Inspired Minds

Inspired Minds

Children’s time outside of school should be spent cultivating curiosity, which is what the best STEM experiences are designed to do. Our Inspired Minds portfolio supports organizations that improve access to out-of-school STEM opportunities, allowing children to unlock their curiosity and explore mind-expanding challenges.

All students have access to out-of-school STEM experiences that help them achieve their full potential

Increase the quantity and quality of out-of-school STEM experiences that cultivate children’s curiosity while teaching them to work in teams, base reasoning on evidence, and solve problems through experimentation

By the Numbers

  • Millions of children reached
  • 6 states providing additional funding for STEM programs
  • 68 STEM Learning Ecosystems

Our approach

  • Increase access to high quality out-of-school STEM experiences through direct programmatic funding and support of a local ecosystem approach
  • Lead advocacy efforts to establish federal, state, and local funding for out-of-school STEM learning opportunities
  • Encourage young people and their families to have a positive view of math by elevating math to the same level as literacy in early childhood education

What we’ve learned

  • Over 75% of afterschool funding comes from parents, resulting in a 6,000 hour education gap by 6th grade between low-income students and their middle income peers (ExpandED Schools).
  • Out of school programs improve both social-emotional and academic measures. Students regularly participating in afterschool programs improve work habits, demonstrate higher levels of persistence, and skip less school (Vandell et al., 2007). They also experience increases in academic performance and improve the likelihood of graduating from high school (Afterschool Alliance, 2013b). OFF grantee Khan Academy found that students who used their test prep resources for at least 20 hours gained an average of a 115-point increase from the PSAT to the SAT, nearly double the average gain of students who did not practice on an official SAT Practice test.
  • Early math skills are the best predictor of later academic success, better than early literacy (Duncan et al., 2007). Math skills upon entering kindergarten are the best predictor of 8th grade performance regardless of race, gender, or SES; children who consistently struggle with math are less likely to receive a high school diploma or attend college.
  • The math achievement gap between low‐ and high‐income students narrows when low‐income students attend afterschool programs (Auger et al., 2013). OFF grantee EdFirst hopes to bridge this achievement gap through its Family Math initiative, which advocates for programs that expose children to math early and often in a non-academic setting.
  • Children cannot be what they do not see. Students imagine scientists to be white, middle‐class, male, and “brainy”–which is, for many, not who they see when they look in the mirror (ASPIRES Project, 2014). Exposure to science not only changes a child’s understanding of his/her identity, but impacts learning and career trajectory (Dabney et al., 2011).
  • Three out of ten Americans consider themselves bad at math, with over half of 18- to 34-year olds regularly saying they can’t do math (Dickerson, 2013).

Sample Grantees


“The 6,000-Hour Learning Gap.” ExpandED Schools. October 30, 2013.

Vandell, D., Reisner, E., & Pierce, K. (2007). Outcomes linked to high-quality afterschool programs: Longitudinal findings from the study of promising practices. Irvine, CA: University of California and Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates.

Afterschool Alliance (2013). Evaluations backgrounder: A summary of formal evaluations of afterschool programs’ impact on academic, behavior, safety and family life. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from

Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., . . . Japel, C. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1428-1446.

Auger, A., Pierce, K. M. and Vandell, D. L. (April, 2013). Participation in Out-of-School Settings and Student Academic and Behavioral Outcomes. Unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

ASPIRES Project (2014). ASPIRES: Young people’s science and career aspirations, age 10‐14. London: King’s College London. Retrieved from‐final‐report‐December‐2013.pdf

Dabney, K., Tai, R., Almarode, J., Miller‐Friedmann, J., Sonnert, G., Sadler, P., & Hazari, Z. (2011). Out-of‐school time science activities and their association with career interest in STEM. International Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement, 2(1), 63‐79.

Dickerson, Kelly. “‘I’m Not A Math Person’ Is No Longer A Valid Excuse.” Business Insider. November 18, 2013.