Kids involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) afterschool programs were more likely to develop greater interest in those subjects in school, according to a new report by the Afterschool Alliance.
The study, “Defining Youth Outcomes for STEM Learning in Afterschool,” which included a survey of more than 50 afterschool providers and more than 20 afterschool STEM supporters, found that youth involved in afterschool STEM programs were likelier to develop greater interests in STEM subjects and potentially become likelier to enter into STEM fields and professions when they were older.
The authors of the report said the findings have particular importance to policy makers, assessment experts and program leaders, because afterschool programs play valuable roles in improving overall STEM education in the nation’s schools.
“There was early consensus across the expert panel about the outcomes that are achievable through STEM programs in afterschool,” the report’s authors wrote. “Hence this study could point to areas where afterschool practitioners feel confident that they are making an impact but where this a need for more resources and tools to document that impact.”
The report’s authors said that, in addition to promoting STEM education, students engaged in such afterschool programs learn many “21st century skills,” including teamwork and problem solving abilities. Additionally, they believe afterschool programs are likelier to draw young people from “populations historically underrepresented in STEM fields,” particularly youth that attend schools with limited resources and few STEM education opportunities.
Linda Rosen, CEO of non-profit Change the Equation, said she believes investing in afterschool programs that target STEM education might have a profound effect on the nation’s youth. “The outcomes highlighted in this report give us a deeper look at what works and bring greater clarity to what leaders in the afterschool field view as their role,” she said in a press release issued by the Afterschool Alliance. “Armed with this tool, funders, including the corporate community, can better understand program leaders and make wise decisions about how they invest their philanthropy dollars in afterschool programs.”
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