Bringing STEM Education from Niche to Necessary: the Every Hour Counts FUSE 3.0 Institute

This post originally appeared on STEM Next, a national leader in increasing opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics learning for youth across communities both in and out of school.

Editor’s Note: In 2010, ExpandED Schools and Every Hour Counts launched the Frontiers in Urban Science Education project with support from the Noyce Foundation. The project aims to scale access to high-quality STEM learning for kids in out-of-school time programs, building off lessons piloted in New York City by ExpandED Schools. In 2014, the FUSE project published a resource guide of strategies to advance informal science education in after-school, and is now leading six organizations from across the country in connecting out-of-school and in-school STEM learning with the Next Generation Science Standards.

“What variable do you think students were testing during the Rockin’ Rockets Design Challenge?” Jasmine Maldonado, Science Coach Supervisor from the New York Hall of Science, asked FUSE 3.0 Winter Institute participants before testing the rockets in the video above. The question sparked a buzz of conversation around the room as participants explored how the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) can be applied to expanded learning.

The presentation allowed us to step into students’ shoes to experience learning rooted in NGSS firsthand. We used our observation, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork skills to analyze the design variables students tested in the rocket challenge. We quickly realized that we were flexing the same social-emotional skills (SEL) to answer Maldonado’s question that students must use to be successful in the Challenge. The exercise highlighted a key FUSE theme: there are many ways to integrate both content acquisition and youth development in high-quality STEM learning.

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Participants discuss integrating NGSS in expanded learning STEM settings.

This spirit of inquiry and reflection fueled the two-day FUSE 3.0 Winter Institute in Boston February 11-12. Forty-five leaders in youth development, education, and informal science from seven cities shared their thinking on how infuse STEM learning in-and out-of-school with social-emotional skill-building and exposure to the practices of scientists and engineers detailed in the science standards. We were joined by Ron Ottinger, director of STEM Next, and Penny Noyce, co-founding trustee of the Noyce Foundation.

One of the key strategies the teams discussed is how they are creating joint professional development and collaboration opportunities for that bring together K-12 teachers with after-school and other informal STEM educators. We were fortunate to have Cary Sneider, leader of the engineering group on the NGSS writing team, appointed member of the National Assessment Governing Board, and science consultant for STEM Next, to lead part of the discussion.

“I see the practices of science and engineering in the NGSS as a bridge between informal and formal educators,” said Sneider. “One of my career goals has been to bring those worlds together. It is equally important and difficult to achieve on both sides of the fence.”

Lead organizations sending teams to the Institute included: ExpandED Schools in New York City, the Providence After School Alliance, Boston After School and Beyond, Chicago’s After School Matters, the Nashville After Zone Alliance, Family League of Baltimore, and Prime Time Palm Beach County.

Boston, Providence, Chicago and New York City are also part of the first cohort of the STEM Ecosystems Initiative, supported by STEM Next and the STEM Funders Network. The ecosystems work – intentionally connecting STEM learning experiences for kids across a full range of settings – in and out of school, at home, in community-based settings, online and in the workforce – dovetails nicely with the FUSE project.

In the coming weeks, Every Hour Counts will conduct a deep dive into the themes that emerged from the Institute in a STEM Connections blog series. Check out our FUSE resource guide and #FUSEInstitute on Twitter for more resources.

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