Science Promising Practices for Afterschool Programs Featured Online

July 6, 2006
Austin, Texas

Laura Shankland
Communications Associate
Phone: 512-391-6556

Imagine students excited about science—so excited they prefer to attend an afterschool program rather than go straight home when the bell rings every afternoon. That’s the way it is at Kingsley Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia; at the Brighton-Allston Afterschool Enrichment Program in Boston, Massachusetts; and Morales Elementary School in Houston, Texas.

The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning, headquartered at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL), has recognized those three afterschool programs for their promising practices in science. The programs are featured in video segments of the newly released science component of the National Partnership’s online Afterschool Training Toolkit.

Viewing the video segments, afterschool practitioners can see how exciting inquiry-based and project-based science activities can be for students. In Atlanta, the students have their own hatchery for rainbow trout where they take precise measurements of water temperature and levels of dissolved oxygen and ammonia. In Boston, the students build trebuchets to learn about physics and discuss the principles involved. In Houston, the students work with artists as they study the butterflies of southeast Texas and create intricate mosaics illustrating what they have learned.

Each of the programs represents one of the following promising practices for science in afterschool programs:

  • Investigating science through inquiry
  • Exploring science through projects and problems
  • Integrating science across the curriculum
  • Engaging families and communities
  • Tutoring to enhance science skills

The toolkit has been developed for use as a professional development resource for afterschool practitioners. As educators read about each promising practice, they can link to standards that the promising practice supports and get ideas for new activities. They can also view video clips and explore links to supporting resources.

SEDL program associate Deborah Donnelly, who serves as product development coordinator for the National Partnership, says the science promising practice sites had a number of things in common. “For one thing,” Donnelly says, “they designed their own curricula instead of relying on purchased materials. They also relied on inquiry-based and problem-solving activities and used multiple-grouping and cooperative learning strategies.”

Donnelly also emphasizes that the science activities can help boost student achievement. “By providing science activities after school that are aligned to standards, schools can help students prepare for the assessments required by No Child Left Behind,” she says. “Students can learn new scientific concepts and skills, or they can get reinforcement for concepts and skills they learned during the regular school day.”

The Afterschool Training Toolkit may be accessed online at

About the Partnership

The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning provides assistance, training, and tools to help local afterschool programs build capacity to strengthen learning. It is supported by the Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education under contract number MRED-03-CO-0048 and includes the following partners:
  • Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL), primary contractor
  • National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST)
  • Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning
  • Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL)
  • SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • WGBH Educational Foundation
  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
For more information about the Partnership, visit

About SEDL

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) is a nonprofit corporation based in Austin, Texas. SEDL is dedicated to solving significant education problems and improving teaching and learning through research, research-based resources, and professional development. For more information about SEDL, visit