The ACRES project (Afterschool Coaching for Rural Educators in STEM) is a major investment by the Noyce Foundation to support high-quality professional development opportunities to out-of-school providers, especially in rural settings.
The heart of the model involves frontline staff in afterschool programs coming together online to share videos of their own interactions with youth. Groups of 4-8 frontline staff meet in person for workshops, then regularly videotape their own work with youth, and discuss their videos with peers and an experienced coach during online small-group coaching sessions. The model recognizes that frontline staff learns best by watching themselves and each other as they practice new skills in a safe setting with a skilled coach.
Adaptations of the model include a newly launched fully virtual version for use in rural communities where afterschool providers are separated by very large distances and cannot easily meet in person.
Based at the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, the ACRES staff are working with a variety state and national organizations that serve youth, such as the University of Maine Cooperative Extension 4-H program, 21st Century Community Learning Center (21CCLC) Afterschool programs, and the Maine Afterschool Network.
The ACRES project also incorporates professional development resources provided on the Click2Science website. The site, which features many short videos of afterschool providers in action, identifies 20 different skills for helping youth explore STEM.
“Of everything I have had so far [professional development experiences], I know this is the one that has had the greatest impact on me. It has really been great for me as a teacher to elevate my ability to get my students to learn for themselves.” ACRES participant from 21st CCLC program.
For a limited period, the ACRES project is offering to lead and/or coach sessions at no cost to participants, thanks to funding from the Noyce Foundation. Our target audience is frontline afterschool, summer, and library staff who want exemplary PD at low cost. Typical courses take approx. 30 hours and cover 3 major STEM facilitation skills. Variations and shorter courses are also available.
The project has been funded for 3 years and plans to expand in scope and reach to impact 500 afterschool providers in multiple states, mostly through the Mott Statewide Afterschool Networks. ACRES project work has been presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching and at the Oregon Ask STEM national conference on STEM in afterschool programs.
Sue Allen, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, is the Principal Investigator of this project. Joyce Tugel, STEM Education Specialist, provides curriculum and professional development support. Perrin Chick, STEM Education Specialist, serves as the project manager. Hannah Cunningham, STEM Education Specialist, serves as the project associate. Jennifer Atkinson and Margaret Foster serve as project evaluators, and Jo Gates, IT & Communications Specialist, provides technical support for video and other data logistics.
For more information or to participate in the project, contact firstname.lastname@example.org