It’s time to activate: Afterschool and summer STEM for all kids!

We don’t know what the future will bring but we do know how to prepare to face the challenges ahead. Today’s economy and tomorrow’s innovations are powered by STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. For a bright, prosperous future, we need all children to have great STEM learning opportunities. Why? Because in a fast-paced, information-driven world, it is more important than ever that our future leaders, neighbors, and workers are prepared to solve problems and know how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions. These are the thinking habits that STEM learning cultivates. Afterschool programs that engage kids in the afternoons, on the weekends, or in the summer are perfect for activating STEM learning. Afterschool STEM is creative and varied, and offers children the freedom to explore, experiment, and gain hands-on experience. Some programs give kids an opportunity to work alongside tech professionals to design new mobile apps their friends can use, create an animation, or program a robot. In others, children might learn about bay ecology, or diseases, or dinosaurs. Afterschool programs let kids learn many different, intertwined STEM skills together. For example, a program in a setting like a community garden, students can conduct scientific observations on how the environment affects certain plants. They can learn how to leverage technology – such as selecting new tools for tasks, or using sensors to monitor key indicators. They can also exercise their math skills by calculating rainfall, nutrients, or crop yields. And they can think like engineers while building structures and systems for their plots. Because these learning environments are flexible, and allow kids to explore their interests, afterschool STEM programs are especially effective effective at reaching a wide range of young people, not just those who already think of themselves as “math and science kids.” School-age children spend just 20% of their waking hours in school. Studies show that the more time they spend spend in hands-on, afterschool STEM learning environments, the more likely they are to keep charging their interest in these critical topics. We can spark the next generation’s STEM knowledge and skills by making sure that all communities offer opportunities that invite and incite young people’s interest. Community resources like afterschool programs, libraries, zoos, and aquariums all working together– these are the kinds of Charging Stations we need to support, expand, and value in our communities to power up STEM learning. Let’s light up our future. Let’s spark the kind of know-how that powers industry and ignites innovation. Let’s create spaces and places for kids to discover and explore the world they live in and equip them to shape the world they’ll inherit. STEM Afterschool: It’s time to activate! (music fades)

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