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How does afterschool contribute to military readiness?

By Leah Silverberg

U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue

In 2016, the Council for a Strong America released America Unprepared, showing data that more than 70 percent of young adults in the United States would not qualify for military service due to obesity and other health issues, poor academic performance, drug abuse, or involvement in crime. As a solution to this lack of “citizen-readiness,” the council suggested support for voluntary home-visiting programs, high quality early education, science-based nutrition standards for school foods, and the reinstitution of physical education programs.

We have one more suggestion: quality afterschool programs. Many afterschool programs are already tackling the issues of health and wellness, academic achievement, and child safety.

Fighting fit

60 percent of young adults are overweight or obese. For the military, this translates to 31 percent of all young adults who apply to serve being disqualified from service. Furthermore, lifetime obesity is determined during school-age years. While obesity remains a large problem in the United States, the percentage of schools that require students to take physical education has declined to only 77 percent.



New resources for STEM in afterschool from the Research + Practice Collaboratory

By Leah Silverberg

Check it out: the Research + Practice Collaboratory has some new and updated resources for the afterschool field! If you are not familiar, the Research + Practice Collaboratory works to bridge the gap between education research and STEM education implementation. The Collaboratory’s goal is to increase communication and partnerships between educators and researchers to promote the co-development research-based tools that are grounded in practice.

Case study teaches research and collaboration through tinkering

In a recent blog post, Jean Ryoo from the Exploratorium talks about her partnership with in-school and out-of-school time practitioners to create a conference presentation for school administrators and in-school and afterschool educators. The presentation was intended as an opportunity for afterschool professionals to share ideas with the larger education community and showcase collaboration across institutions, research, and teaching.



Weekly Media Roundup: March 8, 2017

By Luci Manning

Chefs of the Future Contest Has Kids Cookin’ Good (Daily News, New York)

Thirteen youths competed this weekend to see who could come up with the healthiest, most interesting recipe in the Recipe Rescue competition, part of an afterschool program run by the Department of Youth and Community Development and Compass. The students chopped, mashed, baked and diced their ingredients to cook up recipes like basil chicken burgers and baked sweet potato fries. The aim of the competition was to develop student interest in culinary arts and dietary awareness, according to the Daily News.

Big City University Provides Academic Enrichment Fun (Cleveland Daily Banner, Tennessee)

An afterschool program is helping struggling students in Bradley County Schools rediscover the fun in academia. The program, Big City University, focuses its attention on students from low-income families and those who are failing two or more subjects at school, pairing them with academic tutors and leading fun enrichment classes in science, art and physical education. “We focus on character education, academics and on building and growing the community,” director Stephanie Reffner told the Cleveland Daily Banner.

It’s Full Steam Ahead for Kids (Daily News of Los Angeles, California)

Robots, catapults, miniature tanks and other clever inventions were on display at Los Angeles Unified’s Northwest STEAM Fest 2017, a tech showcase for students in San Fernando Valley Schools. Students from more than 100 schools in the area came to the event to show off their creations from their extracurricular science, technology, engineering, art and math programs. “It’s all in the name of science. Engineering. What I think is cool,” 15-year old Amanda Basinger, who built a da Vinci-inspired machine that fires off ping-pong balls, told the Daily News of Los Angeles.

Mayor Meets with K.E.Y. Zone Girls’ Group (Duluth Budgeteer, Minnesota)

Young women in the K.E.Y. Zone afterschool Girls’ Group had the chance to meet with a female role model last week, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson. Mayor Larson spoke to the girls about her job and what it’s like to be a woman in a leadership position, bolstering their self-confidence and encouraging them to pursue whatever career they want when they grow up. “For the past several weeks we’ve been talking to the girls about what it means to be a leader and how you can become a leader for something that you’re passionate about,” Girl’s Club leader Shelby Chmielecki told the Duluth Budgeteer. “I think it’s really important for the girls to see a woman leader who works at the local level and to see that it’s an attainable goal.” 



Weekly Media Roundup: March 1, 2017

By Luci Manning

New Arapahoe Programs Boost Schools’ Test Scores (Riverton Ranger, Wyoming)

Students in the Fremont County School District have improved their performance on key academic assessments, thanks in part to a new series of reading, math and afterschool programs. The schools’ 21st Century Community Learning Centers program aims to improve graduation rates and to combat alcohol abuse, while a special committee to improve academic performance in the district funds swimming lessons, recreation programs and more. “We give our students the opportunity to succeed, and they shall,” school district Board of Trustees chair Charlene Gambler-Brown told the Riverton Ranger.

Youth Program Shines Light on Richness of Nation’s African American Past (Anderson Herald Bulletin, Indiana)

Students from the Anderson Girls and Boys Club helped educate the public about African American culture at a special Black History Month program this week. The event featured individual and group performances from several Girls and Boys Club members and groups, and was attended by Mayor Thomas Broderick and other city leaders. “The importance of this is for our youth to learn about our history and our culture,” afterschool program director Larry McClendon told the Anderson Herald Bulletin.

