Identifying fossils, creating Rube Goldberg machines, completing circuits, and saving “Fred, the Worm” are just a few of the activities that sparked imagination, curiosity, and innovation in 3,500 school-age youth as part of the 15th annual Lights On Afterschool (LOA) celebration. Through funding from the Noyce Foundation, ASTC and the Afterschool Alliance awarded Lights On Afterschool Partnership Minigrants to 20 ASTC-member institutions to aid in the implementation of an event rich in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), in cooperation with an afterschool partner.
These events fostered new partnerships between science centers and afterschool providers, and provided an opportunity for underserved youth and their caregivers to visit a science center. Some afterschool partners reported that this was the first time that their youth and families had ever visited the science center.
The “What Can You Build with a Cardboard Box?” program at the Children’s Museum of Staten Island, New York received an enthusiastic response from participants at The Children’s Aid Society, Goodhue Center. Working together (everyone had the opportunity to work as the architect, the engineer, and the construction worker), they created buildings from cardboard materials. Some boxes were as big as the students! Using their creativity and ingenuity, they learned that in STEM careers, no one works alone and collaboration is the key to success. One young participant declared that it was “the best day of my life!” This is type of experience that we hope all of our science centers and museums are able to bring to visitors.
To learn more about LOA and to hear directly from host sites, please join us for a webinar in February. Science centers and afterschool providers will share their successes and challenges in bringing together these communities and their plans to further develop and expand their partnerships. Details about this webinar will be announced soon through the ASTC General Forum and the STEM Afterschool Community of Practice. To join either of these forums, please visit the ASTC Community at community.astc.org.
Lights On Afterschool is the only nationwide event celebrating afterschool programs and their important role in the lives of children, families, and communities. For a list of 2014 Partnership Minigrant awardees, please visit www.astc.org/astc-news/lights-on-afterschool-partnership-minigrant-recipients.