Afterschool: Generating Excitement about Math and Science

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Issue Brief No. 3 December 2001

Afterschool: Generating Excitement about Math and Science

Afterschool programs, especially those at middle and high schools, can heighten students’ interest in math and science and sharpen their skills in these subjects. Afterschool programs give students the time to investigate topics more deeply and participate in hands-on projects. Many offer activities involving computers and technology that stimulate students’ minds and their curiosity about math and science.

Improving Academic Achievement

The extended learning time and personal attention an afterschool program provides can improve a student’s performance in math and science. Reports of improved academic achievement include:

• Students at project Ka Upena Hoohui, a 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) in Pukalani, Hawaii, showed a 29% increase in math grades and a 42% increase in science grades.[i]

• One 4-H participant in New York state attributes her success in school to out-of-school 4-H activities. “Biology and English seem so much easier when you already know about pond life and how to deliver an oral presentation.”[ii]

• Since P.S. 5 in New York City implemented the before-and after-school program, the number of students performing at grade level in math and science has increased from 45% to 59%, compared to 42% in similar schools in the city without such a program.[iii]

Real World Applications

Afterschool programs take time to ensure that students understand how their math and science skills can be applied to real world situations and their everyday lives.

• The Boys & Girls Club of King County, Washington, has started a Lego Lab as part of its afterschool program. The lab uses science and engineering project-based learning to facilitate kids’ understanding of simple machines, complex gear systems and power transfer systems. These lessons help them to better understand how science is used in everyday objects. [iv]

• Flushing Library’s Latchkey Enrichment Program, part of the Queens Library system in New York City, implements an afterschool science program which features hands-on science activities. Participants develop higher-order and critical thinking skills as well as literacy skills. One activity was reading Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss, then making “Oobleck,” a concoction of cornstarch, water and food coloring, which has the properties of both a solid and liquid.[v]

Inspiring Students to Learn

By providing an opportunity to learn about math and science in a fun and relaxed atmosphere, afterschool programs spark students’ interest in these subjects, which carries over to the regular school day.

• The ASPIRA Math and Science (MAS) Academy in Washington, D.C. offers middle school youth hands-on math and science activities with teachers or college tutors after school. Students learn in the areas of general science, biology, physics, earth sciences and math. Students also visit museums, zoos, and research institutions and explore career planning.

In school we learned a lot about science and math (but) in the MAS

program we learned about it in a fun way.

— MAS Academy student[vi]

• Girls Incorporated of Metro Denver offers Operation SMART (Science, Math, and Relevant Technology) to girls participating in their afterschool program. The program encourages girls to learn through experimentation how math and science are used everyday and stimulates their desire to learn.[vii]

• Children in the Boys & Girls Club of Portland, Oregon, have the opportunity to learn about science after school through collaboration with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). Students enjoy use of the Internet, participate in science experiments, visit OMSI every week and tour science, math and technology sites to enrich their interest in science.[viii]

• The University of Arizona created a science-based curriculum for students in Tucson’s Proyeto Sano y Salvo (Project Safe and Sound), a 21st CCLC afterschool program. According to the afterschool project director, the university took a unique approach to introducing the curriculum and sparking the children’s interest in science.[ix]

The University first sent over an expert in snakeology – the word the kids use for herpetology – who showed them how to track a rattlesnake and look at its habitat in the Arizona desert.

— Barbara Benton, project director, Proyeto Sano y Salvo 21st CCLC


[i] Data courtesy of U.S. Department of Education, July 2000.

[ii] Eunice Rodriguez ,et al., “Understanding the Difference 4-H Clubs Make in the Lives of New York Youth: How 4-H Contributes to Positive Youth Development,” (Cornell University, August 1999) 30 Nov. 2001, .

[iii] U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice, Safe and Smart: Making After-School Hours Work for Kids (Washington, D.C., June 1998).

[iv] Boys & Girl’s Club of King County, Washington-Kirkland, Redmond, Northlake, Sammamish, 3 Dec. 2001, .

[v] Queens Borough Public Library, “Queens Library Selected To Offer Children After School Science Enrichment Program -Press Release #52-01,” 12 Dec. 2001, .

[vi] U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice, Safe and Smart.

[vii] Girls Incorporated of Metro Denver, Girls Incorporated of Metro Denver Programs, 08 Nov. 2001, .

[viii] Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, OMSI Boys & Girls Science Club, 03 Dec. 2001, .

[ix] C.S. Mott Foundation, Making Afterschool Count 2, No. 2 (Flint, MI: July 1999).


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