Integrating STEM Into Afterschool: Lessons Learned for Educators In and Out of School

Integrating STEM Into Afterschool: Lessons Learned for Educators In and Out of School


In 2013 The Franklin Institute, a leading science museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, received a grant from the National Science Foundation (#1138911) to reach under-resourced urban communities by strengthening the capacity of afterschool centers to offer STEM programming. Integrating Science Into Afterschool: A Three-Dimensional Approach to Engaging Underserved Populations In Science, or “STEM 3D,” was a five-year project that aspired to integrate STEM learning across afterschool, home, and community as a strategy for building positive science identities and creating viable STEM pathways for Philadelphia children who might otherwise be disconnected from the city’s STEM-rich institutions and opportunities. The initiative had three major goals: first, to increase engagement in hands-on, inquiry-based science projects among upper elementary–age youth; second, to cultivate intergenerational support for science learning; and third, to evaluate the effectiveness of this 3D (afterschool, home, and community) approach in engaging children, families, afterschool educators, and community-based organizations in science learning and the project’s promotion of STEM professions. This article focuses on the professional development for implementing STEM activities that emerged as a result of the STEM 3D project and examines its impacts on educators and their students. STEM 3D worked on building educators’ skills and confidence in developing and implementing high-quality project-based STEM units that can help children see STEM learning as something embedded in their homes and neighborhoods. The article will discuss STEM 3D’s professional development approach for facilitating afterschool, project-based learning in STEM. An additional focus of this article is how STEM 3D ultimately shaped the strategies that the Franklin Institute now incorporates into its professional development initiatives with both formal and informal educators.

This article is collaboratively written by the STEM 3D team (Clark, Cox, and McCreedy [PI]) and the external evaluator (Blanc). Additional information about STEM 3D and the STEM 3D evaluation is available online at and

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