s'mores solar oven

Make S'More Solar Energy

July 2, 2017

What activity says “summer” more than roasting some s’mores? Discover how to add a STEM twist to the traditional summer snack by helping youth design their own solar-powered oven.

youth tinkering

What's Tinkering?

June 27, 2017

Tinkering has caught a lot of attention in recent years, and for good reason. Tinkering, like engineering, allows youth a chance to learn by pursuing design work of their choice in multi-disciplinary, STEM fields. Common tinkering projects include designing circuits or Rube Goldberg machines.

Exploring Circuits Affordably

Exploring Circuits Affordably

June 20, 2017

Dough-based circuit activities happen to be one of my favorite STEAM activities. Youth learn about electricity by manipulating salt-based dough and LED lights. It’s very open-ended, exploratory, and science-focused. It has even managed to captivate some of my more squirrely and resistant learners.

Incorporating Reflection into STEM Learning

Incorporating Reflection into STEM Learning

June 6, 2017

Reflection is key to connecting learning to real-life experience. Giving youth time to talk, draw, or explain their thinking makes learning “stick.” This month I’m borrowing a great strategy from Ms. Beth, who teaches robotics and STEM with girls in Omaha, Nebraska. I couldn’t wait to use this strategy in my classroom! Reflection Cards Print multicolored sheets of reflection cards. Each reflection card should contain the following three questions:

Nurturing STEM Education through Technology

Nurturing STEM Education Through Technology

May 30, 2017

Yes, STEM subjects are challenging. And yes, it’s nearly impossible to change the difficulty of these subjects. But as educators, we can strive to make these topics more fun and engaging to youth of all ages.

Working with Challenge Behaviors

Working with Challenging Behaviors

May 15, 2017

It can be emotionally taxing to work with youth in out-of-school time. The less structured environments that come with informal education, although exceptional for allowing youth room for creativity and exploration, also lend well to chaos. Keeping order involves knowing how to manage groups and how to respond when students are having a bad day.

Three Talk Moves to Give Youth Control of Learning

3 Talk Moves to Give Youth Control of Learning

April 24, 2017

Simple conversational prompts — such as questions, comments and hints — can be used to encourage engagement and productive discussion among young learners. When guiding a learning experience with a specific goal in mind, these prompts become powerful instructional tools called talk moves.

Getting Messy

A Messy Topic: Why Doing Science is Important

April 3, 2017

Is memorizing content the same as learning it? Not according to most afterschool educators, who regularly involve children in investigations, inquiry and local phenomenon. Yet school-day science often insists that students learn by memorizing facts or vocabulary. So, what are we to believe?

Maximizing Visits from STEM Experts

Maximizing Visits from STEM Experts

February 20, 2017

When youth are introduced to approachable and relatable STEM role models, they are more likely to pursue STEM courses and careers in the future. STEM role models can alter a young person’s perceptions about what STEM professionals look like, exemplify a clear pathway to STEM, and illustrate how STEM works in their community.