learning and STEM. He is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School focusing on prevention and resilience. He has published over 200 papers, articles, and books in the areas of child and adolescent development as well as risk and resiliency in clinical, school, and afterschool settings. Dr. Noam’s group has developed a comprehensive approach to informing on the quality of students’ STEM learning experiences and providing a common language around STEM outcomes. Dr. Noam is trained as a clinical and developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst in both Europe and the United States.
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Director of STEM Initiatives, Afterschool AllianceChris Neitzey joined the Afterschool Alliance in August 2018 as the Director of STEM Initiatives. In this role, Chris works to advance federal, state, and local policy to expand access to high-quality afterschool and summer STEM programming. Prior to joining the Afterschool Alliance, Chris led the policy and advocacy work of the New York State Network for Youth Success, New York’s statewide afterschool network. Chris also worked for the Maryland Science Center prior to his work in New York, delivering STEM programs to students in-school and in afterschool programs across the mid-Atlantic region. Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in Geography from Towson University and a master’s in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University.
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Principal, Topol ConsultingTessie Topol works at the intersection of the for- and non-profit sectors, helping clients – including the C.S. Mott Foundation/STEM Next Opportunity Fund, Cartoon Network and L’Oreal USA - build lasting cross-sector partnerships that drive social change. She brings a wealth of hands on experience and insights, drawn from her various leadership roles in both business and CBOs. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at Time Warner Cable (TWC). In this role, she was the driving force behind its award-winning signature philanthropic initiative, Connect a Million Minds (CAMM), a $100M commitment to connect young people with informal science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning opportunities.
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Director, Wyoming Afterschool AllianceMichelle Sullivan is Director of the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance a position she just started in July. Much of Sullivan's professional and voluntary life has focused on the development of dynamic and connected communities. Before her role as Director of WYAA, she was principal of Sullivan & Associates a small consulting firm that worked with not for profit organizations to become more intentional and strategic about their missions. Michelle has served as a former chair of the Wyoming State Board of Education, a Commissioner for State Parks and Cultural Resources and currently serves on the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees. Sullivan holds a M.A. in Mind, Brain & Education from Harvard University, was a Kellogg National Fellow and a Loeb Fellow at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, and is a graduate of the Colorado College where she also received an honorary doctorate in 1994.
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Network Lead, Afterschool for Children and Teens NowSusan Stanton is the Network Lead for the statewide afterschool network in Illinois, Afterschool for Children and Teens Now (ACT NOW). Susan is responsible for leading the work of the Coalition as directed by the ACT Now Leadership Team. Stanton has a background in education and policy having spent both time as an extended learning time middle school teacher and practicing education law.
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Vice President of Education Business Coalitions, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce & Association of Chamber of Commerce ExecutivesSince 2011, Alysia Bell, Vice President of Education Business Coalitions, has shared her time between the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) to launch and grow ACCE’s Education and Talent Development Division (ETD). The ETD seeks to dramatically enhance the nature of business involvement in cradle to career issues at the regional, state, and national level through programs, policy, and systems change. Previously, Bell was the Vice President of Workforce Development and Administration for the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce in Dallas County, Texas and has held positions at the Los Angeles Unified School District, Southern California Edison, and was an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University. Bell earned her B.A. from the University of Southern California and her M.A. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Cal State University, Long Beach.
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Tania Tauer, Ph.D.
Sr. Program Manager for Professional Development, Techbridge GirlsDr. Tania Tauer is deeply committed to applying her engineering, research, and teaching background to develop and implement high-quality STEM programs. As the Senior Program Manager for Professional Development, Tania develops workshops, strategies, and resources to teach educators, trainers, and role models about how to develop and support girls’ interest in STEM. Tania holds a B.S. in Engineering Science from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder.
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Network Director, Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth development NetworkLaura Saccente joined as the network director for the Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN) in April 2015. Working with the PSAYDN steering committee, partners and stakeholders, she leads the network’s strategic vision and advocacy efforts, as well as maintains and develops public and private support. She also serves on the Pennsylvania State Workforce Development Board Youth Council, statewide STEM Advisory Committee and is a partner with the Carbon-Schuylkill-Luzerne (CSL) Stem Learning Ecosystem and ENGINE of Central PA, two of six Stem Learning Ecosystems recognized in Pennsylvania.
