Allegheny County parents value science, technology, engineering and math learning after school

At a time when there is an imperative to prepare students for a fast-changing economy that relies on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), many parents say afterschool programming is getting their children prepared in these crucial areas. In fact, three in four Allegheny County parents with children in afterschool programs (76 percent) say their child’s program offers STEM learning opportunities. That is according to a 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. More than half of parents with children in afterschool programs say STEM offerings were 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:

  • Most Allegheny County parents say afterschool programs can help students gain STEM skills. Fully 60 percent of parents agree with that statement.
  • Most Allegheny County parents believe afterschool programs should offer STEM. In all, 71 percent of parents in Allegheny County believe afterschool programs should provide opportunities to explore and engage in hands-on STEM learning.
  • Most Allegheny County parents with children in afterschool programs are satisfied with the STEM learning opportunities. The afterschool STEM opportunities were deemed satisfactory by 65 percent of parents with children in afterschool in Allegheny County.

“Those of us in the afterschool field know first-hand that we’ve got a special opportunity to help children learn about — and get excited about — STEM fields,” said Mila Yochum, Director of Allegheny Partners for Out of School Time. “We’ve seen terrific growth in STEM instruction in afterschool over the years, and we know we’ve got more ground to cover. But because afterschool is so well suited to the kinds of hands-on learning that STEM often demands, we know we’ve got the setting and the tools to give the workforce of tomorrow the opportunities it needs to excel in STEM.”

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 can help.