By Sarah Keller
Last week I attended the “Reimagining Education: Empowering Learning in a Connected World” summit and was inspired and moved by the dedication and passion expressed in the room to change the current educational circumstances of young people in our nation. Everyone in attendance was focused on the goal of making sure all youth are prepared for the unique challenges of our time, equipped with the knowledge, skills and support they need to succeed. It was impressive to hear thinking around creating a new ecosystem for learning that recognizes that learning takes place everywhere and makes it relevant to young people—drawing on their interests; connecting them to their peers and to mentors; and linking both interests and relationships to academics, career and community.
I was blown away, and in some cases a little starstruck, listening to speakers that included astronaut Leland Melvin, NBA All-Star and afterschool advocate Chris Paul, Howard University student and afterschool program graduate Marcus Prince, and Digital Youth Network founder and DePaul University Associate Professor Nichole Pinkard. I walked away from the two-day event excited about the possibilities and enthusiastic to further participate in reimagining education.
Sarah Cruz is the director of expanded learning opportunities for the Statewide Network for New Jersey’s Afterschool Communities, NJSACC. NJSACC promotes and supports the development, continuity and expansion of quality programs for children and youth during the hours after school.
We know that many afterschool programs engage youth in great hands-on experiences from arts and crafts and basketball to chess and step teams. What we need to know and promote to our colleagues and communities, policy makers and parents is how high-quality afterschool activities can support learning that takes place during the school day.
In New Jersey, we learned how this is possible from our pilot Supporting Student Success (s3). Funded by Charles S. Mott Foundation—in partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures, Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices—we learned that afterschool programs can align and support school day learning when program leadership is intentional about the activities, experiences and interactions youth have while attending afterschool programs.
From the afterschool program that brought you the smash hit Hot Cheetos & Takis, the Beats and Rhymes afterschool program has done it again! The program is set up by the North Community YMCA in Minneapolis, MN, and gives local kids the opportunity to work on professional-grade equipment to make rap and hip-hop videos as a reward for keeping up with schoolwork.
Now, they've followed up on last summer's viral hit with two more fun videos created by these amazing students:
The NSJ Crew—Khaki Pants
@paulrosengard is the Executive Director of SPARK , developer of the world’s most-researched and field-tested health and wellness programs for youth. SPARK provides After School, Physical Education, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health professionals with evidence-based resources, dynamic leadership training, and age-appropriate equipment.
During my first “real job” at the Chula Vista Parks and Recreation Department, I gained a lot of experience running afterschool programs. I realized afterschool leaders are blessed with the opportunity to teach youth valuable life lessons, like the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. Our nationwide obesity epidemic makes it even more important for afterschool programs to work closely with schools and parents to ensure youth move a lot and make good food choices.
Part of this team effort includes fostering opportunities for youth to engage in structured and unstructured physical activity after school. As a former youth leader, I know there are a lot of challenges to making afterschool programs movement-rich including limited time, places and spaces to move safely, a lack of equipment, and/or sometimes just the wrong equipment (not age-appropriate). After conducting multiple research projects to develop and test the effectiveness of physical education lessons, I wrote my first afterschool curriculum. In the years following, our team has updated the curriculum to help afterschool leaders overcome the challenges they face implementing physical activity programs and developing environments that support youth wellness.
June 21 is Summer Learning Day—a national advocacy day offering an opportunity to showcase your community’s out-of-school time program, as well as spread the word about the importance of summer learning.Host an event during the week of June 21 or anytime during the summer!
During this national showcase, your program will want to highlight how you work to:
- Maintain and advance participants' academic and developmental growth
- Support working families
- Keep children safe and healthy
- Send young people back to school ready to learn
Are you having a Summer Learning Day event? Visit www.summerlearningdaymap.org and promote it on the National Summer Learning Association’s event map! Make sure to list your event by June 21 and you may win one free conference registration to NSLA’s Summer Changes Everything™ national conference on summer learning.
You can also visit NSLA’s website at www.summerlearning.org/SLD for more information and resources on Summer Learning Day.
The chance to hang out with LeBron James, the Miami Heat power forward, is pretty rare. But even rarer is the chance for 10 academic all-stars from Akron Public Schools Extended Learning program to be flown to Miami and share the stage with James as he was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player for the fourth time.
Last Friday afternoon Akron students were sitting in class at Seiberling Elementary School in Akron, Ohio, but on Sunday morning, the 10 academic all-stars were enjoying a gourmet breakfast in a swanky dining room at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami, courtesy of the LeBron James Family Foundation. This was one of the many rewards for being selected out of the nearly 500 children participating in the foundation’s Wheels for Education program.