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Digital Badge Pilot Encourages STEM Engagement

This summer, Cityspan partnered with Providence After School Alliance and Boston After School and Beyond to develop and pilot a digital badge platform. Funded by the Noyce Foundation, the pilot was designed to address the alarming drop in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) engagement that occurs between 4th and 9th grade. With flexible learning environments, after school programs are an ideal place to build STEM learning pathways for youth, and digital badges recognize and engage youth in this learning. In addition to validating the learning experience, these “micro-credentials” become part of a digital résumé designed to help students pursue higher education and careers in STEM.

The goal for the pilot was to build the digital badge infrastructure and test the badging process during Providence and Boston’s summer programs. By using Cityspan as the badge distribution platform, the agencies were able to align the badge framework across the two cities, ensuring uniformity and the ability to scale. At the city-level, they optimized their use of Cityspan by linking badge data with participation and assessment data being captured in Cityspan Provider. The criteria for earning a badge included participation in a variety of STEM activities and minimum scores on the Survey of Academic and Youth Outcomes (SAYO-T) assessment tool, a unique feature of the pilot. Using the SAYO-T, teachers reported evidence of growth in five competencies essential for STEM learning: critical thinking, perseverance, collaboration/teamwork, communication and engagement.

In total, more than 2,300 STEM badges were awarded across 500 participants in the pilot, results that prompted the Noyce Foundation to approve another round of funding. Phase two of the pilot will allow Providence and Boston to implement the badging process during the school year while Cityspan continues to incorporate new features into the digital badge platform. In addition, members of both agencies have committed to sharing their experiences with other afterschool city systems and STEM networks by providing tools and guidance to replicate the work.

Pilot design partners included the National Institute of Out-of-School Time (NIOST), Harvard University’s Program in Education, Afterschool and Resiliency (PEAR), and Every Hour Counts. Badge design by Boston’s Artists for Humanity.

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