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STEM Pilot Sites Learned Much This Summer

by School's Out Washington | | Posted under STEM

By Krista Galloway, SOWA’s Quality Systems Manager & STEM Superhero

The 10 Afterschool and Youth Development programs across Washington involved in the AYD STEM pilot are experimenting with assessment, coaching, webinars, youth surveys, and a shared website to see what it takes to offer high-quality STEM programming in all kinds of settings. We’ve learned quite a bit over the summer, and I am excited to see where this experiment will go next.

Photo by Jean Fisher

Photo by Jean Fisher of Peninsula Active Learners, a STEM Pilot site

It turns out summer is really busy. I know, call me Captain Obvious. I underestimated the time and focus it would take for me to communicate about all the things that need communicated in a program improvement process. On top of that, programs were challenged to schedule in data collection and learning community activities alongside all-day, all-week summer work with youth. And there are always the minor inconveniences, like not getting expected funding or moving sites or people taking vacations to add to the challenge. As a result, what looks like a linear process on paper has turned out so circular that I think several of us are a little dizzy. But the overall direction we’re going is forward, absolutely.

Programs have been working with youth on projects with kites, gardens, sound engineering, cooking, nature walks, drones, robots, boats, and geology, to name a few. We’ve been discussing topics like STEM environments, cognitive vs. (or in partnership with) non-cognitive focus, how to select curricula and activities, and how to handle questions you can’t answer without losing youth interest.

In case you are interested in looking at STEM offerings in your own program, here are the tools we are using. The Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality has a STEM specific tool (scroll down the page). The tool includes all the usual Youth Program Quality indicators, but for the pilot, we are focusing on the 6 STEM-specific scales and 5 additional STEM-specific items. In addition, programs are surveying their youth about interest and attitudes towards STEM using the Common Instrument developed by the Program in Education, Afterschool, and Resiliency (PEAR) at Harvard.

I also gave the following challenges (Feel free to play along, and tell me about it):

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