The Sweet Spot of STEM

Learning has never tasted so good for youth at the Kasilof Boys & Girls Club. After receiving a STEM Afterschool Innovation Mini Grant earlier this year, Clubhouse youth opened their student-run Sweet Shoppe Bake Stand – and its offered them more than just tasty treats.

First, a community volunteer helped fourth-sixth grade students employ engineering and math skills to build the physical structure of the moveable bakery. Meanwhile, younger students, in grades 2-4, learned to bake the Sweet Shoppe’s first treat to hit the market: banana bread. When baking, youth used math skills in real-time to double recipes or cut recipes in half. Not only did youth gain confidence in the kitchen, they also learned a bit of hands-on science throughout the baking process, such as understanding how leavening agents work.


To market the bake stand, flyers were sent home with every student at Tustumena Elementary, which is the school the Clubhouse operates out of. The Club’s social media presence also boosted sales by marketing what the youth were doing and how they were learning from the experience.

The Sweet Shoppe conducted business outside the Clubhouse every Wednesday before and after school, with customers ranging from bus drivers to school staff to students to community members. Youth played an active role in managing the sales and accounting for the stand. The bake stand’s weekly profits typically ranged from $80-$100. And the profit margins weren’t bad, either, considering the community was more than willing to contribute monetary donations and ingredients such as eggs, flour, and sugar to support the youth. All proceeds benefited the Kasilof Boys & Girls Club.


The Sweet Shoppe also had a habit of giving back. Any leftover product that could not be frozen was given to teachers who needed a snack for their classroom or to the local youth group that met on Wednesdays after the bake stand closed. This helped members of the public view the Sweet Shoppe as a valuable addition to the community, as opposed to just another fundraiser.

By taking part in the entire process – from the building of the stand, to baking and conducting taste tests, to vending and money handling – the youth at Kasilof Boys & Girls Club were able to connect science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to the real world. The afterschool setting of the Clubhouse helped youth engage in hands-on learning and build their STEM identity. By the end of the selling season, most youth were asking relentlessly if they could help with the bake stand.


STEM Afterschool Innovation Mini Grants were designed to help afterschool programs, like the Kasilof Boys & Girls Club, implement or expand high-quality STEM learning. With funding support from BP Alaska, the Juneau Economic Development Council and the Alaska Afterschool Network awarded $24,000 to 16 programs across the state in January 2017.


The Kasilof Clubhouse plans to re-open the Sweet Shoppe at the start of 2017-2018 school year. To stay up-to-date on their bake stand and other Clubhouse activities, follow their Facebook page.