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Explore the Benefits of Using ESSER Funds on Engaging OST Programs

Last summer, the U.S. Department of Education launched the Engage Every Student Initiative: a bold call to action for schools across the country to use their valuable Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds on high-quality out-of-school time (OST) programming to address pandemic-related achievement and engagement gaps.

In a white paper published by the National Inventors Hall of Fame®, we discuss some of the actionable recommendations from this initiative and explore different categories of OST programs to help educators make more informed decisions.

Read below for an excerpt from this white paper, detailing the effectiveness of OST pedagogy, especially when combined with an invention education pedagogy.


The Power of Open-Ended Exploration

One of the many advantages of OST programs is that they can provide students with the time and space to explore and embrace their natural curiosity.

John Falk, founder of the Institute for Learning Innovation and Emeritus Sea Grant Professor of Free-Choice Learning at Oregon State University, is a nationally recognized leader in the field of OST learning. His expertise led him to partner with the National Inventors Hall of Fame to study the effectiveness of incorporating authentic invention education pedagogy in an OST program.

Studying the beneficial effects of just one week of Camp Invention®, our flagship K-6 summer enrichment program, Falk found:

  • Statistically significant improvements in creativity, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) interest, and the ability to use and apply problem-solving techniques
  • Even larger statistically significant improvements in the above areas for students who attended Camp Invention multiple times over a four-year span
  • Sustained long-term increases in creativity, STEM interest and problem-solving abilities ranging from one to four years after attending the program

Additional research conducted by the Summit Education Initiative found that National Inventors Hall of Fame education programs improved children’s social-emotional learning outcomes, sense of belonging, college-going identity, future sense of self and motivation for academic success in school.

Key to the effectiveness of invention education in OST programming is its ability to combine engaging hands-on learning with exploration that inspires students’ innate curiosity.

Often, this type of creative learning environment is made possible thanks to the consistent use of open-ended questions, giving children permission to expand their thinking. It’s within these safe creative spaces where magic happens. Instead of worrying about their ideas having to conform to a predetermined or “correct” answer, participants are free to create their own solutions to real-world problems, and develop a natural interest and passion for what they’re learning.


Read the Full White Paper Today

To read the white paper in its entirety, and to learn why the Department of Education recommends schools use their valuable ESSER funds on high-quality OST programming, visit our website.

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