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SEP
20
2016

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

By Guest Blogger

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
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
7
2016

LIGHTS ON
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Guest blog: Discover drones at your Lights On Afterschool event

By Guest Blogger

Written by Griffin Schwed, Integrated Marketing Manager at National 4-H Council

See how your program can celebrate 4-H National Youth Science Day at your 2016 Lights On Afterschool event on our Celebrate Afterschool STEM page, part of the revamped Lights On Afterschool website.

Since 2008, 4-H National Youth Science Day has engaged millions of youth around the world in exciting and innovative STEM learning and experiences, from wind power to robotics to rocketry. This year, the 4-H NYSD challenge is soaring to new heights with the 2016 National Science Challenge, Drone Discovery, developed by Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

This year's hands-on science challenge explores the science behind drones and how they are being used to solve real world problems. Youth will learn everything from flight dynamics and aircraft types, to remote sensing and flight control, as well as safety and regulations.

While the official 4-H NYSD event takes place on October 5, 2016 in Washington, D.C., clubs, groups and schools around the world are also inspiring the next generation of STEM leaders, all taking part in what is known as the world’s largest, youth-led science event.

Participating in 4-H National Youth Science Day is easy:

  • Purchase a 4-H NYSD Challenge Kit. Each kit includes all the necessary items needed to participate in the challenge, including youth and facilitator guide books and experiment materials. Kits are available for purchase now on the 4-H Mall.
  • Register your event. Simply create a 4-H NYSD membership account to receive helpful resources and materials and see your local event showcased on our national 4-H NYSD map.
  • Join the conversation on social media. Share your event photos and videos using hashtag #4HNYSD. Your event could be featured nationally!

So what are you waiting for? Put what you know about engineering, drones and flight into action. Purchase your kit, register your event, and get ready to take flight in this worldwide science phenomenon!

SEP
2
2016

STEM
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How afterschool-library partnerships are engaging kids in STEM

By Robert Abare

A social media graphic designed by the Afterschool Alliance to promote afterschool-library partnerships.

The Afterschool Alliance has partnered with the Science Technology Activities and Resources Library Education Network (STAR_Net) to highlight the ways afterschool programs are partnering with local libraries to introduce kids to valuable science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning experiences. A project of the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning, STAR_Net unites an array of partner organizations to provide interactive STEM exhibits, programming and training to public libraries nationwide.

Often regarded as quiet places for kids to read or study, local libraries are revealing their potential to get kids learning in dynamic ways—from hands-on learning exhibits to conducting science experiments. STAR_Net is helping libraries engage their communities with many of the following resources, made possible through a grant from the National Science Foundation:

  • Large, hands-on exhibits that are currently traveling to various public libraries across the USA. The exhibits—Discover Space, Discover Earth and Discover Tech—introduce kids to various scientific arenas.
  • Online and in-person training for library staff, which introduces them to the STEM content of the exhibits, and guides them in developing complementary programming.
  • A public awareness campaign, led by the Afterschool Alliance, to promote STAR_Net exhibits or resources among the afterschool field and highlight afterschool-library partnerships on social media with a series of shareable graphics.

How STAR_Net can bring more STEM to your program

STAR_Net also offers a number of resources that afterschool programs can use to develop quality STEM programming and stay up-to-date on trends and activities in the STEM field.

  • Webinars and webinar recordings cover a range of topics, from an international celebration of the Moon to interactive citizen science projects.
  • Browse ongoing STAR_Net projects to learn more about their content and see if any exhibits are visiting a library near your program.
  • Online games can make STEM learning fun, like Starchitect, which has kids design their own solar systems.

How STAR_Net turned a library into a pop-up science museum

The Ypsilanti District Library in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan is just one of many local libraries that has used resources from STAR_Net to engage afterschool youth. The library has hosted a variety of exhibits since it opened, but STAR_Net's Discover Tech exhibit was the library’s first to incorporate dynamic, hands-on experiences that teach kids about STEM and its various applications.

“Historically, exhibits haven’t been hands-on in this way—which was new and exciting for the community!” said Kristel Sexton, Youth Services Librarian at the library. “For partners and organizations in the community, it helped them see libraries can do STEM. We can be experts in STEM, and we can support you in this.”

Afterschool-library partnerships are not only proving that libraries can be experts in STEM learning, they are creating mutually beneficial relationships to ensure kids are in safe, nuturing environments after school, and that kids are aware of all the resources available to them in their community.

