STEM Club Toolkit

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About the Toolkit

What is the Toolkit?

The STEM Club Toolkit is a collection of resources for facilitators of STEM clubs to draw on as they plan for and operate STEM clubs in a variety of contexts. It contains a range of information and resources in key content areas including:

  • Club management
  • Environment
  • Evaluation.

Whether you’re just getting started with your STEM club, or you’re looking for guidance to help improve your STEM club, you’ll find a range of resources that will help you to design, deliver and evaluate dynamic and successful STEM club programs.

Toolkit development

The STEM Club Toolkit was commissioned by Inspiring Australia Queensland and developed by researchers at the University of Southern Queensland. In 2017, Inspiring Australia Queensland engaged the University of Southern Queensland to design and pilot an evaluation framework for STEM clubs. As this project progressed, it became clear that there was a broader need for a toolkit that would bring together existing resources on a range of topics related to STEM club operation. Drawing on an environmental scan and literature review conducted for the evaluation framework project, the research team identified a set of key areas that STEM club facilitators need to attend to in order to ensure the success of their club, and a collection of resources that would support practice.

Find out more about the project [PDF].

How to use the Toolkit

The Toolkit is structured around the following three key areas:

  • Club management
  • Environment
  • Evaluation.

Dip into the Toolkit and explore information and resources that are relevant to you.

Club management

Vision

Creating a shared vision is the first step in inspiring individuals to commit and give their best to their club. Co constructing a vision statement with participants provides a shared understanding around the purpose and direction of a STEM club. A well articulated vision provides the “guidepost(s)” for decision making.

Creating a vision

The following guidelines will help you create a vision for your STEM club.

Co construct your vision with your team

Including various stakeholders’ voices in the visioning process (other staff, community members, participants) will enable your vision to truly reflect the collective view of all involved.

Use a planned structure to guide discussions

Use focused questions to guide discussions about your STEM club’s vision, even if those discussions are informal.

Another useful strategy is to engage stakeholders in specific tasks that only take a short amount of time, which will allow more people to contribute.

For example: Place a piece of butchers paper at the entry of your STEM club. Write the question: Use one word to describe the purpose of our STEM club. You can then use this stimulus to engage parent and community stakeholders in a short reflective conversation to identify the top three words, and incorporate these into your vision.

Be clear about your STEM clubs direction

Your vision describes what you want your club to be. Remember it is your destination supported by your club strategy that turns your vision into action. Ask your stakeholders:

  • What is the actual purpose of the club?
  • What are the goals for the participants?
Be future focussed

Visions inspire teams to achieve goals. Identifying challenging but achievable goals will provide your stakeholders with something to strive towards. Ask your team: What does everyone envision for the club in the future?

Use clear everyday language

A vision is often short, typically 1 to 2 sentences. It needs to be memorable and catchy, able to inspire but more importantly it needs to be understood by all your stakeholders. Ask your team members:

  • What do you visualise or see when you think about what our vision might be?
  • What words evoke the images of what we are trying to achieve?
  • Does everyone have shared ideas with one another?
Resources to support the creation of your STEM club vision

The following resources will help you to co-create an inspiring but useful vision for your STEM club:

Resourcing and funding

Resourcing and funding have a significant influence on the possible impact and longevity of a STEM club. There are, however, a number of options that can be accessed to help in relieving this burden and to support your STEM club to flourish. Often it involves thinking outside the box and some handy work with a search engine!

Opportunities for STEM clubs

Below are a number of opportunities to consider as you seek access to resources and funding to support club sustainability.

Resources
  • Publicly accessible spaces at no or low rent: civic centres, community halls, libraries, school buildings
  • Services that provide resource rental or borrowing: lending libraries or museums
  • Asking for access to a space or service as an in-kind contribution (e.g. donation of time or access)
  • Seek out access to free learning activities, training and programs: see this curated list or set of government initiatives
Funding

Sustainability

Forward thinking STEM clubs recognise that planning for sustainability provides an opportunity to consider structures and strategies that need to be put in place to ensure the longevity of the club. Planning for sustainability most effective way to sustain, improve and develop your club.

In order to incorporate forward thinking for sustainability into your club plan, you need to base your plan on where your club wants to go (often reflected in the club vision) and the necessary steps to get there.

