Another way that formal and informal science settings can join forces is to offer unique opportunities for students through out-of-school-time programs. Historically, relationships between schools and out-of-school programs—particularly community-based out-of-school programs—have often been characterized by mutual mistrust and conflict. In a report based on 10 years of research studying approximately 120 youth-based community organizations throughout the United States,15 Milbrey McLaughlin explains:
Adults working with youth organizations frequently believe that school people do not respect or value their young people. Educators, for their part, generally see youth organizations as mere “fun” and as having little to contribute to the business of schools. Moreover, educators often establish professional boundaries around learning and teaching, considering them the sole purview of teachers. If we want to better serve our youth, there is an obvious need for rethinking the relationship between schools and out-of-school programs, particularly for out-of-school programs that have an academic focus such as science.16
There are different models of relationships between schools and out-of-school programs.17 At one extreme, there is the model of “unified” programs that are the equivalent of what is now called extended-day programming. Under this model, out-of-school programs can become essentially indistinguishable from school, since they take place in the same space and are usually under the same leadership (the school principal). At the other extreme lie “self-contained” programs, which intentionally choose to be separate from schools. Taking place in a different location, they often provide students with an entirely different experience from school.
Many programs operate between these two extremes. In some cases, the out-of-school curriculum is closely connected to the school curriculum. In such programs, the program coordinators and staff know on a week-by-week basis the material teachers are covering in class and can directly connect it to out-of-school activities. The result is that the out-of-school science experience is essentially an extension of school science, but with a more informal feel.
In other cases, the out-of-school science programs connect their activities to the general school science curriculum and standards but not to what students