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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!

NOV
20
2017

STEM
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Using digital technology for outdoor exploration with PBS KIDS' PLUM LANDING

By Guest Blogger

By Brianne Keith, outreach project manager at WGBH Education.

For out-of-school time program leaders looking to get students outside more, it might seem counterintuitive to introduce digital media into their programming. After all, don’t kids already spend too much time in front of screens? Why use digital media when what you really want to do is get kids outdoors?

PLUM LANDING, the innovative PBS KIDS multimedia project that encourages children to explore the outdoors, has an answer to that question: Because digital media can actually enhance kids’ exploration of nature! The trick is creating media that actively engages kids, and harnesses the unique power of technology to inspire, teach, foster engagement, and turn it towards outdoor learning experiences.

WGBH, a leader in developing educational media for children, developed PLUM LANDING to help kids learn about the environment and inspire them to become caretakers of the planet. The project includes hands-on outdoor learning activities, games, videos, apps, and an online drawing tool and gallery where kids can share their ideas about nature—all designed to promote children’s active investigation of the world around them. The resources are NGSS-standards aligned and available for free on the PLUM LANDING website. Independent evaluation of the project showed that children who used PLUM LANDING were significantly more likely than those in a control group to show growth in their environmental science knowledge and interest in exploring the natural world.

​Building on the success of the program, WGBH has just released the PLUM LANDING Explore Outdoors Toolkit, a new set of materials designed to help kids and families in urban environments get outside, get moving, and get into nature. 

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learn more about: STEM Physical Activity
NOV
17
2017

IN THE FIELD
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HEPA Success Story: DC SCORES

By Faith Savaiano

In 1994, a former school teacher in Washington, D.C., began an afterschool soccer program for 15 girls who had little to do after their school days. The teacher, Julie Kennedy, soon realized that the team relationships the girls built on the field translated well to other activities they could pursue during their afterschool time, such as slam poetry and community service. With that, the DC SCORES program was born, and now has been replicated in 12 cities across the United States and Canada.

DC SCORES afterschool programming implements a unique combination of competitive soccer, slam poetry, arts enrichment, and service learning on an alternating year-round schedule. According to the Chief Program Officer, Sean Hinkle, this holistic model combined with a focus on delivering a high-quality experience allows every student to define and achieve their own version of success through the program.

“The different ways that kids can connect with one another, trusted adult mentors, and with the bigger community really sets us apart [with] many different ways for kids to find success,” said Hinkle.

NOV
16
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Support healthy OST programs with this action center's state policy toolkits & funding

By Tiereny Lloyd

Voices for Healthy Kids®, an initiative of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and American Heart Association, recently released an Out of School Time (OST) Campaign Toolkit. The toolkit is designed to empower OST advocates to take action in their communities and improve health of children in OST programs. Some features of the toolkit are new graphics, social media samples, fact sheets, messaging guides, and other resources. The toolkit can be downloaded here at no cost!

While you are downloading all the wonderful resources from the new toolkit, be sure to check out the open call for proposals to advance healthy eating and physical activity in your state.  This round of funding is specifically limited to proposals in the areas of the school health (physical activity/physical education, junk food marketing, wellness, ESSA, school food, and water), early care and education, and out-of-school-time policy levers. Applications must support the Voices for Healthy Kids OST Policy Lever: Pursue policy changes that require out-of-school time programs to integrate national healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) standards into recognition programs, accreditation programs, certifications, and rating systems.

The deadline for submission is fast approaching; all applications must be submitted by December 8, 2017 at 5 p.m. PST. Visit the grant portal to learn more!

Last but not least, be sure to join the movement! As the only online national network of people focusing on helping kids grow up at a healthy weight, the Voices for Healthy Kids Action Center (formerly PreventObesity.com) is the place where leaders and organizations connect with hundreds of thousands of health and wellness supporters in advocacy efforts and policy implementation. The action center offers two pathways to membership; you can sign up as an individual leader or you can create an organization profile

If you have questions about any of the above resources, please be sure to give me a ping at tlloyd@afterschoolalliance.org, I look forward to hearing from you!

NOV
15
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: November 15, 2017

By Luci Manning

These Girls Now Have Big Dreams — Thanks to these Mentoring Programs (The Miami Herald, Florida)

Three unique afterschool programs in South Florida are inspiring girls to build their confidence and professional ambition. Honey Shine motivates girls to pursue higher education while improving self-esteem by pairing professional women with young girls. Women of Tomorrow offers a mentoring program between professional women and girls along with college and career trips. PACE Center for Girls offers an alternative to public school with academics, counseling, health and wellness and more. “Insecurity and self-doubt are rampant among the girls when they begin the program, PACE Miami Executive Director Sherry Thompson Giordano told the Miami Herald. “But as they discover their talents and begin to think it will be possible to launch careers, they find a strength that will help guide them through the rest of their lives.”

Students Helping Students Read at Maclary Elementary (The News Journal, Delaware)

A group of Maclary Elementary School fifth graders are volunteering to help 10 kindergarteners improve their reading skills. The mentoring program is a part of The Christina School Board’s resolution for students to participate in 20 minutes of unstructured learning a day. “I wanted to help little kids read, because sometimes in kindergarten I would need help reading and spelling,” 10-year-old Megan Levering told The News Journal. The program helps students improve their leadership skills, cognitive development, decision-making skills, concentration and self-confidence.

