Involving Undergraduate and Graduate Students in Afterschool Programs

Return to Five Stars home
Return to Five Stars Intergenerational Model

The following is a list of suggestions for contacting and working successfully with undergraduate and graduate students in out-of-school programs. While many of these suggestions are tailored to finding female students in physics and astronomy, the same strategies can be used to identify possible role models of all genders and in other academic fields.

Finding Students

two young women looking at lab

UC Berkeley undergraduate student and Girls Inc. teen participant explore science together.

  • Do an internet search to identify local colleges and universities. You’ll likely want to look for schools that have a robust physics and astronomy department, as indicated by several courses offered by numerous faculty members. At minimum, the school should offer introductory level physics or astronomy courses in which students learn about the electromagnetic spectrum. This information can be found by searching the college’s website for departmental pages and course catalog.
  • Alternatively, you could consider targeting the college’s Education Department to find students who are studying to become science teachers. Students in these programs often learn both science content and pedagogical strategies which can be useful in out-of-school program settings.
  • Once you have identified an appropriate local college, search their website to look for student organizations who may be interested in outreach and/or increasing diversity in STEM fields. Possibilities include campus mentoring organizations, women in STEM clubs and campus groups that offer outreach to local schools and community organizations. Even if you don’t find anything promising right away, it can help to call some people whose phone numbers you find during your search to talk with them about what you are looking for. This may result in being put in contact with key leaders who can help you facilitate connections with students.
  • Explore the college’s physics and astronomy website to identify department heads and/or other leaders who you can contact to ask for assistance in reaching students. You may want to ask professors to make an announcement to their classes that you are looking for students to get involved with your afterschool program.
  • Consider contacting the college’s student career center to inquire about partnering with the college to offer the afterschool program instructor as an official student job or work-study position.
  • If possible, try to select students who are familiar with the community in which your organization operates. This could include factors related to culture, ethnicity, religion and/or socioeconomics.

Working with Students

  • Consider hiring the students as guest instructors in your program. This formalizes their participation and puts them on equal footing with the other afterschool program instructors.
  • Require or encourage students to attend training sessions that familiarize them with best practices in working with children in out-of-school settings.
  • Be explicit about your expectations regarding behavior. This can include basics such as what time to show up, what kind of dress is (or is not) appropriate, what kind of language is (or is not) appropriate, etc. Model for the students what kind of behavior you expect from them.
  •  Let them know about the culture of your organization and the culture of the students
  • Be available for the students to talk through issues as they arise. In some cases, this may be the first job the student has had or it may be the first time they have worked with children. They may need some guidance and training to help them be successful.
  • Expect that scheduling conflicts will arise. Students will need to balance their participation in your program with a variety of other demands, such as class schedules, assignment and exam deadlines, extracurricular commitments and social events. They may not be available during college breaks such as spring break or summer recess. On the other hand, these college breaks may be ideal times for a student to dedicate more effort to your program. Ask the student directly about their commitments and availability.
  • Be explicit about whether or not the work is paid or volunteer. Many students will be happy to volunteer for short periods of time, especially if it gives them experience that they can list on their resume. However, if you are asking for a longer-term or more involved commitment, then it would be appropriate to provide an hourly salary or honorarium.
  • Consider transportation options for students to travel to and from the college location to your program location. Public transportation is often the best option but not always available or feasible. In some urban areas, car share services such as City Car Share or Zipcar are viable transportation alternatives. These companies often offer incentives or discounts for students to sign up through their university. 
Multiverse skin is based on Greytness by Adammer