STEAM Initiative

 

What is STEAM education?

STEM education refers to the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEAM education incorporates the “A” for the arts – recognizing that to be successful in technical fields, individuals must also be creative and use critical thinking skills which are best developed through exposure to the arts.  STEAM initiatives in afterschool and summer programs are means to encourage, educate and prepare today’s youth to pursue careers in in STEM-related fields.  

Prime Time’s professional development department provides a wide-array of hands-on, inquiry-based trainings to assist afterschool practitioners to implement high quality STEAM activities into their schedule, with the support and technical assistance from Prime Time’s specialists.

 

Prime Time’s STEAM initiative is made up of two complementary projects:

  • Frontiers in Urban Science Exploration (FUSE) [funded by the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems (CBASS) with funding from the Noyce Foundation]

  • Generate Some STEAM in Afterschool [funded by the Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties

 

 

Consistent with national Frontiers in Urban Science Exploration (FUSE) project goals, Prime Time uses “grass-tops” and “grass-roots” level strategies to strengthen infrastructure and resources, raise awareness, and stimulate change in Informal Science Education (ISE) culture and practice in Palm Beach County, FL.

To support FUSE’s overarching goal to institutionalize science learning in local afterschool settings, Prime Time has implemented a three-pronged approach to expand and strengthen its services with regard to ISE afterschool and summer programming.  As such, we …

  • Advocate for increased STEM afterschool programming among key decision-makers and other interested parties while seeking their input and guidance (grass-tops). 

  • Provide afterschool practitioners with the knowledge and resources necessary to effectively deliver ISE in their programs (grass-tops and grass-roots). 

  • Increase the number of youth receiving informal science education through additional enhancements for existing programs (grass-roots).

The Generate Some STEAM in Afterschool Project is allowing Prime Time to expand a critical element: professional development to help individual afterschool staff implement STEAM programing. An inquiry-based approach allows them to inspire love of learning in children and youth through hands-on exploration and reflection, and at the same time, to help those young people imagine themselves as scientists.

Practitioners will master the conceptual framework to implement an inquiry-based approach with any curriculum.  While Prime Time will certainly offer curricula that the afterschool practitioners could use at their sites, it will also go beyond simply handing over information.  Prime Time will empower afterschool staff to put their knowledge and training into practice through coaching and ‘case management’ support.  Our objectives for this project are as follows:

Objective 1) To increase levels of engagement, learning gains and/or interest in STEAM fields among youth served.

Objective 2) To improve the quality of STEAM activities in target afterschool programs.

Why is STEAM education important?

Employers struggle to fill technical, science-related jobs with local talent in Palm Beach County, even while unemployment rates hover at record highs – over 11% for the past few months (“pbcalliance.com,” 2011).

The Florida Department of Education’s Office of Math and Science recently cited several issues, including low student performance on achievement measures; lack of preparation for post-secondary education and/or the workforce; and a persistent achievement gap among demographic subgroups when it presented its recommended science standards in 2008. Since 2010, Florida has been working to align its Next Generation Sunshine State Standards with the even more stringent Federal Common Core Standards. Palm Beach County now faces the challenge of improving student performance while trying to meet increasingly demanding standards, without additional resources.

The performance of Palm Beach County students on recent standardized tests is evidence of the need to strengthen science education. In academic year 2009-10, 17%, 21%, and 25% of county students in grades 5, 8, and 11 respectively, scored a 1 (failing), and 29%, 28% and 30% scored a 2 (barely passing) on the science portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) … all lower than average scores for the State of Florida (“Fldoe.org,” 2010). In other words, nearly half of Palm Beach County’s elementary school students are failing or barely meeting the current standards for science – and the standards are about to get much tougher.

How can I bring STEAM activities to the children and youth in my program?

By brokering partnerships between local school- and community-based afterschool programs and community providers with particular content expertise, Prime Time provides STEAM expanded learning opportunities – called “enhancements” – to more than 3,000 local youth every year.  Enhancements may range from four-session blocks to semester-long engagements.  Prime Time offers the following STEAM-related program enhancements which supplement professional development activities:

  • South Florida Science Museum– fun and creative ways to expose youth to chemistry and biology including lessons such as Crime Scene Sleuths, Star Labs, Exciting Electrons, Squid Dissection, Shark Tooth, andHealth Science in Motion.

  • Florida Atlantic University’s Pine Jog Environmental Education Center– hands-on activities to instill appreciation of the natural world, understanding of environmental concepts, and a sense of responsibility and stewardship for the earth.

  • Junior Achievement– ‘train-the-trainers’ sessions on “More than Money” (to teach children in grades 3-5 the basics of living on a budget and the importance of financial literacy) and “It’s My Business” (to teach youth in grades 6-8 the basics of entrepreneurship). 

  • Palm Beach Zoo– a series of outreach programs that offers a positive and enriching animal science education experience including lessons such as Animal Habitats, Rain Forest Rescue, Edging Toward Extinction, Animal Adaptations, Classifying Connections, Florida Wildlife & Wetlands, and Tropical Rain Forest. 

  • Green Mouse Academy– education in digital media including engineering/robotics, computer programming for video game design, computer animation, and active gaming.  “Science & Math Adventure Game,” a 3D immersive video game to engage youth in learning math concepts through a series of biotech mission adventures, will be expanded for upper elementary and middle school students.

  • Center for Creative Education utilizes creative arts incorporating STEM

  • Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach Countyliteracy-based STEAM opportunities including pre-made STEAM kits available in Prime Time’s Lending Center

I am not an expert in science or math.  What can I do to get children excited about STEAM subjects?

STEAM-related training and technical assistance will show afterschool practitioners how to facilitate inquiry-based learning and will allow them to discover alongside the youth with whom they are working.  An inquiry-based approach allows them to inspire love of learning in children and youth through hands-on exploration and reflection, and at the same time, to help those young people imagine themselves as scientists. 

Prime Time’s Professional Development takes place on an ongoing basis; includes training, observation and coaching; is differentiated, with activities across varying skill levels; is cohort-based, including participants from different sites in training groups; and engages frontline and supervisory staff together in training.

The STEAM training series is hands-on and inquiry-based. Practitioners are exposed to a conceptual framework which allows them to implement an inquiry-based approach with any curriculum.  While Prime Time offers curricula that the afterschool practitioners can use at their sites, practitioners are also encouraged to create their own lesson plans based on the framework and the tools nad supports provided to them throughout this initiative. Prime Time empowers afterschool practitioners to put their knowledge and training into practice through coaching and ‘case management’ support.

A STEM Specialist works one-on-one with afterschool practitioners to help them identify, adapt, and implement informal STEAM education at their sites.  She works with each practitioner to help him/her develop specific personal goals for professional development and provide him/her with information regarding available scholarships and training stipends.

If you or your afterschool program is interested in participating in Prime Time's STEAM Initiative please contact Katherine Gopie at kgopie@primetimepbc.org.

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Information comes from:

Advocates for Women in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Testing service

EQUALS

National Academy of Sciences

National Education Association

National Urban Coalition

U.S. Census Bureau