Four Years after Oscar, Young Artist Still Paints (San Diego Union Tribune, California)

A San Diego afterschool program helped a young homeless girl nurture her artistic talent in a journey that led her all the way to the Academy Awards. Four years ago, then 16-year-old Inocente Izucar won an Oscar for best documentary short for a film based on her own life as a young woman who used art to create an alternate reality free of abuse, homelessness and poverty, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. She now produces films and sells her artwork, but always makes time to visit A Reason to Survive (ARTS), the afterschool program that helped her thrive and helps other youth cope with adversity through painting and other artistic endeavors.

Davis’ Next Gig: Inspiring Detroit Girls (Detroit Free Press, Michigan)

World champion figure skater Meryl Davis may not be competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics, but she is nurturing the next generation of young figure skaters. Figure Skating in Detroit is a new program inspired by former skater Sasha Cohen’s program of the same name in Harlem, meant to inspire young girls of color to learn to skate and find their passion in life. The program will provide free skates, equipment and training for 300 girls in its first year through introductory workshops, a summer day camp and a year-round afterschool program. “The program will help expose young girls of color, who may not have traveled much further beyond their neighborhood, to skating, education and leadership,” director Geneva Williams told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s about girl power.”



Weekly Media Roundup: February 15, 2017

By Luci Manning

Aspire High Teaches Eager Middle Schoolers about College Life (The Signal: College of New Jersey, New Jersey)

An out-of-school time program in New Jersey is showing underprivileged students that college can be part of their future. Aspire High arranges college visits for middle schoolers, pairing them with mentors at each university who talk to them about college life and how to build the important social and academic skills that will put them on the path to higher education. Many of the students would be the first in their families to attend college and may not see it as a realistic option. “What people don’t realize is that this one Saturday can change the lives of so many kids,” Aspire High president and co-founder Lillian Perez told The Signal..

Teens Beat Goal for Book Drive (Daily Item, Pennsylvania)

A group of teenagers far surpassed their goal of collecting 150 books during a book drive meant to fill a new multigenerational community center that will open later this year. The Regional Engagement Center’s Teen Leadership Club has been meeting for months to plan programs and activities for the new recreation center, which will include study spaces, an afterschool café and exercise classes for people of all ages. “I hope it’s a place where kids who have difficulties can come and break some bad habits,” 17-year-old Brandy Inch, a member of the club, told the Daily Item.

McKinley Boys & Girls Club Offers Homework Help for Students Who Need It Most (Billings Gazette, Montana)

The Boys & Girls Club of Yellowstone County has expanded its outreach to homeless students, providing more struggling youth with academic assistance, a free dinner and a safe place to spend time after school. The club’s Power Hour homework help program gives students a chance to build academic self-confidence and complete their work, something they may not be able to do if they don’t have a structured home life. “They can be the example in class instead of feeling bad that they don’t have their homework done,” McKinley Elementary School principal Nikki Trahan told the Billings Gazette.

IWU Prof Starts The Brain Kitchen (Chronicle-Tribune, Indiana)

Students are developing healthy habits and academic discipline at The Brain Kitchen, a new afterschool program developed by Indiana Wesleyan University professor Amanda Drury, the Chronicle Tribune reports. Throughout the week, students receive homework help and cooking lessons and participate in guided exercise activities, with the aim of stimulating their brain development and learning important life skills in a fun, engaging environment. 



Weekly Media Roundup: January 4, 2017

By Luci Manning

Our Club Boys Get a Trim and a Treat (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas)

Sixteen boys in the Our Club afterschool program went back to school this week with spiffy new haircuts thanks to local barbers. The afterschool program works with homeless and low-income students through Our House, a nonprofit that helps homeless people and the near homeless find jobs. The barbers came from a number of local barbershops and barber colleges and provided the haircuts for free. Fly Societe Barbershop’s Michaele Hutchings has mentored boys at Our House before, and saw this gesture as a natural extension of that work. “I’ve been wanting to do this for years now, to show these kids somebody out there still cares,” he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Mom Channels Grief to Help Others (Chicago Tribune, Illinois)

Patricia Frontain lost her 14-year-old son Patrick to gang violence two years ago. In his memory, she is trying to help other young people avoid his fate through Patrick Lives On… To End Gun Violence, a nonprofit that supports afterschool programs, summer camps and other activities to steer young people away from gangs. She hopes that providing scholarships, classes and fun activities will give youth an outlet they might not otherwise be able to afford. “We all see the importance that afterschool programming can be for kids… whether it be something athletically or academically,” Rosemont Park District program director Omar Camarillo told the Chicago Tribune. “We want kids to be involved.”

Kids Create Treasures from Trash at Holiday Camp (Wyoming County Press Examiner, Pennsylvania)

Ten children ages five through 12 kept busy over the holiday break by making toys, games and sculptures out of recycled items like toilet paper tubes and bits of scrap wood. Steve and Amy Colley, artists in residence at the Dietrich Theater, sponsor the holiday camp each year to encourage kids to be productive during their holiday break and make something valuable out of items that would normally be thrown away. “The class teaches kids problem-solving,” Amy Colley told the Wyoming County Press Examiner. “It teaches them how to put things together and balance.” The Colleys also offer afterschool programs and summer camps for youths that take on similar projects.