- By Linda Kekelis, Family Engagement Advisor; Ron Ottinger, Executive DirectorRead more
As kids go back to school, their families are looking for safe places for them to do their homework, engage in physical activity, and learn new skills. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) afterschool programs meet these needs and more with activities that teach skills for school, work, and life. Afterschool activities help build on the enthusiasm of kids who are already into science, robotics and math. They also spark an interest in those who haven’t discovered their love for tinkering or aptitude for coding, yet.
But all circumstances aren’t created equal in afterschool time. Did you know by sixth grade, economically advantaged children have spent 6,000 more hours learning out of school than youth born in under-resourced communities? The statistic is sobering, and we want to change the status quo. STEM Next Opportunity Fund (STEM Next) has been committed to quality STEM programming for all youth, both as a funder and advocate for out-of-school-time programs and professional development for national youth-serving organizations. We are taking on this opportunity gap by advocating for family engagement in order to promote access to hands-on STEM experiences, both in and out of school.
As part of our commitment to closing this opportunity gap, STEM Next is investing in family engagement with research and resources. We invite you to work with us to make sure that every child and every family has an equal opportunity to benefit from quality STEM afterschool programs. Here are four ideas to support families in your community this school year and open the door to STEM opportunities.
#1 Make it personal. We often hear from kids and parents that a personal invitation made all the difference in getting them to enroll in a STEM afterschool program. Encouragement from a trusted person is more impactful than a flyer handed out at registration or a back-to-school email. Think outside the box and enlist a wide range of adult champions to encourage kids and parents. The front desk staff, school counselor, librarian, sports coach, and lunchroom crew can help encourage a diverse group of kids to try STEM in an afterschool program. For more ideas on diverse recruitment strategies, check out this thoughtful resource from Jean Ryoo and the Susan Crown Exchange.
#2 Be mindful of who can most benefit from STEM enrichment programs. STEM can be intimidating for parents. In a survey by Bayer, nearly one-third of parents reported that they didn’t feel confident enough in their scientific knowledge to help their child engage in hands-on science activities. Parents with less formal education are even less confident. You can empower parents by helping them understand that it’s their encouragement that matters. They don’t need to be an expert or have the answers; they can support their child by enrolling them in a STEM afterschool program. Let parents know about the Connectory and this map created by Afterschool Alliance where they can find afterschool programs in their community.
#3 Encourage parents to enroll their daughters in coding clubs and engineering programs. Sometimes parents don’t realize that their daughters are interested in these subjects or could be if they had the chance. Afterschool programs with their hands-on projects that have personal relevance can be the perfect place for girls to build confidence and skills in computer science and engineering. Check out Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, Girl Scouts, and Girls Inc., which offer free and low-cost programs. In the company of girls and with the support of role models, afterschool programs can provide experiences that lead to lifelong engagement in STEM. The National Girls Collaborative Project identifies elements to look for in quality programs for girls.
#4 Make sure that families with kids with disabilities know that they are welcome in afterschool programs. STEM afterschool programs can be especially important for youth withdisabilities. Engaging in hands-on STEM and meeting role models in afterschool programs show the possibilities and the accommodations that can transform an interest into a career possibility. Make personal invitations and create marketing materials with photos and language that explicitly welcome youth with disabilities. For more ideas on disability inclusion, check out these resources: our case study Set a Place at the STEM Table for Youth with Disabilities and their Families, the Summer 2019 issue of AfterSchool Today, and Kids Included Together.
We hope that you try one or more of the ideas in this blog as you welcome families to a new school year. For more strategies on supporting families in STEM, visit the Family Engagement Project at STEM Next. You will find our White Paper and other resources to help you empower families in STEM. We understand that families bring different levels of knowledge and experience in STEM as well as social capital for accessing resources for their children. We are committed to ensuring that every family has access to resources to support their child at home and to broker opportunities in their communities.
