Telling Your STEM Story: A Compelling Strategy for Sustainability
By Ron Ottinger and Melissa Mortiz
Photo by Sobia Akhtar
It’s midterm election time and that is the focus of most conversations in Washington, DC. Beyond encouraging everyone to vote, afterschool and summer programs can continue to tell compelling stories about the youth impacted by programs funded with state and federal dollars. By lifting up the impact of federal resources, we have the opportunity to show what expanding access to STEM learning can do for young people and communities. Telling impact and success stories is a way to say thank you and shows legislators how important it is to allocate resources to out-of-school (OST) STEM learning.
One example of a powerful impact story is from National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) 2020 Summer Award Winner, Camp EDMO. Camp EDMO is a California based program dedicated to making equitable high-quality STEAM and social-emotional programs accessible to all communities. Camp EDMO has experienced a 250% growth in district partnerships for Summer 2022 and is planning to serve 180% more students. They are also projecting up to 1000% growth in after school programs. Their expansion includes working with rural and traditionally underserved districts where they will be providing summer and/or after school services to about 3,500 students.
For inspiration, you can find more examples populated by the Afterschool Alliance and National League of Cities and you can also visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website to see how they lift up examples of impact from the field.
In addition to sharing stories of impact, we are also watching what happens with the FY23 budget and continuing to champion three federal initiatives (Engage Every Student, the National Partnership for Student Success and YOU Belong in STEM) that are working to mobilize the education sector to support high-quality STEM learning both in and out of the classroom.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska
While on recess at the moment, Congress anticipates passing the FY23 budget by the end of this calendar year. Congress passed a continuing resolution which extended federal funding to agencies through December 16th. In the middle of all the new legislation and COVID relief dollars news, it’s easy to forget we have so many federally-funded STEM programs that are appropriated through the annual congressional budget.
For STEM and out-of-school time there are major federal programs funded through the federal budget. Here are just some of programs we should watch as the budget process plays out:
- In the Department of Education Budget:
- The Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which supports afterschool programming for youth attending the lowest performing schools and in low income communities. Many states include STEM priorities in their state-run competitions for the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program grants and a wide variety of entities including community-based organizations, faith-based organizations and Indian tribes/tribal organizations are eligible to apply.
- Title IV-A which supports well-rounded education including STEM. This funding highlights the power of partnerships between in and out of school, which supports STEM learning for children in all spaces.
- Education, Innovation and Research Grant Program, which is designed to create, develop, implement, replicate, or take to scale entrepreneurial, evidence-based, field-initiated innovations to improve student achievement and attainment for high-need students as well as rigorously evaluate programs. The EIR program has been critical in scaling and supporting high quality STEM education.
- In the National Science Foundation Budget:
- NSF INCLUDES, which seeks to support collaborations and partnerships to advance equity and inclusion for all learners in STEM fields.
- Advancing Informal STEM learning (AISL), which supports research and practice to advance informal STEM learning.
- Computer Science for All, which supports all learners to participate in computer science and computational thinking.
We are also keeping our eye out for the President’s FY24 budget which usually is announced early in the year.
While we wait to see what happens with FY23 congressional budget and FY24 President’s budgets, we recommend regularly visiting grants.gov where you can search and sign-up for updates about grant programs that might be of interest for you. In fact, a few newcomers to check-out include:
- Experiential Learning for Emerging and Novel Technologies (ExLENT) (Due March 2nd, 2023)
- Racial Equity in STEM Education (Due January 17th, 2023)
Photo by Bruna Saito
Federal Initiatives supporting Out-of-School STEM Learning
Make sure to keep following along and engaging with three federal initiatives that have the potential to expand out-of-school time STEM learning. STEM Next Fellows are supporting three major federal initiatives that will be game-changers for all young people in STEM in powerful spaces like afterschool and summer.
These initiatives are demonstrations of the administration working to create partnerships across different sectors. We love to see agencies modeling the kind of partnership they hope to see, for example at the National Summer Learning Association conference last week, the Secretary of Education and Secretary of Labor were on stage together discussing the importance of summer learning and summer employment. And later in the conference the CEO of AmeriCorps was onstage alongside other funders discussing the importance of AmeriCorps in the summer learning landscape. This is great news!
Photo by Thirdman
Opportunities for Action:
1. Share your ideas about the budget. Make your opinions about the importance of out-of-school STEM learning known. Some of the best ways to do this are to:
- Connect with organizations like the Afterschool Alliance and STEM Education Coalition
- Determine whether your organization and networks want to send and/or sign letters of support through their channels
- Publish blogs and other op-ed pieces about what you think is important and get the information out there.
- Continue to share ideas on social media.
2. Sign up as a supporter of Engage Every Student, National Partnership for Student Success and YOU Belong in STEM to stay updated. There are toolkits that will help your organization best communicate your stories about the power of STEM in afterschool.
3. In honor of STEM Day, on November 8th, STEM Connector is leading a simple, high-impact social media effort for You Belong in STEM. You can join the excitement on social media and get involved by following the steps at YOUbelonginSTEM.STEMconnector.com
As always, reach out to us if you have questions, ideas or suggestions!