ACT Now is dedicated to assisting out-of-school time programs in all areas of the state to develop and expand quality STEM programming that provide opportunities for all youth to develop skills and promote an early interest in STEM. Only 20% of a student’s waking hours are spent in a formal school setting, leaving out-of-schooltime to play an impactful role in the lives and futures of youth. Out-of- schooltime programs offer youth the opportunity to explore STEM concept in a low-pressure, high exploration setting that promotes collaboration and innovation. For assistance or more information regarding STEM resources contact, Kim Turnbull (Afterschool STEM Specialist,

STEM Clubs

ACT Now initiates and supports multiple STEM Clubs throughout the state of Illinois in partnership with established afterschool programs to provide quality, hands-on STEM experiences. The target programs will serve students from low-income families, students of color and young women. The clubs will focus on grades 3 to 8 with an emphasis on advancing an engineering mindset and increasing computational thinking capacity. Each club is provided STEM curriculum based on 1 hour of hands-on STEM programming per week, all materials to implement the curriculum, professional development training for club facilitators that covers curriculum content, effective pedagogy, and engaging facilitation techniques. STEM Clubs are given continual support from ACT Now from start to finish.

STEM Resources

Front cover of the ACT Now STEM guide

Throughout ACT Now’s STEM Guidebook, there are resources on how to fund your program, gain professional development opportunities, build a curriculum with activity recommendations, and ways in which you can advocate for policy change for STEM in afterschool.

As an afterschool provider, you do not have to have a STEM background or have access to an expensive lab. STEM can be learned, experienced, and experimented with alongside the students in your program and through the affordable resources presented in this guidebook. There are many, many resources on STEM afterschool education, so the resources throughout this guidebook are by no means all of the incredible, insightful resources available!


Engineering and Math

Teach Engineering

Ignite STEM learning with this resources that provides hundreds of engineering challenges,lessons, and units. Everything for grades K-12.


DiscoverE is the backbone organization behind Engineers Week™ (established 1951), Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day™ (2001), World Engineering Day (2016, formerly known as Global Day of the Engineer), the Persist Series (2005), and the Future City Competition™ (1993). Find the perfect engineering activity that promotes critical thinking and career awareness.

Engineering Games!

PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) has published a collection of free engineering-focused games for youth. 

Design Squad

Provide kids ages 10 to 13 a vehicle to explore engineering and develop global competency by partnering them with out-of-school-time programs from a different country.

Hour of Engineering

Hour of Engineering is a program that aims to get students excited about engineering careers early and build confidence and problem-solving skills. The program provides resources, hands-on activities, videos, simulations, and teacher guides to support classrooms in STEM education. The learning content is aligned to science, technology, engineering, mathematics standards.

Afterschool Math Plus

Afterschool Math Plus is an evidence-based program that provides fun, real-world mathematics activities for students in grades three through eight. Materials include a culturally relevant curriculum designed around four thematic units that engage children. Each unit emphasizes identity development, careers, role models, strategies for family involvement, and inclusion of students with disabilities through an equity lens.

NBA Math Hoops

NBA Math Hoops leverages the game of basketball and the NBA/WNBA brands to build fundamental math and social-emotional skills through a physical and digital basketball-themed board game, a curriculum, and a community program experience.

MLB Players

MLB Players STEM League is a baseball-inspired program for middle-school age youth. This combination board game and curriculum brings to life the energy of the sport while cultivating students’ math and social-emotional skills.

Tech and Coding


Scratch is the largest free coding community for kids. No coding experience needed. There are lessons, tutorials and projects for all to complete.

Connecting to Computer Science

A Resource for Afterschool Practitioners: Pulls together existing resources, curricula, and research.

Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code (GWC) has developed a toolkit with relevant resources for engaging families in youth in the organization’s GWC Clubs and STEM programming. Resources include sample newsletter copy, social media content, and more! There is also information on GWC Clubs.

