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After-School Providers Unaware of STEM Potential

After-school programs can stimulate and provide essential opportunities to improve students' interest in STEM, particularly those students who are disadvantaged or least inclined to pursue careers in STEM disciplines later in life, writes Anita Krishnamurthi in a Commentary piece on our site.

Krishnamurthi, who is the STEM policy director for the Afterschool Alliance, discusses the findings from an alliance study she led called "Defining Youth Outcomes for STEM Learning in Afterschool," which polled STEM funders, state policymakers, and after-school providers about their thoughts on the promise and practice of informal STEM learning in after-school programs. The study concluded that there are three key outcomes after-school programs should aim to reach when including STEM instruction as part of their curriculum:
- Developing student interest in STEM and related learning activities;
- Developing student capacity to engage in STEM learning; and
- Helping students see the value in STEM learning.

In recent years, she notes, there has been increased interest in using out-of-school environments to experiment with STEM instruction, yet while there is significant potential for these programs to improve interest in STEM, after-school providers often underestimate that potential.

"Many in the after-school community are pessimistic that their impact will be recognized and valued," Krishnamurthi writes. "They aren't as confident about affecting the in-school outcomes that policymakers often focus on—grades and test scores—as they are about improving 'foundational' skills, such as problem-solving and teamwork."

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