A sustainable club plan:

  • Incorporates STEM club short term and long-term goals
  • Incorporates evaluation techniques (for example, the STEM Club Health Check)
  • Factors in opportunities for regular reflection on progress
  • Incorporates activities related to securing funding and future grant applications
  • Identifies marketing strategies
  • Allocates resources efficiently
  • Involves members in decision-making to develop shared ownership
  • Includes staff succession planning.

Step by step guide to planning

  1. Set up planning structure
  • Identify key stakeholders who should be involved in your planning process (directors/principals, staff, community members, sponsors)
  • Schedule meetings
  1. Establish your strategy
  • Consult with your context (company or school) for their broader plans
  • Review club’s past outcomes. Is the club vision being realised?
  • Do a SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • Establish realistic indicators of success
  • Draft action plans and assign responsibilities to key people
  • Analyse current financial status. This will inform future financial needs and when to explore funding opportunities
  • Factor in club evaluation strategies and create a review schedule for the plan itself
  • Think about staff development and succession planning – how can you incorporate this into your club’s plan?
  1. Write the plan
  • If you don’t have a format to follow, we recommend you take a look at the tips and templates on the here you can locate tips and templates on the Community Club Toolkit website.
  1. Implement, monitor and review
  • Share your plan with all relevant stakeholders
  • Monitor completion of activities identified in the plan
  • Regularly evaluate your performance against plan: targets should be evaluated four times a year.

Professional development

While you don’t need to be a STEM guru to run a STEM club, building and maintaining your professional knowledge in the fast paced STEM space will help you to plan and deliver engaging activities that work. From organised training to MOOCs, formal study to play, there are lots of ways that you can build and consolidate your STEM knowledge.

When considering your professional development options, think beyond formal training and outside your context. For example, you might operate a STEM club outside the school environment, but you might still benefit from professional development that is targeted at teachers.

Your professional development needs might relate to STEM content areas, but don’t forget to look after other aspects of your professional development, too. For example, you might benefit from training about forming and consolidating partnerships, inquiry based learning, or running a not for profit business.

Professional development opportunities

We’ve listed some options below, but a quick Google search will reveal many more options.

University-run training

Keep your eye out for professional development workshops and courses run by universities. For example:

  • The Queensland University of Technology offers both online and face-to-face professional development opportunities.
  • The University of Adelaide runs the Digital Technologies Education Programs, which includes MOOCs.
  • USQ UpSkill provides a range of minicourses on a variety of topics that you can complete as individual courses, or you can take a full suite of linked minicourses and stack them up to gain credit towards a degree program. For example, courses on Connecting with Audience or Generating Social Media would be useful for club facilitators looking to communicate effectively about STEM club activities. The range of courses will be extended over time.

While these may be targeted at teachers, STEM club facilitators from other contexts could benefit from these too.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are courses offered by a range of learning providers that are generally free to participate in. These structured learning courses are a great way to access the knowledge of experts in the STEM disciplines so that you can learn new skills to support your STEM club activities. Want to learn to code so you can teach your participants to do the same? There’s a MOOC for that – in fact, there’s many! Want to learn about 3D printing so you can use it in your STEM club? There’s a MOOC for that too! You can find courses on a huge range of STEM topics across numerous MOOC providers.

Popular MOOC platforms you might like to check out include:

Other professional development providers

There are many other providers of professional development opportunities. A couple of examples:

  • Click2SciencePD provides online STEM professional development resources for people who run STEM activities outside of school time, like STEM club operators. Their resources include training guides that support you to run professional development on a range of topics related to facilitating STEM activities, self-paced online lessons, and webinars. Includes free and for-fee options.
  • Little Scientists Australia is a not-for-profit professional development program for early childhood educators and teachers. They provide hands-on workshops for educators who work with children aged 3 to 6 years, on topics including computer science and computational thinking, chemical reactions, engineering and more.

Safety

The safety of your STEM club community is of paramount importance in terms of running a functional and secure STEM club. STEM club managers and facilitators need to be aware of their legal requirements and obligations in relation to the safety and security of all STEM club stakeholders which may include members (e.g., students), facilitators, volunteers, parents and guardians, and visitors to the club.

Safety considerations

There are a range of questions and issues you should consider when planning for a safe STEM club.

Working with children

Do your facilitators and volunteers and volunteers have clearance to work with children?

