By Stephanie Levi, Ph.D.
It’s no secret that great staff are essential for STEM program success. Front-line staff are the folks who will be interacting with the youth in your program, the people your participants will remember as they grow up, and the role models your participants will be looking up to as they consider their future in STEM. Great staff are also essential, as they are the ones likely to be interacting with participants’ families, setting the tone for families’ comfort level with STEM. The ability to put a welcoming, friendly face on a STEM program can change the way people feel about STEM in general – program staff are STEM ambassadors of the highest order.
Research indicates that some of the strongest factors in success or failure in youth engagement in STEM is teacher quality, and this extends to teachers and instructors in informal settings, too. It is truly essential that programs ensure that OST front-line staff are equipped to convey positive qualities in their STEM work, ensuring that the staff who deliver STEM programs, communicate about STEM to youth and seek to inspire enthusiasm, interest and a sense of wonder regarding STEM topics are fully equipped to do so.
You may find the following resources helpful in supporting your staff members’ professional development for STEM OST programs. These resources can enable programs to develop comfort and competence with STEM processes, techniques, methods and protocols, develop aptitude for teaching STEM using inquiry-based, experiential methods, help staff link STEM to the disciplines’ real-world applications, help staff learn to make clear career and college connections with the STEM experience, and help staff identify and integrate clear youth development connections that are brought out in practice.
- National Center for Quality Afterschool (SEDL) Afterschool Training Toolkit
- N-PASS Guide to Professional Development for Out-of-School Science Activity Leaders
- Child Trends. 2009. How Program Administrators can Support Out of School Time Staff. Child Trends, New York
We’d love to hear about how these work for you – please let us know by leaving comments here and by sharing your experience with Chicago’s STEM OST community over on our LinkedIn page. We look forward to hearing about your challenges and successes!