We close with a shout out to the Afterschool Alliance. Through its work, the Afterschool Alliance ensures that children have access to affordable, quality afterschool and summer learning programs. We celebrate the organization for its longstanding leadership in policy, research, and practice.
Linda Kekelis, PhD, is an advisor for STEM Next Opportunity Fund and founder and former CEO of Techbridge Girls. Family engagement has been a passion for Linda and at the center of the research and programs she has led. email@example.com @LindaKekelis
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Workforce Development, Strong Inclusive Economies Powered by Afterschool
Thank you for joining the inaugural Virtual STEM SummitTo access presentation slides and session recordings, view the daily agendas below. September 16, 2019: 1:00 - 4:00pm ET (10:00-1:00pm PT) September 17, 2019: 1:00 - 5:00pm ET (10:00-2:00pm PT)The 2019 Virtual STEM Summit, hosted by STEM Next Opportunity Fund, will examine how statewide afterschool networks are engaging government agencies, policymakers, businesses, K-16 schools, economic development organizations and more to connect afterschool STEM learning and workforce development to meet the needs of a rapidly changing economy. Of course, STEM learning is about more than building a workforce. It is also about raising creative, curious, caring citizens who can take full advantage of future economic opportunities and build a more inclusive community and a more just and equitable world. The event will bring together leaders from statewide afterschool networks, industry, education, government and other sectors to showcase promising practices and proven solutions that are making a difference in solving the nation’s STEM skills gaps.
Session 1 - Policy and Partnerships: Solutions from Across the States (1:00 - 2:00pm ET/10:00 - 11:00am PT)Opening remarks and welcome: Ron Ottinger, Executive Director, STEM Next OpportunityCreating state and local solutions to current and future workforce demands is on the mind of every state and local policy maker across the country. Afterschool and summer learning learning programs are helping to create opportunities for youth to build a strong and vibrant workforce. In this session, talk with Statewide Afterschool Leaders who are working in partnership with state and local leaders to expand STEM learning opportunities to address state workforce challenges.Moderated by James Brown, Executive Director, STEM Education Coalition Panel: Laura Saccente, Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network, Center for Schools and CommunitiesBeth Unverzagt, Director, Oregon ASK
Concurrent Session 2A - Preparing All Youth for the Future of Work (2:00 - 2:55pm ET/11:00 - 11:55am PT)More than 7 million jobs in the U.S. remain unfilled as employers struggle to find workers with the right mix of skills. This talent gap only promises to widen as the economy enters a period of exponential change and innovation that our education, political, and economic institutions are poorly equipped to rapidly keep pace. A systems approach where Statewide Afterschool Networks are building STEM career pathways that expose young people to the world of work, career fields and enhance academic learning and professional skills is becoming more critical than ever. This session will examine the current workforce landscape, including the so-called new-collar and gig economies; the unprecedented shifts coming in the years ahead; and emerging best practices in creating a robust talent pipeline in the STEM fields.A conversation with:Leah Moschella, Associate Director, Jobs for the Future David Beard, Policy and Advocacy Director, School’s Out Washington Session PowerPoint
Concurrent Session 2B - Business-Network Partnerships - Strategies and Tools to Engage Local Chambers of Commerce and the Business Community (2:00 - 2:55pm ET/11:00 - 11:55am PT)Many of the most promising solutions aimed at improving STEM learning opportunities and career developing training are happening at the local level in cities within our Networks. Public-private partnerships – between businesses, schools, government agencies, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations and more – have formed the backbone of efforts to fill the STEM talent pipeline. This session will offer best practice approaches for engaging business as true partners and introduce you to tools that can help lay the foundation for lasting business partnerships in your state.A conversation with:Alysia Bell, Vice President Business Education Coalition, L.A. Area Chamber and the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) Susan Stanton, Network Lead, Afterschool for Children and Teens Michelle Sullivan, Director, Wyoming Afterschool AllianceTessie Topol, Consultant, Topol ConsultingThe sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of the expertise of the people on stage. Ideation stations will offer participants a platform to drive the conversation they most want to have, sharing their challenges, concerns and fresh ideas about our efforts to prepare all children and youth with the necessary STEM skills to fully take advantage of the economic opportunities of the future. Ideation stations are participant-directed, with just enough structure to ensure deep discussion. We hope that the connections and ideas that result inspire longer-term conversations and collaboration across Networks. Ideation Station A - Igniting STEM Education in Rural CommunitiesModerated by Jeff Cole, Executive Director, Beyond School BellsMore than 40 percent of all American schools are in rural areas, and close to one third of all students in the country attend rural schools. One in four of these students lives in poverty, but it is not uncommon for the child poverty rate to exceed 50 percent in rural communities. On this station, we invite participants to share, listen and build on the following ideas:
- How are you playing a critical role in moving rural education forward?
- How might we have to reimagine who and how we teach STEM in rural communities compared to urban communities?
- What opportunities and partnerships might exist to help rural districts support and sustain high-quality science learning and use technology to support STEM practice?
- How are you communicating STEM, its power and potential, to diverse families and communities?
- How are you engaging families and communities to be involved in STEM programming and decision making?
- Discuss ways we can turn communication with families and communities into collaborative, strength-based, and solution focused partnerships?
Session 4 - Spark Innovation and Advance Excellence in STEM Learning through Ignite Grants (3:45 - 4:15pm ET/12:45 - 1:15pm PT)The STEM Next Opportunity Fund and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation seek to spark innovation that advances excellence and equity in STEM learning to develop a more STEM ready workforce. Of course, STEM learning is about more than building a workforce. It’s also about raising creative, curious, caring citizens to promote stronger, more inclusive communities and a more just and equitable world. Ignite Fund grants will provide seed funding to cross-sector state level teams to develop promising practices and innovative strategies to increase STEM learning opportunities for youth. 12 statewide afterschool networks will be awarded $7,000 Ignite grants.This session will be a Q&A style allowing statewide afterschool networks to ask questions related to their ideas and logistics for the pitch session on September 17th. Teresa Drew, Associate Director, STEM Next Opportunity Fund Victoria Wegener, Mainspring Consulting
Session 5 - Where do we go from here? Data, tools, and resources from The Partnership in Education and Resilience (PEAR) Institute (1:00 - 2:00pm ET/10:00 - 11:00am PT)Over the past several years, the PEAR Institute has been working to create a data system that is able to provide big-picture aggregate trends and individual-level insights for both youth and educators in afterschool and in-school settings. In this session, participants will receive an overview of the data and trends from the 50 State Afterschool Network study PEAR conducted, discuss what we have learned about STEM quality, and interact with tools and resources available to help Network and programs plan, design, implement and evaluate the impact on the youth they serve. With this approach to research, we can help Networks enhance the relationships in afterschool programs and support the special nature of this work.Patricia J. Allen, Ph.D., Senior Manager of Research & Evaluation, PEAR Tracy Callahan, Ph.D., STEM Training, Coaching & Network Manager, PEAR Kristin Lewis-Warner, Ed.M., Project Manager of STEM Research, PEARGil Noam, Ed.D., Founder and Director, PEAR
Concurrent Session 6A - Engaging Role Models to Support Girls in STEM (2:00 - 2:55pm ET/11:00 - 11:55am PT)Women remain vastly underrepresented in STEM fields. Recruiting, retaining and advancing more young girls and women in STEM activities, majors and careers is a key priority for many organizations, and research demonstrates that doing so can have a wide range of benefits. Success requires a multifaceted approach including enhancing role model, mentoring and career exposure programs. This session will offer an in-depth look at some of the latest research on the diversity gap, discuss how community support plays an important role in encouraging girls to pursue STEM interests, and learn strategies for how families and role models can support girls’ STEM interests.Tania Tauer, Ph.D., Sr. Program Manager for Professional Development, Techbridge Girls
Concurrent Session 6B - Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act Opportunities (2:00 - 2:55pm ET/11:00 - 11:55am PT)With the passage of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act in July 2018, a lot of attention at both the federal and state level has been placed on Career Technical Education (CTE). Many gubernatorial campaigns in 2018 cited CTE as a top priority in their education platforms and states are currently undergoing the new planning process for their new full implementation plans of the new law. When further examining the career pathways prioritized in CTE programs, there is a lot of overlap with STEM careers and fields. The goal over the next few years will be to align new CTE efforts with existing STEM initiatives at the state level where appropriate. This session will offer an in depth look at how state afterschool networks are engaging their state CTE directors in the planning process and building the case for recognizing and including afterschool and summer STEM programs in their state’s CTE strategy. Jeff Cole, Executive Director, Beyond School BellsChris Neitzey, Director of STEM Initiatives, Afterschool AllianceJillian Luchner, Policy Manager, Afterschool Alliance