Hour of Code

The Hour of Code is a free introduction to computer science through fun activities and videos for learners of all skill levels. Join the largest learning event in history, December 9-15, 2024.


Tinkercad is a kidSAFE-certified online platform that lets you create 3D digital designs, circuits, and code blocks with no downloads or strings attached. Explore hundreds of projects, lesson plans, and classroom resources for STEM learning and invention.

CS Fundamentals Unplugged

You can teach the fundamentals of computer science, whether you have computers in your classroom or not! Lessons in which students are not working on a computer as “unplugged.” Students will often work with pencil and paper or physical manipulatives. Unplugged lessons are particularly useful for building and maintaining a collaborative classroom environment, and each of these activities can either be used alone or with other computer science lessons on related concept.

General Science


SciJinks has created a scavenger hunt for students interested in learning about the weather. Afterschool providers can facilitate this scavenger hunt in remote, hybrid, and in-person programming. Students can complete the scavenger hunt activity by reading the selected articles on the SciJinks website to find the answers to each clue. Once they have all the clues, they will be able to spell the secret word. To access this activity, click here.

Science Buddies

Science Buddies is a K-12 nonprofit that has developed a unique library of quality STEM resources that are free for students, parents, and teachers. These resources include standards-aligned lesson plans, career profiles, hands-on activities, and 1,000+ project ideas.

MY SO – High-Quality STEM Program for Youth

Science Olympiad (SO) is launching its MY SO program! This FREE STEM program is available to all students and educators – at home, in the classroom, after school, or on a Science Olympiad team. Each month, youth will dive into a different STEM topic – like Epidemiology – with a lesson plan that’s aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a career connection video featuring a STEM professional, and an optional national online test. Science Olympiad has also created the MY SO 101 Guide to support teachers, afterschool providers, principals, and families in providing high-quality STEM opportunities.

Little Bins Little Hands

A host of science activities and challenges for all kids all year round.

FoodMaster Initiative

FMI is to develop and provide STEM facilitators with authentic mathematics and science resources that use food to engage students in science learning.

Science of Sport

Science of Sport develops interdisciplinary STEM curriculum and programming that is inclusive to all learners. We make education relevant through hands-on, minds-on learning. By incorporating sports examples, we inspire lifelong educational and social-emotional skills.

Explore Science: Let’s Do Chemistry:

Let’s Do Chemistry is a set of free hands-on activities and tips for chemists and science educators to use when they share science with school-aged children. Videos and instructions show prospective presenters what to do and say to empower children in guided exploration.

Environmental Science & Space

Project Wild

Project WILD’s mission is to provide wildlife-based conservation and environmental education that fosters responsible actions toward wildlife and related natural resources. All curriculum materials are backed by sound educational practices and theory, and represent the work of many professionals within the fields of education and natural resource management from across the country.

Smithsonian Science for Global Goals

The Smithsonian Science for Global Goals Project, which provides youth around the world, ages 11-18 with the knowledge and skills to understand the world’s most pressing issues and to become agents for change in their own communities. Through a series of freely available community research guides, young people use their communities as their laboratory to investigate the science that underlies the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

NASA Out-of-School Time Learning Network

The NASA Out of School Learning Network has STEM-based activities for out-of-school time programs. These modules include engineering design challenges, inquiry-based lessons and citizen science recommendations that align to Next Generation Science Standards. The curriculum and content focus on Earth and space science, physical science, rockets, living and working in space and aeronautics.

News and Reports

Out-of-School Time Workforce Report

Afterschool Matters published the findings from the Power of Us workforce survey interviews supported by the Wallace Foundation. Read what youth field workers from OST programs, summer camps, parks and recreation, outdoor education programs, libraries, museums, faith-based organizations, housing organizations, and statewide afterschool networks have to say about the field.

Investing in Out-of-School Time STEM is an Investment in a Robust, Diverse STEM Workforce

Read a brief by STEM Next Opportunity Fund and Jobs For the Future (JFF) describing the role OST plays in STEM workforce development.

