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 own event, 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."
By Erin Murphy
By Emily McLeod, Director of Curriculum at Techbridge, with contributions from Mia Shaw, Dolores Toledo, and Renny Talianchich, all Program Coordinators.
At Techbridge, making is a big part of the afterschool and summer STEM programming we deliver to more than 600 girls from underserved communities in the San Francisco Bay area, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Along the way, we’ve learned a lot about what high-quality making looks like and what staff can do to ensure that all participants are engaged and learning. Here’s our eight best practices for facilitating maker activities with youth.
1. Take time to build a community of makers
It is essential to take the time to create a culture and supportive space where it’s OK try new things, ask for help when you need it, and dream big. At the beginning of our Summer Academy, girls decided together what they wanted their community to look like. Every day, there were icebreakers and get-to-know-you activities, a practice we carry over into our afterschool programs.
2. Encourage youth choice
Youth are more invested in projects when they have ownership and seeing their own ideas come to life is a strong motivator. Youth choice also fosters equity, empowering youth to bring in their expertise, background, and personal interests. Therefore, most of our projects give youth meaningful choices about the direction they will take their work. In our high school programs, girls spend much of the year building projects of their own design to take to the local Maker Faire. With younger students, we often start with a prompt, concept, or design challenge (e.g. “make a robot that can interact with humans”) which provides focus, while allowing room for creativity.
3. Build peer and near-peer leadership
Taking on the role of an expert helps empower youth. To develop peer leadership, identify participants with more experience and actively encourage them to support their peers and share knowledge. During our Summer Academy, we invited girls from Techbridge’s high school programs to act as group leaders for middle school participants. This allowed older girls to develop leadership skills, provided younger girls role models and support, and gave program coordinators assistance in facilitating complex projects. You can try this model with college students as well!
4. Acknowledge challenges and focus on process, not product
Making can be challenging and projects may not turn out the way we intended. Acknowledge this! We make time to share our “Glorious Goofs” and talk about girls’ work as prototyping, rather than setting an expectation of creating polished products. Our facilitators encourage girls to think about the skills they are gaining, and the ideas they are developing, as the most important things they’ll take away from the project. For more information about addressing and reframing failure, see this blog post and this paper.
5. Share models and your own making experiences
We often share samples made by facilitators or girls in other programs. Youth love to see and play with physical examples, which can spark ideas for those who may be struggling to get started. If you can, make a variety of models; we’ve found that if there’s just one kind, youth may be tempted to copy it. Making models ahead of time also gives facilitators direct experience with the project and can help them see potential challenges youth might face and develop troubleshooting strategies.
6. Don’t forget aesthetics
Although Making encompasses a variety of interests and skills, the spotlight is often turned on projects that are tech-heavy, with focus on function over form. These projects don’t always appeal to everyone. For some youth, the way a project looks is just as important as what it does, and we make sure to build in time for visual design alongside the coding and engineering. Although it’s tempting to think of art-making or decoration as things to do if there’s extra time, for some youth, it can be the difference between engaging wholeheartedly with a project and tuning out.
7. You won’t know everything and that’s OK
Sometimes, youth will ask questions that facilitators don't know how to answer or ask for help with something they don't know how to fix. That's OK. We take a co-learning approach to our maker projects, and are upfront about the fact that we don’t have all of the answers. In these situations, model how a maker should address challenges—ask a peer; use a variety of resources (e.g., online guides, role models, fellow staff members, books); or be willing to try something that might not work. Taking risks and being vulnerable shows youth that it’s OK for them to do the same.
8. Celebrate successes along the way and share with others
You can help youth celebrate all kinds of success, not just completed projects. Use opportunities such as group shout-outs, gallery walks, and one-on-one feedback to appreciate youth for their progress along the way. At the end of a project, give youth opportunities to share their work through presentations to peers, at a science fair, or family event. It teaches them how to communicate with others and act as STEM experts within their own communities.
|photo by Ryan Aréstegui|
Research tells us that the human brain doesn’t fully develop from its youth into its adult version until about age 24. This knowledge adds an important perspective to the modern focus on early childhood education as an essential component of child development. The prolonged growth of the human brain is a clear indicator that older children—especially those who may not have enjoyed quality care early in their lives—also deserve targeted support, and that programs that help these children are critically important.
