Afterschool Science Programs

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We’ll take you to a local junior high that offers an afterschool science program, then we’ll have a discussion on the importance of such programs. Melanie McClintock, executive director of the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence, and Kaci Heins, the 2016 Arizona Science Teachers Association Middle School Science Teacher of the Year, will talk more about the need for afterschool science and STEM programs.

Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon" -- we'll discuss the importance of after-school science programs. And we'll hear about an effort to learn more about Maricopa County's homeless population. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

"Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions to the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Turnover at the department of child safety was among the highest in state government last year. Arizona capital times reports more than one fourth of DCS employees left their job in 1015 and quit at a higher rate than any other agency. They are increasing funding to hire new employees but employees are leaving faster than though can hire new replacements. Among the reasons, challenging work conditions and lack of adequate resources. The State Department of health services says the rate of trauma defendants deaths dropped in the past year. Especially in rural areas. Other factors include health care improvements, safer cars, better roads and an increase in injury prevention programs.

Ted Simons: Tonight's look at Arizona education folks uses on science based options in after school programs. A recent study shows more parents want to see science and technology programs offered outside the classroom. Producer Shana Fischer and photographer Langston fields take us to one Phoenix Junior high school program that has kids eager to get to school.

Video: Way before the morning school bell rings at mountain sky Junior high Jonathan Perrone's science club students are hard at work.

Jonathan Perrone: they show dedication to being here, being here early, and just learning about the -- by this time of year they are taking care of all the tanks.

Video: His 20-plus students are learning about marine life. They are responsible for maintaining several fish tanks including a 150 gallon one in the school hallway.

Jonathan Perrone: Most of our students will never even get to the ocean so this provides a unique opportunity for them.

she dreams of being a pharmacist and joined the club was because of her interest in science.

Anali Acevedo: I like everything we do. When we buy new fish into research about fish I usually get excited when it's fish. I know their background. Get one of those kinds of fish. I have gotten a clown fish.

Video: it's note just learning to care for fish. The club also has an environmental aspect to it.

Robby Lowery: Well it's important to learn about corals because the ones in the ocean right now aren't doing so well. So if you already have corals, then you can just keep them and grow them and sell them instead of making people go and harvest them out of the ocean. Kind of give the ocean a break from all the harvesting.

Jonathan Perrone: The students learn a real world sustainability piece as well as getting exposure to something they don't get anywhere else. There's no other marine sciences programs in any other schools here and most don't have it in Arizona.

Video: they are responsible for cleaning the tanks, measuring the ph levels and deciding what fish to put in the tanks.

Robby Lowery: for the fish we usually do a lot of research before we even think of getting a new fish or getting new corals or anything.

Video: Keeping kids interested in stem is critical for our economy. Change the equation, a nonpartisan organization that looks at ways to improve stem education, says Arizona is poised to be fourth in the nation when it comes to stem jobs available but our state is ranked 48th when it comes to being prepared for those jobs. Peron is fighting to change. That.

Jonathan Perrone: It's really great to see the hobby growing. Great way for the students to get involved in the stem field, science, technology, engineering be and math Fgoing with teacher of jobs. It provides me a little bit of an outside the regular classroom to share something with the students.

Video: Those students are only too willing to jump at the chance to learn.

Anali Acevedo: The world is so only so big. You can only find so much. I feel like there's still a lot more left to discover. Very interesting the things that can happen in our world. It just fascinates me and has been for a while.

Ted Simons: Educational experts that the key to getting kids excited about science is for parents to get involved including trips to the zoo or aquarium or just looking for hobbies that headache learning fun. Here to talk more about after school science programs is Melanie McClintock executive director of the Arizona Center for afterschool excellence, and Kaci Heins, the 2016 Arizona science teachers association middle school science teacher of the year. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.

Kaci Heins: thanks for having us.

Ted Simons: what exactly is an after school program?

Melanie McClintock: We literally define after school as all those hours when a child is not in the classroom. They are only in the classroom six hours a day. Where are they before and after school from 3:00 to 6:00? Where are they on weekend? Where are they on school breaks, most importantly where are they in the summer? We want to have quality after school or out of school time programs available.

Ted Simons: some of those programs that are available, what do you see out there and has it changed much over the years?

Kaci Heins: Well, I think a lot of them Lego Robotics, the competition has really taken off, especially in Arizona. It's just exploded. That's a great way for kids to get involved not only with the building aspect but the coding and programming as well.

Ted Simons: Again, not just computer stuff, science, technology, engineering, math. Threes Chasses are all available outside the classroom?

