By Rachel Clark
|A West Virginia parent (L) and Alaska student (R) share why they love their afterschool programs. Photos via @WVSAN and @AKAfterschool.|
As we celebrate Valentine’s Day with loved ones, family, and friends, many afterschool students, staff, and supporters are sharing from the heart why they love afterschool.
In addition to sharing on social media, parents from communities across the country have written heartwarming love letters to the afterschool programs they and their children rely on every day. The reasons afterschool is close to their hearts are as diverse as the afterschool field itself.
Afterschool supports working parents
For Pennsylvania mom Tami Reichman, the LifeSpan afterschool program offers job security and the priceless peace of mind of knowing her kids are safe and learning while she’s at work.
“As a single mom of two who is working full time while earning her bachelor’s degree, it’s important for me to have someplace safe for my children to go after school,” Tami shared with The Morning Call.
“With my job as a shipping manager, I can’t afford to miss days of work because of inclement weather or school holidays. LifeSpan offers care right at the school so my children have somewhere safe and supervised to go.”
Afterschool gives students the tools to achieve
Amanda Owens of West Valley City, Utah, loves her son’s afterschool program because it’s given him more confidence in school.
“For years my son struggled with reading. The help and tutoring he's received from the afterschool teachers has been immense,” Amanda wrote in The Salt Lake Tribune. “I cannot imagine how far behind in reading he would be without the afterschool program. Now he's no longer embarrassed to read. He even gets excited to read to his younger siblings!”
By Rachel Clark
By Rachel Willis, Research Project Manager at the Kansas Enrichment Network.
|Student Jessica Rodas speaks at the Kansas Workforce Summit. Photo via @KS_Enrichment.|
We all know the statistics from the last decade. Employment growth in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sectors is occurring at a faster rate than the growth rate projected for all occupations over the decade—13 percent compared to 11 percent, respectively.
At the most recent Kansas Workforce Summit, the Kansas Enrichment Network and other participants heard this reiterated again. We also learned about the importance of educating and preparing young people for jobs that cannot be automated, as well as teaching 21st century skills like communication, teamwork, adaptability, problem solving and critical thinking. While these concepts came as no surprise to us, we were excited that our fellow attendees from outside the out-of-school time field were hearing this message. It set the stage perfectly for our Youth Speak panel facilitated by the Afterschool Alliance’s very own Jodi Grant.
Jodi introduced an audience of business leaders and other workforce development stakeholders to out-of-school programming and the substantial body of research on the effects of quality afterschool programs. This audience was especially interested in afterschool’s role in improving school day attendance—as Jodi pointed out at the Summit, “the number one indicator for whether or not kids will get in trouble with the law, whether or not they graduate tends to be truancy. We have a direct impact on that in afterschool.”
Following this introduction, Jodi turned it over to four youth—one middle school student, two high school students and one graduate student—who answered questions about how their afterschool programs are preparing them for bright futures. The youth spoke about the opportunity to explore various career paths, learning how to work on a team, and improving their leadership skills. “The adults that we have supervising us help teach us important standards such as punctuality and communication, taking on responsibilities, following directions, and developing leadership skills,” student Patience Wagner shared.
By Rachel Clark
This month, we’re celebrating the millions of reasons to love America’s afterschool programs, and we want to see why you and your students love afterschool!
Joining in can make for an easy and fun activity for your program in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. We’ve already seen programs in Washington and Alaska invite students to participate, with some unique and creative results.
Taking part is simple. All you have to do is:
- Download the toolkit.
- Make copies of the included We Love Afterschool sign.
- Ask students (and parents!) to fill them out.
- Snap photos of the finished product and share them on social media with the hashtag #AfterschoolWorks!
Ready to get started? Download the toolkit now.
By Rachel Clark
By Erin Dowd, Director of Curriculum for Level Up Village. Connect with her on Twitter @eedowd27. Level Up Village (LUV) delivers pioneering Global STEAM (STEM + Arts) enrichment courses that promote design thinking and one-to-one collaboration on real-world problems between students from around the world. Launched in 2012, LUV runs courses during school, after-school and in the summer for students at more than 150 U.S. schools, with 30+ Global Partner organizations in more than 20 countries. For more information, visit levelupvillage.com.
|These students in San Juan Capistrano, California, collaborated virtually with partners in Honduras on a 3D printing collaboration in their Level Up Village Global Inventors after school course. (Photo Credit: St. Margaret’s Episcopal School)|
Global collaboration is the next phase of 21st Century learning, but it can often be placed on the back burner. Let’s face it: finding the time to address all of the moving parts involved in connecting students across oceans is hard.
But wouldn’t it be amazing to provide an opportunity for your students to learn with students half a world away and develop empathy by collaborating on the same project? And why aren’t more schools doing this already?
Challenge 1: Competing Demands
Afterschool providers are under so much pressure to plan lessons and activities, meet healthy eating and physical activity goals, handle administrative tasks, connect with parents and more. It can be daunting to even contemplate a global collaboration, and inevitably, it slides down the list of priorities.
Challenge 2: Time Zones & Technology Hurdles
Often, plans for a global collaboration are compromised by challenges such as spotty Internet connections, outdated software or lack of tech support. Different time zones are a major factor to consider and can prevent real-time connections.
While these issues are real and can present big challenges, they are not insurmountable as long as educators consider the following:
Global collaboration doesn’t need to replace other learning objectives
Global collaboration is similar to regular classroom collaboration in that it requires curiosity, effective communication, perspective taking, resourcefulness, and ultimately, the ability to follow through on projects. These are all important skills to be successful in life and are also highlighted in Common Core, NGSS, and ISTE standards. Global collaboration allows students to apply these skills across cultural contexts and allows educators to address many goals at once.
Real-time communication isn’t the only way to connect
While real-time video exchange is amazing, there are other ways for students to connect with peers across the world. Asynchronous video exchange, audio recordings, web-based tools, apps and social media are all helping to create meaningful global connections. Not only do these technologies facilitate global collaboration, they also offer flexibility so students don’t have to stay up past their bedtime to take part.
Hello Afterschool Snack readers! My name is Leah Silverberg, and I am the new Research Assistant here at the Afterschool Alliance. I am coming to the Afterschool Alliance as a recent graduate of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., where I completed a B.A. in Biology and Studio Art. During my time at Bard, I worked as a peer health educator and emergency medical technician on campus, and worked with first-year college students to improve science literacy as part of the Bard College Citizen Science Program.
Throughout my time in elementary, middle, and high school, I was fortunate enough to have access to consistent afterschool programming, and I’m passionate about increasing accessibility to these programs for all students. As a product of afterschool, I know how much these programs assisted my parents, and I personally benefited from the educational support and social and emotional development afterschool programs provide.
As the new Research Assistant, I will be working with the STEM and research teams on a number of in-progress projects, like our new evaluations database and our STEM Program Profiles page. I am excited to be a part of the Afterschool Alliance team, and look forward to working with the amazing and passionate people that work here.
By Rachel Clark
By Matt Freeman
“This year, my Valentine is to a program that makes all the difference for me and for my family,” So began West Valley City, Utah, resident Amanda Owens in her Salt Lake Tribune letter-to-the editor in 2015. The “program” she went on to describe was her son’s afterschool program, run by the Community Education Partnership.
Amanda Owens is not alone. For the past several years, a number of parents of children in afterschool programs around the nation have sent similar letters to their local newspapers explaining from the heart why they love their children’s afterschool programs.
Are you a parent with a child in afterschool who feels the same way? Or are you a program provider with parents who might be willing to send a letter?
If yes, here are few questions Valentine letter writers might consider as they write.
- Do you love that your child’s afterschool programs helps with homework?
- Do you love that your child’s program keeps her or him safe in the afternoons and during the summer?
- Do you love that your child’s program gives her or him opportunities to get physical exercise, and provides healthy snacks or meals?
- Do you love the way afterschool program staff care for your child?
- Do you love the way your child’s eyes sparkle when she or he talks about what they do in the afternoons?
It’s easy to submit letters-to-the-editor; most newspapers will take them via their website or by email. To find out about word limits and how to submit, just do a web search for the name of your newspaper and the words “letter-to-the-editor submission.” If that doesn’t work, try going to the newspaper’s website, finding the letters section and looking for submission guidelines.
But the most important tip is the obvious one: Write from the heart!
That tip also applies to another way you can show why you love afterschool: social media. We’ve created a simple toolkit with guidelines and a printable that you and the afterschool students, parents and providers in your life can use to share what you love about these programs.
Participating is simple: Just print a page straight from the toolkit, fill it out with the heartfelt reasons you love afterschool, snap a photo of the finished product, and share it on your favorite social media sites using the hashtag #AfterschoolWorks (for example, “#AfterschoolWorks for my students!”).
We can’t wait to see the reasons you and the parents of kids in your program love afterschool. Be sure to tag us @afterschool4all on Twitter and Instagram or @afterschoolalliancedc on Facebook so that we see your social media posts and any letters-to-the-editor that you get published!
The Maryland Out of School Time Network held their seventh annual statewide conference on January 5 & 6 in Ellicott City, Md., celebrating the community of out-of-school time practitioners that MOST affectionately calls “OST Heroes.”
