(StatePoint) At a time when there’s widespread concern that U.S. students are not prepared for a changing economy that relies on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), many parents are sharing some good news about how afterschool programming is getting their children prepared in these crucial areas.
Parents of nearly seven in 10 children who participate in afterschool programming report that their child’s program offers such learning opportunities, according to a new household survey commissioned by the Afterschool Alliance.
The special report, “Full STEM Ahead: Afterschool Programs Step Up as Key Partners in STEM Education,” found broad support among parents for providing STEM learning after school, and high satisfaction with these offerings among parents of children in programs that provide STEM education. Indeed, more than half of parents with children in afterschool programming say this was an important factor in choosing their child’s program, the new report finds.
“Afterschool is a dynamic, effective setting for innovative STEM education,” says Afterschool Alliance executive director Jodi Grant. “With their focus on hands-on learning and youth development, and the time they can give students to experiment, afterschool programs are well positioned to increase STEM skills in this country.”
Here are some key findings from the report, which is based on “America After 3PM,” the most comprehensive survey ever to ask parents about their children’s participation in afterschool STEM programs:
• A majority of parents say afterschool programs can not only help students gain STEM skills, but also that they should be offering STEM opportunities.
• Low-income, African-American and Hispanic parents are more likely than others to report that their child’s afterschool program offers STEM learning and strongly support such opportunities.
• Most afterschool students have STEM learning opportunities at least once per week.
• Parents whose children learn STEM subjects in afterschool report that math is offered most often.
• STEM activities are offered more often in urban than in rural and suburban programs.
National and state results from that report are available at afterschoolalliance.org/AA3PM.
The report recommends engaging and educating parents about the important role afterschool programs can play in supporting STEM learning and increasing programming and investment.
“Afterschool programs can help teach the skills that will help the next generation thrive in the global workforce, particularly populations traditionally underrepresented in STEM, because girls attend these programs at similar rates as boys, and African-American and Hispanic children are more likely to participate in afterschool than Caucasian children,” says Afterschool Alliance vice president for STEM policy Anita Krishnamurthi.
With one in five students in the United States unsupervised after the school day ends, challenges remain, experts say, and more afterschool programs that provide robust STEM education offerings are needed.