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In the Field Snacks
APR
8
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Guest Blog: ZooCrew empowers youth to tackle conservation issues

By Erin Murphy

Written by Ryan Driscoll, Science Education Outreach Coordinator for ZooCrew. This blog post is presented as part of a series celebrating afterschool programs involved in environmental education, with more installments coming throughout April! Join the conversation about afterschool's role in environmental education on social media with #AfterschoolEE.

Conservation issues can be difficult to address with secondary students. These students have reached the age when they are ready dive into challenging topics like deforestation and poaching, but exploring the complexity of these issues can be messy. Woodland Park Zoo’s afterschool program, ZooCrew, helps students examine these complicated issues and generate solutions to address the varying concerns. Throughout this process, we are always amazed at our students’ eagerness and ability to grapple with these topics, and at the ingenuity and creativity of their solutions.

Learning through exploring

ZooCrew partners with Seattle Parks and Recreation to serve youth from four traditionally underserved middle schools, engaging around 150 students each year in weekly two-hour sessions. In groups of 10 to 20, we confront real-world conservation issues, prepare students for continued involvement in Woodland Park Zoo’s youth programs and inspire youth to consider a broad range of STEM or conservation careers.

Each term, ZooCrew students explore a conservation issue in a selected ecosystem. From the tropical rain forest to the Pacific Northwest, ZooCrew youth learn about current issues affecting these biomes like wildlife poaching, climate change, and deforestation. With help from teen volunteers from our ZooCorps program, students create projects to support ongoing conservation efforts, generate new solutions and advocate for action in their community. They also take two field trips each quarter, participating in restoration work at a local park or green space and visiting the zoo to share their projects with parents, zoo staff and fellow students.

The diverse projects that students can pursue offer room for creativity to apply what they learn. For example, this fall we focused on the complex issue of poaching in the African savanna. After learning about the savanna ecosystem, we delved into various perspectives around poaching and held a mock summit to recognize the difficulty of finding solutions that consider everyone involved. Students used this experience to create a wide variety of anti-poaching projects. Some students supported conservation programs through citizen science apps, while others designed robotic Egyptian tortoises to help stem the illegal pet trade, or created faux poached items to reduce market demand. Still others designed an educational video game to teach people about the impacts of poaching.

APR
4
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Guest Blog: Building community partnerships by finding common ground

By Robert Abare

Written by Rhetta Hunyady, the Vice President of Education and Training at the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, which administers YouthQuest, a high-quality afterschool program serving more than 2,000 students in Flint and Genesee County, Michigan. For more information, visit www.yquest.org.

In today’s hyper-connected world, it seems as though developing community partnerships would be relatively easy. Just hop on the phone, shoot an email or send out a Tweet and boom—partnership initiated.

In reality, the process is a bit more involved. It’s not enough to call a local organization and say, “Here’s how you can help us.” You need to be able to add, “Here’s how we can help you.”

At YouthQuest, we work with several community partners who help us serve more than 2,000 students in Genesee County, Michigan. One partnership that immediately comes to mind is the one we share with The Whiting, a Flint-based performing arts venue that has provided our students with free admission to artist performances including Blue Man Group and Black Violin.

These excursions help YouthQuest provide more robust programming, a key element of which is cultural enrichment. And just as we benefit, so do our friends at The Whiting, whose mission is to serve local students and their families throughout their presentation season.

So how do you determine what your “win-win” opportunities are?

To begin, know what it is you want. Once you find an organization or business that offers services or programming that fit that vision, set up a meeting to discuss what that agency’s mission, vision and values are.

From there, brainstorm ways your program can address their needs, be it helping the organization fulfill their social responsibility goals for the year or building their brand by sharing photos and news on social media.

In many ways, building partnerships is similar to fundraising or financial development. You have to make connections and build relationships to understand how and where your goals overlap.

Last Thursday Sharri Newman, YouthQuest’s Program Director, discussed forming successful partnerships by co-leading the Knitting Effective Partnerships workshop during the Ready by 21 National Meeting in Baltimore. Efforts like these to strengthen organizations' and afterschool programs' abilities to form strong partnerships help everyone—students, families, programs and communities.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Community Partners
APR
1
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Help us celebrate environmental education this month!

