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FEB
23
2018

IN THE FIELD
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"I get the chance to meet people I never would have been able to before"

By Guest Blogger

By Maya Irvine. 

Maya is a freshman at Camdenton High School and was named a Youth Afterschool Ambassador in the fall for the 2017-2018 school year. Maya has attended Camdenton FIRST LASER Robotics program for the past six years. Her blog post highlights the science, mathematics, technology, and engineering (STEM) learning opportunities available through the FIRST program and the experiences she's had as a member of the team.

With more than 460,000 students involved, more than $50 million in scholarship opportunities, and more than 120,000 volunteers worldwide, FIRST Robotics has a global impact on every individual involved.

Newcomers often ask, “Is FIRST Robotics like Battlebots?”

Short answer: nope! The FIRST program is exceedingly more than that. FIRST Robotics is a non-profit organization, with a mission to “inspire young people to be science and technology leaders.” Most FIRST Robotics teams take place in an afterschool setting — along with the 250+ students involved in the LASER Robotics program.

I’ve been involved in the FIRST program for six years, from elementary to high school. It’s my first year on the high school team, and I am already involved in writing the Engineering Notebook (which documents the evolution of our team’s robot through daily entries), working with Safety (a group that protects and enforces the FIRST safety morals), and designing graphics.

FIRST robotics has evolved my interests. Before joining the program, my only outlook for the future was simple: I had no idea what I wanted to do. When FIRST came into my life, I realized that there are so many careers and opportunities for students just like me. What I enjoy most about FIRST is how diverse it is. When our team goes to compete, I get the chance to meet people I never would have been able to before, including teams from all over the world!

Participation in FIRST programs is shown to inspire young people to become leaders and innovators and pursue careers in STEM related fields. Students involved show greater interests in STEM, STEM careers, and 21st century skills. With science- and math-related careers reaching an all-time high demand, the need for people to fill these spots has hit its highest appeal rates.

Through the FIRST program, kids of all ages have the chance to be someone big. The only question is, what will the world look like with these new engineers and inventors unleashed?

DEC
13
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: December 13, 2017

By Luci Manning

Contest Pitting Students Against JPL Engineers Draws a Vast Pool of Contenders (La Cañada Valley Sun, California)

Students from around the world, including those in Los Angeles afterschool programs, faced off against teams of engineers from La Cañada’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory last week as part of JPL’s annual Invention Challenge, an initiative meant to inspire future STEM professionals. This year’s challenge was to build a device that could load ten plastic balls into a tub six meters away within one minute, according to the La Cañada Valley Sun. “Being at JPL has brought [engineering] into my horizon,” 16-year-old participant Cristian Bonilla said. “Even though we didn’t do as great as other people, it feels great to have come this far.”

Community Schools a New Tradition for Education (Las Cruces Sun-News, New Mexico)

Mary Parr-Sanchez, Truancy and Dropout Prevention Coach at Las Cruces Public Schools, and David Greenberg, Education Initiative Director at Ngage New Mexico, praise the community schools model in the Las Cruces Sun-News: “For many years, community schools have been expanding the role of schools. Instead of shutting down in the evenings, weekends and summers, community schools have remained open to serve a variety of needs…. Community schools are not about doing something ‘to’ a school, but supporting a school and community to facilitate change from within…. We are grateful that local leadership on our School Board and City Council are moving this work forward so that in the near future, every child will have opportunity to attend a community school.”

Church to Pick Up the Tab for After-School Care (Eastern Express Times, Pennsylvania)

The Life Church has offered to pay for an afterschool program at Paxinosa Elementary School to offer disadvantaged students enrichment opportunities and give a break to their working parents. The Easton Area School District is now looking for an organization to run the program, without having to worry about costs. “We felt called there,” church spokeswoman Tara Craig told the Eastern Express Times. “We feel it’s where we’re supposed to be and are excited to see it happen.”

‘Three Little Pigs’ Tale Helps Teach North Charleston Kids Money Smarts (Post & Courier, South Carolina)

An afterschool reading program in North Charleston recently added financial literacy to its curriculum, to teach children how to manage their finances at an early age. The Felix Pinckney Community Center drew lessons from stories like “Three Little Pigs” to teach students about the importance of saving money and sharing with those in need. Dorothea Bernique, founder of the Increasing H.O.P.E. Financial Training Center, told the Post & Courier, “It’s not about the amount, but establishing a new behavior that can literally change your life and help break that cycle of poverty.” 

NOV
21
2017

LIGHTS ON
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STEM partners helped ignite curiosity during Lights On 2017

By Charlotte Steinecke

Afterschool STEM learning was one of our top themes for this year’s Lights On Afterschool, and with good reason. Afterschool programs provide an ideal space to connect kids to exciting, hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) experiences, helping them engage deeply with these concepts in fun, inspiring ways!

