Launched by Boston After School & Beyond and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley (UWMB) in 2015, BoSTEM is an city-wide initiative that aims to ensure that every middle-school student in Boston Public Schools (BPS) has access to high-quality science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning opportunities.
BoSTEM brings together a coalition of high performing nonprofits who are committed to closing the achievement and opportunity gaps for students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM learning and to inspire and prepare Boston youth to succeed in 21st century careers. Working in collaboration with Boston Public Schools and local corporations, this innovative initiative ensures students have access to programming that is culturally responsive, aligns with in-school curricula, and integrates hands-on, experiential learning opportunities.
Programs are especially effective in helping youth to develop the skills necessary to thrive in 21st century STEM careers when their activities are project or inquiry-based, are sequenced in a way that allows youth to build on previous knowledge and their own experiences, and integrate real-world and career connections.
During SY16-17 and summer 2017, BoSTEM served 1,710 students grades 6-8 across 27 program sites. Program evaluations show 77% of all BoSTEM students reported positive gains in “STEM Interest overall” and 80% of students reported positive growth across the social and emotional skills of critical thinking, perseverance, and relationships with peers and adults.
STEM learning goes beyond the classroom
Boston is home to a rich network of places where youth can connect with STEM–in school, at a community center, on the soccer field, on a field trip to the museum, during a tour of a start-up incubator space, or even while eating dinner at home–which we call the STEM learning ecosystem. Boston After School & Beyond cross-pollinates Boston’s STEM learning ecosystem by connecting innovative educators with researchers who study their techniques, and then sharing what we learn from them to help all members of the ecosystem ignite moments of discovery for the youth they serve.
Through participation in BoSTEM, partners engage in a data-driven community of practice that supports continuous learning and improvement within a common framework, while providing partners autonomy for customized, site-specific strategies that work best for their students.
Research and Reports
How Cross-Sector Collaborations are Advancing STEM Learning
STEM learning ecosystems harness unique contributions of educators, policymakers, families, and others in symbiosis toward a comprehensive vision of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for all children. This 2014 working paper published by the Noyce Foundation describes the attributes and strategies of 15 leading ecosystem efforts throughout the country with the hope that others may use their lessons to deepen rich STEM learning for many more of America’s children.
Assessing the Impacts of STEM Learning Ecosystems
This report, which furthers the STEM ecosystem research described in a 2014 working paper published by the Noyce Foundation, shares evidence of the impact of cross-sector partnerships in the effort to create a rich STEM learning environment for all students. As interest in the ecosystem effort grows, as does the need to understand how to measure its impact. This report outlines recommendations for further research and highlights lessons from the field. To support communities interested in cultivating STEM learning ecosystems, they’ve included a toolkit with an adaptable logic model and recommended strategies, as well as background profiles of various communities offering students this type of learning opportunity right now.
Click here to read the full report.
FUSE: Next Generation
This brief by TASC, Every Hour Counts and ORGE Innovation Consulting presents a strategy to create real-world science learning experiences for kids that integrate Next Generation Science Standards with social and emotional learning experiences. Leveraging external experts, community integration and project-based learning, the model builds flexible science programs in both formal and informal settings. While intended for use by New York, Boston and Providence, the Frontiers in Urban Science (FUSE) initiative cities, this brief could be useful to STEM educators, community partners and district leaders nationwide who are forging new paths to expand access to STEM learning and opportunities.
This strategy employs cross-cutting concepts, activities to build social and emotional competencies, science-rich environments and diverse bodies of educators in an effort to positively impact student outcomes. To build successful learning experiences, the model endeavors to marry auxiliary support systems–like technology, public support systems, youth development opportunities, assessment tools and policy implementation–into a cohesive unit.
Click here to read the full report.
STEM Learning is Everywhere: Summary of a Convocation on Building Learning Systems
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) permeate the modern world. The jobs people do, the foods they eat, the vehicles in which they travel, the information they receive, the medicines they take, and many other facets of modern life are constantly changing as STEM knowledge steadily accumulates. Yet STEM education in the United States, despite the importance of these subjects, is consistently falling short. For decades, efforts to improve STEM education have focused largely on the formal education system, but students do not learn about STEM subjects just in school. Much STEM learning occurs out of school–in organized activities such as afterschool and summer programs, in institutions such as museums and zoos, from the things students watch or read on television and online, and during interactions with peers, parents, mentors, and role models.
STEM Learning is Everywhere, authored by the National Research Council, explores how engaging representatives from the formal, afterschool, and informal education sectors in California and from across the United States could foster more seamless learning of STEM subjects for students in the elementary and middle grades. The report also discusses opportunities for STEM that may result from the new expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core Standards for Mathematics and Language Arts.
Click here to read the full report.
Assessing the State of STEM in Boston
The Boston STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Network, in partnership with the Boston Public Schools, Boston After School & Beyond, and the Boston PIC released its first report this spring titled “Assessing the State of STEM in Boston”. The report provides a foundational understanding of Boston Public School student achievement and interest in STEM subjects and careers as well as the capacity of the out-of-school time STEM community to serve our students.
Telling the STEM Chapter of the Education Core Story: A Communications Toolkit
This toolkit is intended to support communicators in framing the issues that surround STEM learning in both formal and informal learning contexts. It includes three main types of content:
- Communications guides, intended as “job aids” to be used while crafting communications that align with FrameWorks research.
- Sample communications, intended to be used in external communications. These include annotations that unpack the framing strategy being illustrated, so that the recommendations can be extended to new communications.
- Links to research reports, intended to be used as reference material.
Users are encouraged to borrow the language in sample communications verbatim if desired– no citation or special permissions are needed – and also to feel free to adapt the examples to the immediate needs of a local communications context.
For 15 years, FrameWorks Institute research has demonstrated that effective communications can help activate the public’s engagement with complex social issues – such as the education reforms needed to meet the demands of a complex and changing world. This toolkit is based on the findings of the Core Story of Education initiative, a multi-method research project which queried the thinking of over 35,000 Americans.
Click2Science: Online Professional Development for Out-of-School Providers
Click2Science is a free, interactive, professional development site for trainers, coaches, site directors and frontline staff & volunteers working in out-of-school time programs. Developed by the University of Nebraska Lincoln and the Noyce Foundation, its foundation is that it takes “20 Skills to Make STEM Click”– those skills that are necessary to implement science effectively in out-of-school time settings. By focusing on developing these skills, as opposed to content expertise, anyone can become an outstanding STEM educator.
Click here to view the Click2Science website.
Informal Science Education
On April 11, 2012, Boston After School & Beyond, in partnership with the Boston STEM Network and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley and sponsored by the Noyce Foundation, held a Forum on Informal Science Education to showcase innovative national and local approaches to hands-on science education, and to provide opportunities for sharing best practices amongst colleagues. In a presentation given by Penny Noyce of the Noyce Foundation, she discussed findings and strategies in regards to informal science education.
Click here to view the presentation.
Science After School: How to Design and Run Great Programs and Activities
This guide for program by ExpandED Schools leaders offers a framework and practical advice for creating and maintaining high-quality science learning programs in out-of-school time sites.
Click here to view the full report.
Examining the Impact of Afterschool STEM Programs
In this July, 2014 report, the Afterschool Alliance overviews some of the recent research findings about the importance of afterschool and other out-of-school time experiences for STEM learning and analyzes evaluation data from a selection of strong afterschool STEM programs. Several themes emerged in the analysis:
- Afterschool STEM programs are successful in engaging and retaining large numbers of students from diverse populations.
- Young people in these programs express curiosity and interest in STEM subjects, in ways that extended that interest in school and out of school.
- As they participate, young people gain real skills and the ability to productively engage in STEM processes of investigation.
- Youth learn essential STEM-relevant life and career skills.
- Participants come to understand the value of STEM in contributing to society and solving global and local problems. They begin to see how STEM intimately connects to their everyday lives.
- Youth display an increased awareness of career options, as well as a nuanced understanding of those careers.
- Afterschool STEM programs can have an impact on academic performance.
Click here to read the full report.