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Snacks by Robert Abare
NOV
28
2016

RESEARCH
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New report sees how state policies can promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

By Robert Abare

This post was originally published by the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition.

new report from RTI International examines an emerging trend that uses state policy to promote healthy eating and physical activity in afterschool and other out-of-school-time (OST) programs. Based on stakeholder interviews and state case studies, the authors conclude that the state policy approach holds significant promise if it avoids creating unfunded mandates.

Jean Wiecha and Kristen Capogrossi of RTI International, in "Using State Laws and Regulations to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity in Afterschool Programs," explain that the National AfterSchool Association Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards, developed by HOST in 2011, have offered comprehensive guidance to the OST field on how to promote healthy eating and physical activity. Large national organizations have adopted some or all of these standards in their programs--but recent studies suggest that about 40 percent of NAA members still have not heard of them. State or local laws present one option to increase awareness, uptake, and implementation of these standards,

Wiecha and Capogrossi therefore interviewed nine experts who were knowledgeable about the NAA HEPA Standards and active in national OST policy, advocacy, and service issues. They also conducted case studies in California and North Carolina, which have had recent experience with legislation in this area. They concluded:

Under the right circumstances and when crafted the right way, state policy approaches have the potential to result in faster, more equitable, and more thorough improvements to healthy eating and physical activity in OST settings compared with the status quo focus on private-sector dissemination and training efforts. Regulation that uses incentives and voluntary participation could result in increasing the number of OST programs promoting health among children and their families in low-resource communities. In addition, regulation (especially when integrated with existing OST regulation) could serve to elevate healthy eating and physical activity to the same level of importance as other regulated OST quality content areas.

At the same time, the authors caution that "policy efforts should proceed carefully in order to allow the field the opportunity to identify which best practices in policy design maximize benefit and minimize risk," and suggest that different states may wish to move forward at different speeds. They add, "Policy efforts should explicitly identify and mitigate the risk of creating unfunded mandates, which may have the unintended consequence of widening quality gaps between high- and low-resources sites or, worse, drive low-resource sites out of business by imposing costs and other burdens involved with the improvement process."

The report was commissioned by the Healthy Eating Research Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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learn more about: Health and Wellness State Policy
NOV
18
2016

LIGHTS ON
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These twin sisters celebrated Lights On Afterschool 2016 by becoming math champions

By Robert Abare

One might not think that basketball can help kids gain critical math skills. But for twin sisters Patricia and Angela Rodas, that’s exactly the case. The Rodas sisters have become rather like local celebrities in the San Francisco Bay Area through their success in NBA Math Hoops, a board game and curriculum that helps kids learn math through the lens of professional basketball. 

To play NBA Math Hoops (and learn math at the same time) students divide into teams to analyze NBA and WNBA players’ stats, strategize, and solve increasingly complex math problems. On October 6, 2016, the Rodas twins showed off their math expertise gained through NBA Math Hoops by winning (for the second year in a row!) the Bay Area NBA Math Hoops championship, as part of the national kick-off for Lights On Afterschool 2016.

Colleen Johnston, Program Manager for Bay Area Community Resources (BACR), has overseen the implementation of NBA Math Hoops at 55 of BACR’s afterschool program sites. Next year, NBA Math Hoops will be rolled out to more than 60 BACR schools in the Bay Area. Currently, NBA Hoops is in over 100 schools in the Bay Area.  It is primarily being played during Out of School time.

“This is disguised learning at its best,” said Johnston about NBA Math Hoops. “The game is fast paced, so it keeps kids engaged, and the curriculum associated with the game builds over time, so it has the capacity to teach both very basic math skills and the very advanced.”

Indeed, the Rodas twins said NBA Math Hoops is helping them succeed in the classroom. “Math Hoops has helped me get better with multiplication and be more confident in the classroom,” said Angela.

Angela added, “My parents like NBA Math Hoops because it’s improved my grades.”

