ACRES: Year in Review

Elevating Out-of-School Educators

Photo of woman looking at a webcam on top of a screen showing a Zoom session with a group of participants.
During the 2023 calendar year, the ACRES project has trained over 40 out-of-school time leaders (i.e.,”coaches”) to provide professional development to over 300 educators across 34 states.

This effort was possible due to support from the National Science Foundation and a successful appeal in early 2023 for supplemental funding from STEM Next Opportunity Fund to meet the high demand for coach training. With the backing of ACRES training, coaches across the country are instilling fundamental STEM facilitation skills in their out-of-school time workforce, elevating the STEM experiences of thousands of youth to date. 

In Alaska, Americorps volunteers are being trained to use purposeful questions to create meaningful STEM programs. In Mississippi, youth are learning about the Engineering Process at their Boys and Girls Clubs. 

Here in Maine, afterschool educators in 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) programs are reflecting on how they make math engaging. 

Research on educator outcomes suggests that through these experiences, educators develop more confidence in facilitating STEM practices and are more aware of opportunities for cultivating learning environments that center youth agency in STEM activities. 

In six month delayed interviews, educators specifically recall how participation in ACRES has changed their interactions with youth. One educator at a math tutoring program described how practicing the purposeful questioning skills she learned through ACRES helped the youth she worked with be more cognizant of strategies. Several others spoke about how participating in ACRES helped them feel more capable of speaking up for youth and recognizing and responding to their needs. 

As the newly trained coaches prepare to launch their second ACRES cohort, our research data trends illustrate that our ACRES coaches will likely impact 20,000 additional youth over the duration of the ACRES grant.

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