Learning opportunities in science, technology, and engineering, and math (STEM) fields are more available in afterschool programs than they were in 2014. Nearly 2 million children across the United States participated in summer STEM camps in 2019.
But while afterschool programs are reaching populations underrepresented in STEM fields, students from low-income families are much less likely to be getting technology/engineering and computer science activities in afterschool than students from higher-income families.
According to “STEM Learning in Afterschool on the Rise, But Barriers and Inequities Exist,” a new report released this week, 60% of parents nationally report that their child participates in STEM in afterschool twice or more per week. Two in five parents (41%) report that their child’s afterschool program offers computer science opportunities.
The household survey, which was conducted by Edge Research for the Afterschool Alliance, found that in total 5,740,836 students are getting STEM learning opportunities in their afterschool programs.
“Afterschool programs are uniquely positioned to provide the STEM learning opportunities students need to succeed in school and in life,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “Thanks to the team-based, hands-on learning these programs provide, they have become a cornerstone of STEM learning for children and youth from all backgrounds. But the inequities are troubling. We need to build more partnerships and invest more resources to ensure that all students, no matter their family income, gender, or race, can access STEM in afterschool.”
STEM Learning in Afterschool is based on responses from more than 31,000 U.S. families, including 561 families in Maryland. It includes national-level findings from smaller surveys of parents and program providers conducted in the summer and fall of 2020 and spring of 2021.
In important respects, Maryland results mirror the national survey findings, which include:
“Our programs here in Maryland have been doing heroic work during the pandemic, helping students who have suffered more than a year of isolation, learning loss, and trauma,” said Ellie Mitchell, executive director of the Maryland Out of School Time Network. “Many programs provided STEM learning before and during the pandemic. We are pleased to see that a growing number of parents recognize the importance of STEM learning in afterschool. We are particularly proud of our partnership with STEM Next and the Million Girls Moonshot, which is inspiring and preparing the next generation of innovators by engaging one million more girls nationwide in STEM learning opportunities through afterschool and summer programs over the next five years.”