Lots of afterschool programs used STEM as a centerpiece in their Lights On events. Here are a few of the ways programs celebrated STEM on October 26:

  • Students got ready for blast-off at the Mississippi Library in Fridley, Minn., with an activity to build their own rockets. Students and families designed and constructed their out-of-this-world space shuttles with a combination of science and art skills, led by library and afterschool program staff.
  • kidscommons Children’s Museum in Columbus, Ind., offered free museum admission for families with children age pre-K through 6th grade, with science, technology, engineering, art, and math activities available throughout the museum.
  • Think Together Liberty Elementary in Victorville, Calif. held a family night with student-taught 30-minute activity rotations, so students and parents could participate in mad scientist STEM unit lessons, including making moldable goo, engineering and testing different paper airplane designs, and creating monsters out of pipe cleaners and other materials.

This year’s Lights On Afterschool wouldn’t have been the success it was without the help of our amazing STEM partners. We’d like to give a big thank-you to STAR_Net, Association of Science - Technology Centers (ASTC), National Girls Collaborative, WGBH, STEMfinity, 4-H National Youth Science Day, and everyone else in the STEM world who contributed to a fantastic celebration!

SEP
18
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool Spotlight: Michigan Engineering Zone

By Marco Ornelas

As the home of the American auto industry and birthplace of Motown, Detroit has always been a hub for American ingenuity and creativity. But in 2013, Detroit became the largest American city to declare bankruptcy after decades of economic. The city officially exited bankruptcy in 2014 following a debt restructuring plan, but many feel that the work to get the city back on track has just begun.

Still, the transformation that’s begun in the heart of downtown Detroit, which city leaders and residents are working to channel into the outer neighborhoods, signals hope. The residents of Detroit have worked hard to fight widespread economic hardships and earned their home the nickname “Renaissance City.”

What is catalyzing the economic revival of this city? Efforts like the University of Michigan’s Michigan Engineering Zone (MEZ) are definitely a helping hand in restarting the economic engine.

MAY
26
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Not The Onion: Horses, surfboards, and cyberattacks in afterschool

By Jodi Grant

Photo by Pete Markham

Despite a wealth of research showing the importance of afterschool and widespread popularity with parents, students, teachers and community leaders, programs have never been more threatened. This week the president decided to double down on his call to eliminate afterschool funding in his 2018 budget proposal, leaving 1.6 million kids’ with no where to go after school. It’s a serious matter with implications for Americans across the country.  The cut has caught the attention of major national media, local media across the country, and late night comedians and Saturday Night Live.  

The Afterschool Alliance isn’t exempt from the heightened publicity. On Monday, we had our first mention in The Onion, which wrote a satirical piece on the Secretary of Education’s new plan to replace 21st Century Community Learning Centers with afterschool polo programs across the country.

I was flattered to be mentioned, but as in all great satire, the piece contained a lot of truth. If the Secretary of Education did call me, I’d be thrilled to tell her about pretty amazing afterschool programs. I haven’t heard of afterschool polo yet, but given the creativity and ingenuity local communities across the nation have developed, I would not be surprised. Afterschool programs keep kids safe, boost student success, and help working families – and quite often, they also blow your mind.

APR
26
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: April 26, 2017

By Luci Manning

After-School Programs Merit Support (Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska)

Jeff Cole, network lead for afterschool program Beyond the Bells, and Catherine Lang, director of the Nebraska Business Development Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, outline how afterschool programs are building the workforce of the future in the Omaha World-Herald: “Nebraska’s after-school and summer programs are helping grow a new kind of workforce: one that is STEM-literate, entrepreneurial and innovative. Through partnerships with community experts, kids in Nebraska’s after-school programs from Omaha to Sidney are learning how to extract DNA from strawberries, build and program robots, launch new businesses, develop coding skills – and much more…. Supporting after-school programs in general and after-school STEM programs in particular is a healthy, smart investment in our communities’ futures.”  

Blankets for Bogota (Klamath Falls Herald and News, Oregon)

Around 20 students in Ponderosa Middle School’s afterschool program are combining their math and art skills to help a suffering community. The students are making blankets to send to Bogota, Colombia, to help those who survived recent floods and landslides. “It’s fun making the blankets and I like that it’s going to go to somebody in need,” eighth-grader Serenity Best told the Klamath Falls Herald and News. Instructors will help the students research the city of Bogota and Colombia and study the impact of flooding on families in the country, and students will include photos of themselves along with the blankets to add a personal touch to the transfer.

Programs Benefit Kids (Deseret Morning News, Utah)

About 100 business leaders, educators and politicians came together last week to discuss the need for further investment in afterschool programs in Utah. “It’s really a low-cost way for kids to be able to stay engaged during those critical after-school hours, but also learn to be better citizens,” Utah Afterschool Network executive director Kelly Riding told the Deseret News. The meeting was partially in response to President Trump’s budget proposal, which would eliminate funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Center program. A loss of funding could impact about 57,000 Utah students.

