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STEM Afterschool Innovation Mini-Grants Provide Youth with Opportunities

By Rachael McKinney, Afterschool STEM Expansion VISTA

The Alaska Afterschool Network, Juneau Economic Development Council, and BP Alaska have awarded $24,000 allocated to 16 programs across the state, with grants ranging from $500 to $2,000. These STEM Afterschool Innovation Mini-Grants are designed to help afterschool programs implement or expand high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning.noorvik-bg-club

The Alaska Afterschool Network (a program of Alaska Children’s Trust) is grateful for the opportunity to help bring such a great resource to afterschool programs in Alaska.

The need to support STEM learning in-school and after-school is ever-growing. Students spend less than 20 percent of their waking hours inside a school-day classroom, and a number of studies show that STEM learning during the school day is necessary but may not be sufficient for lifelong STEM literacy. Afterschool provides opportunities to reinforce in-school STEM learning through engaging, hands-on STEM activities that can garner and sustain student-interest in these fields.

Estimates show that 80 percent of future jobs will require STEM literacy, with employment in science and math occupations growing 70 percent faster than the overall growth of occupations. A strong, educated STEM workforce is critical to the continued growth of Alaska’s economy. Alaska must provide a STEM education pipeline for students to become effectively educated with the critical thinking and 21st century technology skills needed to tackle the rapidly changing economic, communication, and physical environments affecting Alaska.

However, many students, especially girls and those from underrepresented minorities, find it difficult to envision themselves in these careers. Participation in afterschool STEM programing has been correlated with reducing STEM inequities and increased likelihood of students selecting science-related college majors and careers.

peak-2STEM Afterschool Innovation Mini-Grants are aimed at fostering this process of sparking youth interest in STEM for a more productive and innovative future workforce. From opening a bakery to creating an automobile engineering summer camp, the grant recipients will help provide Alaska youth with valuable skills to prepare them for success in college, career and life.

The Alaska Afterschool Network thanks all of the grant applicants for their commitment to positive youth development and informal STEM education. In total, 53 grant applications were submitted by a diverse group of applicants, including programs from nonprofits, public schools, and libraries spanning the entire state, with requests adding up to more than $83,000. The Alaska Afterschool Network and our partners are committed to increasing resources and opportunities so all Alaskan youth have the opportunity to engage in STEM learning during out-of-school time.

The 2017 STEM Afterschool Innovation Grant recipients are listed below.

Boys & Girls Club of Alaska – Nome Community Center | Nome, Alaska
The Clubhouse plans to teach youth that we are all changing individuals and how these changes benefit everyone through the exploration of habitats and solar energy. Funding will be used to purchase habitat supplies, microscopes, solar car kits, and wind turbine experiment kits. This will allow the clubhouse to increase the frequency of STEM offerings and to take their STEM programing to the next level.

St. Paul Preschool | St. Paul, Alaska
Funding will be used to purchase a Discover STEM Lab to be used on a rotational basis, exposing students to multiple STEM modalities by promoting innovation and inquiry, developing problem-solving, and encouraging mathematical reasoning skills within their afterschool program.

Boys & Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula – Kasilof Clubhouse | Kasilof, Alaska
The Kasilof Boys & Girls Club Bakery will encourage the use of engineering, science, and mathematical skills among club members. Youth will create a student-run bakery business by constructing a storefront for sales, using data analysis to create and maintain spreadsheets of sale records, and utilizing math and life science skills in baking and nutritional labeling.

Sitka Sound Science Center | Sitka, Alaska
STEM grant funding will be used to create a new one-week summer camp called REVolution Camp, which will focus on automobile engineering, fuel systems, and design and product testing. The camp will expose students to the ideas of automobile mechanics, renewable energy systems, design requirements, and testing engineering.

Cordova School District | Cordova, Alaska
Funding will be used to help purchase a Little Bits Pro Library to provide students with more opportunities to learn and create. The Little Bits Pro Library will enable youth to create a comprehensive makerspace that engages them in hands-on STEM activities.

Meadow Lakes Elementary | Wasilla, Alaska
The Meadow Lakes Einstein’s Club will use funding to purchase materials and accessories to teach students problem-solving, engineering, and computer programming. Students will engineer things such as index card towers and paper tables; robots will be used to teach youth about coding and programming.

Teeland Middle School | Wasilla, Alaska
Funding will be used toward the purchase of a replacement 3D printer, which will be used to manufacture robot frames and used as a vehicle for teaching computer programming to students.

Discovery Southeast | Juneau, Alaska
Discovery Southeast will incorporate an explicit STEM focus into its Outdoor Explorers Summer Camp. Three weeks of the camp will be dedicated to Ocean, Salmon, and Rocks, during which campers will pose questions, conduct investigations, collect data, and create a project to share the information they have gathered.

Friends of the Zach Gordon Youth Center | Juneau, Alaska
STEM grant funding will assist Body and Mind Afterschool Activities in providing new STEM curriculum focusing on snow science, space, and birds.

Fairbanks North Star Borough School District 21st CCLC | Fairbanks, Alaska
Funding will be used to purchase three OSMOs classrooms sets that will be shared across 21st CCLC programs in Fairbanks using their Afterschool Lending Library. The OSMOs expose students to problem-solving, coding, mathematics, and computational skills.

Trailside Discovery | Anchorage, Alaska
Trailside Discovery will use grant funding to purchase a JASON Rigamajig to be used in Anchorage School District Title I schools that operate 21st CCLC programs. The Rigamajig is a large-scale building kit used for hands-on free play and learning.

The Arc of Anchorage | Anchorage, Alaska
STEM grant funding will purchase a modular Magnetic Levitation (Maglev) race track and corresponding Maglev cars. Participants will be able to building different tracks, and will then break into teams to build the Maglev cars that will be used for racing. Concepts such as aerodynamics will be taught to students to help them continually rebuild and improve their engineering designs.

Anchorage Public Libraries | Anchorage, Alaska
A geocaching program for youth grades 3-5 called “Geocaching – Hi-tech Hide and Seek” will be rotated throughout programs held in Anchorage’s public libraries. Geocaching will increase youth’s early exposure to real-world mathematics, geospatial science, and GPS technology, while also building upon critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and teamwork.

Boys & Girls Club of Alaska – Woodland Park | Anchorage, Alaska
Funding will be used to create a DIY STEM program at the clubhouse. Four units will be introduced: Energy and Electricity, Engineering Design, Food Chemistry, and Intro to Aeronautics. The program will promote interest and awareness of STEM among club members.

Camp Fire Alaska – Tyson Elementary and Fire Lake | Anchorage/Eagle River, Alaska
Staff members of Camp Fire Alaska will receive specialized training in STEM activity facilitation, focused on supporting youth to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Additionally, staff will receive an orientation to the STEM supplement of the Youth Program Quality Assessment tool in preparation for observing and measuring quality of STEM programing. Camp Fire staff will then implement 12, pre-planned activities intended to introduce youth to basic STEM concepts.

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