Integrating Science Into Afterschool: A Three-Dimensional Approach To Engaging Underserved Populations In Science - Final Report


The initiative called Integrating Science Into Afterschool: A Three-Dimensional Approach to Engaging Underserved Populations in Science set out to promote science learning in three out-ofschool settings (afterschool programs, home, and community), to promote rich and varied science experiences to underserved Philadelphia communities, and to assess the value of this model for the broader field of out-of-school time and informal learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The project was funded through the National Science Foundation’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Student and Teachers (ITEST) program, and one of its intended contributions was developing a model to enhance STEM career readiness among elementary school children from communities underrepresented in STEM fields. The project’s framework was articulated in the following way in the initial funding proposal to the National Science Foundation: By offering science program experiences and support structures for those facilitating children’s science learning in out-of-school programs for Philadelphia youth and engaging families and the community in extensions of these science experiences, science will eventually become an integral part of numerous communities throughout the Philadelphia area. As described in the funding proposal, this initiative had five major goals: 

  • Goal 1: Embed project-based science learning into the program offerings of five afterschool sites serving children grades 3-5, with approximately 50 children at each site.
  • Goal 2: Create a rich and comprehensive professional development program that will be offered to afterschool facilitators at the five sites. 
  • Goal 3: Establish family programs that support engagement with science and accessing scientists and their careers in relevant and meaningful ways, across the contexts of afterschool, home, and community.
  • Goal 4: Develop home-based science activities that continue children’s science learning initiated in the afterschool setting into the home setting with families.
  • Goal 5: Evaluate the effectiveness of this 3-D approach in engaging children, families, afterschool facilitators, and community-based organizations in science learning and the promotion of STEM professions.

These goals and associated objectives draw on The Franklin Institute science museum’s extensive history of implementing evidence-based science curricula and on the Principal Investigator’s strength in developing and researching informal science opportunities that emphasize the social nature of science learning and professional development. The three dimensions of this initiative – afterschool, home, and community – are designed to create strong STEM career pathways for children in underserved communities by:

  • Leveraging and supporting informal learning opportunities in out-of-school settings.
  • Engaging parents as critical adults in children’s science learning.
  • Providing children concrete examples of meaningful engagement with science and with scientists with whom they can identify. 

In order to accomplish these goals, The Franklin Institute partnered with Philadelphia’s Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), a nonprofit public health institute that aims to build healthier communities through partnerships with government, foundations, businesses, and community-based organizations. PHMC is the city’s intermediary for contracting, managing, supporting, and monitoring more than 100 community-based out-of-school time (OST) programs. It also facilitates and coordinates professional development about project-based learning to OST program facilitators.

In this report, we demonstrate that although specific activities of the project (whose name we shorten as STEM 3D) have evolved from the original plan, the overall vision has provided a powerful impetus for change in participating individuals and OST sites and has provided valuable resources to the larger informal STEM ecosystem of Philadelphia.

Authors: Creative Research and Evaluation, LLC. Philadelphia, PA, The Discovery Center, Murfreesboro. TN , The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. PA


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S. Blanc
Creative Research & Evaluations
Informal Learning and Afterschool
Participant Recruitment and Retention
Youth Motivation and Interests in STEM
Publication Year
Additional Disciplines
Engineering - design