“Kids are natural scientists,” says Diane Detroye, director of STEM engagement at NASA. “They are curious, always looking for answers.” But it is all too easy to shut this down, says Shelley Canright, NASA’s Senior Advisor for Education Integration. “The aim is to help them think like scientists.” NASA has a wealth of programs in which kids can not only learn about science, but participate as well. In NASA’s Exploration Design Challenge, kids of all ages from around the globe are at work finding solutions to one of the major hurdles associated with deep space exploration: protecting astronauts from the dangers of space radiation.
“There is research pointing to a strong correlation between early interest in science careers and eventual entry into such a career.”
Charlie Hutchison, Principal Investigator for the National Partnerships for Afterschool Science [NPASS], at EDC in Waltham Mass, offers something more immediate and local. NPASS has trained over 1,000 youth workers in 15 states to embed regular science programing into the afterschool schedule.
“There is research pointing to a strong correlation between early interest in science careers and eventual entry into such a career,” explains Hutchison, “stronger even than being good at science in middle school.” Though the kids may be having too much fun to realize it, regular participation in informal science can build the skills and interest that may one day steer kids towards deeper STEM learning and eventually to STEM careers. We want kids who might never have thought of themselves as scientists saying, “I can do this. People like me do this.”
By: Avery Hurt