Early in your system-building work, it is essential to get a good understanding of the field of afterschool programs and the extent to which they offer informal science programming, as well as the field of STEM initiatives in your state. Mapping the landscape of afterschool and STEM efforts sets the stage for priority-setting by providing an understanding of the capacities and needs of providers as well as a view of the afterschool professional development and STEM resources you can build on. Network STEM system grantees worked through an iterative process of engaging key partners and mapping the field of afterschool and STEM efforts. Their work to map the field included baseline data on what the range of informal science offerings in afterschool settings were, who was providing them and how many young people they were serving. They also gathered information on the range of partners interested and investing in STEM and informal science in afterschool as well as the afterschool and STEM professional development networks. This information provided the foundation for development of strategies for professional development, partnership engagement and policy engagement. 

As you build your afterschool STEM system, it is helpful to map: 

  1. The existing program offerings and capacity to deliver informal science programming in afterschool;
  2. Key investments in STEM education ecosystem generally and specifically in informal science in afterschool;
  3. Key players and champions of STEM education;
  4. Professional development networks and infrastructure in afterschool and in STEM.

You and your partners no doubt have a lot of this information and can pull much of it together in an organic way through conversations with key players and brainstorming by your STEM advisory group. There are also tools developed by the Afterschool Alliance, Mainspring Consulting and the Noyce STEM system grantees that can help you map the field in a more systematic way.  

System Building Strategies & Tips

  • Begin your mapping efforts by clearly articulating what questions about the field you and your partners think are most important to answer. Review the Key Questions Tool to help hone in on areas of interest, and then tailor your data collection efforts to those questions.    
  • The method you use to map the field will depend on the key questions you are trying to answer. Questions related to the existing capacity for informal science in the afterschool field are typically answered through a provider survey. You can use or adapt the State Science Investment Inventory Tool (S2I2) to collect data on investments. Information on key players and the existing infrastructure can be generated through conversations and targeted outreach with your advisory group and other partners.
  • Use existing data collection efforts to collect information on informal science. The Noyce state system building grantees generally had more success collecting information from providers if they built questions about informal science into existing data collection efforts. Find out if administrators of networks of providers in your state such as 21st CCLC’s, 4-H programs, YMCA’s or Boys and Girls Clubs already regularly collect data from providers regarding their programming and services. You may be able to add questions specific to informal science into these existing data collection efforts.  
  • Use existing data collection tools. Whether you are building questions into an existing data collection tool for providers or developing your own survey, don’t start from scratch. Noyce state system grantees developed surveys to gather information on the capacity of providers in their states. You can review these surveys in the tool section. It may also be helpful to talk to the network leaders who developed the surveys regarding what worked well and what was challenging in their experience with the survey.
  • Utilize data to help tell the afterschool and STEM story. It is critical for system builders to take the next step in their data collection efforts and connect the data to compelling stories, readable charts and eye-catching infographics. Sharing this information with system building partners, funders and policy leaders will reinforce the need and use of your data collection efforts.

State Examples

Building Baseline Data Collection in Ongoing Reporting in Michigan

Michigan built questions on informal science programming and capacity into the ongoing reporting required of 21st CCLC programs by the state education agency. This approach offered an efficient and consistent way to collect data that could be compared from year to year.    

Indiana Afterschool Network

The Indiana Afterschool Network developed an online database for afterschool programs, including programs offering STEM. The database allows parents, schools and community partners to search for STEM programs by zip code, city, county, age group and produce reports at the state and local level.

OregonASK Informal STEM By the Numbers Infographic

In 2014, OregonASK and the Afterschool Alliance surveyed out-of-school programs across Oregon. This infographic shares data points on the range of STEM offerings in afterschool, age range of youth being served and where programming is occurring during the non-school hours. The network is using this infographic along with their STEM Survey Report to inform key policy makers and STEM stakeholders about the importance of informal as part of the state STEM solution.

Tools & Resources

National Resources

Common Afterschool STEM Survey

The Afterschool Alliance created this comprehensive afterschool field survey for system builder to tailor and adapt according to their data collecting needs.  The questions are a synthesis of the range of questions several of the Noyce STEM system grantees utilized in their mapping process.  

STEM Connector- State-By-State

STEM Connector is an online information source on STEM education. Their website includes state-by-state profiles of key STEM initiatives and contacts. 

State Vital Signs 

A snapshot of STEM education across the country, including a report for each state, developed by Change the Equation, a national coalition promoting STEM education, led by business leaders. 

STEM & Afterschool Landscape: Key Questions to Consider

Mainspring Consulting has developed this resource that provides questions related to each of the mapping areas for STEM and afterschool. 

State Science Investment Inventory Tool (S2I2)

This tool was developed by Mainspring Consulting with support from Project LIFTOFF.  The tool helps state leaders to identify the key players in STEM and afterschool from government and the private sector and map the level and type of resources they are investing. 

The Connectory

The Connectory, relaunched in April 2015, has a searchable database of local STEM programs across the country.

State & Local Resources


State STEM Education Strategic Plan Review

OregonASK has created a report reviewing 17 state (and federal) STEM Education Strategic Plans.  The paper outlines specific themes, objectives and action items for successful implementation of state goals.

Maryland State Stem Education Initiative Mapping

The statewide STEM Education Initiative has mapped STEM education efforts across the state, including both in and out-of-school opportunities. Their map can be viewed here (click the “where is STEM happening" link). Their survey can be viewed here.

Mapping Indiana’s Out-of-School Time Program Offerings

The Indiana Afterschool Network has an online survey and database of Indiana’s Out-of-School time programs throughout the state, which can be searched by whether they offer STEM programming. This document summarizes the results of the mapping and highlights the importance of STEM programming. 

Missouri AfterSchool Network (MASN) Survey and Mapping

MASN contacted school districts throughout the state to develop a basic map of afterschool programming offered in districts and is now collecting additional data on program content, including whether programs include STEM content.  

Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative Survey, Data, and Report

Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative was formed with support from the Noyce Foundation and the Chicago Foundation for Women as a year-long, community-based effort to survey out-of-school (OST) time programs and consider the ways in which education institutions, businesses and city services could cooperate to build and support equitable and accessible pathways into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for Chicago’s young people. Their website includes links to their survey, their data sets and their final report.  

Landscaping Baltimore’s STEM Ecosystem Report

This report, developed by the Maryland Out of School Time network (MOST), documents the landscape of in and out-of-school STEM opportunities in Baltimore.