AUG
24
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: August 24, 2016

By Luci Manning

4-H Brings Science, Technology to Somali Youth (Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota)

A 4-H program in Minneapolis is teaching Somali youth about the scientific process and trying to encourage an interest in scientific fields among students who recently moved to the United States. About 30 students in the afterschool program recently ventured to City Hall to show council members the science projects they worked on during the school year, including an LED light board and a pulley-based miniature ski lift. “It broadens the horizons of our youth,” Council Member Abdi Warsame told the Star Tribune. “Math and science and engineering are the keys to the future.”

D.C. District Aims to Send All Students Abroad (Education Week, District of Columbia)

The District of Columbia has an ambitious plan to stem the “enrichment gap” many low-income students experience: to send every DC public school student on two study-abroad trips before they graduate, completely free of cost. This summer, 400 8th and 11th grade students went on fully paid international trips to countries like China, France and Nicaragua. “Many of our wealthy kids would have international experiences whether we provide them or not,” chancellor Kaya Henderson told Education Week. “But so many of our kids would never have this experience if we didn’t provide it.” The program not only covers all travel, lodging and chaperone costs, but even provides a minimum-wage stipend to families who rely on their teen’s income from a summer job.

Summer Camp Teaches TV Basics (Port Huron Times Herald, Michigan)

Sixteen teens from Port Huron Schools explored the intricacies of television production at a free week-long camp this summer. The eighth- through 11th-grade students learned about project planning, storytelling, camera and audio work, post-production editing and on-camera presenting using professional-level equipment from EBW.tv. “We wanted to train students who were interested in production,” PHS director of community relations Keely Baribeau told the Times Herald. “That’s what this is really all about – getting some career skills into the hands of these students.” Baribeau hopes the camp motivates students to join a similar afterschool program this year.

Las Vegas’ Sawyer Middle School Theater Students to Perform New York-Based Play “War at Home” (Southwest View, Nevada)

Several middle school students spent their summer working hard on their improvisation, production and performance skills at the Sawyer Summer Stage program, the Southwest View reports. The summer program will culminate with performances of “War at Home,” a 9/11 memorial play compiled from journal entries written by New York State high school students in the wake of the terror attacks. Several Sawyer students will also contribute their own essays about the way 9/11 changed the world and the lessons our country can learn from the aftermath. 

AUG
17
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: August 17, 2016

By Luci Manning

Summer Program Helps Kids Learn, Volunteer (Grand Haven Tribune, Michigan)

About a dozen Grand Haven students are building relationships with their community and stemming the summer slide at Grand Haven Area Public Schools’ Eastown Community Completing Homework in a Learning Lab (C.H.I.L.L.) program. The group meets twice a week to read, play math games, go on field trips and participate in a number of community service projects. The students have had a chance to serve meals at the Salvation Army, work in a community garden, help out at a food pantry and blow up basketballs for another summer recreation program. Coordinator Cathy Hegedus told the Grand Haven Tribune that the program teaches students to give back without it feeling like a chore.

A Few Swipes Swoop Youths into a New World (USA Today, California)

Low-income youths in Oakland often have little access to technology at home, so the East Oakland Youth Development Center is trying to build their digital literacy over the summer and after school. Apple recently donated 40 iPads to the Center, allowing students in the six-week summer program to go on virtual scavenger hunts, research life in other countries and mix music on GarageBand. “This is bringing a whole new world inside their backyard in a way that’s safe for them to explore,” Center president Regina Jackson told USA Today. The Center also holds afterschool tutoring, college preparation courses, music and art lessons and health and wellness programs.

For the Love of Running (The Garden Island, Hawaii)

An afterschool running and community service program is keeping students active and building supportive relationships among them and their peers. The program, which is put on by the Kauai Marathon and Half Marathon, held a fun relay activity last week for second and third graders at Kalaheo Elementary School. According to Robin Jumper, who runs the Kauai Marathon Youth Running Program, the group works with schools around the island to get kids up and moving. “We just want to inspire kids to get outside and have fresh air,” she told the Garden Island. “They don’t have to win races. They don’t have to be the best. It’s more about participation and just getting outside and getting some exercise.”

