Out-of-school time STEM programs allow students to engage in hands on science, technology, engineering, and math projects. In these programs, students practice STEM authentically while building 21st century skills, learning through real and relevant projects, and connecting to potential STEM careers.


Running out-of-school STEM programs comes with a unique set of challenges. Effective STEM programs must be able to support students as they engage in STEM practices, help students build scientific discussion skills, attend to issues of equity and diversity in STEM, and assess whether students are learning while keeping program culture informal and fun. In this section, you will find resources and best practices sourced from our partners to help your program address these challenges.

STEM Practices

BPS Science Practices Online PD Modules

These ten online professional development modules can help educators learn about science practices and integrate them into instruction.


Instructional Leadership for Science Practices

This website offers a comprehensive collection of resources to support instructional leaders as they work to implement the science practices into their programs. On this site, leaders will find information on the science practices, a guide to observing instructors through the lens of science practices, tips towards offering feedback to improve the implementation of science practices, and more.


NGSS Appendix F: Science and Engineering Practices

This section of the Next Generation Science Standards gives in depth descriptions of the Science and Engineering Practices and breaks down engagement by grade level.


A Guide to the Math Practices

This article outlines eight practices specific to mathematics.


What are the STEM Practices?

This article outlines practices related to science/engineering, technology, and math, and makes connections between these disciplines and their practices.



Click2Science is a free, interactive, professional development site for trainers, coaches, site directors and frontline staff & volunteers working in out-of-school time programs. Developed by the University of Nebraska Lincoln and the Noyce Foundation, its foundation is that it takes “20 Skills to Make STEM Click”– those skills that are necessary to implement science effectively in out-of-school time settings. By focusing on developing these skills, as opposed to content expertise, anyone can become an outstanding STEM educator.

Strategies to Build Scientific Discussion


Inquiry Project

Created by the Inquiry Project and TalkScience, the following three resources provide educators with concrete strategies to promote and shape different types of scientific discussions with students.

Equity in STEM Education

A Framework for K-12 Science Education Chapter 11: Equity and Diversity in Science and Engineering Education 

This chapter of A Framework for K-12 Science Education addresses issues of equity diversity in Science and Engineering Education and provides steps educators can take to ensure their teaching practices are inclusive.


STEM Teaching Tools: Equity Overview 

This document offers resources and tips to support your program in developing inclusive science teaching practices.


NGSS For English Language Learners

This article examines strategies to support English language learners as they engage in scientific discussions and build arguments based on evidence.


Why Should Mathematics Educators Care About Race and Culture?

This article examines how race and culture affects students’ experiences learning mathematics and offers critical reasons for educators to attend to race and culture.

Assessing Informal STEM Learning

Assessing Science Practices

Written by Pam Pelletier, Director of K-12 Science & Technology/Engineering at Boston Public Schools, in collaboration with Katherine L. McNeill and Rebecca Katsh-Singer, this article discusses assessment strategies to help STEM educators gauge students’ abilities to engage with the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices. The article offers a simple Science Practices Continuum Assessment tool to aid in informal, embedded assessment, and potential instructional activities to support two practices, engaging in argument from evidence and constructing explanations.


BPS Science and Engineering Practices Progression for Students and Families

Created by the BPS Science Department, this document breaks down each of the eight science and engineering practices outlined by the Next Generation Science Standards into a series of questions that can be used to help teachers, students, and families understand what competency in each practice looks like. Each practice is divided by grade level to help teachers understand how students at various ages should engage with them.

STEM Activity Ideas

The following websites offer free STEM curriculum and lesson plans for programs looking to begin offering STEM learning experiences to students.

Hiring and Staff Training Practices

Strike a balance between hiring staff with STEM backgrounds and staff with youth development backgrounds

  • Often, potential staff members with STEM backgrounds lack experience working with youth, while potential staff members with youth development experience may lack experience in STEM. Strive to hire staff members from each of these backgrounds and be intentional about how you pair them to work with students. Teams of educators with different skills can also model effective teamwork to students.

Consider gender and the racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds of your students during the hiring process

  • By ensuring members of your staff reflect the races, cultures, and genders of your students, you offer students relatable STEM role models that can help girls and students of color combat negative stereotypes and feel more comfortable incorporating STEM into their identities.

Target para-professionals working in partner schools for recruitment

  • Para-professionals working in partner schools will have experience working with the youth you serve and may have schedules that can accommodate after school and summer program schedules. Para-professional teachers may also value the opportunity to build facilitation skills, especially as hands-on STEM activities that stress STEM practices are being emphasized more and more in STEM classrooms. Para-professionals may also be able to help you better align your program with school priorities.

Incentivize long-term commitment

  • To stem the high turnover rate among frontline staff in after school and summer programs, offer incentives like professional development opportunities to staff willing to commit to more than one season or year of work. Consider creating a “career ladder” for qualified frontline staff to eventually move into full-time or administrative roles.

Stress STEM practices in staff training

  • The after school and summer space provides students with opportunities to engage authentically in the same practices that scientists and STEM professionals use every day. While frontline staff members do not necessarily need to be content experts, they should be fluent in STEM practices like planning and carrying out investigations and engaging in argument from evidence. Check out the BPS Science Practices PD Modules

Offer opportunities for staff to observe more experienced educators

  • In-school educators and returning staff members can be valuable training resources for new hires. If in person observations are not an option, consider having new hires watch videos of effective STEM educators. New hires can also benefit from modeling lessons led by experienced educators from the point of view of students.

Establish clear expectations for staff and provide feedback throughout the year

  • Provide staff with a rubric that frames expectations for their lessons and teaching. Observe staff frequently and offer feedback based on this rubric. For program managers or directors trained to use the Dimensions of Success, this tool can be used to frame feedback for new staff members.


Staff Selection: What’s Important for Out-of-School Time Programs?

This brief presents findings from a study of the role of frontline staff in the effective implementation of out-of-school time programs and links these findings to effective strategies for recruiting and selecting frontline staff.

Staffing Out-of-School Time Programs in the 21st Century 

This article from After School Matters details findings from a long-term action research project carried out by a program site manager to address difficulties in hiring frontline staff. The article covers trends in the field and offers thoughts on staffing practices in out-of-school time programs.

BoSTEM Workshops

BoSTEM Workshop: Practicing Science and Mastering Content Key Takeaways

This workshop featured a presentation by Olga Feingold of Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center and focused on incorporating science and engineering practices into activity design and questioning and discussion strategies. The best practices recorded in this document are linked to resources to support implementation.


BoSTEM Workshop: Equitable and Inclusive STEM Practices

This workshop featured a presentation by Jenna Nackel of Sociedad Latina on strategies to support English Language Learners in STEM programs and a discussion of But That’s Just Good Teaching! The Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, by Gloria Ladson-Billings.