New Jersey Department of Education

21st Century Afterschool Science Project (21st CASP)

What is the 21st Century Afterschool Science Project (21st CASP)?

The 21st Century Afterschool Science Project is a federally-funded project supported by the New Jersey Department of Education for out-of-school time (OST) [before-school, afterschool, summer, winter recess, and weekends] programs in New Jersey. The project was a collaboration among the New Jersey Department of Education, Liberty Science Center and the New Jersey School Age Care Coalition, to develop, pilot test and document a replicable model to enrich student learning and engagement in the afterschool setting.

What are the components of the project model?

The project model includes the following components:

  • An informal, hands-on science curriculum that provides an opportunity to practice language arts and math skills, and reinforces science concepts that is appropriate for the OST setting;
  • Use of guided-inquiry approach to encourage student problem-solving and engagement and effective facilitation of science learning;
  • Training and capacity-building through modeling of effective science learning and delivery, and on-site technical assistance that capitalizes on the strengths of OST staff and environments; and,
  • Strategies for the involvement of families that are integral to students’ academic success.

Who is the target audience of the 21st CASP?

The focus is on children in grades 4 - 8 and afterschool staff -– including professional educators, youth workers and paraprofessionals.

Why is science in afterschool ideal?

  • Afterschool, extended-day and out-of-school time (OST) programs have tremendous potential to help students develop the knowledge and skills needed for positive social development and academic achievement.
  • Afterschool and OSTs can offer experiences -- particularly in science and technology -- that complement and reinforce school-day learning.
  • Science learning in afterschool allows students to learn essential team-building and problem-solving skills, and provides more opportunities for students to participate in hands-on, project-based learning. 
  • Afterschool is particularly ideal for the type of informal and experiential learning that children need to balance traditional school education.

What are the key outcomes of the 21st CASP model?

  • Creates opportunities for youth to see science as part of their everyday experience;
  • Encourages family involvement in their child’s learning;
  • Offers providers of afterschool, without any science background, a guide to increase their comfort in facilitating science lessons and using an guided inquiry-based approach;
  • Enhances opportunities for those students less likely to choose science as a career path;
  • Provides opportunities for in-depth science learning experiences because it is based on discovery rather than simply repeating an experiment;
  • Provides a strategy for acquiring space, time and support for the formation of afterschool science clubs; and
  • Helps children develop the skills to research, discuss, identify and develop their own strategies for the social and environmental issues affecting their communities.

What is available to all OST programs as a result of the project?

The 21st CASP project produced a facilitators’ guide, a 21 lesson curriculum, and a student journal.

  • The topic selected for the entire curriculum is water:  water as a compound with wondrous properties; water’s centrality to life on earth; and the waterways, harbors and estuaries of New Jersey. 
  • The facilitators’ guide was developed to help afterschool and other out-of-school (OST) providers who recognize how important science learning is for youth in afterschool programs; but who may feel uncomfortable, incapable or ill-equipped to explore science in their afterschool programs.  It is a how to guide for the 21st CASP model.
  • The curriculum consists of two units of hands-on science investigations: Unit 1 focuses on the properties of water, and Unit 2 focuses on the ecological impacts of water.
  • The activities were designed specifically for use in out-of-school time settings for students in grades 4 through 8. 
  • A student journal was created to correspond to lessons in each curriculum unit and contains Science at Home activities which students could conduct at home with their families using common household items. 

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