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Snacks by Robert Abare
JUL
1
2016

IN THE FIELD
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New study: Afterschool physical activity standards are widely adopted

By Robert Abare

By 2020, at least 5 million children will attend afterschool or summer learning programs that have committed to implementing new physical activity standards, according to the Partnership for a Healthier America.

This promising trend is occurring largely thanks to the National AfterSchool Association’s (NAA) creation and promotion of new Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards, according to a new study released by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time and RTI International. The NAA’s HEPA standards were designed to help out-of-school time programs work to prevent childhood obesity and keep kids nourished, healthy and active.

The study, Monitoring the Uptake of National Afterschool Association Physical Activity Standards, compares findings from previous reports and surveys to analyze the rate of out-of-school time providers adopting the NAA physical activity standards into their programming. The report notes research by the Afterschool Alliance showing that more than 10 million U.S. children participate in afterschool programs—almost half of which come from low-income households—which makes these programs a valuable setting for promoting healthy habits among America’s kids.

The report also notes that "large national organizations including Y USA, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, National Recreation and Park Association, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America have integrated the [NAA’s HEPA] standards (in whole or in part) into sizable programmatic initiatives.”

The report continues, “In addition, states have considered regulations that include adaptations of the standards, with legislation enacted in California in 2014 and efforts underway in other states including Florida, South Carolina and Texas.”

These initiatives to implement the NAA’s HEPA standards at the programmatic and state level are helping to create broad, uniform improvements in the health of our nation’s children.

You can download the full report through Active Living Research. You can also join a network of youth service professionals seeking to curb America’s rising rates of childhood obesity by becoming a Leader on PreventObesity.net.

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learn more about: Health and Wellness
JUN
24
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Celebrate National Summer Learning Day on July 14, 2016!

By Robert Abare

Summer is here! Although school is out, summer learning programs are making sure kids are continuing to learn new things, make academic strides, and stay physically active. The National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) encourages communities across the country to celebrate the importance of summer learning programs on National Summer Learning Day: July 14, 2016. Visit the NSLA website to find an event near you, register your event to appear on a national map of Summer Learning day events, or explore summer learning resources for families or communities.

New book makes the case that Summers Matter

The founder of the NSLA, Matthew Boulay, PhD, helped kick off this year’s National Summer Learning Day with the release of a new book, Summers Matter: 10 Things Every Parent, Teacher, & Principal Should Know About June, July, & August. The book is the first to explore the “summer learning gap,” or the challenge of providing educational and engaging activities for kids during the summer months when school is out.

"How do we keep our children safe and supervised when schools are closed but adults still have to work? How do we preserve the academic gains that children achieved during the school year?” asks Boulay. “The good news is that researchers have quietly amassed a mountain of evidence documenting why summers matter and what we can do as parents and educators to help our children during the months when schools are closed.”

Summers Matter translates the most compelling research into accessible tips and guidance for parents and school leaders on how they can integrate summer learning programs into their communities, regardless of income or access. Proceeds from the book support the NSLA.

Boulay added, “We now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what our children do during their summers has a long-term and significant impact on their academic achievement and life chances."

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Summer Learning
JUN
16
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool Spotlight: Simpson Street Free Press

By Robert Abare

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present this Afterschool Spotlight, part of a series featuring the stories of children, parents and providers of summer and afterschool programs. Also check out the firstsecond, and third installments of the series. Have a story to share? Email Robert Abare at rabare@afterschoolalliance.org.

Kadjata Bah holds up a copy of the Simpson Street Free Press.

Eleven-year-old Kadjata Bah is a 5th grader with a dream of one day becoming a pediatrician. Though ambitious, her career goal seems more attainable thanks to the Simpson Street Free Press afterschool program, which has already allowed her to become a paid, published journalist.

“I just wrote an article about a new species of bee that was discovered in Kenya,” Kadjata enthusiastically explains. “They are very different from how we typically think of bees, like honeybees, which live in hives. These bees are solitary, and they don’t have stingers.”

“It was fun to write this article, and I learned a lot,” she adds.

Jim Kramer founded the Simpson Street Free Press 24 years ago in southeast Madison, WI, after seeking a creative way to get kids in this challenged part of town more excited about their school work while gaining valuable, real-world skills.