By Erin Murphy

The Afterschool Alliance is excited to announce that throughout April we will be celebrating environmental education! Our goal is to highlight the work that afterschool programs do to address the importance of environmental education by showcasing how programs are engaging students to think critically about the environment—both locally and globally.

As part of this campaign, we will be celebrating Earth Day by hosting a tweet chat to discuss the importance of environmental education, the current state of environmental education in afterschool, and how programs and individuals can support this mission. Sign up to join us on April 22 at 2 p.m. ET.

Additionally, we have registered our events as part of the National Environmental Education Foundation’s (NEEF) Environmental Education Week (EE Week 2016). This will be the 12th annual EE Week working to inspire environmental learning among K-12 students both inside and outside of the classroom.

Get involved with environmental education:

  • Check out our favorite environmental education resources.
  • Send us a tweet @afterschool4all using the hashtag #AfterschoolEE and share what afterschool programs can do to support environmental education, what your program is doing, and what your favorite environmental resources and activities are.
  • Learn more about our Earth Day tweet chat on April 22 at 2 p.m. ET and sign up to join us and a panel of environmental education experts for a conversation about environmental education in afterschool.
  • Keep checking the Afterschool Snack for a blog series where programs like the Washington ZooCrew will share their experiences and advice on how to implement environmental education into afterschool programs.
  • Register your events, field trips or projects happening on or around April 17 to 23 as EE Week events.
MAR
31
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Share your insights to keep kids healthy for years to come

By Robert Abare

The Afterschool Alliance is conducting a survey on afterschool meals to better understand the challenges facing the field—and the health of our nation’s children.

It’s difficult to face the facts about childhood obesity in the United States. Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents, according to the CDC, and more than 1 in 3 kids are currently overweight or obese. Furthermore, close to 16 million children live in households that are considered “food-insecure,” meaning they lack consistent access to food.

While obesity leads to a number of health problems, from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, food insecurity creates systemic obstacles for families and communities by leading children to choose foods that are less nutritious and binge eat when food becomes available.

Afterschool programs play a major role in promoting healthy lifestyles for our children. Many afterschool and summer learning programs offer physical activities, serve healthy snacks and meals, and lead kids through hands-on lessons in nutrition.

Your input leads to better practices

To better understand the obstacles that face programs providing healthy food to their participants, the Afterschool Alliance is partnering with Share Our Strength to survey afterschool providers about the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) At-Risk Afterschool Meals.

Click here to take the survey—a few minutes of your time could benefit the health of children for years to come. The survey should take no more than 15 to 20 minutes of your time, and your answers will not be attributed to you or your organization.

The Afterschool Alliance's efforts to increase afterschool and summer meal participation are made possible in part by the generous support of the Food Research and Action Center and the ConAgra Foods Foundation.

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learn more about: Health and Wellness
MAR
29
2016

IN THE FIELD
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The power of parent advocacy to expand afterschool access

By Jillian Luchner

Sometimes, you hear a story that’s simply inspirational—the kind of story movies are based on. I recently heard such a story from Allyson Criner Brown, associate director of Teaching for Change, an organization with a family engagement approach that works to include families and communities in decision making around children’s education. This story concerns a group of empowered parents who successfully argued for expanded afterschool offerings in their community.

In spring 2015, parents at Bruce Monroe Elementary at Park View (BMPV), a DC public school, finally refused to accept a waitlist 75 names long for access to BMPV's afterschool program. The parents organized as the Parents and Teachers United (PTU) with the help of Teaching for Change, and the PTU trained parent advocates to lead “across race, class, and language...and work with the administration to resolve issues that are critically important to the school community.” One of the biggest concerns for BMPV parents was the lack of afterschool access. Parents and families raised their united voice, met with the principal and district officials, and were rewarded with great results: six new staff positions for their afterschool program in order to expand opportunities for students and their families.

You can read the whole article on the parents’ successful advocacy on the Teaching for Change webpage. The website also has additional resources for parent organizing and parent engagement.

Research conducted by the Afterschool Alliance shows that lots of students nationwide are waiting to get in to afterschool programs. If you have a good story of success in spite of this challenge, please send it along. We’d love to hear and to share.

And a big congratulations to the families of DC’s Bruce Monroe Elementary at Park View!

