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The Role of Afterschool and Community Science Programs in the Lives of Urban Youth


  • Author Note: The authors wish to thank all the girls (big and small) of the program Scientifines for their participation in the research project. The research on that program was supported in part by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture de Québec. The authors also wish to thank the staff and students of the University of Northern Colorado Upward Bound Mathematics and Science program “COSMOS” for their participation as well as their assistance in locating and tracking the students. Thanks to Dr. Edward Bilsky and his lab for serving as a mentor, and special thanks to Dalton Miller-Jones, Elizabeth Swanson, and Shandy Hauk for their helpful comments and stimulating discussions.

  • This work was supported in part by grants from the U.S. Department of Education (P047M 990093-00) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (ESI-0119786).

  • Jrène Rahm, Université de Montréal, Faculté des sciences de l'éducation, Département de psychopédagogie et d'andragogie; Marie-Paule Martel-Reny, Department of Religion, Concordia University; John C. Moore, University of Northern Colorado, Mathematics and Science Teaching Institute.

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concerning this article should be addressed to Jrène Rahm, Université de Montréal, Faculté des sciences de l'éducation, Département de psychopédagogie et d'andragogie, C.P. 6128, succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, QC, H3C 3J7, CANADA.


Afterschool and community science programs have become widely recognized as important sanctuaries for science learning for low-income urban youth and as offering them with “missing opportunities.” Yet, more needs to be known about how youth, themselves, perceive such opportunities. What motivates youth to seek out such opportunities in the nonschool hours? How do youth describe the doing and talking of science in such programs? Given such descriptions, how do youth perceive the role of these programs in their lives? This paper relies on stories from three youth drawn from a multisited ethnographic study, one site being an afterschool girls-only science program at the elementary level in Canada and the other an Upward Bound Math and Science program in the USA. The paper concludes with a discussion about the ways these programs offered youth a meaningful way to relate to science in concordance with their own lived experiences, resulting in “I will” and “I can” attitudes and a sense of hope for the future within which science becomes a tool for action.