SEATTLE – Washington is getting more funding to introduce kids to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in the hours beyond the school day. A $120,000 two-year grant will be used to train more after-school program providers and connect them with experts in STEM-related fields.
Krista Galloway, quality systems manager, School’s Out Washington, said her group hears often that teachers have so much material to cover that science gets less than an hour a week in many classrooms. Quality after-school activities could augment that, she said.
“We have time with kids that’s not necessarily pre-scripted, so we have some extended time with kids. You get to know them a lot of times, year to year, so you can really learn about their interests and what’s going on in their community. And we know that if you can make the learning relevant, it sticks a whole lot better,” Galloway said.
There’s evidence that more needs to be done to encourage kids’ interest in high-tech fields. National testing last year showed only 48 percent of fourth-graders and 42 percent of eighth-graders in Washington were proficient in math – and the numbers have been lower for science.
A new study of high school students showed that they are more likely to pursue science or math careers after they have seen them in action, through business visits and job-shadowing. Galloway said after-school is just the place to arrange those types of activities and other hands-on projects.
“We’re showing kids, ‘I can do this,’ showing them these things are important, and giving them the motivation so that they really want to do these things. We’re letting them feel like they can be a scientist and it’s good that they want to, because these are really important and exciting things that they can learn,” Galloway said.
In addition to the School’s Out Washington grant, the state has designated seven “Lighthouse Schools” this month that will receive small grants to promote and develop STEM education.
The grant to School’s Out Washington is from the Noyce Foundation and C.S. Mott Foundation. The study mentioned is in the February 2014 issue of the “Journal of Applied Communication Research.”