Students Create Pavilion for School (Thermopolis Independent Record, California)

Students in the Lights On Afterschool Green Construction Academy spent three weeks designing blueprints, hauling wood and building trusses to construct a new pavilion at Thermopolis Middle School. The Academy’s summer course tries to mimic a regular construction workweek – four ten-hour days every week – and even has students clock in and fill out time sheets. In addition to learning important entry-level construction skills, the youths also earn a $300 stipend and get to take home their own fully-stocked tool belt. Student Ashley Brawley said she’s glad to have spent her summer in the program. “I am not really the type to woodwork or build, to be honest,” she told the Thermopolis Independent Record. “This was a huge step outside my comfort zone, and I don’t regret it.” 

JUL
27
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: July 27, 2016

By Luci Manning

Camp Beautiful Teaches N.O. Teens Leadership, Self-Esteem (The Advocate, Louisiana)

Young women in New Orleans have spent the last few weeks learning about cyber bullying, social media responsibility and how to build their self-confidence at Camp Beautiful this summer. The camp is run by the Beautiful Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to empower and educate young women by teaching them leadership skills. “It’s like being with not just friends, but a real family every day,” eighth-grader Symone Bolds told The Advocate. “Here I can say anything and nobody judges me. We’re all here to help each other and to have fun.” The group runs summer and afterschool programs that have empowered more than 2,500 girls and helped them build relationships with one another.

Grace Place Offers Summer Camp for Students (Naples Daily News, Florida)

For the last 12 years, Grace Place has been aiding non-English speaking families in Golden Gate with early learning programs, adult education, food pantries and the eight-week Grace Place Academy of Leaders Summer Program. This summer, 144 elementary and middle school students are attending the academy to keep their math and English skills fresh until school starts again in the fall, the Naples Daily News reports. Students also get to partake in weekly field trips to museums and local businesses through the program.

From Coding to Slack-Lining: Cool Camps Aim to Stop Summer Slide (East Bay Times, California)

Low-income students often don’t have access to the innovative, educational summer camps that their more privileged peers do, but several groups in the Bay Area have set out to remedy that. Aim High, BELL and the Gilroy Unified School District’s Super Power Summer Camp provide free summer programming for underprivileged students that mix academics with fun, out-of-the-box activities. Aim High’s offerings range from jewelry making to slacklining to graphic-novel designing. “We think learning should be joyful, relevant and engaging,” Aim High cofounder Alec Lee told the East Bay Times. The program is hosting 2,200 middle school students this summer.

Students Use Summer Mariachi Camp to Help Bridge Family, Cultural Gap (Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma)

A lot of second- and third-generation Hispanic immigrants in the United States don’t have the same connection to their heritage that their parents or grandparents might have, but a number of students in Oklahoma City are learning more about their roots through a special mariachi camp this summer. Learning the Mexican style of music can help to bridge the cultural gap between these youths and their families, according to camp coordinator Robert Ruiz. “The kids can be passionate about these traditions,” he told the Daily Oklahoman. The summer camp hopes to expand to a full-time afterschool program this school year. 

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JUL
12
2016

STEM
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Start a Girls Who Code Club and help close the tech gender gap

By Erin Murphy

Girls Who Code is actively working to create a world in which men and women are represented equally in the ever-important technology industry. This year, Girls Who Code is looking to scale-up efforts through their afterschool clubs program. You can apply to be an official host site, and access free curriculum, teaching resources and support from Girls Who Code!

What is a Girls Who Code Club?

In a Girls Who Code Club, 6th to 12th grade girls explore coding in a fun and friendly environment. Students learn core computer science concepts through projects based on their interests, such as music, art or games. The curriculum is designed for students with varying experience levels, with lessons for students with zero coding experience or lessons that introduce college-level concepts. Field trips and guest speakers compliment the curriculum by demonstrating how these skills can be applied in the future. Additionally, this program provides girls a supportive community. They become part of a diverse sisterhood while gaining many female role models who are working at the world’s leading engineering and tech companies.

Become part of the movement

To get girls coding in your community, you can to host a club in either Fall 2016 or Spring 2017. All you need are computers, internet access, a facilitator (two is even better), and (of course) girls in 6th to 12th grade.

The lead facilitator can be an afterschool program employee or a community volunteer like a college student majoring in computer science or a tech industry professional. However, for the Fall 2016 session, the facilitator must have knowledge of programming fundamentals such as loops, conditionals, and functions. In Spring 2017, a newly-released curriculum will support non-technical facilitators, i.e. afterschool educators without prior knowledge of programming. If you need to recruit a tech-capable facilitator, here are some helpful resources:

If you are still having trouble finding someone to facilitate, Girls Who Code can help out! Just indicate this on your application.