#Study: State of the Art of STEAM and Maker After school club programs

A few months ago, I worked on a report to understand the State-of-the-Art of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths), STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) and Maker related after school clubs programs worldwide. At that time, I was working on the development of a franchise for after school clubs, so I was interested in mapping and exploring which best practices and options are currently available on the market or in the not-for profit sector. Here you are a small excerpt from my report.

Please note: I’d like to go further with this research. Are you involved in the organisation of an after school club? Please, take a few minutes to fill in my survey! http://bit.ly/1NzakZT

In this brief report we would like to gain a quick overview of the State of the Art of after school clubs for children and young people aged 7 to 18, in order to outline and map the impact of these spaces worldwide on their belonging communities, with a focus on the clubs that are strictly related to STEM and STEAM activities.

For these purposes we reviewed some significant literature to understand the structure and the core principles of clubs.

To better contextualise the after school clubs phenomenon, we would also have a more detailed understanding of some informal institutions that are currently providing maker, tinkering and coding activities for young people.


What is an after school program?

With “after school programs” we describe:

An array of safe, structured programs that provide children and youth ages kindergarten through high school with a range of supervised activities intentionally designed to encourage learning and development outside of the typical school day”  (Little, Wimer and Weiss, 2008).

Benson and Saito define programs as: “[…] Semi-structured processes, most often led by adults and designed to address specific goals and youth outcomes. This category incorporates a range of programs from those that are highly structured, often in the form of curriculum with step-by-step guidelines, to those that may have a looser structure” . Those programs are often offered by organisations and informal institutions, that may differ for their business model (profit or nonprofit) or their involvement in the private or public sector.


Why focus on STEM, STEAM and Maker activities?

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) established in 2006 the importance of “Scientific literacy” referring to a: “Knowledge of science and science-based technology” as a vital requirement to face the challenges of the 21st century and a key competency (Rychen & Salganik, 2003) that enables people to use interactively their knowledge and information. Therefore, the European Commission underlines the fact that possessing this range of skills and knowledge doesn’t automatically imply that everyone has to become a scientific expert: “Given that knowledge of science and science-based technology contributes significantly to individuals’ personal, social, and professional lives an understanding of science and technology is thus central to a young person’s ‘preparedness for life’” (European Commission, 1995).


Key facts about after school programs:

  • * Those programs are often offered by organisations and informal institutions, that may differ for their business model (profit or nonprofit) or their involvement in the private or public sector.
  • * After school programs can occur on different parts of the day. They often take place before and after school, during the weekends, according to school holidays and in the summer.
  • * After school programs run for approximately 2-3 hours per day, 4-5 days per week. In some cases, these programs represent a good opportunity for children and young people to improve their academic performances, impacting on achievement test scores.
  • * Building up an environment specifically tailored for children and young people has in fact a strong impact on their social skills, self-esteem and self-concept (Little, Wimer and Weiss, 2008).
  • * After school clubs are based on a learning approach not focused on frontal and traditional lectures, but on hands-on activities, allowing a different interaction with the figure of the teacher or educator who becomes a facilitator and a mentor.
  • * The area of expertise that can be found within after school clubs is quite heterogeneous: volunteers, educators, pedagogists, makers, engineers, designers, primary and secondary school teachers work in synergy to supply a wide range of skills to children and young people.
  • * Many after school clubs activated programs for girls, in order to educate and empower girls reaching gender equality in STEM and STEAM fields. The idea is to create an environment that could cover a broader range of interests, including wearable technologies and music instead of giving space just to technology itself. The establishment of these clubs emphasise in fact the importance of being surrounded by female role models that can either be volunteers or mentors, fighting the stereotypes proposed by media that are not adequately representing women in science.


Do the after school programs affect indirectly students’ academic scores? If yes how?

As reported in “After School Programs In The 21St Century: Their Potential And What It Takes To Achieve It”  (Little, Wimer and Weiss, 2008), the kind of academic outcomes associated with participation in any of the after school programs provided to the community include:

  • Improved attitudes towards school and higher education aspirations;
  • Better school attendance rates;
  • Reduction of disciplinary actions;
  • Lower dropout rates;
  • Improved performance in school;
  • Higher rate of on-time promotion;
  • Improved homework completion;
  • Engagement in learning.


Which are the most representative after school programs currently available in the STEM, STEAM and Maker Education Field?

The most representative after school clubs programs currently available in the STEAM and maker education field are:

  • The Intel Computer Clubhouse for its rich range of programs (maker education, field trips, events, initiatives to help kids through their academic and professional career) and its structured learning model;
  • Maker Kids: for being the first makerspace dedicated to children and families;
  • CoderDojo: for their approach to coding activities and their coverage worldwide;
  • The tinkering Studio at The Exploratorium: for its mentorship program which involves former students, for its hands on approach to making and tinkering, for the attention to research and development not only for students, but also for teachers.


What does make an impact in the organisation of an after school club?

To help out people who are willing to start an after school club, the Maker Education Initiative defined some guidelines to set up a club. These guidelines includes:

  • Impact on education;
  • Mentoring;
  • Creative processes to foster innovation (starting a program, documenting the projects, inclusivity of projects);
  • Setting up the physical space or “shop” (what kind of tools can be used, creating partnerships in the local community, safety and training);
  • Be part of the network (recurring feedback, meetings, etc);
  • Participation to the Maker Faire and field trips;
  • The recommended list of suppliers;
  • A list of sample documents, templates and samples to guide the single club be part of the network.



Benson, L., and R. N. Saito. The scientific Foundations of Youth Development. In Youth Development: Issues Challenges and Directions. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures, 2000.

Carnegie Corporation of New York. A Matter Of Time: Risk And Opportunity In The Nonschool Hours,Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs and Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development .New York : Carnegie Corporation, 1992

CBI. Engineering our future: Stepping up the urgency on STEM, 2014 http://www.cbi.org.uk/media/2612000/engineering_our_future.pdf

Eccles, J. S., and J. A. Gootman. Community Programs To Promote Youth Development. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2002.

European Commission. White paper on education and training: Teaching and learning—Towards the learning society (White paper). Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications in European Countries, 1995.

Larson, R., and J. S. Eccles. Organized Activities As Contexts Of Development. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 2005.

Little, P. M.D., C. Wimer, and Heather B. Weiss. After School Programs In The 21St Century: Their Potential And What It Takes To Achieve It. 2008. Web. 27 Feb. 2015. Harvard Family Research Project.

OECD. Draft of PISA 2015: Science Framework, 2013 http://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisaproducts/Draft%20PISA%202015%20Science%20Framework%20.pdf

Rychen, D. S., & Salganik, L. H. (Eds.). Definition and Selection of Key competencies: Executive Summary. Göttingen, Germany: Hogrefe, 2013.

Resnick M, and E. Rosenbaum. Designing for Tinkerability, 2013 http://web.media.mit.edu/~mres/papers/designing-for-tinkerability.pdf

UNESCO. Enquiry learning. http://www.unesco.org/education/tlsf/mods/theme_d/mod23.html

Zosh, J. et al. The ultimate Block Party: bridging the Science of learning and the importance of Play. In Design, Make Play: Growing the next generation of STEM Innovators. New York, NY: Routledge, 2013.
CoderDojo https://coderdojo.com/

Exploratorium http://www.exploratorium.edu/

Intel Computer Clubhouse http://www.computerclubhouse.org/

Maker Education Initiative http://makered.org/

Makerkids http://www.makerkids.com/

Tinkering Studio at Exploratorium http://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/


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