“Our concept was to start a newspaper where kids take on the role of reporters,” Jim explains. The program currently reaches approximately 270 students, with two newsrooms located at local schools, a central newsroom in southeast Madison, and a newsroom located at the offices of Capital Newspapers, the publisher of local daily newspapers.

Middle and high school students interested in participating in the Simpson Street Free Press are required to apply as they would to any other job—with writing samples and recommendations from their teachers. If accepted, they are paid once their work makes it through multiple rounds of outlining and editing and is finally published.

“We have kids applying to our program as young as 3rd grade," says Jim. "For most, this is the first job they have ever applied to."

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learn more about: Youth Development Literacy
JUN
13
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Youth Today's Out-of-School Time Hub links latest research to practice

By Robert Abare

Youth Today, a national publication for those working in the field of youth services, has recently launched a new Out-of-School Time (OST) Hub for engaging articles on the latest research and emerging issues in the out-of-school time field. The new resource is funded by a grant from the Robert Bowne Foundation, and "reflects the Foundation's belief in the critical importance of building bridges between research and practice."

The OST Hub is broken into four topic areas: Language and Literacy, Program Quality, Youth Leadership, and Health in OST Programs. Each section features a variety of downloadable PDFs on the latest research, program examples, fieldnotes and other resources relating to each topic. For instance, check out Youth-Adult Partnerships in Community Decision Making: What Does It Take to Involve Adults in the Practice? in the OST Hub's Youth Leadership section.

Take advantage of webinars exploring afterschool innovations

The OST Hub also provides a number of webinars for professionals to engage directly with experts in the out-of-school time field. This Wednesday, June 15th at 1 p.m., the OST Hub is hosting a webinar on "Documenting Youth Learning with Badges and Portfolios," part of Youth Today's "From Research to Practice" webinar series. The webinar explores how afterschool programs can offer trusted certifications to participants who gain specific skills, focusing on Mouse, Inc. 

Mouse, Inc. is a nonprofit that involved high school students in an afterschool computer project. The participating students, upon completion, were able to earn a badge recognized  by the admissions department of Parsons School of Art. The webinar's presenters are Marc Lesser of Mouse, Inc. and Sarah Zeller-Berkman, Ph.D, of Mozilla.

Add your voice to the Hub!

The OST Hub is looking to hear from you! In particular, the publication seeks writing from afterschool practitioners in the OST Fieldnotes section, in every topic area. If your program is embarking on an innovative project and you'd like to share insights from your work, contact the OST Hub editor Sara Hill at sarahill@youthtoday.org.

JUN
10
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Advocates sing praises of musical education to leaders in Washington

By Robert Abare

From left to right, NAMM president Joe Lamond, Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 

Last month, the week of May 23-26, members and supporters of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) arrived in Washington, D.C. to highlight the importance of making music education available to all students, as a part of a well-rounded education. You can read the full description of the week's events through NAMM's press release.

Here are some highlights from NAMM's week of music education advocacy:

  • A day of service, during which NAMM members donated musical instruments and supplies to students in need, and provided three hours of music lessons to 75 students at D.C.’s Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy.
  • Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) was awarded the SupportMusic Champion Award by the NAMM Foundation in recognition of the Senator’s long history in supporting music education. The award came on the heels of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015. The passage of ESSA is the first federal law to provide a framework for access to music and arts education for every student.
  • Over 150 meetings with Congressional offices to emphasize the importance of supporting music education and highlight the benefits music education offers students.
  • A special reception was held for the Turnaround Arts, a program under the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. During the reception, a variety of artists were honored for their work in arts education advocacy, of which music education is a core topic.
  • A call with Secretary of Education John King, during which King discussed ESSA and the law's goal of creating a more dynamic and well-rounded education experience for America's students. Listen to the call via NAMM's website.
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learn more about: Advocacy Arts
JUN
8
2016

RESEARCH
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How afterschool systems can connect the dots between data and best practices

By Robert Abare

Having witnessed the benefits that afterschool programs provide students, parents and communities, many U.S. cities are building afterschool systems to link and sustain high-quality afterschool programs and boost access for those in need. But to ensure afterschool systems continually improve and effectively impact their communities, these systems need to collect and properly analyze student data. 

A new report commissioned by The Wallace Foundation and produced by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, titled Connecting the Dots: Data Use in Afterschool Systems, provides research-based strategies to help afterschool systems achieve this goal. 

