The Next Generation of Science Education

This post originally appeared on the blog of Boston After School & Beyond and is written by Ellen Dickenson, the organization’s Program Director, Partnerships and STEM.

Together with an outstanding team of educators from Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center, we had the pleasure of participating in a recent workshop hosted byThe After-School Corporation and Every Hour Counts, facilitated by Cary Sneider, a lead writer of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and supported by the Noyce Foundation. Our revelation while working with Cary was this: though the performance standards of the NGSS are almost identical to the existing Massachusetts curriculum frameworks, the NGSS brings them to life through a three-dimensional approach to teaching science.

When core disciplinary ideas are integrated with practice and crosscutting concepts in this way, STEM subjects become an ideal platform for teaching the skills necessary to achieve, connect, and thrive at school, in the workplace, and in life. (You can read more on that in this FUSE: Next Generation strategy brief.)

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Happy Summer Learning Day!

Congratulations to the National Summer Learning Association for a great day of advocacy and awareness! To spread the word, TASC rounded up a great list of ideas and resources for a rich summer experience.

Guest post by Therese Workman, Web Communications Manager, TASC

Summer is nearly here, and school is letting out! Before we all kick off our flip-flops and nestle into hammocks, it’s good to take a look at some hard facts. According to the National Summer Learning Association, too much R+R without helping kids keep up their academic skills can result in more than just forgetting a few vocab words:pic 1

  • Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in math skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.
  • More than half of the achievement gap between kids from lower and higher income homes can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, poorer kids are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.
  • Kids lose more than academic knowledge over the summer; those who are at high risk of obesity gain weight more rapidly during summer break.

So how do we keep kids engaged and active—outside of school? We’ve pulled together some creative ways to keep kids from slipping down that dreaded “summer slide:”

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“Play with Shrinky Dinks to learn about the fundamental law of physics: the ‘conservation of matter.’ A 5-year-old will immediately notice how the size of the Shrinky Dink actually increases, or in her words, ‘gets fatter,’ while cooking. So get out your rulers and have fun learning physics.” (Here’s a sample lesson plan.) – Jessica Donner, Director, Every Hour Counts

“When my now 20-year-old son was a boy, we liked to expand his horizons by taking him to see classic films in the park or to listen to outdoor music performances — mostly jazz festivals, like the Charlie Parker festival in Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. You can bring food, relax and take in some great storytelling and inspiring musicianship.” (Check out the Bryant Park outdoor summer movie schedule) – Deborah Taylor, Regional Tutor Coordinator, MS ExTRA

“I’m a big fan of First Book and they’re big fans of summer reading! Right now, their blog is filling up with book lists for different age groups. As someone who spent lots of summers reading as a kid, I’m loving this way to beat the summer slide!” – Rebecca Forbes, Research Programs Specialist
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» EducationWorld has prepared a list of 25 Summer Learning Activites, including making your own ice cream, creating magic crystal gardens and building the “best paper plane in the world.”

» Scholastic’s 50 Ideas for Summer Learning are broken into categories by subject and grade level, including games for long car trips.

» The folks at ReadingRockets remind us that keeping up writing during the summer – in addition to reading – is also important. Check out ways to start up kid blogs, create summer trading cards and use geotagging to create scavenger hunts with your smartphone.

» The Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) has just announced even more opportunities for middle school-aged participants in summer enrichment programs. Be sure to check out the new additions and pre-enroll by June 30.

Do you have any activities or ideas to keep summer both fun and productive? Let us know in the comments!

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More Summer Learning on the Way

Guest post by Tiffany Gueye

What happens when two national nonprofits team up to expand learning time? The Power Scholars Academy™ is created, and a pathway to scale summer learning opportunities emerges.

This June, BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) and YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) are working together to deliver BELL’s summer learning model through eight YMCA associations and their partner schools in Montgomery, AL; Denver, CO; Hartford, CT; Washington, DC; Clearwater and Orlando, FL; St. Paul, MN; and San Antonio, TX.

Students in a BELL program rehearse a dance performance. Photo courtesy of TASC.

Students in a BELL program at P.S. 15 in Queens, NY, rehearse a dance performance. Photo (c) John Abbott Photography.

Here’s how it works: BELL is training Power Scholars Academy leadership teams in each community. We are providing academic curriculum, supporting program operations through technical assistance, overseeing quality assurance, and evaluating outcomes. YMCAs are enrolling students, recruiting, hiring and training staff, managing program operations, delivering enrichment activities, and facilitating school partnerships. Partner schools are providing use of classrooms and other facilities, as well as transportation, breakfast and lunch for scholars, supporting teacher recruitment, identifying enrollment criteria for students, and providing additional in-kind support. BELL and the Y are each raising philanthropic support from donors such as The Wallace Foundation so that the Power Scholars Academy can be delivered free-of-cost to families, and to enable BELL and the Y to thoughtfully plan and prepare for program expansion.

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