Have you ever wondered why a cake rises? How the bubbles get in the soda bottle? What makes a bathtub boat float or sink? If you answered “yes” to any of these, you’re in good company. Educators from around the country recently gathered at the Children’s Museum in Boston to investigate questions like these, part of a national initiative to bring high-quality, hands-on science to thousands of children in afterschool programs around the country.
Why teach science after school? “During school time teachers are under a lot of pressure to teach to the test. Afterschool programs have the time and the flexibility to pursue hands-on, exploratory science projects,” explains Martha Davis, research associate. And the urgency for improving science and engineering instruction has never been greater, with federal testing requirements for science beginning this school year.
Yet most afterschool teachers don’t have the science background or the teaching experience to make science projects work well for children. EDC’s National Partnerships for After-School Science (N-PASS) meets this need with a network of educators who bring hands-on science activities to hundreds of afterschool providers. This three-year initiative is funded by the National Science Foundation.
“We could teach in classrooms all year but we wouldn’t reach the number of children we’re reaching through the leaders at this one training today,” says Davis. “If you teach one teacher you’re reaching 20–30 kids. If you teach one teacher-trainer you’re reaching hundreds of kids.”
“We are giving afterschool educators the skills they need to lead science projects confidently and well,” says Project Manager Charles Hutchison.
Betsy Ononye agrees. She is manager of youth community programs at the Center of Science and Industry in Toledo, Ohio, and she runs monthly trainings for afterschool providers across the region. She’s seen the effect of the training network firsthand.
“Many afterschool providers are afraid of science, but once they do these activities in a class like this, they get fired up about doing science with their kids.”
Originally published on September 1, 2007