Thanks to their previous success playing NBA Math Hoops and their participation in this year’s national Lights On Afterschool kick-off event, the Rodas twins have become local role models for their peers, showing them that anyone can do well in math. The twins have also helped shine a light on the power of afterschool programs to teach kids valuable STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.

“When they first started playing NBA Math Hoops, the twins were very shy and didn’t like public speaking,” said Johnston. “Now, they’ve become like local celebrities. The game has helped them realize how much they love math, and their confidence has grown so much that they’re already talking about college.”

Johnston also praised the curriculum for its ability to engage both boys and girls. “NBA Math Hoops includes both NBA and WNBA players, so both boys and girls can get excited about the game,” she said. “And for the past two years, the majority of the teams in the Elite 8 of the Bay Area NBA Math Hoops championship have been girls.”

BACR afterschool programs helped their students make strides in math for Lights On Afterschool on October 20, 2016, when programs held mini NBA Math Hoops tournaments, carnivals, and open houses. Lights On Afterschool calls national attention to how afterschool programs, like BACR and the program’s implementation of NBA Math Hoops, are working to provide kids with hands-on STEM learning experiences that prepare them for our complex and changing world.

NOV
4
2016

LIGHTS ON
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This program used Lights On Afterschool to shine a light on health and wellness

By Robert Abare

For the Boys and Girls Club of East Los Angeles (BGCELA), encouraging kids to lead healthy lifestyles goes hand-in-hand with the other areas of the organization’s mission: building students’ academic success and developing their character. For Lights On Afterschool 2016, BGCELA celebrated its achievements in keeping kids healthy by embracing a fun and unusual theme: bubbles.

BGCELA hosted a community 5K “Bubble Run” for Lights On Afterschool last month, providing a fun outlet for kids, their families, and local celebrities to get active while celebrating the importance of health and wellness education. Participants in the Bubble Run walked or jogged through mountains of bubbles at various checkpoints along the run, where local radio stations also filled the air with their music.

Happy memories lead to lifelong healthy habits

“It basically looked like a washing machine exploded,” said Anna Araujo, Executive Director of BGCELA and former Afterschool Ambassador. “We wanted to use this event to make healthy habits as fun and interactive for the kids as possible. That way, we give kids happy memories related to healthy activities, and those practices become lifelong habits.”

The event was emceed by Peter Daut, a local news anchor, and celebrity appearances were made by Luis Guzman of Code Black, Boxer Victor Ortiz, DJ Cece The Mamacita of KDAY, telenovela actor Adriana Fonseca, singer Miguelilto and actor Anthony “Citric” Campos of The George Lopez Show.

In keeping with the theme, kids also played “Bubble Soccer” at BGCELA’s Lights On Afterschool event, thanks to a local vendor. A local Electronic Dance Music (EDM) fitness program also led the event’s warm up activities, and various vendors offered samples of healthy foods and drinks (and water was provided at no cost).

Boxer Victor Ortiz races with singer Miguelito. Actor Luis Guzman signs a student's Bubble Run t-shirt.
NOV
1
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Evaluating afterschool: Evaluation as a mission-driven investment

By Robert Abare

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the second installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which turns to program providers in the field to answer some of the common questions asked about program evaluation. Be sure to take a look at the first post of the series, which explores evaluation lessons from Dallas Afterschool.

This post is written by Jason Spector, senior research & evaluation manager for After-School All-Stars, a national afterschool program serving more than 70,000 low-income, at-risk students across 11 states and the District of Columbia.

The After-School All-Stars of South Florida celebrated Lights On Afterschool 2016 with the Miami Marlins.

I recently left a meeting thinking I’m no longer doing the job I was hired to do. But for a professional evaluator of afterschool programs, change is a good thing.

