I know a number of you have been waiting for more information about the MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Awards, and I’m happy to finally share with you this year’s timeline and award categories. As you may have already guessed, we are doing things a little differently this time around.
The MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Award nominations will open this summer on Aug. 14 and close in the fall on Oct. 14. Five award winners will be selected to each receive $10,000 for their program, featured in our 2013-2014 series of issue briefs and included in our Afterschool in Action Compendium. The winners will be announced spring 2014, in conjunction with our Afterschool for All Challenge.
A benefit of this timeline is that you have more time to think about exemplary afterschool programs serving middle school youth that you would like to nominate. Our webinar in April, “Afterschool Innovators and Middle School Success,” is a great resource to learn more about the specific information reviewers involved in the selection process are looking for.
My youngest brother absolutely hated reading when he was in elementary school. And then he was introduced to the Harry Potter series in middle school. Suddenly he couldn’t get enough of reading. Harry Potter was his gateway into the world of books. When he finished with the series, he proactively looked for other books that he would enjoy. His teachers commented that he was more attentive in class and making gains in his studies. It seems too simple to be true, but sometimes introducing kids to interesting and engaging reading materials can get them hooked on reading—a skill that helps foster academic benefits and positive attitudes toward school, career and life.
The recently released joint issue brief by Scholastic Family and Community Engagement (FACE) and the Afterschool Alliance explores the role of reading in a child’s life, and the unique ways afterschool programs can incorporate reading into their curricula and start kids on the path toward a lifelong love of reading. “The Life-Enhancing Benefits of Reading in Out-of-School Programs” points to research that demonstrate the number of positive outcomes associated with avid reading, such as academic gains, increased drive to do well in school and improved self-esteem.
For D.C. locals, April brings to mind cherry blossoms and the start of spring weather. For the Afterschool Alliance, April means it’s time to release the new MetLife Foundation and Afterschool Alliance compendium! This week, we are disseminating “Afterschool in Action: Innovative Afterschool Programs Supporting Middle School Youth” at the National AfterSchool Association Annual Convention in Indianapolis, IN. This compendium features four issue briefs that explore the critical role quality afterschool programs play in meeting the needs of middle schoolers, their families and their communities. The issue briefs address arts enrichment in afterschool, the role of afterschool supporting successful parent engagement efforts, afterschool programs promotingmiddle school improvement efforts, and digital media and learning in afterschool.
In keeping with the tradition started last year, we have once again included in-depth profiles of the five Afterschool Innovator Award winners, including a historical overview of the program, main sources of funding and their recommendations for other programs. The award winners—The Wooden Floor in Santa Ana, CA; Latino Arts Strings & Mariachi Juvenil Program in Milwaukee, WI;Kid Power Inc.,—The VeggieTime Project in Washington, D.C.; Parma Learning Center in Parma, ID; and Green Energy Technologies in the City in Lansing, MI—share the inspirational work they are taking on with their middle school students, giving readers an in-depth look at each program’s mission, theory of change, curriculum, and institutional growth and development.
The Afterschool Alliance and the Noyce Foundation are excited to announce the new Afterschool STEM Impact Awards! Two $10,000 awards will be awarded to exemplary afterschool programs offering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to students in grades 4 through 8.
As afterschool STEM programming grows around the nation, we want to recognize programs that are clearly demonstrating their impact on participants. Such programs highlight the power of afterschool programs as key partners in STEM education reform and can also serve as best-practice models.
In addition to the cash award, winners and other notable applicants will be promoted nationally through a variety of opportunities—they will be featured in a special series of Afterschool Alliance issue briefs, invited to participate in webinars, co-present at national and state conferences, and generally highlighted as model programs.
- Afterschool programs that are a strong partnership between an afterschool provider and a STEM-rich institution(s), which include science centers or museums, nature centers, universities, government labs, STEM-related businesses, or other similar institutions. Programs may focus on any STEM topic.
- Afterschool programs that have a strong computing and/or engineering component. Computing is not about learning how to use technology—it’s acquiring the skills and knowledge required to create technology. For the purposes of this contest, computing includes but is not limited to coding, programming mobile apps, and software or hardware design. Engineering programs should be rooted in the engineering design process, and students should be developing and building a solution to a problem.
Additional details are available on the award website, along with a link to the online application. Applications are due by May 15, 2013.
