We are no longer collecting data for this study, but have retained this page to provide some information about the study design. Thanks for your interest!

What is MOST-Science?

MOST-Science stands for Mapping Out-of-School-Time Science. It is a research study to understand the variations and commonalities of U.S. out-of-school-time (OST) programs for youth that focus on science, technology, or engineering.

Many educators, funders and policy-makers believe in the value of OST science experiences for young people. But as a community, we do not yet have a good understanding of exactly what kinds of programs are out there— their goals and the practices that best help them to achieve those goals. Our study aims to describe this vast and diverse national landscape, and to lay the groundwork for future studies that examine the goals, practices, and outcomes of OST science programs in greater depth.

What programs are included in the MOST-Science Study?

We have defined our study sample as youth programs

  • conducted outside school time— after school, weekends, and summer
  • for youth in school grades 6-12
  • focused on science, technology or engineering
  • engaging students in work with other youth (e.g. group projects) or with the public (e.g. as a science center volunteer).

We focus on the middle and high school years because this is when students' science interests often decline or strengthen, and when they begin to make decisions about their future careers.

We use the term "science" inclusively, meaning technology and engineering as well as life, physical, Earth and space sciences. Sometimes these disciplinary distinctions matter more to adults than to young people!

We do not generally use the term STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) because we view this term as describing career fields rather than youth interests. We also exclude mathematics-focused programs, a choice that reflects our interest in hands-on investigation and design experiences. Likewise, our choice to focus on group-oriented programs, rather than those for individual students, reflects our interest in collaborative learning.

Many OST programs focus on math and non-STEM disciplines, are conducted mainly online, or target younger kids. All of these are worthwhile subjects to study—but the youth OST community is so rich and diverse, we have to draw the line somewhere to design a manageable study.

Is my program "science-focused" enough?

Your program may be science-focused if youth...

  • spend time learning about specific science content
  • interact with science-trained staff or STEM professionals
  • do activities that involve inquiry, investigation, or design
  • are connected to a scientific or technical organization such as a museum or national laboratory.

We include any youth program whose organizers describe it as science-focused, science-rich, or centered on science, engineering or STEM topics. Science-focused youth programs may also include mathematics, computing, technology activities, reading, writing, public speaking, the arts, games and recreation, leadership training, self-esteem building... and more! There is no universal agreement about what counts as "enough" science. We trust your description of what is important to you.

Why should I participate?

When you profile your programs in our nation-wide database, you:

  • Highlight your organization and its youth programs to our research team
  • Contribute to a study that will inform funders, policy-makers, researchers and other program providers about the great work in this community and the needs that remain to be addressed
  • Help to identify common needs and challenges for youth OST science programs
  • Support development of future research studies to examine the development, education and career outcomes for youth who participate in OST science programs.

In addition, you have a chance to win a $50 gift certificate! One winner's name will be drawn randomly from every group of 15 responses in order of completion. Each winner will be notified by e-mail and will receive his or her choice of:

  • A $50 certificate good for purchases at Staples. Whether it's lab notebooks, rubber bands, sticky notes, or printer cartridges... you can use your Staples certificate to buy supplies to support your science and engineering activities.
  • A $50 donation to Donors Choose, an online charity that allows you to contribute to specific classroom projects requested by teachers all over the U.S.—and there are lots of great science projects on the list! Choose a favorite project, school or city, and make a donation that really matters to children's education.
Who should complete the questionnaire?

Because the questionnaire asks for in-depth information about each youth program, the best person to complete it will be someone who is familiar with both the day-to-day workings of the youth program and the bigger picture of your organization as a whole. If your organization offers several different youth programs, it may help to coordinate within your workplace so that each profile can be filled out by the person who manages that particular program.

We invite you to complete the questionnaire whether you run a local program or are affiliated with a larger, regional or national program (e.g. scouting, 4-H, Boys' & Girls' Clubs).

How do I participate?

To contribute to the study, you will first create an account on the questionnaire web site. Once you have created an account, you can log out and back in as often as necessary. You may contribute as many programs as you like.

After you have created an account and logged in, you will be prompted to build a Program Profile for each of your youth programs. The first few questions will check on certain program features that help us to define the study sample.

Later questions ask about the structure and educational content of your program, your youth audience, and adult involvement as facilitators or mentors. We will ask you to describe a typical activity that youth do as part of your program. We also ask for some information about your organization and the partners who help you bring your programs to youth. It may be helpful to have certain facts handy, such as:

  • the approximate number of youth who participated in your program last year
  • their approximate gender and ethnicity distribution
  • how many hours a typical youth participant spends in your program
  • the professional networks or organizations with which your organization is affiliated
  • major funding sources that have supported your work.
How long will it take me to complete the questionnaire?

It takes around 15 minutes to create one program profile. The total time needed will depend on how many programs you choose to contribute. For a large organization with many programs, it may take over an hour. However, once you have created an account, you can log out and back in as many times as necessary.

What do you mean by ... ? (Terms used in the MOST-Science Questionnaire)

We have defined certain terms that we use consistently. In this questionnaire, we refer to:

  • youth program - a particular out-of-school-time educational opportunity for young people. 
    Example: a summer engineering camp for middle school girls.
  • organization - any institution, company, school, community-based organization, or other group that offers a youth program. 
    Example: the university that organizes and hosts the girls' summer engineering camp.
  • partner - any organization that helps to provide curriculum, materials, instruction, physical space, guest speakers, mentors, facilitators or other volunteers for a youth program. We treat funding agencies separately.
    Example: a local company that assists the university by providing speakers and materials for the girls' engineering camp.
  • ladder - a set of sequenced youth programs through which participants may progress over time. 
    Example: the girls' engineering camp, followed by a leadership program for high school girls who previously attended the camp so that they can become camp counselors in future summers.
Is this study approved by the IRB?

The protocol for this study has received approval as human subjects research by the Institutional Research Board (IRB) at the University of Colorado Boulder. By completing the questionnaire, you are giving us permission to use your data as part of the study. Your individual and program information will remain confidential within the research team. If we choose to quote anything you write— for example to illustrate a theme or pattern in the data— we will remove any information that may identify you individually.

May I have access to the data?

Currently, the MOST-Science database is a research tool only. We are considering how, in the future, we will share the information we collect in ways that will be valuable to the OST community. Because the information you provide is confidential, we cannot share it with other participants or members of the public.

What are the next steps?

MOST-Science is only the first part of what we envision to be a larger research effort. We are collaborating with Robert Tai and colleagues at the University of Virginia to develop a longitudinal study of the outcomes of youth OST science and engineering education.

After the mapping study is complete, we plan to conduct in-depth field work at several youth program sites around the country. If you would like us to consider your program for further study, make sure to click 'YES' on the last item of the questionnaire, giving us permission to contact you in the future. This expresses your interest but does not oblige you to participate in any future studies.