Melanie McClintock: Most of the after school programs we work with are now offering stem at one level or another. We started to award stem with grants to them and just last year we received over 85 applications from programs around the state who wanted to increase their level of stem programming.

Ted Simons: Why after school or after weekend, summer as you mentioned? Why not just during school? How does it differ?

Kaci Heins: she could probably answer that better, but teachers are expected to cram so much in the six hours that they have the students that it's not enough.

Ted Simons: Can you answer that better?

Kaci Heins: Well, after school I think is the time -- I can only do so much in my classroom and stem club after school allows me to do so much more. We're programming robots, we're flying remote control airplanes, making under water remotely operated vehicles. It's endless the possibilities.

Ted Simons: and you have a robot with you, correct?

Kaci Heins: I do.

Ted Simons: Explain what this is and how it works.

Kaci Heins: it's around $110, very simple. It gets kids so excited about coding. There's an hour of code in December to help kids learn about computer science. This takes it to the next step where they can change the colors and then learn how to do basic driving of the robot. Just like a simple joy stick. Don't worry. All right, all right, I got it!

Ted Simons: Do kids develop this? What input did they have?

Kaci Heins: With this part, this is actually an AZ-case grant, which we're thankful for. What you can do with younger children in after-school programs then take it to middle and high school they code it and program it to do things on its own.

Ted Simons: is this the kind of program you're seeing out there?

Melanie McClintock: Absolutely, not only as she said is Robotics big but gardening, computer technology of any kind.

Ted Simons: Compare if you would a conceptual application versus a practical application as far as these programs are concerned.

Melanie McClintock: The simplified version I like to give is Mrs. smith in the science class is teaching about velocity or teaching about altitude and lift. These are great concepts but kids are scratching their heads. They come to the after school program, they build a race car, a rocket ship. They have to measure how fast or how high it goes and why didn't it go higher so what was the velocity, what was the power behind it. That's their aha moment because they are applying the concept they were taught? Science class in a practical application in an after school program.

Ted Simons: do you see those aha moments when you build robots like this?

Kaci Heins: absolutely. These are careers that they can have when they get older and we hope to keep them in Arizona.

Ted Simons: you're a Junior high school teacher.

Kaci Heins: Correct.

Ted Simons: when does it become too early to get involved? Was a good age for stem?

Kaci Heins: The earlier the better. Get them hooked early and they will continue to feed that passion and seek out opportunities like this. They will ask their teachers to start these programs.

Ted Simons: is that what you're seeing as well or does it ramp up once you get to Junior high?

Melanie McClintock: absolutely. The biggest obstacle is people's misunderstanding of what stem is. They want to think of it as white-coated engineers and physicists with classes in pockets. We need to demystify what stem is and show these children so they measure what the water in their school, they measure there's a water flow or the contaminants. It's amazing how you bring it right home to them.

Ted Simons: it's amazing, building something like this and then they guess to place with it, mess around with it, that's an actual result.

Kaci Heins: right. It's okay to make mistakes. They learn failure is an option. As long as they learn from it they will gain more from that.

Ted Simons: As far as your concerned the best way to get kids attracted to stem, best way to keep them attracted to stem.

Kaci Heins: I think with my program I always change it up. There may be times where I don't always know exactly what I'm doing and that's when I reach out to the community. I bring in computer programmers and scientists and help them or they help me in the classroom to implement these like we soldered circuitry kits. I don't know everything about circuitry but our 6th graders were soldering with hot irons. That's theirs. They will always have it.

Ted Simons: what do you want to see as far as Arizona's emphasis on after school programs?

Melanie McClintock: One we need to expand the availability of these. Most rural areas don't have these opportunities. Even though we have more in the urban areas we need many more because there's twice as many children who want to get into these programs as there are programs available.

Ted Simons: But we are seeing more now? We're not seeing enough but are we seeing more?

Melanie McClintock: Only 16% of Arizona youth are actively involved in after school programs. 34% of parents want their children in a program, so twice the number want in that are currently in these programs.

Ted Simons: Where does the money come from?

Melanie McClintock: Sadly, there is no state money for it, so again one of the obstacles is many of niece will be parent funded programs. The very children who would benefit the most are being priced out of having these experiences.

Ted Simons: All right, congratulations on your robot there.

Kaci Heins: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Very interesting little fellow. Thank you for being here. Great discussion.

Melanie McClintock: thank you.

Kaci Heins: thank you.

Melanie McClintock:Executive director of the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence,Kaci Heins:The 2016 Arizona Science Teachers Association Middle School Science Teacher of the Year

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