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Bringing Flexibility to Afterschool Learning

Afterschool enrichment opportunities should ideally offer a blend of meaningful and effective learning with fun content and activities that will keep students engaged. But even when a program offers all this, districts might not be able to take advantage of it unless the program also offers flexibility.

With this in mind, the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) designed our Club Invention® afterschool program to be a flexible curriculum that gives children an immersive invention education experience.


Making Club Invention Work for Any District

To give districts plenty of options in how they implement our afterschool programming, NIHF offers several independent units that can be run over the course of whatever time frame works best for the district. For instance, units could be implemented once a month, once a week or every day. Units can be purchased in eight-hour increments, allowing districts to choose just what they need for afterschool time.

Each unit makes it easy for educators to challenge children to think, do, build and make, leading them to discover science concepts through hands-on exploration and problem solving. Each unit provides hands-on STEM activities, and all materials, from the curriculum and discussion prompts to handouts and videos. This makes the program a turnkey solution for teachers and afterschool providers to simply plug in place at the end of a school day.

Alaina Rutledge, vice president of education research and development at NIHF, describes our afterschool program as providing open and safe environments where children can “explore immersive, hands-on learning experiences that augment textbook learning, allowing them to apply their experience and cultivate a positive attitude toward STEAM skills.” Through flexibility, the program makes it possible to bring these benefits to children across the country in meaningful and lasting ways. “Flexibility goes beyond the traditional application of when, who and where, stretching into the concepts that are building blocks for K-6 STEAM learning," Rutledge explained.


Differentiation Within a Flexible Program

In addition to ensuring flexibility in implementation, each unit also provides educators with opportunities for differentiation in the curricula.

Rutledge explains that “curricula are specifically designed around hands-on, differentiated approaches to learning, emphasizing scientific inquiry, engineering design, creative problem solving, cooperation and collaboration through STEAM.”

The invention prototypes and design solutions of intermediate participants in the program, for example, will likely be more elaborate and reveal elements of novelty and usefulness that are key to design and utility patents in the world of invention. In addition, STEM concepts and terms can be emphasized for intermediate participants while building, where primary participants might simply have their first hands-on exploration with these concepts.

A few of the many instances of differentiation within the afterschool program include the following:

  • In SOS: Endangered Earth, educators are provided with different versions of the Endangered Species Facts Sheet, tailored specifically for primary and intermediate participants.
  • In Trash Island: A Garbage Patch Journey, educators are armed with both primary and intermediate discussion prompts on ocean food webs, encouraging all participants to demonstrate their understanding and express their ideas in ways that work best for each learner.
    • Discussion for Primary Children:
      “Making an ocean food web is like playing connect the dots with the sun and all of the animals, plants and other parts of an ocean environment including sea birds. If a fish accidentally eats plastic and then a shark eats the fish, the shark will have eaten the plastic along with the fish.”
    • Discussion for Intermediate Children:
      “A food web is essentially the weaving together of multiple food chains to form a network of feeding relationships. Many animals eat more than one type of food, so each food chain link is integral to the entire ecosystem. Microscopic plankton and bacteria are critical components of the marine food web. When trash enters an ocean, it becomes part of the marine food web. This is a problem because the sun breaks down tiny bits of plastic trash that then act as sponges to soak up toxins (poisons) that fish consume. When bigger fish eat these fish, they consume the same toxins. This process continues throughout the food web until it reaches humans.”

Beyond these examples, however, every unit within Club Invention has been designed to provide all K-6 participants with varying and adaptable levels of challenge, giving them a thoroughly flexible and successful experience with STEAM.


Learn More

To learn more about our flexible invention education solutions provided by NIHF, we invite you to visit our website.

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