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SEP
21
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Gwinnett County's summer camp for kids gets boost from HEPA standards

By Robert Abare

Written by Matt Freeman

This past summer, more than 3,700 elementary and middle school children in the Atlanta, Georgia area took part in the Summer Camp Healthy Habits Program, a program run by Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation (GCPR). Over the course of seven weeks, children’s weekly lessons included such topics as healthy habits for the entire family, how to eat healthfully while dining out, the USDA’s MyPlate coloring tools, oral hygiene, germs, dehydration and food allergies. There were healthy doses of hands-on activities, sugar demonstrations revealing the amount of sugar in common drinks and snacks, and physical fitness challenges.

That rich menu of program offerings owes much to GCPR’s 2014 implementation of Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards in its summer program. The standards transformed a program built around standard summer camp activities into a focused program designed to educate campers and families on how to make low-fat food choices, eat high-fiber diets, drink more water and exercise regularly. “We’ve got two main goals with the program,” said Lindsey Jorstad, GCPR Community Services Outreach Manager. “First, we want to help kids and their families get and stay healthy by reducing obesity rates, improving cardiovascular fitness, and boosting campers’ confidence and self-esteem. Second, we want to teach them how to be healthy for the rest of their lives.”

The program aims to reach beyond the campers as well. Parents receive weekly “Strong4Life” tips by way of a take-home newsletter and they’re encouraged to pack at least one healthy lunch or snack item each day. Campers were also encouraged to bring a reusable water bottle every day, and GCPR made sure they had constant access to drinking water. This summer, GCPR expanded the program to include community partners, who came to camp to conduct a variety of wellness activities. The University of Georgia Extension program led hands-on recipe lessons; the Gwinnett County Public Library visited to get campers excited about summer reading; the Kaiser Educational Theatre of Georgia brought its puppet, Mumford the Dog, to talk about water safety; the American Red Cross educated campers on how to be prepared for emergencies; and the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta ran summer long science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities that included Shaving Cream Rain Clouds, Crystal Stars, Magic Milk and Oobleck!

One of the most popular forms of exercise at GCPR’s camp is swimming, so with the goal of decreasing the number of aquatic-related emergencies, the camp offered swimming lessons. Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that the rate of drowning among African American children is nearly three times the rate for their white peers, and other research points to disparities in swimming ability among African American and Latino children. GCPR gave free swimming lessons to more than 400 children this summer, most of them children of color.

“Our commitment to HEPA is threaded throughout the entire program,” said Tina Fleming, GCPR Director of Community Services, “and it’s made a huge difference in the work we do. We’d always been focused on physical activity, but HEPA added a layer of evidence-based intentionality to what we’re doing that helps guide us. And it also persuaded us to reach out more to parents, hoping to encourage year-round, healthy lifestyles at home—not just during the day at summer camp. It’s been a huge boost to our work.”

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learn more about: Health and Wellness Summer Learning
SEP
21
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: September 21, 2016

By Luci Manning

Summer Reading Success Spawns After-School Program (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri)

After two summers of hosting a successful reading program, St. Louis County Housing Authority executive director Susan Rollins and social worker Kellyn Holliday decided to offer literacy support to students throughout the year at a new afterschool program. Two housing development activity centers now have active and growing libraries where youth can boost their reading skills and take books home to read. The program has even attracted the attention of St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, who was so impressed with students’ improved reading scores he drafted a $20,000 federal block grant for the program. “It is the best kind of investment St. Louis County can make,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Students Row from Camden to Philly to Help Kick off Delaware River Cleanup Initiative (Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania)

Seven students from the Center for Aquatic Sciences’ afterschool program rowed across the Delaware River in a whaleboat last week to bring attention to a new initiative to clean up the watershed. The initiative, River Days, will consist of 40 events over the next six weeks geared toward river cleanup and general environmental education. The center’s afterschool program offers youth aquatic-based activities like kayaking and teaches them the science behind water. “Watching these young people come in today, certainly it’s about the future,” Philadelphia managing director Michael DiBerardinis told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s about their connection to the river, but it’s also about the healthy future of this region and of our planet.”