In Queensland, it is necessary for individuals working with children to have a blue card. The blue card system is a prevention and monitoring system aimed at ensuring the ongoing safety of children when participating in activities such as a STEM club. It is recommended that you thoroughly understand the blue card process with further information on their website.

Training for safety

Do club facilitators have regular professional development and training to ensure safety, strategies for club members?

It is important that facilitators have a good understanding of health and safety. Access to training is necessary for all facilitators. The National Safety Council of Australia (NSCA) offer some useful online training courses that you may wish to consider

Risk assessment

Undertaking regular risk assessment is a vital exercise in maintaining the safety and security of all involved in your STEM club. In general terms safety management is a proactive process that all stakeholders have some responsibility e.g., cleaning up after spills.

Safety Work Australia offer useful guides and templates around safety management. They recommend

  1. Identifying risks
  2. Assessing risks in terms of likelihood and seriousness of outcome
  3. Control risks by implement reasonably practicable control measures (e.g., taping down power cables
  4. Reviewing control measures regularly.

See also Education Queensland Managing Health and Safety Risks from Education Queensland for a useful guide.

Checklists

Checklists are useful tools in terms of managing risk. Education Queensland offer a range of useful checklists related to classroom safety and working with science equipment and design technologies that you may wish to adapt for your context.

Safety equipment and maintenance

Your STEM club must be equipped with safety equipment that protects members from possible injury. This will likely include goggles, safety gloves, lab coats, etc. It is imperative that you check that all equipment is maintained and fit for purpose. Included in your equipment list is access to a first aid kit that is fully stocked and replaced on a regular basis as necessary.

First aid training

A further consideration for management of your STEM club is around First Aid training. A number of organisations including St John Ambulance Australia offer regular training sessions.

Incident management and reporting

Do you have a process for recording and if necessary reporting any safety incidents? Ensure you are aware of reporting requirements in your context. If you don’t have a process in place in your organisation, Education Queensland have a procedure that you may wish to adapt for your purposes.

Other considerations
  • You may wish to consider developing a Safety code of conduct for members
  • Remember that a happy STEM club with agreed ways of working together will protect the wellbeing of all members
  • You may also wish to monitor for issues verbally e.g., RU OK?

Communication

Your approach to advertising your STEM club doesn’t have to be complicated … in fact, sometimes simple is best and less in more!

Three things to keep in mind when considering how to communicate what your STEM club does and why.

  1. Share your STEM club activities using multiple forms of social and digital media

This guide to promoting your club might be sport club orientated, but will provide you with insights about how to use these tools effectively and with purpose

  1. Your local community will be your most important market and supporters

This guide contains a lot of information about running a STEM club, but is particularly helpful in terms of approaches to successfully advertising and marketing a club locally

  1. Together we are stronger

Leverage state and national professional associations to assist in forming networks of STEM clubs to share strategies and stories of successes/struggles. For example:

Environment

Context

Know and understand your context

Understanding the context in which you are operating is an important factor in running a successful STEM club. It’s important that you understand the institutional context in which you are operating (ie your parent institution or organisation, if you have one), as well as the broader context beyond your institution.

Some contextual factors you might like to consider include:

  • Your parent institution’s priorities
  • The funding environment
  • Your community
  • Your competitors
  • The STEM club landscape

We’ve developed a series of questions you can ask and answer to help you understand these important contextual factors.

Parent institution priorities
  • Is STEM a priority for your parent institution?
  • How can you raise the visibility of your STEM club within your parent institution?
  • Who do you need to influence to increase priority of STEM in your parent institution?
  • How can you influence the relevant parties?
Funding
  • Where does your operational funding come from?
  • Who makes decisions about operational funding?
  • How can you feed into or influence decisions about operational funding?
  • Where can you access grant or project funding?
Community
  • What community are you serving?
  • Who is in your community? (Demographics)
  • What does your community need?
  • How can you best serve community need?
Competition
  • Who or what are you competing with, internally or externally, for funding, space, priority, participants?
  • How does your offer differ from your competitors?
  • How can you leverage relationships with competitors to your advantage?
The STEM club landscape
  • What are other STEM clubs near you doing?
  • How can you form and harness relationships with other STEM club facilitators?
  • What shared resources can you access?
  • What networking opportunities are available?

