Extracurricular activities

Category: Out of school learning

Suitable ages: Primary and secondary

Description

Extracurricular STEM initiatives are optional student STEM activities that occur outside of school hours. Some are managed and run by schools. Others are often managed and run by external providers. Examples include:

  • CoderDojo provides free, open and unstructured club settings in which young people develop coding skills and build creative projects, guided by Champions and Mentors.
  • Code It Yourself Clubs are after-school, weekend and holiday programs where children aged 7 to 17 train to be creators of technology.
  • Kids Unlimited runs parent-paid extracurricular programs in Melbourne, in science, coding, maths, electrical engineering and other topics.
Benefits Limitations
Creative STEM learning beyond the school curriculum Tends to attract students who are already engaged in STEM or those whose parents are
Smaller groups can allow for individualised instruction Can have a high churn rate of student participation
Chance for high-achieving students to stretch themselves or for lower-achieving students to catch up In some cases costs can exclude some students from participating

Evidence

Green evidence keyThere is evidence that this initiative type has a positive impact on student STEM engagement or achievement.

Research suggests that high quality STEM extracurricular activities can enhance both student engagement and achievement.

Sources

  • Examining the impact of afterschool STEM programs by the Afterschool Alliance. This 2014 report summarises a sample of academic studies and examines eleven US case studies of highly regarded STEM extracurricular programs. It finds that STEM extracurricular activities can increase students’ STEM skills, STEM academic performance, interest in STEM, and understanding of the value of STEM in society.
  • Quantifying Crest: Crest Silver Award Evaluation by Rosie Stock Jones, Tom Annable, Zoe Billingham and Cee MacDonald. This 2016 report for the British Science Association by Pro Bono Economics found that British students who participated in a Silver CREST Award extracurricular STEM project achieved higher marks in Year 10 science and were more likely to enrol in STEM subjects in Year 11, compared to a statistically similar control group.
  • Using Enrichment and Extracurricular Activities to Influence Secondary Students’ Interest and Participation in Science by Peter Eastwell and Léonie Rennie. This 2002 interview-based Australian study with a small sample of 20 high school students found that a range of extracurricular science activities improved some students’ interest, enjoyment and motivation. The activities broadened students’ perceptions about scientists and the roles of science in society.

Implementation

Designing and implementing a STEM extracurricular initiative is a significant undertaking. If you are a school, business or parent, start by looking at what already exists to see if there is an initiative you can join or support. If there is no existing initiative that is appropriate to join, you might consider creating a new one.

Implementation tips:

  • The STARportal is a good starting point to search for existing STEM extracurricular initiatives. 
  • Schools can advertise STEM extracurricular opportunities to students and families through newsletters, noticeboards, and other communication channels.
  • If planning to create a new extracurricular STEM initiative, consider:
    • What problem or need is the initiative designed to address? How best can it do this?
    • How will it support, complement or extend in-school STEM learning?
    • What existing organisations have done this well that we can learn from?
    • What partner organisations (schools, businesses, or others) could add value to the initiative and help it be sustainable?

Industry involvement

Businesses can support extracurricular STEM learning by:

  • Providing services or funding to enhance or scale up existing initiatives.
  • Partnering with a school to set up a new initiative.
  • Establishing a new extracurricular STEM initiative that is open to students from many schools or from an entire region. For example, Microsoft runs free workshops and challenges in STEM-related skills at its flagship Sydney store.

Case study: CoderDojo WA

CoderDojo is a volunteer-led social education movement oriented around fun, free and social coding clubs (‘Dojos’) for young people aged 7-17. Dojos are run independently by coordinators (‘Champions’) at businesses, schools, libraries, universities and community centres in over 55 countries. Supported by the Fogarty Foundation, CoderDojo WA has 87 Dojos located throughout Western Australia. Learning at Dojos is unstructured and creative. Attendees have free time to work on their own projects, study using online platforms, and collaborate with like-minded peers. Champions and mentors help students get started and provide guidance when needed.