When I joined After-School All-Stars (ASAS) to launch our national evaluation department two and a half years ago, my primary goal was to measure and support ASAS’ outcomes as the organization entered into an expansion phase. While I currently maintain this responsibility, our national evaluation team is now focused on examining program quality as opposed to outcomes measurement. Why the change? Simply put, we realized our top priority was to boost our quality, because when we do, the impact and outcomes will follow. 

This type of a shift is not an easy decision for a nonprofit to make. As nonprofits move toward more advanced outcomes measurements to satisfy increasingly savvy funders, leaders everywhere are faced with some critical questions:

  1. Should I deepen my organization’s investment in evaluation?
  2. What can I expect to receive in return?

These questions carry an assumption that an investment in evaluation is inherently not an investment in your organization’s mission and programs. Furthermore, many program leaders assume that evaluations must yield large positive outcomes in order to attract new funders and compensate for the “cost” of not putting dollars directly into program operations. But this logic fails to consider the many benefits evaluations afford organizations. 

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learn more about: Evaluations Guest Blog
OCT
24
2016

LIGHTS ON
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Diverse partners helped keep the Lights On Afterschool this year

By Robert Abare

As you might have heard, Lights On Afterschool 2016 was a big success! Thousands (8,200 to be exact!) of programs and leaders hosted events in their communities. The Empire State Building glowed yellow on the evening of October 20, along with the Orlando Eye, the Tampa Bay Ray's Tropicana Field and the 35 W Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The nation’s celebration of afterschool would not have been possible without enthusiastic participation from a host of partners, ranging from national organizations that serve thousands of kids to local programs that help small communities.

Major afterschool providers took part in Lights On Afterschool 2016, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, YMCA of the USA, After-School All Stars, Camp Fire, and 4-H, which celebrated in coordination with National Youth Science Day. And more than 100 allied organizations lent their voices and support, including the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), the STEM Education Coalition, The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the Association of Science - Technology Centers (ASTC), the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), and the Administration for Children and Families' Office of Child Care.

At the national and local levels, companies offered their support in many ways, from donating materials to helping build public awareness. Bright House Networks provided hands-on STEM learning experiences for hundreds of afterschool  kids across Florida, and Marriott provided funds for posters and online tools for sites. Nickelodeon teamed up to keep kids physically active by celebrating Lights On Afterschool with Worldwide Day of Play.  Scholastic gave away 300 books to Lights On sites; WRiTE BRAiN BOOKS gave away their publishing-based literacy program; STEMfinity provided $2000 of experiment kits; and Torani sent celebratory party supplies to the winners of our national Lights On Afterschool poster contest.

All 50 statewide afterschool networks mobilized and supported communities across their states, and worked with 44 Governors who proclaimed October 20 Lights On Afterschool day. The mayor of the District of Columbia also issued a proclamation in support of Lights On Afterschool.

A number of prominent figures, from national foundations to local mayors, added their voice to raise awareness of Lights On Afterschool on social media. These advocates include:

Just like the learning experiences that happen after school, this year's Lights On events came in all shapes and sizes, and provided diverse opportunities for kids to learn, grow and speak out. Thank you!

Although the official day of Lights On Afterschool has passed, many celebrations will continue into early November. Please continue to send us descriptions and photos of your Lights On Afterschool celebrations to loa@afterschoolalliance.org.

OCT
18
2016

LIGHTS ON
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Video: Math Champs help kick off Lights On Afterschool 2016

By Robert Abare

On October 6, we joined Learn Fresh, the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings to kick off Lights On Afterschool 2016 with a special NBA Math Hoops tournament at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. Take a look inside the celebration with our executive director Jodi Grant and tournament winners Patricia and Angela Rodas, who triumphed in a nailbiter 30-29 championship round to earn their third straight Bay Area Math Hoops title.

Join the national rally for afterschool this week!

Then, join us on Thursday, October 20 to celebrate Lights On Afterschool at one of 8,000 events across the country! If you’re not hosting an event or finalizing your event with one of these last-minute ideas, consider finding one to attend in your community. Or, participate on-the-go by signing the Lights On Afterschool petition and joining the conversation on social media using the hashtag #LightsOnAfterschool!

