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STEM Learning

Washington State is rich in STEM-focused industry, yet too few students are graduating with the skills and knowledge needed to enter STEM careers, especially girls, low-income youth, and youth of color. If these youth can’t see themselves in STEM careers, they are unlikely to chase their passions and pursue a STEM career. Afterschool and summer are the perfect places to engage youth in hands-on ways, from coding a satellite on the International Space Station to participating in a field ecology program in one of Washington’s many beautiful parks.

By engaging students in STEM outside of the classroom, students can spark lifelong passions – by ensuring that STEM opportunities are available to those who need them most, we can diversify our workforce and our communities. STEM education doesn’t just teach students about science, technology, engineering, and math – students are also developing critical problem solving and thinking skills that can be applied to writing an essay or engaging with the world around them.  

Expanded Learning Opportunities play a critical role in supporting STEM learning. The Afterschool Alliance (PDF) writes that high-quality ELO STEM programs can help youth:

Through our partnerships with Washington STEM, The Afterschool Alliance, and more, SOWA advocates for STEM policies locally and nationally that support STEM learning that is equitable and accessible for all youth. We encourage all levels of government to support high-quality STEM programming that starts early and encourages youth of all backgrounds to pursue STEM passions and careers in their own communities.

For more information, check out our STEM Policy Brief (PDF).

Our Partners

A Plan for Out-Of-School STEM

We and our partners developed a STEM plan for the Expanded Learning field in 2013.

Read Full Plan


Please contact David Beard, Policy and Advocacy Director, at dbeard@schoolsoutwashington.org.

STEM Resources

About STEM in Afterschool

Afterschool Alliance STEM Division: The Afterschool Alliance is a national non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of afterschool and advocating for support on the national level. The Alliance has a STEM division, and there are resources on the website including advocacy materials, reports, program spotlights, and webinars.

Change the Equation: STEM education website, with a focus on equity.

Edutopia STEM Section: Edutopia writes about a lot of topics, but their STEM coverage is especially useful!

NGSS in Washington State: OSPI's website with information about the rollout of teh Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in Washington.


NASA Afterschool Universe: NASA has many resources for educators. This particular website is a middle-school astronomy curriculum specifically designed for afterschool programs.

Exploratorium Science Snacks: Lots of science experiments and activities for afterschool programs. Descriptions, photos, templates, and lists of materials.

4-H Science Programs: Learn about 4-H STEM projects happening around the country, and shop for curriculum guides.

Curriculum Reviews

Great Science for Girls: This resource promotes gender equity in STEM. Tools for selecting curricula, as well as advice around offering activities for all.

Science Afterschool Consumer Guide: Descriptions of several science curricula for afterschool programs, including expert and peer reviews.

Online Professional Development

Click2Science: Click2Science is free, online professional development specifically designed for afterschool educators. There are training resources, including videos and agendas for workshops, staff meetings, and coaches.

Growth Mindset Workshop: These online resources represent an introduction to the idea of a growth mindset.

Y for Youth STEM Section: A website designed to support 21st Century Community Learning Centers, but useful for a variety of afterschool and youth development programs, including STEM programs. Includes free online training materials.


Fab Fems: The National Girls Collaborative Project maintains this database of women in STEM fields who have volunteered to mentor girls. Mentors can connect with mentees online as well as in person.

Habits of Mind Institute: habits of mind are what people do when they behave intelligently, the soft skills needed to succeed in the 21st Century. The Habits of Mind Institute offers lots of trainings and workshops on this topic.

Tech Bridge: A non-profit organization supporting girls in STEM. The website includes a number of publications that can help programs connect girls with role-models. Among their resources is a guide for training new mentors.

Maker Movement

Maker Education Initiative: The non-profit, education focused arm of the Maker Movement, whose mission is “to create more opportunities for all young people to develop confidence, creativity, and interest in science, technology, engineering, math, arts, and learning as a whole through making.” Resources at the website include a guide to setting up a maker space for kids.

Invent to Learn: A comprehensive guide to making and tinkering with kids, but you don’t have to buy the book to connect with the resources at the website. Lots of links here to help you think about and start making with kids, from project ideas to research and articles.

The Connectory

The Connectory is a nationwide directory of STEM programs that allows parents to easily find a program near them that fits their child's interests. We strongly recommend that any program offering STEM learning as a part of its regular programming create an account and list their program on the connectory.