Afterschool Practitioners Blossomed with STEAM this Spring

by Patricia Sasson, STEAM Specialist, Prime Time Palm Beach County

From uncertainty to confidence and from apprehension to ease, out-of-school time staff who enrolled in Prime Time’s STEAM Initiative are implementing activities and lessons in their programs with great success! 

Galaxy Elementary E3 Afterschool Enrichment Program was one of nine afterschool programs that took advantage of Prime Time’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) offering that kicked off its 11th cohort this past January. I met with Galaxy’s Program’s Director where I heard her hopes that the STEAM Initiative series would help integrate STEAM into their afterschool program.  Eight practitioners from this program trained together throughout the six-part series. 

We kicked off the six-part session, with some of the practitioners feeling alone in trying to facilitate STEAM at their sites and they would often show up frustrated and discouraged.  OST practitioners made comments such as, “I’ve never taught science before,” “I don’t know a lot about science or technology,” and “What will it take to implement STEAM in my program?”

 As the training sessions progressed and  I started visiting sites to observe and coach the practitioners on STEAM activities with their youth, I began seeing the OST practitioners transform before my eyes!

After my first observation and coaching session, OST practitioner at Galaxy Elementary E3 Afterschool Enrichment Program Program Ljana Farmer said, “your details and comments were extremely helpful and we now know what we have to work on to improve.” 

Some who were once shy and unsure about how to implement STEAM were working hands-on with the youth, building tall towers with spaghetti sticks and marshmallows, engineering the best paper airplanes, or experimenting with balloons, baking soda, and carbonated beverages. Youth were making science observations, practicing problem-solving, testing hypotheses and having fun!

Throughout the training series, Galaxy staff came together and participated at the highest level, collaborated on implementation plans and lesson activities, and had fun with the hands-on experiments.

During and in between the trainings, practitioners created Communities of Practice where they shared ideas and were able to build on each other’s strengths and help each other with areas of growth.  I observed youth, who from one session to the next, exhibited an increase in their knowledge of science, interest and engagement in afterschool activities and connections to their environment because their adult facilitator made science more meaningful and practical in their world, giving them opportunities to see how STEAM experiences can lead them to future professions and successes.

Practitioners improved the way they implement STEAM activities by engaging youth with purposeful STEAM activities, utilizing space and materials, giving youth an opportunity to have a voice and developing relationships through inquiry and reflection activities.

This was such an impactful cohort for so many practitioners who are making a difference for the children and youth who attend the afterschool programs. I look forward to embedding STEAM in all afterschool programs across Palm Beach County. My next six-part training starts September 12, 2019.