With Grammy Nominees, DASH Program Aims to Develop Philly's Next Entertainment Leaders (The Inquirer, Pennsylvania)

The DASH (Destined to Achieve Successful Heights) afterschool program is giving 20 high school students the chance to produce their own music through a 12-week program called “Songwriting 101.” The hands-on learning experience, part of a collaboration with the Philadelphia School District, will allow students to learn about various fields within the entertainment industry from professional musicians. “When you sit with these kids, you get to see their faces light up and you realize they know that they can really do this,” Grammy-nominated songwriter and DASH master instructor Kristal Oliver told The Inquirer.

After-School STEM Programs Inspire Kids to Keep Learning (PBS NewsHour, Rhode Island)

Ella Risk Elementary School is trying to boost the number of low-income, minorities and women in STEM fields through its afterschool program SMILE. The corporate- and foundation-funded program serves more than 500 4th- to 12th-grade Rhode Island students who participate in experiential learning in a low-risk environment that doesn’t punish failure. “We work very hard at promoting a cohesive peer group where everyone knows it’s cool to be smart. They identify with science. They identify with STEM. And that carries them into high school to take the harder science and math courses,” founder Carol Englander told PBS NewsHour.

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learn more about: STEM Arts Literacy Girls In The News
NOV
14
2017

RESEARCH
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"Building Workforce Skills in Afterschool" highlights promising practices for all ages

By Nikki Yamashiro

The next generation of the American workforce is growing up right now and afterschool programs are vital partners in helping young people discover new passions and work towards their dreams. As in so many other subjects, the variety and versatility of afterschool programming offers opportunities for different kids at different ages and stages of development to benefit, whether the focus is on social and emotional learning, teamwork and communications skills, or concrete experience at paid internships.

In the Minneapolis Beacons afterschool programs, elementary school students learn and play collaboratively in groups, practicing active listening, considering and respecting different perspectives, and reaching consensus in a group setting. On the other side of the spectrum, high schoolers in Sunrise of Philadelphia’s afterschool program create five-year road maps for themselves, participate in mock interviews, and have the opportunity to work in a variety of paid internships.

Programs are helping students discover potential career pathways, connecting students to real-world workplace experience, and guiding students to build the foundational skills that will benefit students in school and when they enter the workforce. Afterschool Alliance’s new issue brief, Building Workforce Skills in Afterschool, examines the ladder of supports that afterschool programs provide students to help them thrive beyond school, as they grow into adults into their future careers.

NOV
13
2017

RESEARCH
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New report: Making summer learning a district-wide priority

By Leah Silverberg

Summer learning programs across the country are providing students with valuable opportunities to learn. However, for students from low-income families, quality learning opportunities can be sparse, and students from low-income communities lose more ground academically over their summer than their more affluent peers. Supporting summer learning, and making these programs a priority for school districts, can make a difference for these students year-round. Taking support for these programs to a district level and prioritizing summer learning can help ensure program quality, sustainability, and increase community buy-in.  

In an effort to support summer learning programs, The Wallace Foundation launched the National Summer Learning Project (NSLP) across five school districts nationwide in 2011. Evaluating the NSLP programs, RAND has explored outcomes for students participating in summer learning programs. Digging deeper, Making Summer Last: Integrating Summer Programming into Core District Priorities and Operations, a new report from The Wallace Foundation and RAND, explores how three of the school districts participating in NSLP integrated summer learning into their district priorities. The report evaluates interviews with district staff members and summer leadership staff involved in summer programming and highlights their recommendations for making summer a district-wide priority. Here are the report’s three main takeaways, including challenges, to integrate and prioritize summer learning programs into your school district:

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learn more about: Summer Learning
NOV
10
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Introducing our inaugural class of Youth Afterschool Ambassadors

By Charlotte Steinecke

Through our Afterschool Ambassadors program, every year we recruit a cohort of program providers and advocates of special distinction and provide them with training, technical support, and modest funding to complete projects that raise the profile of afterschool in their communities. This year, we're very excited to announce that we're building on the success of that program, with our new Youth Afterschool Ambassador initiative!

Our first five Youth Ambassadors will each design and carry out a project showcasing the value of afterschool programs. In addition, they will write blog posts for Afterschool Snack about the importance of afterschool and travel to Washington, D.C., next year to participate in the annual Afterschool for All Challenge, where they will meet with members of Congress and their staff.

The five Youth Afterschool Ambassadors in this inaugural class come from four states. They are: 

  • Ruben Balderas from Walla Walla Washington’s WaHi FORWARD Afterschool Program  
  • Maya Irvine from Camdenton, Missouri’s Camdenton FIRST LASER Robotics Team  
  • Harli Jo McKinney from Stratford Oklahoma’s C3 Afterschool Program  
  • Kaleb Robertson from Green Bay, Wisconsin’s Boys & Girls Club of Greater Green Bay  
  • Marisol Romero from Toppenish Washington’s 21st Century Community Afterschool and Summer Program at Safe Haven Community Center  

"The Youth Ambassador program is an incredible opportunity for students to share their experiences of afterschool and summer learning programs and the ways that participation in those programs have significantly impacted their lives," says Alexis Steines, director of field outreach at the Afterschool Alliance and manager of the Youth Ambassador program. "I look forward to seeing the creative advocacy projects our inaugural class of Youth Ambassadors is developing!"