Portal Offers Path to Harvard (Boston Globe, Massachusetts)

In 2008, Harvard University started the Ed Portal, an afterschool program pairing Allston-Brighton high schoolers with Harvard student mentors to improve study habits and prepare for their futures. Now, eight years later, the program is sending its first graduate to Harvard. Kevin Yang, who just began his freshman year at the university, is one of hundreds of students to attend the Ed Portal over the years, where he worked with his mentor on school projects and explored possible career options in biomedical engineering or neurobiology. “It was definitely an important support mechanism for me,” Yang told the Boston Globe. “It was a place where I could decompress and figure things out.”

Soccer Helps Young Refugees Take a Shot at a New Life in the U.S. (New York Times, New York)

Refugee students from 40 different countries are finding their confidence and self-worth on the soccer field as part of Soccer Without Borders (SWB). Using soccer and afterschool classes in English, art and science, the program aims to help refugee students acclimate to life in the U.S. “All the families that our kids are coming from have made so many sacrifices to have their kids achieve a better life,” SWB Baltimore chapter director Casey Thomas told the New York Times. “We, in turn, definitely prioritize supporting the academic success of our kids.” 

SEP
20
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: New digital tools for teaching prosocial skills from PBS's Arthur

By Robert Abare

Written by Anne Beatty, Outreach Project Director for the AIM Buddy Project at WGBH

For two decades, millions of children and their families have tuned in to PBS’s children’s series Arthur for funny and authentic portrayals of childhood life. Children see themselves in the characters and identify with them as they learn to navigate the daily challenges of childhood with kindness, empathy, and respect for self and others.

This year, Arthur is celebrating its 20th year on public television! With more than 200 animated stories, WGBH, the Boston-based public broadcaster and producer of this award-winning series, continues to use Arthur and the power of storytelling to carefully guide children through a wide variety of topics—from everyday issues such as losing a tooth to more difficult topics such dealing with bullying behaviors.

Over the years, Arthur has been modeling prosocial behaviors for kids and emphasizing the importance of communication. The Arthur Interactive Media (AIM) Buddy Project is WGBH’s latest initiative to help children build social, emotional, and character skills and attitudes and help educators, caregivers, and children deal with the ongoing problem of bullying behaviors. With a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation, WGBH partnered with a research team from Tufts University to develop and test the AIM Buddy Project.

The AIM Buddy Project leverages the universal appeal of the Arthur characters, a cross-age buddy format, and a solid research base in character development and adds a unique component—interactive media—to encourage thoughtful discussions between older and younger pairs around five topics—empathy, honesty, forgiveness, generosity and learning from others. Exposure to and practice with these five topics helps children build the skills and attitudes they need to empathize with others and build positive relationships that result in safer, more caring learning environments.

SEP
19
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: AmeriCorps VISTAs encourage unity through service on the anniversary of 9/11

By Robert Abare

Written by Ligea Alexander, an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) for Summer and Afterschool Meals Expansion, a project sponsored by the Afterschool Alliance.

This past weekend, I joined hundreds of other volunteers in the AARP Meal Pack Challenge to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11. The challenge, which debuted last year, raises awareness of the increasing number of elderly persons who experience poverty and are food insecure. It also honors all the veterans and retired first responders who have dedicated their lives to serve others.

Along with my fellow VISTAs, I joined volunteers from across the nation and Canada, including Girl Scout troops, members of the elderly community, teenagers, college alums, returning volunteers and those in service to America. This dynamic group of people who united to answer the call of elderly hunger reflected a similar variation of those who united in the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11. Housed under a tent just a few steps away from the WW Memorial, we formed packing tables for soy, rice, beans and essential vitamins combined to form low-prep meals. These specially formulated meals would then meet the nutritional needs of recipient seniors.

With music keeping our spirits high and energized, I paused for a minute to appreciate the momentum of the event. Some of us were dancing to the music, others were smiling for the cameras documenting the event, and everyone was focused on meeting the 1.5 million target of packed meals. Although this was my first time participating in the challenge, I easily became acquainted with many second time volunteers from the year before. At my table alone, all age groups were represented, including a 4-year-old boy whose enthusiasm in packing meals into boxes was incredibly heart-moving.