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learn more about: Advocacy
MAR
23
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Drumroll please! And the winner of the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award is...

By Nikki Yamashiro

Executive Director of Redhound Enrichment Karen West receives the Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award from Dollar General's Community Initiatives Administrator Lindsey Sublett

We are thrilled to announce the winner of the 2016 Dollar General Afterschool Literacy Award and $10,000 prize:  Redhound Enrichment afterschool program! The Corbin, Kentucky based afterschool program was recognized today at the National AfterSchool Association’s annual convention at the conclusion of the general session.

Redhound Enrichment stood out from more than 150 nominations for this year’s award through its holistic approach to learning and ability to find fun and engaging avenues to integrate literacy into its programming. Executive director of the program Karen West spoke about strategies Redhound Enrichment implements in a workshop during the convention, Creating Year-Round Literacy Opportunities.

In conjunction with the announcement of the award winner, the latest Dollar General afterschool literacy issue brief, Taking a Year-Round Approach to Literacy, was also released. Check out the issue brief to find out more about the award winning program, as well as learn the variety of ways programs across the country are taking advantage of after school hours and summer months to build students’ reading, writing and critical thinking skills.

Stay tuned for details about an upcoming webinar this April featuring programs highlighted in the issue brief who will discuss how they are helping develop their students’ reading and writing skills, as well as create meaningful connections to literacy.

MAR
22
2016

IN THE FIELD
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California sets a healthy precedent with DASH program

By Tiereny Lloyd

California’s Senate Bill 949 has established the state’s Distinguished After-School Health (DASH) program, a recognition program that encourages healthy foods, beverages, physical activity and limited screen time in afterschool programs. Authored by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D- Santa Barbara) and administered by the California Department of Education, DASH was signed into law in 2014.

Since then, the California Department of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction have been creating a DASH portal for both parents and programs. Parents searching for a healthy afterschool program will be able to find a list of DASH-certified programs on the state’s website, and DASH-certified programs will be able to display their certifications at program sites and on their website or materials.

Starting in March, providers of afterschool programs in the before-school, afterschool or summer learning program settings throughout the state can request certification. Applications will be accepted until April 8, 2016 and certificates will be valid for two years. To become certified, programs must show evidence of fulfilling the following requirements, which are largely consistent with the National Afterschool Association's Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards:

MAR
18
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool Alliance Chairman Terry Peterson honored as Champion for Children

By Jodi Grant

Dr. Terry Peterson and Executive Director Jodi Grant wearing "Afterschool Works" hard hats

Last week, I was honored to speak at the Beyond School Hours National Education Conference in Dallas, Texas for a ceremony honoring Dr. Terry Peterson with the Champion for Children award. The award honors individuals who have devoted their lives and careers toward ensuring that every child in America has the opportunity to reach success in school, career and life through afterschool and summer learning programs.

Terry has dedicated his career to helping our students succeed, and I am honored to work with a man who counts in his legacies the creation of federal afterschool funding. A long-serving public servant at the state and federal level, including eight years as chief education advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Terry was instrumental in creating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative (21st CCLC). 21st CCLC provides critical support to afterschool programs that serve thousands of children and families across America.

In his remarks, Terry likened afterschool leaders to an army fighting for increased opportunities for students in need. “Together you are the sergeants, lieutenants, and generals turning afterschool and summer learning and partnerships—and turning 21st Century Community Learning Centers—into an important educational and community improvement strategy and partnership movement,” he said.

Terry also expressed his gratitude to the field for their hard work ensuring that 21st CCLC was preserved and strengthened in the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed last December. “This reauthorization recognized your good work and your voices were heard. Give yourselves a round of applause,” he said.

Looking toward the challenges that lie ahead for afterschool and the U.S. education system, Terry ended his remarks with a call to action. “Please don’t forget the power of your individual voice and our collective voices as we move forward,” he said. “Please lend your voice to increase by $200 million the federal appropriation for 21st Century Community Learning Centers for 2017.”

Join me in congratulating Terry for his achievement by following his important call to make our voices heard in Congress. As the appropriations process gets underway this spring, contact your representatives through the Afterschool Alliance website to tell them you support strong federal funding for afterschool and summer learning programs.