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After-School Science PLUS --Activity Guide and Planning Guide

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Review Synopsis: by afterschool program expert Renée Richard-Smith

The Activity book and group leader's Planning Guide for Afterschool Science offer an attractive and useful set of activities that give instructors and students access to science and break down the perception that science is not for everyone. The content is informative, thorough, clear, and concise—perfect for leaders who have little time but want quality information.

The activities are designed to help afterschool leaders achieve four key objectives: (1) to use familiar, readily available materials in hands-on science activities, (2) to give parents information so that they can nurture their children's interest in science, (3) to integrate science and literacy, and (4) to communicate a positive message that everyone can do science.

The experiments are creative, varied, and do not take long to conduct. The format of the books is of high quality, making it easy to refer to key sections for quick clarification, as necessary. I highly recommend that After-school Science PLUS be included in an afterschool science repertoire, especially one that serves a diverse audience.
Full Review:
I recommend After-School Science PLUS as a useful part of a successful after school science program: it speaks to the curiosity inherent in all children. It speaks to kids who might be interested in what floats in water and what sinks, the rainbow of colors on the surface of bubbles, machines with different moveable parts, or gravity.

The Activity book and group leader's Planning Guide for After-School Science PLUS outline good activities for students and give solid information to afterschool leaders and teachers. The content is informative, thorough, clear, and concise, so it is perfect for leaders with little time but who want to provide accurate information. The activities are designed to help afterschool leaders achieve four key objectives: (1) to use familiar, readily available materials to facilitate hands-on science activities, (2) to help parents get involved in their children's science education, (3) to incorporate science and literacy, and (4) to convey the positive message that everyone can do science. I was able to quickly skim both books in an hour and easily grasp the information presented. The experiments are creative, varied, and can be conducted quickly. The format of the books was of high quality, making it easy for me to go back to key sections for quick clarification. And although the activities appear in a sequential order, an instructor can skip around, using only relevant activities when and where they fit into a topic area.

The activities in After-School Science PLUS will motivate a diverse group of students to engage in science. The books speak directly to girls, people of color, and disabled students. They educate leaders and students about the barriers many people may experience when it comes to doing science.

The first activity addresses a foundation of this material: the way that stereotypes affect our impression of who “does” science—and how that might change. A number of simple, yet fun, experiments that stimulate the imagination follow. Towards the end of the book, one activity helps show how inventors and scientists test their ideas. Through these activities and through experimentation, students get a glimpse of how science relates to their world. You can use these materials not only to help students learn about scientific concepts, but also to encourage further interest. The book also includes information about role models and scientific success stories.

The guide is formatted and organized to give busy instructors the information they need to involve their students in the science activities. A fact sheet precedes each activity/experiment in After School Science with information about (1) the estimated time for the activity, (2) applicable equity issues, such as information about the impact of negative stereotypes on science and who is engaged in science, and how this activity might negate such beliefs, (3) student activities, (4) a summary of what the student will discover, and (5) a summary of the skills the students will develop in this activity. Moreover, each activity lists materials and suggests tips for preparation, important questions to expect students to ask, and information about how to extend learning at the conclusion of the activity. Each activity has a section that describes related careers and role models and suggestions for linking it to activities that address literacy development, as well as letters to send home to parents in both Spanish and English to encourage and facilitate communication about science among parents, students and teachers.

Outstanding Features

(1) This material provides clear and concise information for afterschool leaders so that they can conduct effective science experiments with limited preparation time or scientific knowledge. (I was able to skim both books in an hour and easily grasp the information presented.)

(2) It provides the leader with supplemental information about role models, interesting statistics and one-page biographies (fast reading) about people and science. This supplemental information gives students contextual information that might help them overcome barriers to participation.

(3) Each activity includes a letter to families to extend the impact of activities beyond the afterschool environment and to provide information to parents that encourages them to discuss and conduct related experiments with their children.

(4) The program addresses the stereotypes and negative perceptions some communities associate with science head-on via explanatory statistics, one-page biographies about actual scientists, and quick "Did You Know?" profiles.

(5) The books provide ways to integrate literacy and science.

(6) There are two books—one for planning and the other for activities. They can be used together or separately.

I found the program easy to use. The instructions are straightforward, and the activities require only common materials that you can get easily. The planning book is a useful and reliable source of information for the leader and director for planning and training. The second book—the activities portion—supports the afterschool leader in leading the actual activity, making it possible for instructors to conduct the experiments regardless of their science background or limited preparation time.

After-School Science PLUS is a resource for afterschool leaders and their students. The supplemental information builds capacity and knowledge to support afterschool teachers who lack a strong science background. After-School Science PLUS recognizes and addresses barriers to participation in science. I believe the After-School Science PLUS books provide an opportunity to increase student excitement and participation in science.