When two day event came to a close, over 1.5 million meals had been packaged. As an AmeriCorps Summer and Afterschool Meals Expansion VISTA, I appreciate having participated in this challenge very deeply as I continue my advocacy to eradicate hunger from all who experience it.

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Service Vista
SEP
19
2016

FUNDING
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Funding opportunity: Bring Soccer for Success to your afterschool program

By Tiereny Lloyd

photo courtesy of the U.S. Soccer Foundation

In partnership with Trinity Health, the U.S. Soccer Foundation recently announced a funding opportunity to expand their free out of school program, Soccer for Success. The Foundation seeks community partners to implement this program for 12 weeks during the spring of 2017, and who will return to operate the program for 24 weeks during the 2017-2018 academic year (fall 2017 through spring 2018).

What is Soccer for Success?

Soccer for Success is an evidence-based program created by the U.S. Soccer Foundation that uses soccer as a tool to address children’s health issues and juvenile delinquency, while promoting healthy lifestyles in urban and underserved communities. The program’s innovative curriculum is aimed at maximizing physical activity among participants each session, while also providing nutrition education and information on healthy lifestyles through unique soccer activities. Since the program’s inception, the Soccer for Success program has become a national movement, serving over 71,000 children in more than 130 cities.

How can I obtain funding?

The request for proposals (RFP) and application can be found on the U.S. Soccer Foundation website. The RFP provides details regarding funding, timelines and qualifications. Grant applications are due no later than Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 11:59 pm EST. Grant awards will be announced by November 17, 2016. Please note that your program must be located in a specific community. Find out if your program location qualifies.

Grants from U.S. Soccer Foundation provide support for Soccer for Success programs in many ways. Awardees will be provided with jerseys, soccer balls, socks, shin guards and field equipment, based on the number of participants enrolled in Soccer for Success. In unique circumstances, cash grants can also be provided to organizations that need support to pay coaches, program management staff, and/or family and community engagement and miscellaneous program costs. Funding priority will be given to organizations that do not require this support.

Need more information?

The U.S. Soccer Foundation will hold a call for interested applicants on September 29, 2016. Information about this call can also be found on the U.S. Soccer Foundation website.

SEP
15
2016

RESEARCH
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New report: Participation in summer learning programs yields positive outcomes

By Erin Murphy

A new report shows that high levels of participation in summer learning programs can provide positive benefits for low-income students’ math and language arts performance and social-emotional skills. Last week, The Wallace Foundation released Learning from Summer: Effects of Voluntary Summer Learning Programs on Low-Income Urban Youththe third and final report analyzing the outcomes of their National Summer Learning Project.

This report, conducted by the RAND Corporation, is part of a six-year study offering the first-ever assessment of the effectiveness of voluntary, no-cost summer learning programs on the academic achievement, social-emotional competencies, and behavior of low-income, urban, elementary students. In fall 2013, third grade students enrolled in one of five urban school districts—Boston, Dallas, Jacksonville (FL), Pittsburgh, or Rochester (NY)—were selected to participate in the study. Half of the students were invited to participate in summer programming while half were not, and data on academic performance, social emotional skills, behavior and attendance was collected on both groups through the end of seventh grade.

Key findings on summer learning programs:

  • Students who were “high-attenders”—those attending a summer program at least 20 days—saw near and long-term positive effects in math assessments throughout the study.
  • High-attenders saw near and long-term positive effects in language arts assessments after the second summer of programming.
  • High-attenders saw positive benefits for their social and emotional skills after the second summer of programming.
  • When programs focused on math or language arts, students saw lasting positive gains in these subjects. Students who received a minimum of 25 hours of math instruction or 34 hours in language arts instruction during the summer outperformed students who did not receive the same level of instruction in the relevant subject in fall assessments. The report also found that the positive effects lasted into the spring after the second summer.
  • Providing students an invitation to attend did not lead to substantial long-term benefits, because of high rates of non-participation and low-attendance rates.
Infographic courtesy of the Wallace Foundation.
SEP
14
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: September 14, 2016