Know and understand your members (and their families)

Understanding context requires you to look beyond your STEM club, but it is just as important to understand what is right in front of you: your membership.

Understanding your members will allow you to provide a STEM club that meets the needs of members. It will also help you with fostering member interest, managing behaviour, and delivering sessions that are successful in the eyes of everyone involved.

Understanding your members means:

  • Knowing your members on a personal level, including understanding their interests, what motivates them, and any particular learning needs
  • Knowing the parents of carers who bring children to STEM club, as well as family priorities or dynamics
  • Understanding the friendship groups that exist within the club
  • Knowing what activities students enjoy
  • Knowing what activities result in learning.

You can better understand your members by:

  • Running orientation or ice breaker activities for new groups or at the start of the term, with a focus on exploring member interests
  • Observing members working during STEM club
  • Using simple evaluation tools like surveys that allow members to provide feedback on STEM club sessions (we’ve created sample surveys, available in the evaluation section of this toolkit)
  • Using parent surveys to gain feedback on their perceptions of how members feel about STEM club, whether they are benefiting from it, and whether continued attendance is a priority for parents (we’ve created sample surveys, available in the evaluation section of this toolkit)
  • Talking to members before, during and after STEM club
  • Talking to parents before and after STEM club.

Activities

Looking for activities to run in your STEM club? Inspiring Australia Queensland provides a fantastic range of activity plans and resources in our activity resources database.

Partnerships

Messages are often delivered more strongly and learning more impactful when coming straight from the horse’s mouth … in this case, people with STEM expertise, experience and knowledge. An important starting point is to seek out the experts in your own community and involve them in enriching the learning happening in your STEM club.

They could be:

  • Volunteers
  • Family members of attendees
  • Industry professional
  • Past members of the STEM club.

Their contribution to your STEM club could be as a:

  • Guest speaker on an area of interest/passion
  • Facilitator of a workshop or series of workshops
  • Mentor to the STEM club leaders and/or members
  • Co-learner alongside the STEM club leaders.

If finding someone within your local context is challenging and/or you are seeking particular expertise or skill set, you might look to initiatives like STEM Professionals in Schools as a source of input.

Evaluation

The STEM Club Evaluation Framework

In 2018-19, The University of Southern Queensland used an evidence based process to develop a framework for evaluating STEM clubs. In fact, this toolkit has been designed around the structure of the evaluation framework, so you’ll see lots of alignment between the material you’re reading in this Toolkit and the Framework.

The Framework has two parts:

Health Check

The Health Check is designed to be a prompt for reflective practice about the state of your STEM club. It asks you to self assess across a range of key areas identified through research as critical success factors for STEM clubs.

It is recommended that you complete the Health Check regularly. If you’re working in a school with a STEM club that runs all year round, you might like to complete it at the beginning, middle and end of each year. If you work in a library or other cultural institution and you operate clubs for fixed periods, with new participants each time, you might like to use it at the beginning and end of each intake.

You don’t have to share your completed Health Check with anyone, but participants in the pilot of the Evaluation Framework told us they found it to be a useful tool for communicating about their STEM club with their institution’s leadership team.

Download the Health Check [Word].

Pulse Check survey tools

A common feature of most STEM clubs is that they are an informal space for club members to come together and learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Their design acts as a contrast to curriculum based teaching in traditional spaces (for example, classrooms and school laboratories). Understanding the motivation and engagement of members and their parents is one of many indicators of STEM club success.

STEM clubs are dynamic and changing. It is therefore important to evaluate the experience of members regularly, that is, as they attend club. As part of the STEM Club Evaluation Framework, there are a number of useful evaluation tools that you may way wish to consider using. These include surveys for members of different ages and also a parental survey.

To use these survey tools:

  • Consider which survey is appropriate for the age cohort of your STEM club
  • Adapt if you wish e.g., be more specific about STEM club activities or add open ended questions
  • Don’t forget to survey parents regularly, as they play an important part in encouraging their children to attend – a satisfied parent is just as important as satisfied participants.

Download the Pulse Check survey tools [Zip file].

Health Check + Pulse Check

The data you collect using the Pulse Check survey tools in an invaluable input in the Health Check reflection process. Make sure you consider what your participants are telling you about your STEM club as you reflect on the success of your club.