OCT
17
2016

IN THE FIELD
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HEPA standards keep kids nourished and active in Johnson County, Kansas

By Robert Abare

Written by Matt Freeman

Participants in Johnson County Parks and Recreation District's "Kids' Triathlon." Image via JCPRD on Facebook.

In Kim Chappelow-Lee’s telling, “the graham cracker community” doesn’t change its ways easily. In her role as Children’s Services Manager for the Johnson County, Kansas, Park and Recreation District, Chappelow-Lee challenged her team to adopt Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards within the district’s 30 afterschool sites, which collectively serve 1,800 children.

Particularly on the healthy eating front, however, the transition required overcoming a certain resistance to change. “We’ve totally revamped our food service and snack menu,” she explains. “But it wasn’t easy. It’s much simpler to serve processed, packaged foods to large groups than fresh items.” She says that program directors and staff were both “reluctant to give up convenience, and skeptical of how children would receive such a drastic change.”

To get over that hump, Chappelow-Lee’s team sought help from a nutritionist at the local health department, who went through the existing menus with staff and a nutritionist, bringing an outside and expert voice to the conversation and reinforcing the need to move away from the status quo.

“We can now honestly say that we’re serving healthy snacks and that there’s always fresh fruit or vegetables on the menu,” Chappelow-Lee says. That marks a significant change from a menu that was heavy on graham crackers, cereal and other processed food. “Those kinds of items were easy to get at the Sam’s Club, and easy to store. But it left us feeding children a lot of goldfish crackers. We had a ‘snack-em’ mentality, where we wanted to get this over within five minutes or so.”

“We can now honestly say that we’re serving healthy snacks and that there’s always fresh fruit or vegetables on the menu.” 

As a result of HEPA, snacks are now incorporated into the wind-down period at the beginning of each afternoon. Food is served family style, and staff encourage children to linger and unwind from the school day. “We’ve also incorporated some cooking clubs where they prepare food one day and consume it the next. They might create a ranch dip and prepare carrots, celery and sliced peppers. Last winter, they made a lot of quick and easy soups and stews to cook in the crock pot for the next day. And we’ve gotten rid of the ‘let’s get this over with’ attitude. That’s been a very positive change.”

She adds that while healthier foods are a bit more expensive for the program, “it’s not nearly as budget-prohibitive as we thought it would be, so it’s not breaking the bank.”

OCT
5
2016

LIGHTS ON
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Programs across the USA are gearing up for Lights On Afterschool 2016!

By Robert Abare

Tomorrow, October 6, we are kicking off the 17th annual Lights On Afterschool with Learn Fresh, the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings on a big national stage: a game between the Warriors and the Kings at the SAP Center in San Jose, California! Before the 7:30 p.m. tipoff on Thursday, 16 top student “Math Champs” from the Bay Area and Sacramento will put their math knowledge to the test in a special NBA Math Hoops tournament. 

The Warriors' Klay Thompson plays a game of NBA Math Hoops with a student. Photo via NBA Math Hoops on Instagram.

NBA Math Hoops is a board game and curriculum that teaches kids math skills through a lens they know and love—basketball! Learn Fresh, a program provider that involves more than 10,000 students across 15 states, uses NBA Math Hoops to teach students critical math skills they need to succeed. Students and sites participating in NBA Math Hoops are rewarded for excellent performance with apparel, NBA game tickets and experiences with NBA players.

Last year, participating Math Champs solved more than 9 million math problems, and 64 percent improved their test scores!

Now you can educate your community about the value of including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) experiences after school with tools from a new online course from FrameWorks Academy: “Making the Case for STEM Learning.” The course is free for a limited time, sign up today!

See how sites across the country are preparing to celebrate Lights On 2016: