Professional Development

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Selecting STEM Activities: 15 Questions to Ask

Tuesday, 23 June 2015 07:59

STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) affects every aspect of our lives. High-quality STEM experiences develop critical thinking skills, increase science literacy, and enable the next generation to be innovators. By helping youth develop science attitude, identity, and engagement, we can have a positive and lasting impact on youth.

Selecting appropriate activities is a cornerstone for creating an engaging STEM afterschool program. Skilled and trained frontline staff and volunteers are key to raising the quality of STEM experiences in out-of-school time. It is essential they feel confident and comfortable choosing and facilitating STEM activities.

One of the most effective ways to build a successful STEM program is to select activities that meet youth interests, experiences, and needs.

15 Questions to Ask When Selecting STEM Activities:

  1. Is the activity safe?
  2. Is the activity appropriate for the age group I am working with?
  3. Are the youth I work with interested in this topic?
  4. Does the activity have a hands-on component?
  5. What STEM skills will youth learn by doing this activity?
  6. Is there enough space, adequate time, staff support, et cetera for me to do this activity?
  7. Are there any reasons (school rules, program regulations, et cetera) why I shouldn't do this activity at my program?
  8. Is this activity suited to the unpredictable environment of out-of-school learning?
  9. Does this activity provide opportunities for collaboration?
  10. Is there additional background knowledge needed? Is it easy to locate?
  11. Are the materials and supplies required by the activity easy to access and affordable? If not, can I find other materials and supplies to use in the activity?
  12. Does the activity address STEM standards (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics-NCTM, National Science Education Standards-NSES, National Science Teachers Association-NSTA, or state or local standards)?
  13. Can the activity be part of an ongoing STEM theme that builds upon the previous experiences of youth?
  14. Can I make a real-world career connection to this activity?
  15. Are there relevant modern STEM role models to reference as part of the activity?

These tips were adapted from Click2Science's "20 Skills to Make STEM Click" in collaboration with STEMfinity. The tips are part of a larger professional development package that includes free resources.

Once these questions are addressed and a program identifies appropriate activities, the search begins to find trusted STEM products and services. Luckily, STEMfinity has them all in one place so you can find everything you need to kickstart your afterschool STEM program.

Click here for the STEMfinity resources listed below:

  • 30,000+ K-12 STEM Labs, Kits, Camps, Curriculum, and Activities
  • 100+ Free Online STEM Resources
  • 1,000+ STEM Grant Opportunities

 Click here for following Click2SciencePD professional development resources:

  • "Finding the Right Activity" – Learning Module
  • "Selecting Activities" – Training Guide PDF
  • "How do I know if it's a good STEM activity?" – Meeting Guide PDF

Click2Science is an interactive, professional development site for trainers, coaches, site directors, frontline staff, and volunteers working in out-of-school time STEM programs, serving children and youth. Click2Science was developed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, in partnership with the Noyce Foundation.

With more than 30,000 resources (and growing), STEMfinity is your one-stop-shop for the most trusted brands in afterschool STEM education. STEMfinity offers awesome K-12 activities for robotics, 3D printing, alternative energy, rocketry, drone technology, and beyond!