Afterschool Explorations in Science

INCRE was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to develop an engaging science discovery curriculum for upper elementary and middle school youth in urban after-school programs. The new after-school curriculum is based on the award-winning Sunflower Science Curriculum that has been developed by INCRE with prior NSF support.

Themes for exploration and investigation have been defined in collaboration with twelve after-school programs in Eastern Massachusetts that have served as the pilot sites. Currently six units, Exploring Paper, Crime Scene Explorations, Exploring the Secrets of Sugar and Salt, Exploring the Science of Magic, Exploring Sound & Music and Exploring Energy have been developed.

Exploring Paper Crime Scene

Sugar & Salt

Exploring the
Science of Magic
Sound & Music
Exploring Energy

Each thematic module incorporates the following elements:

Target age group: Youth in grades 4-8

AXIS activities promote a fun, non-formal approach to learning that is consistent with the goals of many after-school programs.

Each unit is designed to take about 10 weeks when used during academic enrichment time 1-2 days per week. Additional extension activities are provided in each unit.

Youth can choose to participate in individual activities or the whole unit.

All activities are fun and hands-on. Youth engage in science investigations using low-cost materials.

Colorful activity books for each thematic unit guide all activities. Each activity is introduced by a group of multicultural characters.

A leader facilitation guide is provided for each unit. The guide includes background information and suggested teaching strategies for program staff. No prior science knowledge is necessary to successfully use the AXIS curriculum.

Kits that provide all materials needed to carry out the AXIS activities are available for each unit.

All activities have been thoroughly field tested and evaluated in afterschool programs.

The materials include many opportunities for parental involvement.

Half-day staff training workshops are available for each unit.

A group of after-school programs have tried out developed activities with the support of trained coaches who worked closely with program staff to implement the activities. Program staff participated in workshops to help them use the AXIS materials (see our photo gallery from the workshops). Feedback from the pilot testing helped to finalizing the units for broad dissemination and use by after-school programs around the country.

AXIS recognizes that leaders need to be able to ask good questions to encourage participant inquiry. Leaders are not expected to have all of the answers to the questions, but do promote thinking through the questions that they ask. To that end, AXIS has developed a poster of good questions that we recommend displaying at participating sites. You can download a version of that poster.

If you are associated with an after-school program and are interested in the new science materials, please contact us at, or call 781-643-2142.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0452301.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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