Investing in "opportunity youth" is a win-win
There are currently about 6.7 million "opportunity youth" across the United States, or youth between age 16 and 24 who are disengaged from school and work (sometimes called "disconnected youth"). The Opportunity Index provides the number of these youth in each state, among other relevant statistics. Estimates place the tax loss of these outside-the-workforce youth to be $11.3 billion annually. Additionally, these youth disproportionately increase costs associated with crime, health and welfare, creating an estimated social cost burden of $37,000 per youth per year. Appropriate support for these youth can help reduce hefty societal costs while expanding options for these youth: a win-win situation.
The federal government is taking strides to support older youth development, especially focusing on opportunity youth. The 2014 reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA, formerly WIA), which encompasses workforce opportunities for all ages, provides funds to help older youth ages 14-24 engage in productive careers, and targets 75 percent of those youth funds to opportunity youth. The law contains an additional requirement that 20 percent of these funds be spent connecting youth to internships and work experience. Skills USA reports that 64 percent of youth make their career decisions based on their own experience and interests.
Also included in WIOA law is an innovative “Pay for Success” provision, based off the expectation of high economic returns associated with helping opportunity youth. The provision allows local workforce boards to allot 10 percent of their funding to programs in which government, non-profit, and for-profit entities take on the costs of helping these youth. These entities are reimbursed or provided with a performance bonus when they achieve an agreed upon outcome or measure of success, like a number of months of continuous, full-time employment.
Afterschool or summer learning program providers who already support at-risk youth should consider obtaining support via WIOA, through either the regular program model or pay-for-success model. WIOA funds can also be used to support certain populations of in-school youth. Community agencies and savvy programs can often “braid” funds between various youth dollars, such as those from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), as well as those from private investments, foundations, and local business. Performance Partnership Pilots provides an additional means of serving these youth through facilitating combining funding streams. WIOA provides $2.6 billion in state formula grants, and youth funds of about $830 million.
To see what opportunities may be available, you can connect with your local workforce investment or workforce development boards, the state and local decision-making bodies responsible for the use of WIOA funds. The boards in your area can be found by searching here.
By Luci Manning
Rockford students are spending their afterschool hours learning computer programming, graphic design and video production out of a 30-foot-long RV. The Rockford Police Department donated the vehicle to Rev. Samuel Sarpiya’s Center for Nonviolence and Conflict Transformation so he could transform it into a mobile tech lab that would give youth positive role models and valuable skills and steer them away from a life of crime. “As we teach nonviolence, we teach skills and leadership development with a goal of transforming conflict… and we hope that this will become a prototype that can be used as a model across the country,” Rev. Sarpiya told the Rockford Register Star.
The Arthur C. Fielder Safe Haven Weed and Seed Program has played a pivotal role in cultivating valuable skills in Las Cruces students for the past 17 years. Las Cruces Police Department youth program coordinator Felipe Briseño said the program’s goal is to weed out bad elements of impoverished neighborhoods—drugs and crime—and seed them with good. “A lot of (the kids) are searching for a role model or they’re searching for a place to hang out and be comfortable, and we provide that for them here,” he told the Las Cruces Sun-News. Weed and Seed runs afterschool and summer programs for children enrolled in a free lunch program, or living in a single parent home or a home in which the parents attend school.
More than a thousand Lewiston elementary school students took home eight free books to read over the summer, thanks to a massive donation from Reading Is Fundamental, a national children’s literacy organization. The influx of books is meant to help stem summer learning loss for Lewiston’s more disadvantaged students. The group also donated 40 books to each Lewiston K-2 classroom, bringing the total count of donated books to more than 13,000. “A lot of students don’t have their own books at home, so this is a real gift,” Montello Elementary School literacy coach Kelly Johnson told the Lewiston Sun-Journal. “It keeps them reading and helps prevent that summer slide.”
