On 30 January, the Orange Unified School District (OUSD) Centers for Afterschool Recreation, Enrichment & Safety (CARES) held its first annual OUSD CARES Science Fair. The turnout was far better than expected, with over 600 in attendance including students, families, staff, administration, and school board members. There were 70 science displays by individuals and groups of students from the 20 CARES programs throughout the district, as well as interactive tables from Discovery Science Center, Engineering for Kids, and Maker Ed.
The students were excited to show off their experiments and the parents were proud to see the effort their kids had put into executing the event. It was great to hear students offering feedback to one another, and I was very impressed to hear them confidently answer questions posed by parents and other adults.
In OUSD on average, students spend approximately 875 hours a year in the regular day classroom. A student enrolled in the OUSD CARES program, has an opportunity to gain an additional 1300 hours of out-of-school time educational and enrichment activities.
As school districts continue to transition to the Common Core State Standards with a focus on STEM, the out-of-school time sector is also focusing on strengthening students critical thinking skills, problem solving abilities, collaboration with peers, and confidence in their own skills thus promoting the concepts of “making”. Aside from that, students were challenged to explore new concepts, develop the ability to present what they learned, and engage their families in their learning processes.
The CARES Science Fair was a great example of what is taking place all over in out-of-school time programs and other youth-serving organizations.