Know an afterschool program that’s perfect for this award? Share this opportunity with your colleagues and friends. We can’t wait to hear about the fantastic STEM programs across the nation and the impact that they’re having on kids!
This guest blog was contributed by the Kid Power Inc., VeggieTime program, one of the recipients of the 2012 MetLife Foundation Afterschool Innovator Awards and a program featured in our latest MetLife Foundation issue brief, “Afterschool: A Key to Successful Parent Engagement.” The VeggieTime program hosted a Lights On Afterschool event in October to celebrate their award.
The Lights on Afterschool event showcased the impact of VeggieTime, a Kid Power program where youth study nutrition and the environment, build and maintain schoolyard gardens, and use produce in both cooking classes and as fundraising for service learning projects. VeggieTime encourages family involvement through its gardening and cooking activities, helping both parents and youth make healthy choices for themselves and for their communities. Currently, Kid Power and its VeggieTime participants maintain more than 50 garden beds throughout the city!
The youth investment and youth voice was clearly on display at the Lights On Afterschool event, as students blended Super Smoothies made with kale and berries, discussed the aspects of their business plan for fundraising with vegetables, advocated for nutrition issues and baked kale chips. Guests bounced from station to station as students shared recipes, experiences and healthy living tips.
Program Director and resident emcee Grant Elliott hosted the presentation hour. While final touches were put on the dinner of vegetable pizzas (using Kid Power garden veggies!) provided by FUEL Pizza, guests were treated to a variety of speakers discussing the importance of VeggieTime:
“Parents are a child’s very first teacher” is the opening sentence of our newest issue brief on the role of afterschool programs supporting parent engagement efforts. For me, that statement rings true on a personal level. Not only was my mom a teacher for Los Angeles Unified School District, but she was my teacher at home. At home, she was the one who showed me that achievement in any subject doesn’t come without hard work, and she instilled in me that personal responsibility helps pave the way to success. She also pushed me to keep going when I felt overwhelmed or wanted to give up, and taught me that failure doesn't define me unless I let it. As I learned growing up, and now know, parents are an integral support system for kids, and it is no wonder why policy makers, educators and afterschool programs are working to strengthen parent engagement efforts.
The latest issue brief by the Afterschool Alliance and MetLife Foundation, Afterschool: A Key to Successful Parent Engagement, digs into the research analyzing the effects of parent engagement on their child’s education. The brief finds a strong evidence base supporting the position that parents play an important role in promoting student success. Yet, at the same time, it uncovered that although policy makers, school administrators and teachers recognize the tremendous impact parents can have on their child’s education, they face implementation challenges on a number of levels to fully engage parents.
Afterschool programs are a perfect partner to help overcome the existing barriers—including limited resources and time, language barriers and levels of trust—between parents and schools. They are also able to offer unique benefits to families, such as counseling programs that help open the channels of communication between parents and their children, which bolster parent engagement efforts.
Parents, family members and supportive adults are a strong and influential support system for children. It is essential that schools and afterschool programs work together to foster parent engagement efforts and ensure that children have all the support they need to thrive academically and into their adult life.
I’m very excited that I have the opportunity to share the issue brief this week at the National Summer Learning Association’s National Conference on Summer Learning, “Summer Changes Everything.” If you’re attending the conference, I hope you’ll stop by the Afterschool Alliance’s booth to pick up a copy and share your thoughts!
Summer, before and afterschool programs are playing a critical role in encouraging students to lead healthy, active lifestyles, but moving more isn’t just about being healthier. Young people who are more active also tend to have greater academic achievement, better classroom behavior and better attendance. With many schools limiting the amount of time students are able to be physically active, many out-of-school time programs are providing the opportunities kids need – and want – to get moving.
Active Living Research, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded program focusing on the prevention of childhood obesity, just released a new document listing numerous resources that detail a variety of school-based strategies to get young people moving. Among the resources is a research brief with suggestions for ways afterschool programs can promote physical activity and prevent obesity among children. Another document shares research on community access to recreational and sport facilities outside of school, and after the bell rings.
The Afterschool Alliance also has a number of issue briefs and resources to help generate new ideas for physical activity and healthy living in your summer learning, before or afterschool program, so be sure to visit our Active Hours Afterschool page for tools to implement creative health and wellness activities!