When a group of students at The Lamplighter School decided to start an afterschool fan club dedicated to the British sci-fi show “Doctor Who” more than two years ago, they planned to just spend their afternoons discussing the plot and character developments on their favorite TV show. Instead, with the encouragement of drama teacher Jeff Peck, the students have put together a 217-page episode guide that is now gaining international attention. The club was recently featured on the cover of Doctor Who Appreciation Society’s magazine, and students even had the chance to meet several stars of the show at a convention in April. “Fans all around the world are reading what our Lamplighter students have written about the show,” Peck told Park Cities People. “I don’t think even the kids realize how big they have become.”
By Robert Abare
By the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Adolescent Health
A key way to promote adolescent health and development and to prepare young people for adulthood is to actively engage them at school, at home, and in the community. School clubs, sports, music, the arts, out-of-school time programs, jobs, and places of worship all offer opportunities to involve teens in meaningful ways. Adolescents benefit when they provide input into the design of programs and activities, which not only improves the programs but also provides valuable leadership experiences. Engaging teens in learning, leading, and as team members is one of the Five Essentials for Healthy Adolescents identified in the HHS Office of Adolescent Health’s national call to action, called Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow or TAG.
TAG's game plan for engaging youth
The Game Plan for Engaging Youth summarizes ideas for engaging adolescents in promoting their health and development. These ideas were generated by youth and adults at a meeting on authentic youth engagement convened by the Jim Casey Youth Initiative and the Forum for Youth Investment in March 2015.
The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative has led many successful efforts to engage young people throughout the nation. They distilled this wealth of knowledge into three guiding principles:
- Preparation. Young people need to be effectively prepared and empowered to make informed decisions about matters that affect their lives.
- Support. Young people should be provided with customized services and a network of supportive relationships that meet their needs, promote a healthy transition to adulthood, and provide tools that empower them to make decisions.
- Opportunity. Young people should be provided with an array of life opportunities that promote optimal growth and development; experiential learning; healthy risk-taking; and participation in normal everyday activities that contribute to social confidence and positive identity formation.
Visit the TAG Game Plan for Engaging Youth on the TAG website to learn about eight successful youth engagement approaches and find examples of how professionals from different sectors can put youth engagement into action.
TAG in action: Engaging Wisconsin youth in teaching medical professionals
The HHS Office of Adolescent Health has identified a number of successful strategies for improving and promoting adolescent health. The Wisconsin-based Providers and Teens Communicating for Health Program (PATCH) is an innovative, teen-delivered educational program that trains healthcare providers and teens to communicate effectively about sensitive health topics such as sexual health, mental health, alcohol and drug abuse, and safety. Teen Educators equip their peers with skills to navigate the healthcare system and advocate for health care visits that prioritize judgment-free care. They also teach teens skills to help them engage in meaningful and effective communication with healthcare providers.
The Wisconsin Medical Journal recently published research demonstrating that providers and teens in the PATCH program experienced significant improvements in knowledge, self-efficacy, and behavioral intentions to seek and provide quality sexual health care. The PATCH program is planning to expand throughout Wisconsin and is working toward replication nationwide.
In late May 2016, the Department of Education issued draft regulations on elements in Title I of our nation's new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The 60 day comment period for the regulations will be open until August 1st, and your feedback is welcomed! The new law provides much more flexibility on school accountability and includes new indicators of student success and growth. Yet the overall goals of Title I of ESSA—academic achievement, graduation, school quality and student success—remain goals that are dramatically supported by afterschool programs.
Before adding your comments, it may be helpful for you to explore this comprehensive overview of the ESSA draft regulations.
See how afterschool factors in to various aspects of the draft regulations
Needs assessments: The Title I regulations, as proposed, provide many opportunities for collaboration between out-of-school time and the school day. Under the regulations, states, districts and schools must design and apply needs assessments for low-performing schools and, as a new addition, must look at how resources are allocated among schools. Parents, afterschool providers, and advocates can remind states and districts that identifying which schools provide enrichment and engagement activities for students (and which do not) is an essential part in this process and in understanding equity generally. Some afterschool state networks and some state child care offices are already working on mapping access to afterschool programs across their states. Additionally, while the law has changes, the previous national education law, No Child Left Behind, also included needs assessments, and some older resources on needs assessments may continue to be helpful.
