Friday, July 9, 2010

STEM and After-School

You may be asking yourself what does STEM mean. The acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. There is an increased interest in STEM in K-12 education in general and after-school in particular. The Afterschool Alliance Issue Brief #26 is focused entirely on STEM in the afterschool arena. The Brief begins:

As the 20th century fades into history, it takes with it the old industrial economy in which plentiful manufacturing jobs offered millions of people without a college education a ticket to the middle class. The 21st century’s information economy is creating more jobs that require not only a college education but also at least some expertise in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as STEM. In order to stay competitive in the global marketplace and provide our children with the best chance to succeed in life, we must get more students on the STEM path. All across the country, schools and communities are using the hours after school to do just that.*

As an after-school provider, it is important that we embrace the opportunity of providing STEM experiences for our students. We need to be looking for ways to support the good work of the school day. Here are some things that you might consider doing in your program after-school to support STEM education.

Hold a Science Fair highlighting group projects. Display them on a science board and have the group discuss the project and the project findings. This will not only support science, it will also give your class an opportunity to work as a team and practice public speaking.

Feature math in Math Olympics. Have students divided into teams and have them do math problems (grade appropriate of course) in a relay format. The winning teams will earn medals—bronze, silver, and gold.

Have a club that focuses on building or engineering Simple Machines. Students can design or invent a simple machine that would help people work faster, easier, or more efficiently.

Have access to computers? Have youth use the Technology for developing a website or graphic design.

The Alliance Issue Brief ends with this advice:

Afterschool programs alone cannot make up all the lost ground. They can and should, however, be part of a more comprehensive approach to giving more young people a chance to discover an interest in STEM, and an aptitude that could lead many -- especially those from underrepresented populations – to choose degrees and careers in the STEM fields.**

Find out about STEM education in your school. See what you can do in the after-school hours to support this work that is being done.

* Afterschool Alliance. Issue Brief #26.
** Ibid.

Not so usual celebrations

July 9th is National Sugar Cookie Day. It is not known why July 9th has been designated as National Sugar Cookie Day, but what a sweet way to look at this day. Sugar cookies can be found most everywhere, and whether they are soft (seems like grocery store bakery versions of the sugar cookies usually come in the variety with frosting—totally appropriate to the season) or crunchy (many packaged brands tend to move in this direction), they are delicious!

During your program you might want to share “Sugar Facts” with your students. Here are some Fun Facts about sugar.

• Sugar gives the body energy.
• Your body changes sugars into glucose.
• Carbohydrates are complex sugars such as whole grain products.
• Simple sugars (candy, soda) can give you a sugar high that is quickly gone.
• Words that end in “ose” indicate that this is another word for sugar. (glucose, fructose, sucrose, galactose, and lactose.
• Sugar has a variety of names including corn syrup, dextrose, and granulated sugar.
• Sugars can come from corn, beets, grapes, or sugar cane
• Sugar can occur in foods naturally or be added.

Sugar Cookie Activities

Purchase a box or package of sugar cookies. Have youth decorate them with frosting.
Purchase a package of sugar cookies. Have youth smash them into crumbs. Add a small amount of butter or margarine (just enough to hold the crumbs together) and pat the mixture into a pizza pan. Mix together 1 package of cream cheese, ½ c. sugar, and a touch of vanilla. Spread over the cookie crust. Add fresh fruit on top—strawberries, blueberries, bananas, kiwis, peaches, or other seasonal fruit. Refrigerate for an hour. Cut into slices and enjoy.

If you don’t have access to real cookies, have youth create a sugar cookie drawing with the perfect topping.

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