AfterWords October 2007
The learning that begins after the bell!
The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning
featured resource


This free resource contains reviews of high-quality, hands-on science content for afterschool programs.

Afterschool News

Using Project-Based Learning in Science

Which of these activities will students probably find more interesting: conducting research and diagnosing the illness that caused a teenage girl to faint, or reading about the symptoms and treatment of diabetes in a textbook? Most of us would choose the first option, which is an example of project-based learning, an instructional strategy that allows students to learn by exploring real-world problems.

Project-based learning is one of the promising practices in the National Partnership’s Afterschool Training Toolkit for science. Although project-based learning makes most content areas more meaningful to students, afterschool science instructors will find that allowing students to experience science in real-world situations helps them understand and remember scientific concepts.

You can learn more by exploring the Exploring Science Through Projects and Problems practice in the science toolkit. The activity in which students conduct research to diagnose diabetes is called “What Happened to Mya?” If you are interested in trying project-based learning in your afterschool program, here are some things to keep in mind:

Talk to your school-day teachers. Find out what science concepts, skills, and standards students are studying that might lend themselves to science projects. For example, raising fish from eggs can build on school-day biology study about habitats, species, and life cycles.

Work with students to select a topic that interests them. Ask students to brainstorm a list of topics that interest them and then determine how they are related to science.

Make sure you have enough time for an ongoing project. Project-based learning works best when students can work on projects in a regular, ongoing way as some projects can take several days or weeks.

Discuss the project and make a plan. Identify what students will do, make a project plan and timeline, identify resources you will need, and then conduct the project.

Carrying out a project to answer an essential question is a dynamic way to engage students in academic content.-- Errin McComb, project director, SERVE

What is the National Partnership of Quality Afterschool Learning?

Stories from the field

My House Center for Learning
New Orleans, Louisiana

Be enthusiastic about the subject, and your students will be just as excited.--JEANNA BARRETT, community science workshop director

You know you have a great afterschool science program when one thematic project teaches students about anatomy, the physics of sound, and the construction of musical instruments—all while exposing them to jazz and classical music. My House Center for Learning is a nonprofit organization that includes science activities as part of its afterschool offerings to New Orleans children. In the lesson described above, which is called “music in the air,” students listen to different types of music and are taught how to build their own musical instruments. They also learn about parts of the ear and how they hear things, the differences between pitch and sound and vibrations and frequencies, and the origins of different types of music.

The program is in an early stage of rebirth after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation literally forced My House to find a new home. “Although we have not returned to our original site, we are still trying to provide the same services on a smaller scale,” explains community science workshop director Jeanna Barrett. These services include a wellness program that teaches students nutrition and fitness, a small flower garden, and exposure to career opportunities in science. As the program rebuilds, Barrett remains committed to keeping students engaged in science.

In Your Words

To participate in this survey and view results, submit your vote now.

Do you use project-based learning in your afterschool program? (Select one)


A new book, Afterschool Matters: Creative Programs
That Connect Youth Development and Student Achievement
is now available through Corwin Press.

The Robert Bowne Foundation is accepting applications for the Edmund A. Stanley, Jr., Research Grants. The Foundation will be awarding four grants of $10,000 each to support research related to community-based youth programs. Applications are available on the Web site.

Technology Tip

Using Technology for Project-Based Learning

Thanks to the Internet, there are several project-based learning activities that you can explore at little to no cost. Sites like the Jason Project allow students to chase tornadoes and learn about hurricanes, while programs like Frogwatch USA allow students to study frogs and toads in their area while learning about conservation issues at the same time.

Do you have a training tip you would like to share? E-mail us at with “training tip” in the subject line.


Questions or comments should be directed to:

Laura Shankland
211 E. 7th St., Suite 200
Austin, TX 78701-3253
Phone: 800-476-6861 ext. 237
Fax: 512-476-2286

Copyright © 2007 by SEDL . This newsletter was produced in whole or in part with funds from the U.S. Department of Education under contract number ED-01-CO-0057/0001.

You are welcome to reproduce issues of AfterWords and distribute copies at no cost to recipients. Please credit SEDL as publisher. Link to PDF versions of AfterWords is available here. For additional uses, please fill out and submit a copyright request form.

National Partnership For Quality Afterschool Learning at SEDL