The report's executive summary notes that previous studies have focused on the application of technology to collect data. Connecting the Dots, however, has found that people and practices are just as important to consider when setting up an effective data collection system. The study focuses on nine cities that are part of the Next Generation Afterschool System-Building Initiative, a multi-year effort to strengthen the systems that support access to and participation in high-quality afterschool programs for low-income youth. The nine cities are:

  • Baltimore, MD
  • Denver, CO 
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Louisville, KY
  • Nashville, TN
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Saint Paul, MN

Is your city not listed? Interested in learning what Connecting the Dots has to say about collecting and applying student data on a large, city-wide scale?

Here are three basic strategies to implement an effective data system:

Start small. Many cities found that starting with a limited set of goals for data collection and use, or by launching a new data system to a limited group of providers, was an effective way to gain solid footing in data collection before scaling up.

Provide ongoing training. Given that many programs face high staff turnover rates, it's important to have an ongoing training system so that new staff can quickly get a grasp of data collection techniques, technologies and practices. 

Access data expertise. There are many ways for cities to locate a data collection partner and capitalize on their expertise. Some cities identified a research partner who participated in the development of their data system, while other cities leveraged the relationship primarily for access to data, analysis and reporting of data collected by providers. Some cities did not develop relationships with external research partners, but instead relied on the expertise of internal staff. The ultimate goal is to ensure that someone with skills in data analytics is providing guidance.

JUN
1
2016

LIGHTS ON
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Lights On Afterschool poster contest deadline extended!

By Robert Abare

From left to right, the winners of the 2015, 2014 and 2013 Lights On Afterschool poster contests

Summer is here! Why not use the spare time to design a piece of artwork that could be published across the world? The 2016 Lights On Afterschool poster contest has a new deadline: July 15, 2016. Afterschool or summer learning program participants are encouraged to design, craft and submit their work following these submission guidelines before the deadline for a chance to win.

Why submit to the contest?

The afterschool or summer learning program home to the winning artist will recieve a set of flavored syrups to make-your-own soda, flavored ice or more, courtesy of Torani! The winning artist will also be featured on our websiteblog and a national press release. The 2016 Lights On Afterschool poster contest is also a great opportunity for an afterschool or summer learning program to gain national recognition for the opportunities it offers, as the winning artist's afterschool program will be credited on the poster, too!

What should a poster submission look like?

Be creative! We love to see bright colors, bold designs, and art that communicates the joyful spirit of Lights On Afterschool and celebrates the opportunities made possible by out-of-school time programs. Keep in mind that the winning artwork will need to be scanned to become a digital image, so avoid using textures or raised materials. Materials that won’t smear or rub off—like markers, paint and pens—often work better than crayons, watercolors or chalk. 

You can also gain inspiration by viewing this gallery of previous winners.

How do I send in submissions?

Follow these submission guidelines to enter the contest. 

When are the poster submissions due?

July 15, 2016! Unleash your participants' inner artists and start designing today!

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learn more about: Competition Events and Briefings Arts
MAY
27
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Dive into coding for this month's HALO Effect Challenge!

By Robert Abare

Christina Li appears on The HALO Effect

The HALO Effect is a new live action show from Nickelodeon that tells the story of extraordinary teens who are working to improve our world. Each episode features the story of a “Champion” who is Helping And Leading Others to make a positive difference, like Jaylen Arnold of February’s episode or Jessica Collins of the show’s January premiere.

This month’s episode, which aired on May 20th, featured the story of 17-year-old Christina Li of Sterling Heights, MI. When Christina was only 8, she and her friends picked up a copy of HTML for Dummies and began building websites for fun. Christina and coding "clicked," and after she joined her school's Robotics Club, she found a coding mentor in her computer science teacher.

Since those early days, coding has taken Christina to a number of amazing accomplishments. She has won scholarships to attend summer sessions at Stanford; she won Microsoft’s Youthspark Challenge for Change; and she attended a summer program at MIT where she researched drone technology.

Coding isn’t just for boys

Out of nearly 100 attendees at the MIT summer program, Christina was one of only two girls. That’s when she decided to make a change. Christina learned about other women who had set up events to teach young girls how to code. When her school’s mostly male Robotics Club showed little interest in hosting an all-girl event, Christina decided to do it by herself by creating the coding camp Hello, World.