The McLean Hospital, working with the Exploratorium and Reginald Clark and Associates, proposes an intensive study of "typical" afterschool programs (those lacking specialized training, funding or partnerships). This study will build basic knowledge and data about how effective informal science activities can be developed for and presented by these after-school programs. It will consist of a sample size of at least 300 informal science after-school programs and include a variety of data collection methods such as surveys, phone interviews, and in-depth case studies. The project relies upon 50 leaders of youth organizations (CSAS - Coalition for Science After School) building upon the work of two NSF-funded conferences in 2003 and 2004. Afterschool leaders will be able to use this knowledge to increase and improve informal science in localized after-school settings as well as to set up demonstration projects. The study takes a holistic approach, connecting (a) features of strong informal science to (b) student outcomes/benefits to (c) core program components (curriculum, staffing, and support structures). The research will serve as a baseline for future studies in informal learning, as well as for policy recommendations. Strategic impact will be realized as this comprehensive study contributes important knowledge, documentation and tools for the rapidly developing after-school field, while expanding opportunities for informal learning in after-school programs. Additionally, this work will address sensitive measures that take into account the particular contexts of the after-school environment, youth development (particularly underserved youth) and powerful informal science learning. The results will be widely disseminated to after-school youth development and informal science education leaders, policymakers and funders through a program assessment tool, a Research-to-Practice Symposium and a policy recommendation paper.
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 0540306
Funding Amount: 942744
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