Research based interventions: States and school districts will have the ability to create lists of evidence and research based interventions that support Title I goals and indicators. Because afterschool programs increase student success in attendance, homework completion, and discipline reductions, each state should thoughtfully consider adding these programs to their approved list of interventions. The Afterschool Alliance Evaluations Backgrounder is a good place to find research that provides the evidence base necessary to support afterschool and summer learning programs as key contributors to a variety of success indicators.
Consolidated state plans: States can combine plans for Title I with plans for other Titles (including Title IV part B for 21st Century Community Learning Centers) within the ESSA legislation as part of one overall or "consolidated" state plan. The proposed rule emphasizes that all plans must include “timely and meaningful consultation” with stakeholders. The proposed rule lists 13 specific groups that must be consulted, including community based organizations. As part of this process, state agencies must solicit input from the community, plans must be subject to a 30 day public comment period and plans must include reference to how the SEA (State Educational Agency) addressed the issues and concerns raised in public comment. All plans will be published on SEA websites and reviewed/revised, again with full stakeholder engagement, at least once every four years. All consolidated plans must coordinate with other federal funding streams such as Child Care and Development Block Grants, and Career and Technical Education, and must include a mechanism for performance management and technical assistance.
Now is a good time to ensure afterschool is at the table for these decisions and in these state plans.
By Erin Murphy
As part of our ongoing celebration of the National Week of Making, we are excited to announce the release of a new STEM program profile highlighting the wonderful work of the California Tinkering Afterschool Network (CTAN). The goal of our STEM program profiles is to share models of successful STEM programs and provide information about high-quality STEM learning experiences, professional development, funding, building partnerships and impressive outcomes for youth success.
CTAN is unique among our program profiles in that it is not an individual afterschool program, but was a partnership that brought together the expertise of afterschool directors, facilitators, and researchers. The network included two out-of-school time organizations—the Community Science Workshop Network (Fresno and Watsonville, CA) and Techbridge (Oakland, CA)—along with two science museums: Discovery Cube (Santa Ana, CA) and the Exploratorium (San Francisco, CA). Together, this group designed and implemented STEM-rich afterschool tinkering/making programs to serve youth from low-income, historically marginalized communities. These making and tinkering programs focus on learning STEM skills through the process of creating, building, or re-designing.
Check out the CTAN profile to learn more about:
- Key characteristics of high-quality making/tinkering programs.
- Youth outcomes related to high-quality, STEM-rich making/tinkering programs.
- Building effective, and equitable partnerships with STEM-rich institutes and researchers.
- Creating equitable programs that have positive outcomes for youth regardless of gender, ability, socioeconomic status, or community of origin.
- Professional development strategies to support high-quality making/tinkering.
For more information on a variety of ways to approach STEM learning, check out our STEM Program Profiles!
By Erin Murphy
The act of "making" is to use the process of creating, building or re-designing to learn new things about our world.
Join us in celebrating making this week by participating in the White House’s 2016 National Week of Making, June 17-23. The focus of this year’s event is to highlight the diversity of makers: young and old, experienced and novice, rural and urban. Afterschool programs have long focused on providing hands-on, experiential learning opportunities that allow kids to explore and discover creatively. This week, we will showcase how afterschool is helping kids from various communities and backgrounds become makers!
As part of this campaign, we will be releasing a new program profile for the California Tinkering Afterschool Network (CTAN), a partnership of two museums and three afterschool programs focused on studying and implementing STEM-rich making in the afterschool space. Additionally, we will be participating in the Growing a Nation of Makers tweetchat, hosted by Design Squad. During the tweetchat on June 21 at 12 p.m. ET, we'll join a discussion on how we can help #GrowMakers. Finally, we will be sharing a guest blog from Techbridge, an afterschool program focused on introducing girls to science and engineering, in which the program's leaders will share their best-practices and teaching strategies for making in afterschool.
- Tweet your Making experiences @afterschool4all with the hashtag #NationOfMakers or #WeekofMaking
- Stay tuned for more blogs, tweets and Facebook posts from us to learn more about making in afterschool
- Participate in the Growing a Nation of Makers #GrowMakers tweetchat where participants will share their knowledge and expertise around making. Tune in on June 21 at 12 p.m. ET with @Designsquad, @SWEtalk, @TheConnectory and @ngcproject.
- Attend an event in your community
Respond to the White House’s call to action and make a commitment to helping spread the maker movement