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Science After School (SAS) Consumers Guide  

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Strive to Thrive Activity Handbooks

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Review Synopsis: by afterschool program expert Emilio De Torre

Strive to Thrive offers fun, engaging, and informative science activities that require little prep time for instructors, yet are interesting and engaging for students. The instructor guides are well organized and will enable instructors to provide hands-on science activities for 4th through 9th grade students. Staff need not have much prior knowledge, training, or experience leading science activities and the materials are written in plain, easily digestible English. Care has been taken to keep the costs of implementation down to a minimum, and all projects are flexible, so that you can modify them to match the requirements of your program.
Full Review:
Strive to Thrive has all of the integral components for delivering hands-on science the after school hours: it is exciting, fun, socially relevant, and educational. The units cover four topics:
  • “Breathing Room” (addresses air quality issues)
  • “Lather Up!” (addresses germs and hygiene)
  • “Wet Your Whistle” (addresses water quality and bottled water), and
  • “More Than Skin Deep” (deals with adolescent body image)
Each of these units is engaging, informative and relevant for young people in the target audience. All of the units are available in a booklet that retails for approximately $10 to $12.

Each unit is divided into two sections: “Challenges” and “Have More Fun.” The challenges lay out the subject matter and themes, include pertinent reading material for each topic, offer questions to relate the activities to students’ lives, and provide activities to get the young people out of their seats and experimenting. The units include charts to record observations.

There are several pages of well-illustrated background information for participants to read and some creative activities and experiments included for the “roll up your sleeves; it’s time for some fun” part. Participants of varying skill levels will be engaged because each unit has questions designed to incorporate personal observations and life experiences as well as scientific observations. In “Wet Your Whistle,” all sorts of bottled water contents and labels are examined (each label has been reproduced in case it is not possible to bring them). Young people will find out just where that water came from, what’s in it, what’s significant about the contents, and how the contents of one bottle compare to those of another. This unit in particular provides many teachable moments to incorporate comparative shopping, consumerism, and other life skills as students learn something many adults don’t know—that they frequently drink bottled tap water!

The unit "More Than Skin Deep" focuses on interpersonal social issues (such as body image, the history of body modification, and more) that would be of interest to middle school girls and boys. But these issues relate to science and so working on them with peers in a setting where science is the focus can help students see how science really is an important part of their everyday world. These topics are relevant and age-appropriate and provide information often neglected in science classes except perhaps in health class.

Each “Have More Fun” section contains further reading and activities, such as word searches, to engage students in the subjects addressed.

Strive to Thrive is comprehensive enough that each section could be used over the course of several days to a week or in a few hours, depending on the students and the structure of the program. The curriculum itself seems appropriate for advanced fourth graders up through freshmen in high school. Activities could also work for developmentally disabled young people, although some assistance may be needed for the reading components of the curriculum.

The preparation time needed to set up the units and/or experiments is minimal. Staff do not need prior knowledge or training in the subject matter, and are unlikely to need more background information than what is available in fairly simple text. All projects can be adapted to fit the space available.

Strive to Thrive can make teaching science in an afterschool setting easy and fun because health topics and items or situations from the lives of the young people are carefully and creatively woven into the activities. History, stereotypes, misinformation, assumptions, and even “hot breath” are all examined and explored. And importantly, costs are kept to a minimum. One of the most engaging activities calls for nothing more expensive than some Vaseline and glitter.