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Science Action Clubs: Bringing Technology and Action Into Afterschool Science

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by Courtney Rudd

The California Academy of Sciences’ Science Action Clubs ignite the spark for science in middle school youth. These action-filled science clubs occur once per week during the school year in after-school programs at several of San Francisco Unified School District’s Middle Schools. Both students and a select group of afterschool Activity Leaders join the Science Action Clubs for a chance to do real science and be part of a national, authentic science project.

The fun never stops in the Science Action Club: one week you may learn how to make edible bird nests, the next week you are using an iPad to report bird observations to Cornell University’s bird biologists, and the following week you are visiting the California Academy of Sciences on an afterschool field trip.


The California Academy of Sciences partners with Beacon, Rec Connect, and ExCEL afterschool programs to host Science Action Clubs in San Francisco’s middle schools, supporting school teams and after school Activity Leaders with opportunities to capitalize on the afterschool environment as a place where interest-driven, interactive science learning can occur. In this arena, students engage with science around a real-world science endeavor complete with hands-on activities that are relevant to student experiences.

In the 2011-2012 academic year, the Academy partnered with Roosevelt Middle School and the Richmond Village Beacon Center (RV Beacon) to bring science and technology to Roosevelt’s afterschool program. First, Science Action Club members surveyed 250 school and local community members to discover what science-based community issues were most important to them. Because the community was most interested in marine pollution, the Science Action Club youth underwent a two-week summer intensive at the California Academy of Sciences focused on marine science and pollution. Then, in fall 2011, the youth traveled to Ocean Beach to collect and catalog the types of trash found on their local beach. As a culminating project, Science Action Club Activity Leader guided students in the creation of digital media presentations to describe their authentic research projects.

Throughout the summer of 2011 and 2011-2012 school year, a team of staff from both RV Beacon and the Academy were fortunate enough to participate in KQED QUEST’s Science Education Institute. After receiving support, FlipCam equipment loans, and professional development from the KQED QUEST team, RV Beacon and Academy staff led the youth in creating digital representations of their marine pollution research. The result was four 2-3 minute media-rich slideshows created by the youth in out-of-school time with the RV Beacon Afterschool Center. In just four weeks of their bi-weekly, 45-minute afterschool Science Action Club sessions, the students created storyboards, recorded footage during research trips to Ocean Beach, wrote scripts, and created videos and slideshows in iMovie.

Plastic Rain, a video created by several RV Beacon youth, is the youth’s direct interpretation of their experiences doing science in out-of-school time through the Science Action Club.

Kudos to the Science Action Club youth at RV Beacon & Roosevelt Middle School and their passionate leader, Tiffany Konyen; the California Academy of Sciences’ SAC Project Manager, Courtney Rudd, and Senior Manager of Student Education, Megan Schufreider; and all the partners and program advocates of the California Academy of Sciences’ Science Action Club.

Courtney is the project manager of the Science Action Clubs at California Academy of Sciences. She is also one of the participants of the 2011-12 QUEST Institute at KQED.

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