View all text of Chapter 16 [§ 1861 - § 1887]

§ 1862q. Informal STEM education
(a) Grants
The Director of the National Science Foundation, through the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, shall continue to award competitive, merit-reviewed grants to support—
(1) research and development of innovative out-of-school STEM learning and emerging STEM learning environments in order to improve STEM learning outcomes and engagement in STEM;
(2) research that advances the field of informal STEM education;
(3) a national partnership of institutions involved in informal STEM learning; and
(4) the integration of art and design in STEM educational programs.
(b) Uses of funds
Activities supported by grants under this section may encompass a single STEM discipline, multiple STEM disciplines, or integrative STEM initiatives and shall include—
(1) research and development that improves our understanding of learning and engagement in informal environments, including the role of informal environments in broadening participation in STEM;
(2) design and testing of innovative STEM learning models, programs, and other resources for informal learning environments to improve STEM learning outcomes and increase engagement for K–12 students, K–12 teachers, and the general public, including design and testing of the scalability of models, programs, and other resources;
(3) fostering on-going partnerships between institutions involved in informal STEM learning, institutions of higher education, and education research centers;
(4) developing, and making available informal STEM education activities and educational materials; and
(5) design and testing of programming that integrates art and design in STEM education to promote creativity and innovation.
(c) PreK–12 informal STEM
(1) In general

The Director of the National Science Foundation shall make awards, through existing programs where appropriate to institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations (or consortia of such intuitions 1

1 So in original. Probably should be “institutions”.
or organizations) on a merit-reviewed, competitive basis for research on effective approaches to engaging students in PreK–12, including students from groups historically underrepresented in STEM and rural students.

(2) Purposes
The purposes of this subsection are to—
(A) provide effective, compelling, and engaging means for teaching and reinforcing fundamental STEM concepts to PreK–12 students;
(B) expand the STEM workforce pipeline by increasing the number of youth in the United States exposed to STEM from an early age and encourage them to pursue careers in STEM-related fields; and
(C) broaden participation of groups historically underrepresented in STEM and rural students, in the STEM workforce.
(3) Use of funds
(A) In general

Awards made under this subsection shall support research and development on innovative before-school, after-school, out-of-school, or summer activities that are designed to encourage interest, engagement, and skills development in STEM, including for students from groups historically underrepresented in STEM and rural students.

(B) Permitted activities
The research and development activities described in subparagraph (A) may include—
(i) the provision of programming described in such subparagraph for the purpose of research described in such subparagraph;
(ii) the use of a variety of engagement methods, including cooperative and hands-on learning;
(iii) exposure of students to role models in the fields of STEM and near-peer mentors;
(iv) training of informal learning educators, youth-serving professionals, and volunteers who lead informal STEM programs in using evidence-based methods consistent with the target student population being served;
(v) education of students on the relevance and significance of STEM careers, provision of academic advice and assistance, and activities designed to help students make real-world connections to STEM span;
(vi) the preparation of students to attend events, competitions, and academic programs that provide span expertise and encourage career exposure in STEM, which may include the purchase of parts and supplies needed to prepare for participation in such competitions;
(vii) activities designed to engage parents and families of students in PreK–12 in STEM;
(viii) innovative strategies to engage students, such as using leadership skills and outcome measures to impart youth with the confidence to pursue STEM coursework and academic study;
(ix) coordination with STEM-rich environments, including other nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations, out-of- 2
2 So in original.
classroom settings, institutions of higher education, vocational facilities, corporations, museums, or science centers; and
(x) the acquisition of instructional materials or technology-based tools to conduct applicable award activity.
(4) Application
An applicant seeking funding under this subsection shall submit an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as may be required by the Director. Applications that include or partner with a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that has extensive experience and expertise in increasing the participation of students in PreK–12 in STEM are encouraged. At a minimum, the application shall include the following:
(A) A description of the target audience to be served by the research activity or activities for which such funding is sought.
(B) A description of the process for recruitment and selection of students to participate in such activities.
(C) A description of how such activity or activities may inform programming that engages students in PreK–12 in STEM.
(D) A description of how such activity or activities may inform programming that promotes student academic achievement in STEM.
(E) An evaluation plan that includes, at a minimum, the use of outcome-oriented measures to determine the impact and efficacy of programming being researched.
(5) Evaluations

Each recipient of an award under this subsection shall provide, at the conclusion of every year during which the award funds are received, a report in a form prescribed by the Director.

(6) Encourage applications
In making awards under this subsection, the Director shall encourage applications which, for the purpose of the activity or activities funded through the award, are from or include eligible nonprofit programs serving students that attend elementary schools or secondary schools (including high schools) that—
(A) are implementing comprehensive support and improvement activities or targeted support and improvement activities under paragraph (1) or (2) of section 6311(d) of title 20; or
(B) serve high percentages of students who are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq.) (which, in the case of a high school, may be calculated using comparable data from the schools that feed into the high school).
(7) Accountability and dissemination
(A) Evaluation required
The Director shall evaluate the activities established under this subsection. Such evaluation shall—
(i) use a common set of benchmarks and tools to assess the results of research conducted under such awards; and
(ii) to the extent practicable, integrate the findings of the research resulting from the activity or activities funded through the award with the current research on serving students with respect to the pursuit of degrees or careers in STEM, including underrepresented and rural students, in PreK–12.
(B) Report on evaluations
Not later than 180 days after the completion of the evaluation under subparagraph (A), the Director shall submit to Congress and make widely available to the public a report that includes—
(i) the results of the evaluation; and
(ii) any recommendations for administrative and legislative action that could optimize the effectiveness of the program under this subsection.
(8) Coordination

In carrying out this subsection, the Director shall, for purposes of enhancing program effectiveness and avoiding duplication of activities, consult, and coordinate with other relevant Federal agencies.

(Pub. L. 114–59, § 3, Oct. 7, 2015, 129 Stat. 540; Pub. L. 114–329, title III, § 311, Jan. 6, 2017, 130 Stat. 3013; Pub. L. 117–167, div. B, title III, §§ 10311(b), 10319(b), Aug. 9, 2022, 136 Stat. 1511, 1536.)