STEM Learning

Porterville Unified says YES to STEAM and Career Pathways Afterschool

If you think Porterville is a sleepy rural town with no opportunities for young people, think again. The Youth Experiencing Success (YES) afterschool program is innovatively combining Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) lessons with career pathways to expand students’ minds and options.

YES serves 13 elementary and middle schools that include more than 3,000 students who participate in the program. In addition to ASES funds, Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funds have been invested by Porterville Unified School District to allow more students to benefit from the hands-on, project-based instruction after school. Even so, the program has a waitlist at every school.

STEAM lessons incorporate career pathways

Lily Hernandez, Porterville Unified School District’s afterschool program manager, explains that their programming is based on age-specific monthly thematic units. August features hospitality and culinary arts. September is about engineering. October is health sciences month. November involves digital design and multi-media. December emphasizes performing arts. January highlights law, justice and ethics. February explores education. March exposes students to environmental science and emerging agricultural technology. April introduces business and finance. May ends the year with career industries and a recap of the projects students like the most. (more…)

Next Generation Science Opportunities in Expanded Learning

It is no secret that America ranks near the middle of global science and math achievement standings. For example, the U.S. claims the position of 27 out of 34 countries in science rankings according to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

To further challenge national competitiveness, the American Association for the Advancement of Science reports that 46% of their member scientists feel that K-12 STEM in America is below average.

While American education aggressively rises up to meet the next-generation science challenge, expanded learning programs have relished the opportunity to play an outstanding supporting role. Inspired by this opportunity, a 2009-2014 California study conducted by SRI International sought to identify the frequency of science in afterschool programs, determine inquiry-based practices, assess how instructors are trained, and uncover the extent of social network resources for programming, among other survey components.

A portion of the study results were highlighted earlier this year in the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities.

The Afterschool Science Networks Study

Dr. Patrik Lundh, an education researcher for SRI, summarized a portion of the five-year study findings: (more…)

SAM Academy and STEM Ambassador Programs Aim to Provide Students Innovative Ways of Learning

ambassador-mystery tubeAccording to the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd, “on the national level, the Presidents’ Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) concluded that the U.S. response to the challenges of the 21st century will be determined…by the effectiveness of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.” Two Valley STEM-focused programs, SAM Academy and STEM Ambassadors, are making strides to incorporate these academic areas into K-12 afterschool learning.

SAM (science, art, and music) Academy is a nonprofit organization and traveling classroom that visits schools, libraries, carnivals and festivals, integrating art and music into STEM learning. Currently, SAM participates in afterschool programs in Sanger and Parlier, Ca. SAM focuses on underserved youth. (more…)

Robotics Offers New Life to Science and Math Curriculum Afterschool

calibrating robotExciting advances are opening young minds to infinite possibilities in the way of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). And, afterschool programs throughout the Central Valley offer a distinct way of complementing regular school-day curriculum. One profound way programs across the nation are giving STEM learning a boost is through robotics programs–specifically through the For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology (FIRST) programs.

Robotics is not always what you think: too technical, only for high achievers or for kids interested in creating robotic science fiction creatures. While students aren’t creating alien robots to take over the universe, they may just discover how they can make a difference in the world.

“[Students] are involved in an innovation process and we encourage the students to fail forward. Chances are, one of these students will go on to invent something that will change the world,” said Dr. Devin Blizzard, CEO, of the Center for Academic Research and Technology (CART) and senior mentor for Central Valley FIRST Robotics (CVRobotics). (more…)

New Central Valley STEM Collaborative Forming

3 kids and bambooA new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Collaborative is forming to further STEM learning in rural and underserved schools in the region.

Participants have included representatives from Central Valley Afterschool Foundation, Fresno County Office of Education, Educational Resource Consultants, California Teaching Fellows Foundation, California State University Fresno, and the Center for Advanced Research and Technology.

While still in the early stages of development, the group has been discussing ways to mobilize fun, hands-on learning opportunities for youth afterschool in such areas as robotics, agricultural education and water conservation.

Integrated STEM, where STEM learning is integrated into other classes–math learning in cooking classes or artistic science representation in arts classes, for example–is another opportunity to creatively infuse STEM into existing programs. (more…)

Lawrence Hall of Science Program Makes Reading and Science Child’s Play at Fresno Unified

two boysChildren say, “It’s cool.” Afterschool staff is having fun learning too. Principals are impressed at how students are responding. What is all the fuss about? Ten thousand Fresno Unified School District elementary students cannot wait to dig into reading and science activities afterschool.

This year, Fresno Unified adapted the Seeds of Science/Roots of Reading curriculum for 58 elementary programs, addressing the need to provide additional expository reading and writing experiences afterschool.

The integrated science-literacy program was developed by leaders from the UC Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science, in partnership with the university’s Graduate School of Education. A National Science Foundation grant made the development of the research-based curriculum possible. (more…)

The Arts Find an Innovative Place in STEM Learning

atomic symbolSTEM learning is critical. We get it now. Two presidents have declared its importance. Our nation’s modest global rankings are unacceptable. And we are working diligently to engage our youth in hands-on science, technology, engineering and math curriculum during school and afterschool.

Now STEM has picked up innovative “STEAM” by adding the arts. If one of the goals of STEM learning is to increase innovation in America, then it makes perfect sense to include design, artistic expression, storytelling, and multi-sensory appeal in the mix.

Using the arts to demonstrate science and math understanding is a brilliant way to increase student participation and engagement in STEM. Certainly, afterschool is uniquely positioned to champion this integrated STEM delivery system called STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). (more…)

Coming to an Email near You: Afterschool STEM Learning Briefs

Signup today to be a part of Central Valley Afterschool Foundation’s email list. We are working on a series of afterschool STEM learning email briefs for the field. Don’t miss it!

Walmart Employees Contribute Additional $4000 to Canstruction® Event

walmart canstructionWhen Kent Delperdang from the Walmart Distribution Center in Porterville was asked by a CVAF volunteer if he would participate in the Canstruction® Competition and Exhibit, the answer was a resounding yes.

Kent not only rallied a team to enter, but he secured the company sponsorship too. The rest is history as the Walmart team earned two adult team awards in the competition and contributed nearly 5,000 cans of food from their exhibit to Community Food Bank and FoodLink.

Not to rest on their laurels, Walmart notified Central Valley Afterschool Foundation after the event that they were not finished contributing. The company’s Volunteerism Always Pays (VAP) program would reward the 45 employees who contributed 620 hours of time to the project by donating $4,000 in additional funds to the cause. The Walmart company and its employees help to make an outstanding event possible for youth and adults in the community. (more…)

12 Reasons Why Afterschool STEM Learning is Important

There are plenty of reasons why afterschool programs should be incorporating STEM learning. Here are a few of the statistics and quotes offered in national reports making the case for STEM: (more…)

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