Almost 1,000 afterschool program sites in 9 states deliver NPASS hands-on, minds-on science and engineering projects to their students once a week throughout the school year — and often into the summer too. NPASS sites include 21st Century programs, YMCA’s and Boys and Girls Clubs, community afterschool agencies, parent run cooperatives, 4-H Clubs, faith-based organizations, and even the Department of Juvenile Services in one state.
Some afterschool sites run more than one club or age-based group each week. So there are a lot of kids —mostly elementary and middle school age but with some high school kids too — learning how to tackle enjoyable, age appropriate but challenging engineering tasks like building a Trebuchet or a Roller Coasters, or exploring interesting and sometime perplexing phenomena such as electric circuits, sinking and floating, baking chemistry and more.
NPASS2 achieved this scale by adopting engaging and affordable science and engineering projects Design-It and Explore-It and then by carefully laying down support and training programs that make sure our afterschool staff are well prepared, confident, intentional and skilled when they stand before their students with each new project. NPASS2 has created an entirely new cadre of professional Science Trainers who provide regular training and support to NPASS2 afterschool program providers in their state. Research shows that high quality projects and regular training that promotes “best practices” for projects leadership are both essential to making the programming the students experience each week consistently of the highest quality.
Students who regularly engage in meaningful, enjoyable but challenging science and engineering programs in afterschool report more positive attitudes towards science and a greater interest in “becoming a scientist” when the graduate from college. African American, Latino, low income and female students as a whole are generally less interested in science and their parents are less represented in the STEM workforce [Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] than other groups. NPASS2 specifically targets afterschool programs that serve these and other under-represented and under-served groups. Its an equity issue. These kids should have just the same chance know about and enjoy doing science as every other American kid. We hope that their NPASS2 experiences will help many of them decide that they themselves can be scientists one day.