Providing high-quality after-school STEM activities is the goal of a program at The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology in Newark in Licking County. With nearly $50,000 of funding support from Battelle, The Works created STEM After School to offer some of the county’s middle school students opportunities to explore STEM concepts and careers through hands-on, inquiry based programs. To find out how it’s all going, we contacted Meghan Federer, museum STEM education director for primary grades at The Works:
Q: What prompted you to create STEM After School?
A: The idea for STEM After School was a response to educators and community members seeking more enrichment opportunities for youth as they “aged out” of our STEM programs for younger students. We wanted to offer programming that engaged students and encouraged them to explore topics and careers relevant to STEM education.
Q: What grade level of students are you targeting and what geographical area?
A: STEM After School is targeted at students in sixth through eighth grades in Licking County. We have six partner schools for the 2016-17 school year, each offering its own program.
Q: Describe your programs: Where do they take place, how often, what is presented and how, is there a fee?
A: Weekly programs take place at each partner school, at the end of the school day. It was important to us to offer the programs at the schools rather than at our facility so that we could maximize the exposure time for students and minimize access issues, including transportation and cost.
Thanks to the generous support from Battelle, there is no charge to the schools or students to participate in the programs.
The topics covered are organized by the central theme of chemical engineering. Students explore a variety of subtopics through creative activities such as “Chemical Artist,” “Science of Taste” and “Cosmetic Chemist.”
Q: Is there a component for teachers?
A: Our partner educator at each school participated in a program workshop. These workshops were designed to introduce each partner educator to the curriculum and our model of instruction so that each could then take it back to his or her school and continue developing STEM After School programming.
Q: How does STEM After School support classroom learning?
A: Each of our programs is directly aligned to Ohio Learning Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards. Activities emphasize learning through critical thinking, problem-solving, inquiry and hands-on learning.
In addition, throughout the programs, we incorporate connections to higher education and relevance to STEM career pathways.
Q: What lessons have you learned in creating and presenting these programs that other schools/groups could benefit from when creating their own?
A: It is important to consider the resources available in your school/organization and the overall theme that you will use to link your array of activities. The overarching theme helps create cohesiveness to a program that meets only once a week.
It is also important to consider how students will participate and what the overall cost of activities will be. Hands-on activities often have a number of expendable resources that must be replaced, so budgeting is key.
Q: Describe the feedback you have received from students and teachers.
A: Teachers and students alike have provided positive feedback on the program activities. Students are excited that they were nominated to be a part of the SAS program and have fun each week!
Q: Going forward, how might you change things up in response to lessons learned, feedback, etc.?
A: The primary lesson learned from our initial round of STEM After School is how to navigate the variety of settings and resources available at each of our partner school locations.