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MAY
22
2017

STEM
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Guest blog: Engaging families using the 5Rs

By Charlotte Steinecke

By Margaret Caspe and M. Elena Lopez of the Global Family Research Project. Global Family Research Project is pleased to share tips on tapping into students’ greatest resources - their families. Please feel free to use the visual on the 5Rs in your own materials and outreach.

A second grader named David, his parents, and his baby sister walk into a library and are transported into space.

No, it’s not the plot for a new edition of the Magic Tree House.

It’s STAR_Net—a project that supports libraries in providing hands-on, interactive science and technology learning experiences for their communities. Here’s what happened:  

David’s afterschool instructor reached out to invite families to a local library event on a Saturday afternoon after parents expressed interest in enrolling their children in programs focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). On the day of the event, librarians and afterschool instructors talked with the families about their knowledge of particular space and STEM concepts. David and his dad built a model solar system and his parents were able to connect to other families by competing in a quiz show game. In essence, the library and afterschool program worked together to reimagine how afterschool programs provide learning opportunities that involve families in meaningful ways.

These processes—reaching out to families, raising up their interests, reinforcing their knowledge, allowing them to relate to each other, and reimagining services and programs—are important ways that afterschool programs and libraries can jointly enage families in children’s learning. At Global Famiy Research Project, we call these the 5Rs. When afterschool and library leaders convey the value of family engagement and support a climate of innovation with the 5Rs, it becomes possible to design exciting learning experiences for the whole family.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Science
MAY
19
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Afterschool set me on the path to success

By Charlotte Steinecke

By Ashley Castillo, an alumna of After-School All-Stars in Orlando, Fla. Ashley shared her story on Capitol Hill on April 21, at a panel of expert speakers sharing their stories and experiences in defense of 21st Century Community Learning Centers funding.

As one of the thousands of students my afterschool program has helped, I would like to share a little bit about myself and tell you how much this program has meant to me and my family.

Like thousands of kids across the nation, growing up during these times has been very hard. For as long as I can remember, my family always struggled to get by. Both of my parents are deaf, and as of recently, my mother has had problems with her vision. It has always been difficult for them to hold steady jobs and provide for me, my brother, and my sister. We had to move constantly and often lived in places that were so bad that no one else should ever have to live there. These struggles caused many fights and issues between my parents and they eventually got a divorce.

I don’t think people realize how these kinds of problems affecting adults can turn around and affect kids. In my case, I became very shy and did not talk a lot in elementary school. I kept a lot of my feelings inside and did not participate in many activities. I did not feel safe in my neighborhood and my parents could never afford to put me in an afterschool or summer program.

MAY
8
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Fear and deportation

By Charlotte Steinecke

By Julie McClure, founder and program director of CalSERVES. This blog was originally published on BOOST Cafe on March 15. For more information about addressing immigration issues, check out our “How Afterschool Programs can Support their Immigrant Students, Families, and Community” webinar and fill our feedback survey to help us make sure that we are providing resources that are topical and relevant to the field. This webinar is part of an on-going series focused on ways in which afterschool can create constructive climates in out-of-school time. Check back for the next webinar in the series that will address understanding and responding to identity-based bullying.‚Äč

What can afterschool programs do to support children who are experiencing fears related to the impacts of deportation? Many of our programs work with children and families who have deep fears about the changing immigration climate and increased deportations. Knowing what to do to support students and families on these issues can be hard for staff. They want to help but do not have expertise in this area. They also want to know what is okay to say and do in their role.

Here are some actions that can be taken in partnership with our school districts to address these new immigration issues. In developing this list, I relied heavily on the resources of Teaching Tolerance.

  1. Issue a program-wide statement in multiple languages indicating that the program is a safe and welcoming environment for all students.
  2. Focus on building inclusive environments to reinforce the feeling of safety and security. This could range from establishing classroom ground rules to anti-bullying programs to creating time each day for students to express themselves in a safe environment.
  3. Support staff in how to speak to students. Staff should let students know that they have a right to a safe educational environment. Staff can also let students know that it is okay to be confused or scared and that there are resources available to support them. It is, however, also important staff not make promises that cannot be kept in this uncertain environment.
  4. Create a bilingual list of community organizations who provide resources, counseling, and support on immigration issues. This list can then serve as a referral list for when issues arise.
  5. Provide materials and community resources that support families in knowing their rights. Many communities also have organizations that are holding workshops on these issues that you can share with your families. Here are some additional sources of information on immigration rights as they pertain to schools:
  6. Identify a bilingual staff member to be a resource for families around these issues.
  7. Work with the school to provide counseling and support to students who have had a family member deported.
  8. Provide support for staff and time for them to talk about these complex issues.

