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After-school care providers increase capacity to deliver science

The Issue

The United States is at a critical juncture relative to science literacy. National and international studies have revealed that science literacy among school-age children in the United States is among the lowest in the developed world and the problem is worsening. Factors contributing to this problem include a lack of emphasis on science in schools, the use of traditional teaching methods, and the inadequate preparation of educators.

What Has ANR Done?

To address the issue of inadequate preparation of educators, the Santa Cruz County 4-H Youth Development Program engaged after-school care providers in Santa Cruz and Soquel in a three-year research project to measure how participation in regular, on-going science training impacts the ability of after-school providers to successfully deliver science in after-school settings.

Over the course of three years, after-school providers from the Campus Kids Connection Inc. had access to 66 hours of professional development training to facilitate open-ended and guided explorations of science and engineering topics. The trainings gave after-school providers an opportunity to gain experience being learners as they actively engaged in science, engineering and technology lessons. They also gained new knowledge about teaching, including hands-on learning, lesson plan development and questioning strategies.

The project focused on building staff capacity to implement high quality, hands-on science and engineering projects with children in order to impact the way after-school programs contribute to science education.

The Payoff

UC training brings more science education to after-school programs

During the three-year project, seven after-school sites implemented 20 different science, engineering and technology curricula to more than 230 kindergarten through fifth-grade youth, resulting in more than 600 hours of hands-on science education.

Fourteen after-school providers participated in the project a minimum of two years. The providers were asked to rank their confidence levels before and after the training in the area of facilitating long-term science projects with students. Ninety-two percent of the providers indicated an increase in confidence from either “only a little confident” or “somewhat confident” to “very confident” or “extremely confident.” All the respondents also indicated increased confidence in getting students excited about science.

All the providers ranked student enjoyment in the “some” to “a great deal” range. When asked to comment on the amount of hands-on science activities being done with students at their site, 85 percent reported doing more than they previously had done.

Clientele Testimonial

“The teachers feel more confident planning activities and following through with implementing them.”

“This project is a wonderful opportunity to train our staff in science and to have science centers at all of our after-school sites.”


Supporting Unit: Santa Cruz County

Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, (831) 763-8040 Ext. 8026, lschmittmcquitty@ucdavis.edu