Equity in STEM Beyond the Classroom

As we gear up for the school year we’re thinking well beyond the classroom. Increasingly, research shows that critical science learning — especially experiential learning — happens outside of school. Evidence also suggests out-of-school STEM is particularly influential in determining whether kids pursue a STEM career.

Despite its impact, access to out-of-school STEM learning is not equitable. A survey conducted by After 3PM revealed that kids from high-income families are three times as likely to attend a summer STEM camp than those from low-income families. Similarly, the number of children from low-income households participating in afterschool STEM fell from 4.6 million in 2014 to 2.7 million in 2020 while the same number for higher-income children fell by less than 450,000. During the same time period, the number of afterschool STEM programs increased as did the number of parents’ who reported prioritizing STEM learning for their children.

What’s driving the growing disparity in STEM programs, even as they become more sought after and widely available? Likely, cost. Among low-income families, cost is cited as the number one barrier to their kids’ participation in afterschool STEM learning. And while there are more options for out-of-school STEM than ever, they are also more expensive than ever. These conditions complicate the solution. While more funding for afterschool programs is needed, it doesn’t ensure sustainable equity.

PS Science is focused on making STEM learning equitable. One way we do this is by providing free STEM learning, during and afterschool, to kids in Title 1 schools. Another important part of our approach to STEM equity is creating high-quality science learning programs that are easy and affordable for anyone to implement. We know investigative, hands-on science can be simple because we’ve done it! Our in-school program was designed with teachers in mind as an alternative to commercial curricula, which can be expensive and cumbersome. The same principle has guided our afterschool programming.

This strategy allows us to fulfill our mission of bringing science learning to kids in underserved communities free of charge. PS Science programming is always free to students in the low-income schools that we serve, and available at low cost for all others. As a result, PS Science provided more afterschool STEM and Code Clubs than ever before during the 2020-21 schoolyear. Additionally, between June and August, we provided summer STEM learning experience to 1,300!

We hope to continue the trend this schoolyear. Help us meet that goal by donating to our fundraising campaign to provide free afterschool STEM programs to students in underserved communities across Los Angeles. Donate today here.