By Luci Manning

In a Class of Their Own (Bergen County Record, New Jersey)

A robotics club at John F. Kennedy High School has helped three students from difficult backgrounds become the first members of their families to attend a four-year college. Syrian refugee Rasha Alrifae, Bangladeshi immigrant Muhammad Naeem and lifelong Paterson resident Zyheir Williams all found a “second home” in the afterschool club, according to the Bergen County Record. The program helped Alrifae learn English and pushed her to major in biology. Naeem learned to code in three programming languages and pursued computer science classes at a local community college. Williams was inspired to put in hundreds of volunteer hours and eventually won a $5,000 scholarship to attend Rutgers University.

Con Students Fill Music-Education Gap (Oberlin Review, Ohio)

As state budget cuts threaten school arts programs across Ohio, several Oberlin Conservatory students are trying to fill the gap with an afterschool music education program at Langston Middle School. The program provides relief to the school’s dwindling number of music teachers and gives low-income students a chance to learn how to play instruments they may not have access to outside of school. “The goal of the Music Mentors Program is to help public schools in Oberlin negate some of these effects by helping with music classes … and running after school programs for students to expand their musical education,” Oberlin junior and program head Ben Steger told the Oberlin Review.

Planet Fitness Debuts Fitness Room for Kids at Boys and Girls Club in Manchester (Union Leader, New Hampshire)

Nearly 1,700 Boys & Girls Club of Manchester participants will now have a chance to use a special workout room at the Club that’s part of a larger effort to promote healthy lifestyles and stop bullying. Planet Fitness’ new “Mini Judgement Free Zone” is part of the company’s $1.3 million commitment to support an anti-bullying initiative with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and STOMP Out Bullying. The room includes treadmills, a stationary bike, strength training equipment, and is full of motivational posters and messages. “It really is about a bigger movement than just the gym,” Planet Fitness senior vice president of marketing Jessica Correa told the Union Leader. “It’s about creating an afterschool curriculum that will give kids the tools to prevent bullying and spread kindness instead.”

Making the Case for Mariachi (San Francisco Chronicle, California)

The Mariachi Academy of Music in San Jose is part of a growing trend to bring mariachi music to young students throughout the Bay Area who lack opportunities for music education. The Academy works with school districts and private donors to bring free or low-cost mariachi classes to students in several towns in the area, exposing youths to a culturally rich and easy-to-learn style of music. “Mariachi is such a wonderful introduction,” Tamara Alvarado, executive director of the School of Arts & Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “With mariachi, you can see yourself progress, and be part of a group. That’s what’s cool about mariachi: Everyone is the star.” 

SEP
14
2016

POLICY
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House passes an updated career and technical education bill

By Jillian Luchner

photo by Rabi Samuel

The bipartisan Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, the proposed House update to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act of 2006, was placed on the House of Representatives suspension calendar yesterday and passed overwhelmingly with 405 affirmative votes of support. This is good news for the education and afterschool community, as the proposed law would extend opportunities for schools and communities to collaborate in engaging students in career pathways to well-paid, in demand careers.

The Afterschool Alliance submitted a letter of support for the bill to the House Education and Workforce (HEW) committee this week. The bill, as outlined in an earlier blog, includes many positive advances: explicitly including community based organizations as eligible, extending eligible programming to begin in the 5th grade, drawing attention to the need for workplace/employability skills, and focusing on underrepresented groups within career categories, among other well-needed updates.

The Senate has now scheduled its mark-up of the Perkins legislation for next Wednesday, September 21. Whispers around Capitol Hill suggest that the Senate does not have any major disagreements on updating the legislation, but we must wait and see what the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee releases.

The Afterschool Alliance is glad that the model of effective, bipartisan work done in the House and continued awareness of the value of updated legislation has motivated the Senate into action. Feel free as always to make your own voices heard! We will aim to keep you updated as the legislative session continues.

For more general information on CTE and Career Pathways, visit our Career Pathways webpage.

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learn more about: Congress Federal Policy Legislation