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After-School Programs With STEM Focus Win Recognition

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Two after-school programs that focus on the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—have just gained recognition, and checks for $10,000 apiece, as the first-ever winners of the After-School STEM Impact Awards.

Northwestern University's Science Club and the Santa Fe Institute's Project GUTS (Growing Up Thinking Scientifically) were named the winners this month by the Afterschool Alliance and the Noyce Foundation, which developed the awards program. (The Noyce Foundation also supports Education Week coverage of informal and school-based science education, and other issues.)

The Northwestern University Science Club is a mentor-based after-school program featuring weekly hands-on science experiments put on cooperatively by the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, Chicago Public School,s and scientist mentors from Northwestern University. Project GUTS is a computer-science program for middle schoolers that allows students to design, create, and test computer models to simulate "what if" scenarios on real-word topics, such as the spread of contagious disease or the population dynamics of an ecosystem.

"There's no substitute for learning by doing, and that's part of what makes after-school programs such great places to learn about science, technology, engineering and math," said Jodi Grant, the executive director of the Afterschool Alliance, in a press release announcing the awards. "We're very excited to work with the Noyce Foundation to present the new Afterschool STEM Impact Awards to recognize programs that are doing an outstanding job of teaching kids about the sciences and math."

The award announcement was part of a nationwide rally for after-school programs. The rally, called Lights on After-School, is actually a combination of more than 8,000 events showcasing after-school programs. Organized by the Afterschool Alliance, program officials estimate that more than 1 million people will participate.

On Thursday, the Empire State Building will be lit up as part of the celebration.

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