Afterschool Universe was pilot tested under the name Beyond Einstein Explorers' Program (BEEP) in the Summers of 2006 and 2007.
We partnered with the Imagine the Universe! program to develop this program and also worked closely with the DC Children and Youth Investment trust Corporation (CYITC) during both the development and testing phases.
In Summer 2006, CYITC sponsored five groups in three different programs to participate in the first phase of testing. These programs were Higher Achievement Program, Friendship Public Charter School, and Link DC.
Based on the feedback and comments from the 2006 pilot, we revised the program and conducted a second round of testing in Summer 2007. The second round of testing extended beyond the Washington, DC, metro area. A total of ten groups participated in the testing. The five Washington DC-based groups sponsored by CYITC were City Gate, Inc.; Community Family Life Services, Inc./Perry Schools; New Community for Children; Higher Achievement Program; and Y.O.U.R. Community Center.
The other five facilitators for 2007 ran the program at a variety of locations including community-based summer camps, university-run camps, university extension office programs, and school-based summer programs.
The Summer 2007 program was formally evaluated by an external consultant. The evaluation report indicates that the facilitators greatly enjoyed facilitating the program and would choose to do so again. They were satisfied that their primary goal was met (of providing students with an exposure to science that they might not otherwise receive). In addition, they commented on how this program had changed their own perceptions of the Universe. The children also indicated that they enjoyed the program and it made them see that "science is fun." [See more quotes from the facilitators and children.]
2008-2009 marked a big push to get Afterschool Universe recognized and disseminated. Over those two years, the Goddard team ran 11 trainings around the country, and our first two certified trainers ran 11 more. Nearly 400 people were trained in total.
During this time, Afterschool Universe was added to the Consumers Guide to Afterschool Science Resources that is operated in cooperation with SEDL, the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning, and the US Dept. of Education, and was reviewed for and approved as a curriculum through Great Science for Girls.
Not all of the Afterschool Universe program recognition has been in the afterschool world. The Afterschool Universe team also won a NASA Honor Award for Public Service Group Achievement, and Afterschool Universe was featured on the NASA portal. The curriculum has passed NASA's rigorous educational product review to become a recognized NASA educational product.
In 2010, we changed our focus to developing a network of certified Afterschool Universe trainers around the country. In December we ran a special train-the-trainer workshop at NASA Goddard, and trained 30 participants from around the country. The goal of this project was to build strategic partnerships with well-established and diverse networks of afterschool programs across the country, and build the capacity of these networks to integrate Afterschool Universe into their portfolio so that they could offer training and implementation within their networks for years to come. Since the December workshop, the attendees have been running their own training workshops around the country, increasing the reach of the Afterschool Universe program.