Tiny Camdenton Is Home to One of Missouri’s Best High School Robotics Programs (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Missouri)

Camdenton High School isn’t just known for football anymore – in the past few years, afterschool robotics have taken the school district by storm. The program is so popular that one in 14 students districtwide is somehow involved in afterschool robotics and the elementary schools hold a lottery to select participants. The program has inspired many of its graduates to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) after they leave high school – 92 percent of its students go on to either study STEM in college or go directly to working in a STEM field, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Afterschool Ambassador Sherry Comer is the afterschool director for the Camdenton district. 

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learn more about: Budget Robotics
FEB
22
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: February 22, 2017

By Luci Manning

SHINE Afterschool Program Students Donate Blankets to Ruth’s Place (Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader, Pennsylvania)

Students in a STEAM-focused afterschool program recently used their skills to give back to those in need in their community. Middle school students in the SHINE afterschool program made blankets by double-knotting strips of fabric, and then donated the finished products to Ruth’s Place, a temporary shelter for homeless women. “It was a chance to do something with friends and to do something for other people,” 13-year-old Rita Palchanis told the Times-Leader. The blanket donation was the first part of the program’s new community service initiative called “Giving Back through Engineering.”

New Big Brothers Big Sisters Program Taking Root in Blacksburg (Roanoke Times, Virginia)

Adults and children are pairing up to learn about science as part of the new Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center Mentoring Program, an offshoot of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Virginia. Through the program, 33 adult “bigs” are paired with “littles” to perform science experiments, work on art projects and spend time bonding and learning from each other. Mentors act as positive role models for the youths while maintaining a friendly, casual relationship. “We do experiments a lot in science [class], but not like this,” 12-year-old Jaseph Cagas told the Roanoke Times.

Lego Robots Help Teach Kids about Engineering, Math (Deseret News, Utah)

While building things out of Legos and playing computer games may seem like plain fun, students in the Zaniac science and technology program are actually picking up valuable engineering and technical skills in their afterschool sessions. The program stresses hands-on experience and peer-based learning to engage young people in STEM subjects. “We try to give kids that opportunity, not teach in a lecture-based environment where we stand at the front of the class,” Zaniac franchise development manager Zane Brandt told the Deseret News. “Put something in their hands that may be too advanced for them and let them learn as they play.”

Kenney, Hite Announce Afterschool Program for All Philly Students (Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is building on the pre-kindergarten and community schools plan he launched last year with a new Out-of-School Time Initiative, which he announced last Thursday with Managing Director Mike DiBerardinis and School Superintendent William Hite Jr. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the initiative will be rolled out over several years, funded both by the city and partnerships with the school district and philanthropic foundations. The program aspires to involve all 250,000 students in the city in out-of-school time programs over the next seven years. The initiative will focus on literacy for kindergarten through third-grade students and workforce development for ninth- through twelfth-graders. 

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learn more about: Robotics Science Service Literacy
JAN
11
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: January 11, 2017

By Luci Manning

Congressional Delays Leave Programs Hanging (News & Observer, North Carolina)

Writing in the News & Observer, Afterschool Ambassador Betsey McFarland explains the uncertainty that comes with congressional budget delays: “The delay in adopting a full-year federal budget means that states won’t know how much money they’ll have for 21st century grants to pass down to afterschool programs this year… At a time when there aren’t nearly enough afterschool programs to meet the need, our federal budget process should provide certainty and support – not present additional challenges.”

Governor Eyes New Child Care Credit (Daily Gazette, New York)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced two new proposals meant to ease the burden on working parents – a middle-class child care tax credit and a new pilot program to create afterschool slots in high-need areas, according to the Daily Gazette. The tax credit will help more than 200,000 families afford professional, quality day care, and the $35 million pilot program will aim to create 22,000 afterschool slots in places like Albany and Troy. “This newly enhanced credit will make it easier for more New Yorkers to be able to secure day care and able to enter or stay in the workforce with peace of mind,” Cuomo said.

Future Meets Steam Punk (La Porte County Herald-Argus, Indiana)

The FIRST Robotics Competition announced its theme for 2017 this weekend: connecting robotics to the steam engines that powered the Industrial Revolution. In this year’s game, teams will spend six weeks building robots that can gather fuel and gears for models of steam-powered airships for a timed competition. RoboBlitz team member Rishi Verma, a Michigan City high school senior, said the afterschool program has taught him about both engineering and how to work as a group. “It’s more than just building a robot. It builds character,” he told the La Porte County Herald-Argus.

Their Safe Place to Grow (Houston Chronicle, Texas)

Workshop Houston, an afterschool program that started as a bike repair shop, has been giving youths from troubled backgrounds a place to learn and try new things for more than a decade. Workshop Houston has four different activities for students to participate in—fashion design, music, dance and tutoring—and provides a safe haven for those who may have nowhere else to go after school. “We’re dealing with children in gangs, coming from toxic homes,” Bryant Christopher, who oversees the tutoring program, told the Houston Chronicle. “If this program didn’t exist, who knows where they would be?”