More students will have an opportunity to learn about the STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and math—through after-school programs thanks to a new partnership.
“After-school programs provide a really great way to engage all kids in science, technology, engineering and math, even kids who may not necessarily think of themselves as math and science kids,” said Anita Krishnamurthi, the vice president for STEM policy at Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit that supports the expansion of quality after-school programs. “The best way to learn STEM subjects is doing very sort of hands-on, minds-on kinds of projects, and after-school programs provide a great opportunity to provide complementary experiences to what they’re learning during the school day.”
This $2.5 million expansion of STEM learning opportunities was announced this week as part of the White House Science Fair.
The partnership is bringing together the Afterschool Alliance with the Corporation for National and Community Service, (CNCS), the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, and the STEM Funders Network, a group of education-focused corporate and private foundations interested in investments in STEM.
This partnership is supporting STEM Ecosystems, an initiative through which CNCS is placing up to 28 AmeriCorps VISTA members on the ground full-time to support STEM-learning programs in as many as 14 communities across the nation. They’ll be working to increase partnerships with community organizations to provide more opportunities for STEM learning.
Impact on Poverty
CNCS is also partnering with the New York Academy of Sciences to expand STEM AmeriCorps VISTA to bring STEM-learning opportunities to students who live in 60 of the poorest communities in New York City and Newark, N.J. This partnership will result in more than 10 AmeriCorps VISTA members working in after-school STEM-mentoring programs over the next three years.
These volunteers will be responsible for recruiting, training, and placing scientists as mentors in high-poverty schools and community-based organizations. The program is expected to benefit 2,600 students.
“I like to say that STEM education is sort of at the intersection of academics and economics and social justice because it’s not just about the workforce skills,” said Krishnamurthi. “It’s about the life skills. It’s about how you position yourself and young people to really participate substantively in a very fast-changing world that’s increasingly relying on those skills. Often people in very underresourced areas have little access to those kinds of opportunities, and so the cycle of poverty continues unless we have interventions. I see offering STEM in after school as one of those interventions.”
President Obama announced the STEM AmeriCorps program in 2013 as a vehicle to place AmeriCorps members in nonprofits across the country to bring together STEM professionals to inspire young people.
Photo: Students explore STEM projects during the Scholars Unlimited After-School Program, Future Investigators STEM Night at Ashley Elementary in Denver, Co. (Patrick Wilhelm)
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.