YOU Belong in STEM Initiative

The U.S. Department of Education launched the “YOU Belong in STEM” Initiative on October 12, 2022. The goal of this initiative is to help school districts and their programmatic partners redesign systems and learning spaces to make sure students receive a well-rounded STEM education. 

America After 3PM STEM Special Report

The Afterschool Alliance recently released a special report on the state of afterschool STEM programming. The report highlights how programs that facilitate STEM experiences typically serve underrepresented students in the STEM sectors, decreasing barriers to college and career exploration for youth of color. There is also Illinois-specific data that indicates families recognize the importance of STEM learning opportunities.

Afterschool STEM Hub Newsletter

The Afterschool Lab Report is a quarterly newsletter produced by the Afterschool STEM Hub. It includes STEM policy updates, resources, advocacy opportunities, and research publications that help make the case about why afterschool STEM learning is important.

STEM Facilitation and Professional Development

NAPE Education Foundation: Make the Future Campaign

The NAPE Education Foundation is launching its Make the Future program which aims to encourage women and girls, especially those of color, to take part in STEM education and pursue advanced manufacturing careers. This opportunity provides free methods and tools to help educators, afterschool providers, and employers break down barriers for women interested in pursuing STEM education paths and high-demand advanced manufacturing careers.

Citizen Science Toolkit

Citizen science is defined as the involvement of the general public in scientific research. Citizen science unites expertise from educators, scientists, data managers, and others to help speed innovation by sharing insights across disciplines. The California Academy of Sciences developed this Toolkit to help integrate citizen science projects into classroom curricula or afterschool programming.


These resources will help create an environment that maximizes the learning of all students and increase the participation of people with disabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

National Girls Collaborative Project: State of Girls and Women in STEM

The National Girls Collaborative Project has updated its resource on the reality for girls and women in the STEM sectors. This report presents compelling statistics and research and focuses on K-12 Education, Higher Education, and the STEM Workforce. To access the resource, click here.


These staff development tools are designed to assist in training frontline staff and volunteers to facilitate quality STEM learning experiences for youth to engage in engineering practices, including: defining the problem, design a solution, testing, responding to failure, and optimization.

Working with STEM Experts

The National Informal STEM Education Network (NISE) has published a new guide for educators on how to find, prepare, and work with STEM experts. It includes suggestions for ways to involve experts in STEM programming, strategies for finding different types of expertise, including those with Indigenous knowledge, and more!

IF/THEN Collection

The IF/THEN® Collection is the largest free resource of its kind dedicated to increasing access to authentic and relatable images of real women in STEM. In this digital library, you will find thousands of photos, videos and other assets that authentically represent women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The content features careers as diverse as shark tagging, fashion design, and training Olympic athletes, and nudges public perceptions in a more realistic direction that illuminates the importance of STEM everywhere. The IF/THEN® Collection is the largest free resource of its kind dedicated to increasing access to authentic and relatable images of real women in STEM. | IF/THEN® Collection (

General | RPSA

Exciting Opportunity: Apply Now for ACT Now’s FY25 STEM Club!

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General | RPSA

May RPSA Blog!

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General | RPSA

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Elevating Youth Voice!

March 25th to March 29th marks Youth Voice Week 2024! Creating spaces where young people can share their experiences and discuss issues that are important to them is crucial. Afterschool programs are uniquely positioned to provide these spaces for youth. Amplifying youth voice initiatives helps youth develop essential skills and instills the confidence necessary to…

General | RPSA

March RPSA Blog

Hello RPSA Grantees! Excitement is building as we gear up for the FY24 Q3 Quarterly Meeting for RPSA 2775 and 3007! Hosted in-person, this event promises to be an enriching experience for all attendees, and ACT Now is thrilled for you to join us. Mark your calendars for Thursday, March 21st, 2024, from 10:00 AM…


RPSA February Blog: Black History Month Events and Activities

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