For everyone working in expanded learning programs, you are providing a safe and vital environment to all children and families. You help students feel safe, supported, and heard, which is so important now.

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learn more about: Guest Blog
MAY
2
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Advice for advocates of afterschool

By Charlotte Steinecke

By Chris Neitzey, Policy Director for New York’s statewide afterschool network, the New York State Network for Youth Success. Chris can be reached at chris@networkforyouthsuccess.org.

As a follow up to my January 12 guest blog on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s afterschool proposal, I’m happy to report that the New York State budget, which was passed on April 9, includes $35 million in new funding to expand afterschool programming to 22,000 students across the state beginning in September 2017.

At a time when uncertainty surrounds the future of the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program, New York has begun to see the importance of directly investing in high-quality afterschool programs. The $35 million investment represents the largest annual increase the state of New York has ever made in afterschool programs, and with the funding targeted at cities and school districts in high-need areas, it’s a welcome acknowledgement of the role afterschool programs can play in addressing the needs of low-income families.

The end result of this year’s state budget may have been an overwhelming success for afterschool, but New York’s three month “budget session” was anything but easy for advocates. This was not the first time a large proposal to fund afterschool programs was put on the table by the governor, and advocates knew there would be a long battle ahead to secure this funding in the final budget.

Below are a few ways we kept the pressure on the governor and legislature to ensure this proposal became a reality:

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learn more about: Advocacy Guest Blog State Policy
APR
25
2017

IN THE FIELD
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How Maryland afterschool partnerships promote health and wellness

By Charlotte Steinecke

Written by Matt Freeman

 

At left, youth from Mars Estates PAL with the PAL center’s new cornhole boards, courtesy of Billy from Creative Touch Graphix.  At right, Albert Lewis demonstrates physical activity exercises at University of Maryland Extension 4H.

“Candy’s not a food!”

Those words from an afterschool student at a Boys & Girls Club in Glen Burnie, Maryland, and the fundamental realization about food choices they reflect, go straight to the heart of the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network’s Healthy Behaviors Initiative (HBI).

Begun in 2013, this effort to promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards rests on a web of partnerships MOST has built with afterschool and summer-learning program providers, a statewide hunger relief organization, one of the mid-Atlantic region’s largest grocery chains and a university-based nutrition education program.

The initiative began when the MOST Network “became the first statewide healthy-out-of-school time intermediary to bring the training, resources and support of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to out-of-school-time (OST) program providers,” according to Ellie Mitchell, MOST network director.

MOST’s first step was to identify afterschool programs to participate. For that, MOST partnered with the Maryland Food Bank, which operates a meal distribution network based in soup kitchens, food pantries and schools across the state, providing more than 41 million meals to Marylanders every year.

The need for the food bank’s services is pressing. Between 2012 and 2016, as the nation’s economy recovered from the Great Recession, participation in the National School Lunch Program, which provides meal subsidies for children of low-income families, declined nationally by more than 1.3 million children. But Maryland was one of eight states to buck that positive trend as more children from low-income families in the state became eligible. The Food Bank provided support to MOST to work with ten afterschool sites in the Food Bank’s network, with funding provided by the Giant Food Foundation, the charitable arm of a regional grocery store chain.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Health and Wellness
APR
18
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Three ways to score #WellnessWins after school

By Charlotte Steinecke

By Sharon Dziedzic-Blanco, Education Supervisor, City of Hialeah’s Young Leaders with Character, Miami-Dade County, FL.

Sharon Dziedzic-Blanco oversees two programs with 15 out-of-school time sites that have been working with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative since 2013.

While many afterschool programs already support kids in making healthy choices by serving nutritious snacks or offering physically active games, we can have a bigger impact by adopting a comprehensive wellness policy that ensures these practices are uniform and long-lasting.

We’re using the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School Time model wellness policy to develop a strategy that meets our wellness goals and aligns with national standards. We’re learning a lot along the way – and already seeing great progress!

That’s why we’re thrilled that the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, in partnership with the American Heart Association’s Voices for Healthy Kids initiative, launched a campaign called #WellnessWins about the benefits of wellness policies.

