Americans think about and respond to the topics of STEM education and learning in out-of-school settings in patterned ways. Sometimes, this can undermine their support for effective solutions, and cause them to ignore what afterschool advocates are calling for. It is crucial that we become aware of and familiar with these default patterns of understanding in order to accurately anticipate what our communications efforts must overcome.

The FrameWorks Institute, a nonprofit communications think tank, has identified the most effective ways of communicating about afterschool STEM education, and the strategies detailed here have been tested for their ability to improve public understanding and increase support for key reforms. In all, more than 6,350 Americans were queried as part of this specific research through interviews, surveys and focus groups. Over 400 articles and communication materials were analyzed.

Whether you're talking with a policy maker, a funder, potential community or school partners, or parents, there are common framing strategies that can help make a powerful argument for why afterschool STEM matters. And by using materials from theAfterschool STEM Hub, your local advocacy efforts will harmonize with the efforts of afterschool STEM advocates across the nation. Speaking a common language, we can amplify our voices, assure greater attention to these issues, and expand children's access to effective afterschool STEM learning.

Quick Start

Say This, Not That

The communications research has discovered that many of the common arguments made by STEM education advocates have unintended and sometime unproductive effects on our audience. Here's a quick tour of themes to avoid, compared with alternatives to advance.

Making the Case for STEM Learning: An Online Course

This online course will provide you with the most comprehensive understanding of the communications research on how the American public thinks about STEM education and out-of-school time learning. This course is accessible at no cost through March 2017. frameworksacademy.org

Learn to Speak "STEM-ish": An Afterschool Alliance Webinar Series

This two-part recorded webinar series provides an overview of the FrameWorks Institute's research-based communications strategies that boost public support for afterschool STEM programs. It overviews a few of the communications traps that can weaken your messages' effectiveness and practice staying out of those traps by applying tested tools that work to increase people's understanding of informal STEM learning, how it works, and why it matters.

The Communications Research

"You Have to Have the Basics Down Really Well": Mapping the Gaps Between Expert and Public Understandings of STEM Learning

Compares expert and public perspectives on STEM education and informal learning, identifying specific opportunities for bringing new information and new ways of thinking about STEM education into public thinking and conversation.

Missing Matter: Holes in the Media Narrative about Informal and Formal STEM Learning

Analyzes 283 relevant stories from newspapers, television broadcasts and news-oriented blogs to deepen understanding of the media narrative that shapes public understanding.

Narrative Holes in STEM Storytelling: A Field Frame Analysis

Analyzes communications materials from organizations advocating for STEM education reform, pointing out themes and trends suggesting that changes in advocacy tactics might be warranted.

Mapping the Gaps on Where and When Learning Takes Place

An interactive multi-media report that compares expert explanations with public understandings of the spaces and times where learning occurs, yielding insights into opportunities for building public awareness.

How Media Portray Learning Space and Time

Examines dominant media frames regarding learning space and time, pointing out opportunities for advocates to influence the conversation.

Putting It Back Together Again: Reframing Education Using a Core Story Approach

Recommends specific reframing tools that showed strong results in shifting public thinking away from nostalgia-driven pushback to time reforms, and built public support for expanding out-of-school learning opportunities.