Session 7 - Spark Innovation and Advance Excellence in STEM Learning through Ignite Grants (3:00 - 5:30pm ET/12:00 - 2:30pm PT)Support and encourage fellow network leaders as they make their Ignite Pitches to our panel of expert judges! Learn how statewide afterschool networks are proposing to advance excellence in equity in STEM learning and develop a STEM ready workforce that ultimately raises creative, curious and caring citizens that are able to fully participate in the economic opportunities of the future. Teresa Drew, Associate Director, STEM Next Opportunity Fund Victoria Wegener, Mainspring ConsultingThe STEM Next Opportunity Fund and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation seek to spark innovation that advances excellence and equity in STEM learning to develop a more STEM ready workforce. Of course, STEM learning is about more than building a workforce. It’s also about raising creative, curious, caring citizens to promote stronger, more inclusive communities and a more just and equitable world. Ignite Fund grants will provide seed funding to cross-sector state level teams to develop promising practices and innovative strategies to increase STEM learning opportunities for youth. 12 state networks will be awarded $7,000 Ignite grants.Who: All 50 state afterschool networks are invited to pitch for an Ignite Grant When: Ignite Pitches will take place September 17th beginning at 3pm ET/12pm PT. “Pitchers” must pre-register to receive a timeslot to make their pitch. To pre-register and receive your timeslot, email Elyse Preston at firstname.lastname@example.org What: One state network will be awarded* on the 17th following the conclusion of the pitch session. 11 more states will be awarded Ignite Grants following submission of project prospectus. *Award pending submission of project prospectus following the event.
Download the STEM Learning Ignite Grant GuidelinesIgnite grant process is not intended to be overly burdensome. The pitches will be 2 minutes in length and broadcast via online video-conferencing technology, Zoom. Networks that make Ignite pitches will automatically be invited to submit a brief prospectus via an online submission portal for their projects. Be Creative and Have fun!Process
- Join the Ignite Pitch Workshop on September 16th at 3:30pm ET/12:30pm PT. Register here. Workshop attendees will gain an understanding of the grant guidelines, as well as logistics and requirements for the virtual pitch. Networks will have access to “virtual rooms” following the workshop to share ideas and/or work collaboratively.
- All State Neworks and partners are invited to attend the Ignite Grant Pitch Session on September 17th. Register here. Those Network representatives who are interested in presenting must contact Elyse Preston email@example.com to be assigned a timeslot. At their allotted time, pitchers will be given video and audio presentation capabilities and two minutes to present. Please remember to practice your pitch before the session, as we will be following strict time controls.
- Following the end of the pitch session and by the close of the day, a video announcement will be emailed to all session attendees announcing the winner of the Ignite Pitch session. The winner will be required to submit a formal prospectus via online portal.
- All Networks making pitches will be invited to submit their ideas for Ignite grants via an online portal following the session. Submissions will be due October 11th and award notifications will be given by October 31st.
Before the summit
- Collaboration among states is allowable.
- Each state network may only participate in one pitch.
- Previous Ignite grant winners from 2018 are eligible to participate.
- All 50 statewide afterschool networks are encouraged to participate.
- Review the daily agendas above and register for the sessions you'd like to join.
- You will receive a confirmation email for each session registration.
- Join sessions through your confirmation email or by using the registration links provided in the agendas above.
- Follow along on Twitter and chat with other attendees using the hashtag #VirtualSTEM2019
- If you are having technical difficulties, please contact:
- Amanda Hanno at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-205-5043
- Elyse Preston at email@example.com or 443-690-9412