One of the keys to having youth pursue STEM careers is developing their personal interest in science and technology. Often, hands-on activities in out-of-school contexts provide diverse youth with low-pressure, non-academic environments in which they can explore their interests more freely than they may be able to in a formal school setting.
A number of current ITEST projects conduct work in out-of-school and afterschool settings. You can search for these projects by visiting the projects section of our website. In addition, below is a list different resources about pursuing STEM education research and work in informal settings.
As well, the Center for Advancment of Informal Science Education (CAISE) is the resource center for the NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program and houses additional resources on this topic.
STELAR Webinar: Measuring Student Interest and Motivation in Informal Settings
In this webinar, leaders of current NSF projects will share the strategies, tools and technologies they use to measure youth interest and motivation in STEM in such settings. In addition, they will share their projects' findings and discuss challenges and lessons learned regarding measuring interest in STEM.
ITEST Afterschool Convening: Defining an Afterschool Research Agenda
EDC, in partnership with the National Girls Collaborative Project and MPR Associates, Inc., convened a 3-day meeting comprised of NSF-funded ITEST grantees, researchers in STEM workforce development and informal learning, STEM industry leaders, and philanthropic organizations.
A Report on the NSF ITEST Convening: Defining an Afterschool Research Agenda
In community centers, labs, and classrooms, young people from around the country are diving into STEM learning experiences. They’re devoting some of their valuable out-of school hours to experiment and make discoveries, at the same time building skills in science, math, engineering, and technology.
Why? What do they get out of it? What motivates them to participate, and what would inspire them to further pursue STEM learning and careers?
America After 3PM
America After 3PM is the nation’s most in-depth study of how America’s children spend their afternoons and spans a decade of data chronicling how children spend the hours between 3 and 6 p.m. — the hours after school ends and before parents typically return home from work.
Out-of-School Time STEM: Building Experience, Building Bridges
This report from the Exploratorium's Learning and Youth Research and Evaluation Center (LYREC) highlights trends, questions, and findings related to out-of-school-time science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (OST STEM) programs by drawing on the efforts of some two dozen federally funded programs that participated and presented their work at a conference held in Washington, DC in October of 2009.
Building Capacity to Integrate Science into Afterschool, Home, and Community: A Work in Progress
The STEM 3D approach draws on evidence-based research demonstrating the proven ability of informal environments to act as an entry point to STEM and 21st Century skills for elementary-aged youth, as well as the value of involving significant adults and local communities when providing STEM learning opportunities for minority youth.
Developing a Paleontology Field Program for Middle-School Students
The University of Montana’s Paleo Exploration Project (PEP) was a professional development program for K-12 Montana teachers, which also provided authentic, field-based, residential summer research experiences for over 80 Montana middle school students. The program’s scientific focus was the ancient environments and fossils of eastern Montana, which to leveraged student’s innate interest in dinosaurs to build a deeper understanding of “doing science” and encouraged future pursuit of STEM coursework and careers.
Using Flowchart Programming to Create Exergames
Exergaming activities demonstrate how technology could be used as an instrument to reduce the impact of this disease. One can purchase commercial, technology-based exergames such as Nintendo Wii Fit or Xbox Kinect games; however, the authors developed a custom exergame using Phoenix Contact’s Nanoline microcontroller and nano Navigator software flowchart. The beauty of the flowcharting software is that people who have no or little programming experience can easily understand its structure.
Interest-Driven Learning Among Middle School Youth in an Out-of-School STEM Studio
The concept of connected learning proposes that youth leverage individual interest and social media to drive learning with an academic focus. To illustrate, we present in-depth case studies of Ryan and Sam, two middle-school-age youth, to document an out-of-school intervention intended to direct toward intentional learning in STEM that taps interest and motivation.
Journey North: A Global Study of Wildlife Migration and Seasonal Change
Journey North engages students in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. Use this site to track the coming of spring through the migration patterns of monarch butterflies, bald eagles, robins, hummingbirds, whooping cranes and other birds and mammals; the budding of plants; changing sunlight; and other natural events. Find photos, real-time mapping, the latest news, a compendium of facts, and other resources on these and other topics. K-12 students are invited to track and share their own field observations with classmates across North America on this site and now through a downloadable app.
A Learner-Centered Design Method for Educational Technology
This paper aims to share EDC’s learnings from developing and implementing this method including addressing issues of trust between youth and adult team members, appropriately acknowledging youth contributions, balancing the roles of mentors and adult design partners, and making dynamic curriculum adjustments based on participants learning styles and skill levels.
Looking for Learning in After-School Spaces
In this study we examined three after-school settings for 8 weeks focusing on storyboarding, chatting on a social network site, videotaped conversations with volunteer facilitators, presentations the youth made at the end of the program, and structured interviews with researchers to look for evidence of learning in afterschool spaces.
Robotics Camps, Clubs, and Competitions: Results from a U.S. Robotics Project
Funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has spent the last eight years developing and implementing a comprehensive educational robotics program for youth ages 9-14. The program is delivered in informal (out-of-school) learning environments through robotics camps, clubs, and competitions and has provided robotics experiences to over 5,000 youth and 400 educators.
Shoot For The Moon! The Mentors and the Middle Schoolers Explore the Intersection of Design Thinking and STEM
This paper describes the journey of a group of university students as they worked with underserved middle school students as mentors in a STEM-based afterschool program. Design thinking provided a frame within which students learned how to be mentors, how to create user-centered learning experiences, and how to share their experiences as developing STEM professionals with middle school students.