STEM Stimulus: Support for STEM Initiatives at State, Federal and Cultural Levels
10.17.11 | The Afterschool Alliance recently released a report summarizing evaluations from afterschool STEM programs. “STEM Learning in After-School: An Analysis of Impact and Outcomes” (pdf) found that high-quality programs have multiple lasting benefits: They improve students’ attitudes toward STEM fields and careers; increase STEM knowledge and skills; and increase the likelihood of students graduating and pursuing STEM careers.
Noting that children spend “less than 20 percent of their waking hours in school,” the report goes on to state that afterschool programs may help to close the “opportunity gap” that children in underserved and underrepresented communities face:
Of the 8.4 million children in afterschool programs, ethnic minority children are more likely than others to participate. 25 percent of Asian, 24 percent of African-American, 21 percent of Hispanic and 16 percent of Native American children attend afterschool programs, compared to the national average of 15 percent. Furthermore, girls attend afterschool programs in equal numbers to boys. These participation data provide evidence that the afterschool setting reaches students from populations that are underrepresented in STEM fields and provides enrichment opportunities that can bring STEM alive for them.
For a close-up look at one program’s activities and successes, here’s a story from MIT News on the GE Girls at MIT summer program, which is funded by General Electric and developed by members of the GE Women’s Network, the MIT Edgerton Center and the Lemelson-MIT Program.
The report was presented at a congressional briefing last month and is just one of several recent boosts for focusing more on STEM in learning initiatives. Last week, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced an bill to revise No Child Left Behind that includes four STEM-related goals. Jason Koebler of U.S. News & World Report notes that the goals were previously outlined in legislation introduced by Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Al Franken of Minnesota, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and were woven into the Harkin bill:
* Improving instruction in STEM subjects through grade 12.
* Improving student engagement in and their access to STEM courses.
* Improving the quality of STEM teachers by recruiting and training new teachers as well as improving existing teachers.
* Closing the achievement gap between minority and white students and preparing more students for college in STEM subjects.
Curriculum Matters, a blog at Education Week, points to more coverage of the bill.
Through this program, I was offered community connections and these young women who were basically my role models who showed me I can be a woman in a science field, and it really inspired me to pursue my passion to be an engineer.
– Julia Roche
Meanwhile, in California last week, the non-profit California STEM Learning Network and California Department of Education convened a summit on new STEM initiatives. Twitter coverage is available via the hashtag #castemlearning. There are several mentions of speaker Julia Roche, a high school senior who noted that STEM has a marketing problem and girls need “cool role models.”
Roche may be one of them. She’s a participant in BE WiSE (Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering), a San Diego Science Alliance program.
“Through this program, I was offered community connections and these young women who were basically my role models who showed me I can be a woman in a science field, and it really inspired me to pursue my passion to be an engineer,” Roche said (via ABC News).
First Lady Michelle Obama would like to see students such as Roche pursue their passions and talents indefinitely. Last month, Obama spoke about girls and STEM during remarks on the National Science Foundation’s development of family-friendly policies aimed at reducing the number of women who leave STEM fields. More information on the NSF’s Career-Life Balance Initiative is available in this brochure (pdf) and this Washington Post op-ed by Valerie Jarrett and Tina Tchen. The new NSF policies will:
* Allow postponement of grants for child birth/adoption.
* Allow grant suspension for parental leave.
* Provide supplements to cover research technicians.
* Publicize the availability of family friendly opportunities.
* Promote family friendliness for panel reviewers.
* Support research and evaluation.
* Leverage and expand partnerships.
Plus: Speaking of women in STEM, we’re late in noting Ada Lovelace Day, an annual event on Oct. 7 that “aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and math by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire.”
The site is still encouraging posts. Need some inspiration? Check out these heroines.
And if you’re wondering who Ada Lovelace is, learn more at the website. Real brief: She’s credited with writing the first computer program—in 1842.
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