I’m excited to share three of the top-performing strategies we use to adopt wellness policies in our afterschool sites.

Reinforce healthy messages kids learn in school

When schools and afterschool programs coordinate wellness policy priorities, students receive a consistent message that their health is a priority, no matter the setting. Like Miami-Dade County Public Schools, we provide USDA-compliant snacks and encourage students to participate in at least 30-45 minutes of physical activity five days a week.

Elevate staff members as role model

Afterschool staff can set a healthy example by consuming nutritious foods and beverages and staying active. A wellness policy can provide staff with guidelines on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and become a positive role model for kids.

Encourage students to engage in wellness

We incorporate nutrition lessons into our afterschool program and summer camp to encourage kids to try new foods and learn new recipes. When kids have a hands-on experience, they’re more likely to be excited about practicing healthy habits for years to come.

Ready to follow our lead and achieve wellness wins in your afterschool program? Visit WellnessWins.org to get started today!

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learn more about: Guest Blog Health and Wellness
APR
11
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Evaluating afterschool: Find your best data-collection strategy

By Nikki Yamashiro

By Y-USA Achievement Gap Programs Evaluation Team.

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the fourth installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which turns to program providers in the field to answer some of the common questions asked about program evaluation. Be sure to take a look at the firstsecond, and third posts of the series.

 
Photo courtesy of Lori Humphreys, VP of Child Care, YMCA Of East Tennessee. 

At YMCA of the USA, our Achievement Gap Programs evaluation team provides a comprehensive evaluation strategy, training, tools, and support to hundreds of local Ys doing the important work of delivering Achievement Gap Signature Programs to thousands of children. The Achievement Gap Afterschool Program has expanded to over 130 sites since it began in the 2012-2013 school year and is currently serving over 7,000 children across the nation.

Organization leadership, funders, and community partners are often eager to see the data that comes out of program evaluation, and it is not uncommon for organizations to need additional guidance and resources to start the data collection process. We'd like to share what we think are data collection essentials for this important and possibly overwhelming part of the evaluation process.

The first step is for the program’s primary stakeholders to define program goals and benchmarks. Identifying the questions that should be answered about the program helps to focus on what matters most for the program.

Before you start

  • Be organized: Develop a plan from start to finish before diving into the data collection process. How will data be collected? What tools will be used to collect data? Who will do the data collection, entry, and analyses? How will the data be reported? Include a general timeline for each activity in the plan.
  • Be realistic: As a data collection plan is developed, be realistic about the resources you can dedicate to the project and plan accordingly.  When you can, simplify.
  • Be clear: All data collection processes should include a clear explanation for why the data is being collected and how the data will be protected and reported. Clarity of purpose ensures that staff, parents, and participants are fully informed on the program’s data collection practices.
  • Be concise: When developing tools to collect data, stay focused on only gathering essential information that relates to goals or the questions stakeholders have agreed upon. Collecting information that you don’t plan to use takes up precious time when creating data collection tools, when users fill out the tools, and when the data is analyzed.
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learn more about: Evaluations Guest Blog
APR
10
2017

STEM
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Guest blog: Trump budget would devastate afterschool STEM

By Leah Silverberg

By Ron Ottinger, the director of STEM Next, co-chair of the national STEM Funders Network, and the former executive director of the Noyce Foundation. Known as a leader and expert in STEM learning, Ron has spent the last nine years guiding the Noyce foundations initiatives in informal and out-of-school-time science. With STEM Next, Ron continues to work toward increasing STEM learning opportunities for youth nationally.

This blog was reposted with permission from STEM Next.  

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to afterschool programs would deny millions of American youth the opportunity to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning; inhibit the development of the nation’s future scientists, engineers, inventors, and business leaders; and cut young people off from building the skills they need to advance in school, work, citizenship, and life.

If enacted by Congress, the President’s budget would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, the single largest source of funding for afterschool and summer programs that enroll 1.6 million students across rural, urban, and suburban communities in all 50 states.

Afterschool and summer programs provide essential learning opportunities for young people. This is particularly true when it comes to STEM learning – a national priority.

And afterschool programs have the support of an overwhelming number of Americans: a recent Quinnipiac poll found 83% are opposed to cuts in afterschool funding.

The Administration has said there is no evidence that these programs are effective. That is simply not true.