Would you rather have the students in your program learn to code or be able to run a 5K?
That question focuses on one of the main issues that face afterschool programs every day: how do we give our kids more, with less? Everyone wants healthy, active kids who are also receiving important academic enrichment they may not find in the school day. With STEM and wellness both on the rise in popularity and importance while funding and resources are slashed, how are out-of-school time (OST) providers to prioritize one or the other?
The National Afterschool Association (NAA), Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Afterschool Alliance, and National Girls Collaborative Project (NCGP) have collaborated to come up with a solution. “Imagine the potential of empowering the 10.2 million children in afterschool programs with science, technology, engineering, and math skills, while providing them with opportunities to eat healthy and stay active,” reads the first sentence of “STEM and Wellness: A Powerful Equation for Equity.”
The issue brief demonstrates the benefits of blending STEM with healthy eating and physical activity in OST:
- Establishing a diverse and heathy workforce
- Fostering community responsibility and citizen science
- Encouraging partnerships between schools and afterschool
- Meeting the needs of families, schools, and communities
The brief explores how the blend of STEM with wellness can contribute to a more equitable socioeconomic future for all youth and discusses different collaborative opportunities for schools, community centers, and afterschool programs to combine STEM and wellness priorities. Additionally, the brief demonstrates how implementing STEM and wellness in a complementary manner counters the challenge of competing priorities and limited resources as schools and organizations are continuously challenged to do more with less.
Afterschool providers are one of the players being called to action to use the brief’s sample of practical resources to overcome the challenges of adopting the blended model of STEM and wellness. You can start the process by adopting the NAA HEPA Standards for OST and by using the information in the brief as an advocacy tool. The brief suggests accessing, investigating, and sharing at least two of the resources and program models listed on the final pages of the brief.
By taking these action steps, you can become a key player in integrating STEM and wellness. When someone asks, “Would you rather teach your kids code or have them run a 5K?” you can reply, “Both!”