This toolkit describes strategies and shares tools and resources to help build the supply and quality of informal science programming in afterschool and summer programs. It is meant to provide system builders at the city, state and local levels with a process framework, concrete strategies, examples and tools to inform their work. The strategies and tools were culled from the experience of the Mott-funded Statewide Afterschool Networks that have been intentionally working to develop statewide systems to support STEM in afterschool.

Since 2009, the Noyce Foundation has made significant investments in statewide afterschool networks to develop statewide systems to support informal science in afterschool. The Noyce Foundation began to formally collaborate with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in 2012. Over the past 12 years, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has made investments in coalitions of diverse stakeholders and organizations coming together to build good policies and practices to sustain and expand quality afterschool, summer and expanded learning opportunities. The Noyce and Mott Foundations joined forces to leverage their investments and build off the existing state afterschool infrastructure to expand the availability of quality STEM in afterschool. As a result of this joint investment, 21 states have received planning grants to initiate STEM system efforts and 17 states have received system building grants.

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About this Toolkit  

Mainspring Consulting developed the information in this Toolkit with support from Project LIFTOFF and the Noyce Foundation. The Noyce Foundation funded Project LIFTOFF to pilot tools and processes in building sySTEMS in Missouri and convene and support other Midwestern states in sySTEM building work. The joint investment of the Noyce and Mott Foundations has led to the expansion of this resource along with additional state examples. Information for the toolkit was developed from focus groups, interviews, and surveys with leaders from the statewide afterschool networks funded by Noyce for system-building planning and implementation.

Organization of this Toolkit: Steps in the State System-Building Process

This toolkit is organized around a set of steps in the STEM system-building process that all states go through as they seek to expand the reach, improve the quality and document the impact of informal science in afterschool. Networks do not all place the same emphasis on these steps or even complete them in the same order, but they all put a focus on:  

Engaging key partners around a vision of quality informal science in afterschool

Mapping the existing landscape of afterschool and STEM efforts

Prioritizing strategies and Acting to expand informal science activities in afterschool

Measuring the effectiveness of efforts

For each of these steps, the toolkit provides:

System-Building Strategies and Tips: Guidance and tips for moving forward on this step based on the experience of state system-builders.

State Examples: Brief write-ups of how individual states have approached implementation of the steps, highlighting innovative and successful strategies. 

Tools and Resources: Both national and state information sources and practical tools that state leaders have used in implementing the step. Providing these tools and resources is meant to help state system builders to avoid reinventing the wheel. Please feel free to download and adapt these resources, with acknowledgement of the source document.