The National Center for Quality Afterschool

Science After School (SAS) Consumers Guide  

Afterschool Universe

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***** (5.0 out of 5)
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  • Cost Category: More than $100
  • Duration: variable based on how instructors use activities
  • Format: Instructors Guide, Programs Delivered in Cumulative Sessions
  • Grades: grades 6 to 8
  • Suitable for Multiple Uses?: can be re-used, but require refills or replacement parts which can be purchased from a supplier or at local stores
  • Subject(s): astronomy
  • Part of Series?: No
  • URL:

Developed with NASA and requiring instructors to attend training, this afterschool astronomy program provides ms students with a chance to explore concepts and enjoy hands-on activities, like a journey through the Universe beyond the solar system.

Reviewers agree that "Afterschool Universe" takes a serious and cosmically complex field of science and explores it in a way that both flows and engages, making the seemingly remote area of science interesting to learners. The 12 sessions (which could easily stretch to last much longer) encourage middle school students to DO astronomy and the experience produces tangible understanding of BIG, mind-expanding concepts (like how our own bodies are connected to the elements of infinite space or how black holes really operate) as well as cool science specifics (like how astronomers are able to determine the composition of stars from millions of light years away and how to detect the ‘invisible’ portions of the EM spectrum). It includes outstanding content and engages students in cooperative interaction around advanced scientific topics so that they learn to construct their own learning. This is the result of the outstanding teacher's manual that provides background, step-by-step instructions and very good supplementary websites with more background information and extension activities in a surprisingly easy to use format with fantastic visuals. It provides the kind of support that will allow those who may not have a formal science background, but who are interested in science and experimentation, to feel comfortable exploring and discussing the greatest of science mysteries – the universe around us. These resources are outstanding, but it is critical to note that they do require an instructor interested in the topic and more than the usual amount of time, both for preparing for the activities and for assembling and preparing the materials.

Instructors using the materials are required to attend a training session that can be arranged though contact with the Afterschool Universe team. These trainings enable folks who are unfamiliar with the content to become comfortable leading the sessions. The two-day intensive training sessions are held periodically at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD but once certified, Afterschool Universe trainers may offer training workshops at various locations across the country, so programs seeking to use this material should check to see if a local option exists. Details about training are available on the website at

Click here to view the evaluation criteria used while developing the Consumers Guide.