What do erupting volcanoes, learning to code, building bridges, creating art, and cooking have in common? They are all STEAM activities! This past year I started working as an external evaluator on Lincoln County School District’s (LCSD) 21st Century After School Program. There are seven sites throughout the county that are funded as 21st Century Community Learning Centers. The goal of the federal program is to “provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children…offer students a broad array of enrichment activities that can complement their regular academic programs, and offer literacy and other educational services to the families of participating children.” LCSD’s program aligns with these goals, focusing specifically on providing students and their families STEAM-based activities.
Being a new project in the 2013-2014 school year, the 21st Century After School Program kept me on my toes as an external evaluator. All documents for data collection had to be written very quickly so they could be distributed as close to the start of the school year as possible. While the tools for collecting data did not fail they certainly could have been better. As the program moves into the second of it’s five years, I thought it best not only to redesigned some of the tools but also to communicate to the site coordinators why collecting this data is important. Site coordinators, one for each of the seven sites, are responsible for distributing, collecting, and turning in all of the instruments I use to collect data. The only part of data collection they are not responsible for are the standardized test scores, which are handled by the school district. Collecting data is no small task for the site coordinators because they already have a lot on their plate. Therefore, the program coordinator and I agreed that sharing results from the first year would showcase the importance of data collection.
Early in September I presented preliminary findings at the first site coordinator meeting of the second year of the program. You can view and listen to my presentation here. The presentation ends with me addressing the four main instruments for data collection: a monthly recording sheet to document the STEAM activities and resources, the student STEM interest survey, a family literacy and STEAM night reporting document, and the parent survey.
Working as an external evaluator on these types of projects is always exciting for me. They push me to think in new ways and certainly make me a better researcher and evaluator. If you have any questions about the 21st Century After School Program or the documents I’ve produced, please feel free to be in touch.