Teens Find Path to Medical Careers (Chino Hills Champion, California)

A new afterschool program at four Chino Valley district junior high schools is introducing students to possible futures as doctors, nurses, home health aides and more. Junior Upcoming Medical Professionals (JUMP) serves more than 400 area students, exposing them to the wide spectrum of health care careers while also building leadership skills and improving professional demeanor. JUMP is student-run, with some advisement from teachers, and it aims to build interest in the rapidly growing field of health care among Inland Empire youths. “Medical professionals are trying to get kids interested in any aspect of the medical field,” Program manager Michael Sacoto told the Chino Hills Champion. “The data say reach them at a younger age and they will want to ask questions.” 

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What are you doing for Computer Science Education Week?

By Melissa Ballard

This December 5-11, join the Afterschool Alliance in celebrating the importance of computer science education for all kids for the 2016 Computer Science Education Week. Planning an Hour of Code with your students and participating in our tweet chat is a great way to start!

Plan an Hour of Code

Interested in getting your students started with computer science and coding? The Hour of Code is designed as an easy introduction to the topic for students and staff, as well as an opportunity to drum up support for computer science initiatives among community partners and stakeholders. Last year, almost 4,000 afterschool programs across the country hosted Hour of Code events—let’s keep growing our numbers!

Get involved in two simple steps:

  1. Get registered.
  2. Start planning with step-by-step instructions.

Just announced for 2016 Hour of Code is the addition of an all-new Minecraft Hour of Code Designer, a tutorial which lets students code their own Minecraft rules to create a totally unique Minecraft experience, and then share it with friends or play it on their phones!

Mark your calendar for our tweet chat

On Wednesday, December 7, at 2pm EDT, we’re teaming up with the National AfterSchool Association to dig into the challenges and opportunities around computer science for afterschool programs. We’ll have a focus on professional development needs for staff to successfully facilitate computer science and coding. Stay tuned for more info! In the meantime, follow @afterschool4all on Twitter and subscribe to our blog, the Afterschool Snack.



These twin sisters celebrated Lights On Afterschool 2016 by becoming math champions

By Robert Abare

One might not think that basketball can help kids gain critical math skills. But for twin sisters Patricia and Angela Rodas, that’s exactly the case. The Rodas sisters have become rather like local celebrities in the San Francisco Bay Area through their success in NBA Math Hoops, a board game and curriculum that helps kids learn math through the lens of professional basketball. 

To play NBA Math Hoops (and learn math at the same time) students divide into teams to analyze NBA and WNBA players’ stats, strategize, and solve increasingly complex math problems. On October 6, 2016, the Rodas twins showed off their math expertise gained through NBA Math Hoops by winning (for the second year in a row!) the Bay Area NBA Math Hoops championship, as part of the national kick-off for Lights On Afterschool 2016.

Colleen Johnston, Program Manager for Bay Area Community Resources (BACR), has overseen the implementation of NBA Math Hoops at 55 of BACR’s afterschool program sites. Next year, NBA Math Hoops will be rolled out to more than 60 BACR schools in the Bay Area. Currently, NBA Hoops is in over 100 schools in the Bay Area.  It is primarily being played during Out of School time.

“This is disguised learning at its best,” said Johnston about NBA Math Hoops. “The game is fast paced, so it keeps kids engaged, and the curriculum associated with the game builds over time, so it has the capacity to teach both very basic math skills and the very advanced.”

Indeed, the Rodas twins said NBA Math Hoops is helping them succeed in the classroom. “Math Hoops has helped me get better with multiplication and be more confident in the classroom,” said Angela.

Angela added, “My parents like NBA Math Hoops because it’s improved my grades.”

Thanks to their previous success playing NBA Math Hoops and their participation in this year’s national Lights On Afterschool kick-off event, the Rodas twins have become local role models for their peers, showing them that anyone can do well in math. The twins have also helped shine a light on the power of afterschool programs to teach kids valuable STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.

“When they first started playing NBA Math Hoops, the twins were very shy and didn’t like public speaking,” said Johnston. “Now, they’ve become like local celebrities. The game has helped them realize how much they love math, and their confidence has grown so much that they’re already talking about college.”

Johnston also praised the curriculum for its ability to engage both boys and girls. “NBA Math Hoops includes both NBA and WNBA players, so both boys and girls can get excited about the game,” she said. “And for the past two years, the majority of the teams in the Elite 8 of the Bay Area NBA Math Hoops championship have been girls.”

BACR afterschool programs helped their students make strides in math for Lights On Afterschool on October 20, 2016, when programs held mini NBA Math Hoops tournaments, carnivals, and open houses. Lights On Afterschool calls national attention to how afterschool programs, like BACR and the program’s implementation of NBA Math Hoops, are working to provide kids with hands-on STEM learning experiences that prepare them for our complex and changing world.