Op-ed contributor Brian Gaines is right that we've got a long way to go when it comes to making sure Maryland's next generation is sufficiently educated in science, technology, engineering and mathematics ("No. 1 isn't good enough," Jan. 23). But he overlooks one outstanding way to help do the job: After-school programs.
Ample research demonstrates that high-quality after-school programs can have a significant impact on students' attitudes about STEM fields and careers, their knowledge and skills in those areas and even their likelihood of graduating and pursuing a STEM career.
A recent survey of after-school providers by the Afterschool Alliance identified a consensus on the most achievable STEM outcomes for students who participate in after-school programs. They include boosting student interest in STEM, engaging students in STEM activities and learning to value the goals of STEM education.
The secret to after-school programs' success is that they are uniquely positioned to offer students the kind of hands-on learning time that STEM education so often demands, as well as interaction with STEM professionals from the community.
That's why after-school programs are often the home for robotics and rocketry teams, and why programs so frequently work with STEM-related companies, university professors and others to give students a glimpse of future careers in the field.
After-school programs can't do the job all on their own, of course, but they are a vital component of an effective STEM education strategy for our schools.
The writer is director of STEM policy for the Afterschool Alliance. Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts