The Afterschool Alliance and the Noyce Foundation have recognized SFI’s Project GUTS (Growing Up Thinking Scientifically) with one of two inaugural Afterschool STEM Impact Awards. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.) 

Listen to the news story on KSFR, Santa Fe public radio (story begins at 1:14, October 21, 2013)

The award, which includes a $10,000 check, was announced during the Project GUTS Lights On! Afterschool event in Santa Fe on Sunday October 20, 2013 -- one of 8,000 events being held across the country this month as part of the nationwide rally for afterschool STEM and computing programs. Afterschool Alliance Vice President of STEM Policy Anita Krishnamurthi presented the Award to Irene Lee, Director of SFI's Learning Lab.

The Afterschool STEM Impact Awards recognize outstanding afterschool STEM programs that target students in fourth through eighth grades, serve students from populations underrepresented in STEM fields, and can demonstrate the impact of their programs on students who participate. 

“It’s becoming increasingly important for our young people to develop an appreciation and mastery of science, technology, engineering and math skills in order to succeed in a technologically advanced world,” said Ron Ottinger, executive director of the Noyce Foundation. “With a focus on hands-on learning and making learning fun, afterschool programs have been doing an exemplary job of getting students excited about and engaged in those disciplines. We’re delighted to partner with the Afterschool Alliance to recognize and honor the programs that are leading the way.”

Project GUTS is an SFI afterschool program that engages sixth through eighth grade students in rigorous computing education. It is rooted in youth development principles using the students’ schools and neighborhoods as the context for scientific enquiry, and using STEM-oriented high school students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds as recruiters and near-peer mentors. The middle-schoolers in the program design, create and test computer models to simulate “what if” scenarios for real-world questions of community and societal concern -- like the spread of contagious disease or the population dynamics of an ecosystem.

Project GUTS is one of only two programs nationwide to receive the Afterschool STEM Impact Award, which was presented for the first time this year. Project GUTS is being acknowledged for its strong computing component. The other winner is Northwestern University and Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago Pedersen-McCormick Club’s Science Club program. Nearly 200 programs applied for the award.

“We are thrilled to receive this national recognition and award,” said Lee, who directs SFI's K-12 STEM programs, including Project GUTS and GUTS y Girls, as part of SFI's K-12 Learning Lab. “Our students have demonstrated that learners as young as middle school age can engage in computational modeling and scientific inquiry to understand and potentially solve problems in their local communities. Through Project GUTS we want to offer them the chance to develop computing and STEM inquiry skills while strengthening the connections they see between computing and solving real-world problems.”

“There’s no substitute for learning by doing, and that’s part of what makes afterschool programs such great places to learn about science, technology, engineering and math,” said Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant. “We’re very excited to work with the Noyce Foundation to present the new Afterschool STEM Impact Awards to recognize programs that are doing an outstanding job of teaching kids about the sciences and math.”

The Afterschool Alliance organizes Lights On! Afterschool to draw attention to the many ways afterschool programs support students by offering them opportunities to learn new things – such as robotics, Tae Kwon Do and art – and discover new skills. The events give youth a chance to showcase the skills they learn and talents they develop at their afterschool programs and to send the message that millions more kids need quality afterschool programs. This year, more than a million people nationwide are expected to participate in more than 8,000 events. For the seventh year in a row, the Empire State Building will be lit up on October 17 as part of the celebration.

The Afterschool Alliance is a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality afterschool programs.

The Noyce Foundation aims to help young people become curious, thoughtful, and engaged learners. The Foundation focuses on a few key areas: expanding opportunities for students to experience hands-on science in out-of-school settings; supporting human capital efforts to develop effective teachers and principal leaders; and investing in models and policy for improving the teaching of math, science, and literacy. The Noyce Foundation was created by the Noyce family in 1990 to honor the memory and legacy of Dr. Robert N. Noyce, co-founder of Intel and inventor of the integrated circuit which fueled the personal computer revolution and gave Silicon Valley its name.

Read the post in the Afterschool Alliance's Afterschool Snack blog