The two-day conference was jam-packed with informative workshops, resources from various exhibitors and the first annual MOST awards ceremony. I had the distinct pleasure of moderating a healthy behaviors panel, “Healthy Behaviors: Connecting Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Partnerships for OST,” with experts from the Alliance for Healthier Generation, Giant Food, John Hopkins Urban Health Institute, Leveling the Playing Field, and Maryland Extension Food Supplement Nutrition Education.
The panel had three objectives:
- Build awareness. The prevalence of childhood in Maryland reflects the national average, where approximately one in three children ages two to 19 is overweight or obese. Since the rate of childhood obesity has tripled over the past three decades and children are now more likely to acquire risk factors for cardiovascular disease, building awareness of the issue is imperative. The panel also highlighted the sometimes overlooked relationship between food insecurity and obesity.
- Celebrate the network’s healthy eating and physical activity successes. In 2013, through a grant from the Maryland Food Bank provided by the Giant Food Foundation, MOST became the first statewide healthy out-of-school time intermediary to bring healthy eating and physical activity resources, training, and technical assistance to Maryland out-of-school time programs. As a result of the work of three Healthy Behaviors VISTAs and several partnerships that have developed over time, MOST was able to introduce the Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Framework, based on the National Afterschool Association’s Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards, to 30 afterschool sites.
- Take action. Since childhood obesity has become a national epidemic, we can no longer limit our prevention efforts to traditional school hours but must extend our efforts to before and after the school bell rings. To facilitate these efforts, MOST used this panel to inspire OST providers throughout Maryland to adopt the HOST Framework, become a healthy out-of-school time site and engage in the MOST Network’s Healthy Behaviors Learning Community.
The Maryland Out of School Time Network has done impactful work around Healthy Eating and Physical Activity and can be a valuable resource to other networks (and afterschool programs) looking to create and support heathier out-of-school time environments. Way to go, MOST!
By Rachel Clark
By Beth Wyant. Beth is the program coordinator of the afterschool program of the Northwest Community Action Center, a division of Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, and an Afterschool Ambassador for the Afterschool Alliance.
|Mt. Rainier in Washington State.|
I suppose every state in the union can brag about the natural wonders within its borders, but in Washington State, we're brimming with the glories of nature. We have Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helen's, the Columbia River Gorge, the Hoh rain forest (yes, you read that right, it's a rain forest!), and the world's longest peninsular beach (28 miles of it). Not surprisingly, we have an outdoor culture in Washington, with camping, backpacking, biking, climbing, swimming, kayaking and canoeing all seemingly hard-wired into many native Washingtonians.
Many, but not all. As the program coordinator of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool and summer program of the Northwest Community Action Center, a division of Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, I work with 1,600 youth from 15 different schools in the Lower Yakima Valley. It's common for these children from mostly low-income families to have grown up nearby, but never visited, our state's natural wonders. Last year, I went on an outdoor education trip to Mt. Rainer, during which 25 of our elementary students enjoyed a day of hiking. Only five had ever been in the area before, even though it's just 90 minutes away by car. Most had never laid eyes on a forest. Their sense of wonder was palpable; their eyes were wide, and they kept buzzing about the smell of the pine trees and the quiet of the forest.
That experience was part of what motivated us to apply for a "No Child Left Inside Grant" this year from the state Recreation and Conservation Office, which runs the state parks system. We heard about the grant program from School's Out Washington, which administers our state afterschool network. That prompted us to read up on the grant program on the parks system website, and then we put together a seven-page proposal. Ours was one of 122 applications from across the state, 19 of which were funded. We were the only one to receive the maximum grant amount of $125,000.
We are going to put it to good use. It will allow us to take our youth to state parks, teach them about conservation, explore Mt. St. Helen's, get them kayaking on lakes and rivers, take them camping - all things that many of them have never done before. And we are hoping we can get their parents and siblings to join us in some of our adventures, making it into a learning experience for the entire family. The money will also help us buy fishing gear, pay for season passes at state parks, and so much more.
Apart from introducing our students to the extraordinary natural beauty around them, and teaching them how the water in their taps at home is related to the water in the mighty Columbia River, it will give us a chance to teach them habits of fitness that can last a lifetime. We've long followed Healthy Eating and Physical Activity standards in our programming, and we've also implemented the state's SNAP-Ed program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to help students and families learn how to make healthy food choices. It includes trips to grocery stores, cooking classes, a community garden and more.
So if sometime soon you happen upon a group of wide-eyed children following the Lewis & Clark trail or taking in the Columbia River Gorge, it might just be us!