An exciting new resource to help out-of-school STEM providers is now available online. Click2SciencePD.org is a brand-new site devoted to providing free professional development resources to trainers, coaches, site directors and frontline staff/volunteers working in out-of-school time programs serving children and youth. The materials are focused on developing 20 “Essential Skills” identified by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and the Noyce Foundation as necessary to implement science effectively in out-of-school time settings.
Evaluations of the national Frontiers in Urban Science Exploration (FUSE) initiative, led by Every Hour Counts, have shown that professional development is a critical element for supporting strong informal STEM education programs. Investing in training for frontline staff not only contributes to a program’s overall professionalism, it also increases staff and volunteer confidence and results in the implementation of high-quality activities. In fact, after participating in professional development activities, out-of-school time STEM staff in FUSE programs who lacked background or experience in STEM content were able to “catch up” to their more experienced counterparts, implementing high-quality programming and demonstrating strong facilitation strategies.
The folks behind Click2Science.org recognize the indisputable benefits of professional development for STEM staff and volunteers. Their 20 “Essential Skills” fall into three categories—“Planning STEM Learning Experiences,” “Interacting with Youth During STEM,” and “Building STEM Skills”—and focus on teaching strategies and skills rather than content. While modules for all 20 skills are not yet available, interested STEM providers can currently take video lessons for several skills in the “Interacting with Youth” and “Building STEM Skills” categories.
In addition to frontline staff and volunteer training, Click2SciencePD includes in their modules videos for trainers to teach each “Essential Skill” to their staff, as well as community discussion boards and blog posts to provide additional support and opportunities for interaction among providers and trainers. Click2SciencePD also hopes to offer opportunities to engage with professionals in STEM fields.
While many of the site’s features and modules are not yet live, Click2SciencePD already offers several valuable resources to out-of-school time STEM providers and promises to be an indispensable resource for professional development in informal STEM education.