Reps. Kildee, DeLauro introduce bill to strengthen support of afterschool and summer learning programs
Yesterday evening Reps. Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Afterschool for America's Children Act in the House of Representatives, HR 4086. The legislation would reauthorize and strengthen the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative—the nation’s chief federal funding stream for afterschool programs—by supporting innovative advances taking root in before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs. The bill is companion legislation to S. 326 introduced previously in the Senate. A summary of the legislation is available here.
The House bill:
- Strengthens school-community partnerships to include sharing of data and resources, the ability to better leverage relationships within the community and provide an intentional alignment with the school day.
- Promotes professional development and training of afterschool program staff.
- Encourages innovative new ways to engage students in learning that looks different from a traditional school day, with an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and physical activity and nutrition education.
- Supports approaches that focus on individualized learning that provide a variety of ways for students to master core skills and knowledge.
- Provides accountability measures that are connected to college- and career-readiness goals and show student progress over time toward meeting indicators of student success including school attendance, grades and on-time grade level advancement.
- Ensures that funding supports programs that utilize evidence-based, successful practices.
- Increases quality and accountability through parent engagement; better alignment with state learning objectives; and coordination between federal, state and local agencies.
- Does not prioritize any one model of expanded learning opportunities over another.
- Maintains formula grants to states that then distribute funds to local school-community partnerships through a competitive grant process.
To celebrate last week’s national Engineers Week, the Afterschool Alliance hosted a webinar featuring three incredible afterschool programs engaging students in engineering, computing and technology education. We were joined by:
- Jen Joyce, Director of Professional Development at Techbridge in Oakland, CA
- Andrew Coy, Executive Director of Digital Harbor Foundation in Baltimore, MD
- Maureen Psaila-Dombrowski, Program Coordinator at the Santa Fe Institute, representing Project GUTS
All three were featured in our latest issue brief on computing and engineering, and they were able to provide a clearer picture on what has made their afterschool programs successful. Program profiles in our Afterschool STEM Storybook provide additional information. You can watch the full recording and view the slides on our webinar archives page. Below is a quick re-cap!
By Luci Manning
Bystanders Targeted in New Bullying Program (Foster’s Daily Democrat, New Hampshire)
Middle school students are learning to stop bullying through their participation in the Somersworth Youth Connection (SYC) afterschool program. Once a week, the students test the Courage to Care's curriculum, developed by the University of New Hampshire. The program combats bullying by teaching students social and emotional skills like kindness, empathy and civility. SYC Director Maureen Jackson told Foster’s Daily Democrat that she hopes the curriculum will be implemented in all middle schools next year.
“The Salvation Army is taking in kids who would otherwise be in school if it weren’t for harsh winter weather, teacher training days or any other reason that school might be cancelled,” the Akron Beacon Journal reports. The Salvation Army offers afterschool and day care programs in Akron and hopes to increase program attendance by offering reduced rates during snow days.
A new partnership between the city school system and Hartford Public Library was announced this week to allow students and teachers more access to the library’s resources. The library will work with city schools in neighborhoods across the city to host afterschool and summer programs, tutoring, student art exhibits and provide library books and online materials that fit with the schools’ curriculum, the Hartford Courant reports.
The recent snowfall brought fun learning experiences to students who participate in the 4-H afterschool program in Canton. Fifteen afterschool students learned about local wildlife in the classroom and firsthand on a nature hike. Armed with binoculars and a sense of adventure, the students sought out evidence of deer, squirrels, coyotes and porcupines in the area. Afterschool program leader Nicki Hamilton-Honey told the Daily Courier-Observer that she wanted the children to be immersed in and appreciate nature.
There has been a lot of talk recently about learning across settings and constructing or cultivating “ecosystems” for learning. This refers to the notion that there are many influences and supports a young person draws on; when we put the learner at the center rather than the institutions where learning might occur, we see that schools, while crucially important, are not the only player in this system. While the notion of such “learning ecosystems” has been around for many decades, it's gaining renewed attention as we try to truly rethink how we approach (STEM) education improvement. Afterschool programs are very much at the heart of this debate.
