This past weekend I had the pleasure of getting to listen—and not present—at the National AfterSchool Association Annual Convention in New York City. Given the long winter, I was in need of inspiration. Three middle schoolers delivered. Actually, they demanded. A lot. Not just of me but also of my teammates and all the other adults who had to work together to build an attractive, cost-efficient and effective package for a peach.
We couldn’t sit with anyone we knew. We had to present a prototype drawing for approval. We were charged a return fee for trying to trade in poms-poms for more masking tape. Despite the rigor, we got really into it. And then these kids took our precious package and slammed it against a wall, held it against a heat lamp and dumped water on it. Thanks, guys.
Apparently this is just the sort of thing they do every week in Wednesday Science Seminars. Three students from the afterschool program created a PowerPoint, tweaked a design project to make it “hard enough” for us and assessed our work at the end of the session. The kids were empowered, or rather IN power, and seemed to be having the time of their lives building STEM skills.
On March 3, just one day before the president released his FY2015 budget proposal, the House Budget Committee issued a report on federal spending related to federal antipoverty efforts entitled The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later. Among the 92 federal programs reviewed in the report is the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative.
The Budget Committee report seeks to examine the effectiveness of Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson’s "War on Poverty" that was launched 50 years ago. According to the report, there are at least 92 federal programs designed to help lower-income Americans, including education and job-training programs, food-aid programs and housing programs.
The report does include a brief entry on the 21st CCLC initiative, the only coordinated federal effort that supports afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs delivered by local schools and community-based organizations. 21st CCLC programs provide students attending high-poverty schools with academic enrichment activities; a broad array of additional services designed to reinforce and complement the regular academic program such as hands-on experiments to excite children about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), access to physical activity, drug and violence prevention programs, counseling programs, art, music, opportunities to be creative, and technology education programs; as well as literacy and related educational development services to the families of children who are served in the program. In addition, afterschool programs provide an infrastructure to bring in other resources to our children including access to mentors, tutors, and nutritious snacks and meals.
The Expanding Minds and Opportunities compendium highlights persuasive evidence on the effectiveness of expanded learning (afterschool, summer, inter-session, etc.) opportunities. In one article, the authors state:
“…Quality afterschool and summer learning opportunities work. We know that quality expanded learning programs are associated with increased academic performance, increased attendance in school, significant improvement in behavior and social and emotional development, and greater opportunities for hands-on learning in important areas that are not typically available during the school day” (Peterson, Fowler, and Dunham, p. 357).
By Luci Manning
U.S. Naval Academy Workshops for Girls in Middle School Build Interest in Math, Sciences (Washington Post, District of Columbia)
In an effort to encourage middle school girls to get excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, the U.S. Naval Academy hosted workshops last week to give girls hands-on learning opportunities. At the event, girls dissected a sheep’s heart, launched straw rockets, and navigated Lego robots through a maze. Lacey, an Annapolis seventh-grader, told the Washington Post that the bioterrorism workshop was “different from my regular science class in school, I like to see how science works in the real world and how important it is.” The Naval Academy has hosted girls-only events since 2007 to build interest in STEM fields.
Barking Up the Right Tree (Virginian-Pilot, Virginia)
Reading just got a little more fun for kids who attend the YMCA BARKS (Books and Reading for Kids in Suffolk) afterschool program. Thanks to a new partnership between the Suffolk Humane Society and the Suffolk YMCA, 39 students are able to boost their reading levels by reading out loud to therapy dogs. Rick Matthews, district vice president of the YMCA of South Hampton, told the Virginian-Pilot the program is “all about building confidence, self-esteem and self-worth.”
MPS Program Uses Hip-hop, Performance to Boost Academics (Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin)
A hip-hop afterschool program at Sherman Park’s Washington High School gives students the opportunity to tap into their creative side and the confidence to apply their talents in the classroom. Dave Olsen and Jeremy Bryan, The Figureheads, founded the educational rap group in partnership with Arts @ Large, a nonprofit dedicated to growing arts education in Milwaukee Public Schools. The Figureheads told the Journal Sentinel that they want the students to voice what is going on in their lives, and to express who they are and what they want to be. The students then combine their emotional testimony with technological skills like creating beats, recording lyrics and adding videos.
Today Pres. Obama released his budget request for the upcoming 2015 fiscal year, which begins this October. With regard to support for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, the president requested $1.149 billion—reflecting the same level for 21stCCLC as was in the FY2014 omnibus bill that passed in January. As was the case in his budget request last year, the president proposes to radically change 21st CCLC to a competitive grant at the federal level as well as to prioritize 21st CCLC grant funding for new purposes including adding time to the traditional school day or year, and for teacher planning and professional development.
According to the discussion of the budget request for the Department of Education:
Funds would support competitive grants to states, local education agencies, nonprofit organizations, or local governmental entities for projects that provide the additional time, support, and enrichment activities needed to improve student achievement, including projects that support expanding learning time by significantly increasing the number of hours in a regular school schedule and by comprehensively redesigning the school schedule for all students in a school. Projects could also provide teachers the time they need to collaborate, plan, and engage in professional development within and across grades and subjects.
Lisa Mielke, a former zookeeper, is the Science Manager at TASC (The After-School Corporation). She leads STEM training and professional development for directors and front-line staff at out-of-school-time programs throughout New York City. One of the ways TASC supports schools and community partners to expand learning opportunities is to build the capacity of staff members to lead STEM inquiry.
This post originally appeared on TASC’s blog on Feb. 27, 2014.
As someone who trains hundreds of New York City out-of-school-time program directors and frontline staff every year, I’m excited about the best resource I’ve seen in ages for supporting more and better STEM learning. It’s a new, interactive professional development website called Click2Science.
By Luci Manning
Cut out Junk Food Ads in Schools, Government Says (Associated Press, National)
Yesterday, first lady Michelle Obama announced that the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the National Recreation and Park Association will serve more fruits and vegetables at afterschool programs and ensure kids get 30-60 minutes of physical activity a day. The announcement was part of the fourth anniversary of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative. Mrs. Obama said “This new approach to eating and activity is not just a fad," the Associated Press reports.
Later Gator, the new afterschool program at Lake Cormorant Elementary, offers a “life-changing experience” for its students, the Desoto Times reports. Dr. Margaret Boyd, Lake Cormorant Elementary school principal and founder of Later Gator, said she started the program to help “working parents whose jobs often prevent them from helping children with their homework.”
Empowerment Circle Expands Horizons (Marion Star, Ohio)
Members of the Girls Empowerment Circle at Grant Middle School and Marion Harding High School are learning about dating violence so they can educate themselves and other students about healthy relationships. The group, which is funded by 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, is comprised of about 13 to 15 girls who are dedicated to helping their peers make smart life decisions. Not only do they help others by providing important information and resources, but organizer Rosalind Burks explains to the Marion Star that the program encourages girls to set goals for themselves, engage in community service and to continue their education after graduating from high school.
STEM Pilot Exposes Young to Tech, Science Careers (Journal-News, Ohio)
Elementary and junior high students in Hamilton will be able to enjoy a new afterschool program focused primarily on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education starting next month. Tyrome Bembry, founder of the new pilot program STEM2Dream program, told the Journal-News that the program is targeting kids from an under-served neighborhood because “STEM education will give them the ability to dream. It’s a tool they can use to fight the war on poverty.”
We loved the message of this recent GE ad, “Childlike Imagination.” Already, it has more than 1.2 million views on YouTube. Earlier this month we blogged about the importance of mentors for inspiring girls and other populations underrepresented in STEM. Working moms in STEM surely inspire their own daughters, and we hope they seek opportunities to inspire more girls in their community!