As part of my work to highlight the potential of afterschool programs as partners in STEM education, I have been part of a few recent efforts to increase the discussion of this idea. We hope that we can foster a robust debate and change some of the policies and funding streams to allow such ecosystems to thrive. But first, we have a lot of work to do to think through what this might look like and what issues we need to consider.
By Jodi Grant
Valentine’s Day is all about showing the people you love how much they mean to you. It’s about expressing how you feel to those who make your life richer and more meaningful.
This year, moms around the country are sending Valentines to their afterschool programs.
It’s no wonder that afterschool programs hold a special place in the hearts of many busy parents. As a mom myself, I know how important it is to be sure that when they are not with me, my children are safe, supervised, learning and engaged. Afterschool programs do all that—they provide a space for children to expand their horizons, learn new skills, have new experiences, and explore their potential—all in a safe environment with adults who care about their success in school and in life. For moms in the workforce in particular, they are a life-saver.
Every day at the Afterschool Alliance, we hear from mothers who tell us how important afterschool programs are to them. They are impressed with the dedication and commitment of afterschool staff and volunteers, who work so hard to create opportunities for their kids to explore their interests. They say their children enjoy the programs, talk about what they learned there, and participate in exciting activities – from judo to robotics to dance to creative writing.
January’s National Mentoring Month celebrated the work of thousands of adults who make a difference in young people’s lives by offering stable relationships to support their academic and social development. The initiative also sought to raise awareness for the continued need for mentors. A new report from MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership found a significant mentoring gap, particularly for at-risk youth.
STEM-specific mentors are especially important to break down stereotypes about who practices STEM and to demonstrate the diversity in career options. The White House has recognized the need for more STEM professionals to mentor youth, which resulted in the US2020 initiative, calling on companies to allow their employees to volunteer as mentors.
In other big news, the Million Women Mentors (MWM) initiative was launched last month, and to-date almost 45,000 have taken the pledge! In the near future, MWM plans to offer an online platform to provide STEM professionals with tools to become effective mentors and to connect with girl-serving youth organizations. Several groups working in the out-of-school-time space are official partners—Girls, Inc., 4-H, YWCA,Girlstart, the National Girls Collaborative Project and the Association of Science-Technology Centers.
Without a doubt, digital learning has been a buzzword in education circles for a while now. Some call it 21st century learning, some call it common sense and others call it a fad. There’s a general consensus, however, that our education system struggles to keep up with the rate of change in the world around it. For every innovative school and afterschool program, there are countless more with inadequate access to technology and with a limited understanding of its potential. The task of modernizing our education system may seem somewhat daunting, but I must say that this year’s Digital Learning Day and Pres. Obama’s recent remarks about plans for ConnectED left me feeling pretty hopeful that we’re on the brink of a real shift in how we think about what it takes to expand access to digital learning opportunities.
Unsurprisingly, funding is often viewed as a road block to progress. It takes money to build the infrastructure, more money to buy the technology, and still more money for maintenance and professional development. Let’s face it—digital learning is expensive, and increased funding is not necessarily the easiest thing to come by.
By Jodi Grant
Time Warner Cable’s (TWC) Connect A Million Minds (CAMM) campaign is once again sparking the imagination of children and adults—connecting the hottest technology and trends to science. In a partnership with the New York Hall of Science and cable broadcasters, last weekend Connect A Million Minds used the power of television to inspire kids across New York City.
Renting a building in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, TWC and CAMM turned the warehouse into a museum featuring the hottest technology in the cable industry today.
My daughters and I joined 350 students from Boys and Girls Clubs from around the city. Highlights included HBO’s Game of Thrones demonstrating Oculus Rift—a next generation virtual reality headset to climb the wall at Castle Black. The Food Network showed electricity can be conducted through dough, allowing the kids to create their own lighting design embedded in the dough.
And, my own favorite, Al Jazeera demonstrated a new exoskeleton that allowed a woman who had been paralyzed for 18 years to walk.
It was an extraordinary event that once again taught our children that science is cool, fun and necessary not just to entertain us but to make our lives better.