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Afterschool Snack, the afterschool blog. The latest research, resources, funding and policy on expanding quality afterschool and summer learning programs for children and youth. An Afterschool Alliance resource.
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JUL
1

IN THE FIELD
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Six cities launch citywide and year-round learning initiatives

By Jen Rinehart

Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., have joined the rapidly growing Cities of Learning movement, a new effort to network citywide resources to keep youth (ages 4 to 24) engaged in educational and career opportunities when school lets out. Cities are funded by local partners and receive national support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Digital Youth Network and the Badge Alliance.

Cities of Learning offer free or low-cost opportunities for youth to learn online or participate in programming at parks, libraries, museums and other institutions. Whether through robotics, fashion design, coding competitions or workplace internships, Cities of Learning provide an array of engaging opportunities for young people to explore new interests, develop their talents, and create unique pathways toward college or a career.

Chicago launched the Cities of Learning movement in 2013 with a successful summer program that now continues year-round. This summer, Dallas, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh will kick off their Cities of Learning, with Columbus and Washington, D.C., joining the lineup this fall. More cities are planning to launch in 2015.

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learn more about: Digital Learning Education Reform Summer Learning Academic Enrichment
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JUN
30

STEM
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State university in Michigan receives $5 million endowment for summer STEM camps

By Melissa Ballard

On the heels of National Summer Learning Day, there’s great news for kids in Michigan.  Starting next year, Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) will host summer STEM camps for middle and high school students, thanks to a gift from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.  The foundation awarded the university a $5 million endowment to establish the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow STEM Scholar Network, which will support SVSU’s summer camps, as well as sponsor undergraduate research projects.  The four-week, 160-hour middle school camp will reach 60 students and target those who are struggling academically. SVSU will also host three 80-hour high school camps reaching 36 students, with the goal to encourage more to pursue college degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.  SVSU students and school staff will serve as mentors in the summer camp, a model based on a 2012 pilot program at a local middle school.

Afterschool and summer STEM programs engage and excite kids with real-world, hands-on learning, giving them opportunities to think about the STEM fields in new ways.  Not only will SVSU’s summer camps help students avoid losing skills they’ve gained during the school year, but they will also help build interest and new capabilities in STEM.  We hope to hear great things from this initiative!

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learn more about: Science Summer Learning Community Partners
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JUN
29

STEM
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Supporting Afterschool STEM Act introduced to support technical assistance for afterschool providers

By Anita Krishnamurthi

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) has introduced a bill aimed at providing the supports afterschool practitioners need to offer high-quality science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs.  Titled the Supporting Afterschool STEM ActS.2543 will create a grant program that state and regional afterschool and STEM networks can tap into to help afterschool providers in their area give students engaging and high-quality STEM learning experiences. 

As STEM programming grows in afterschool settings, the need for technical assistance and professional development is also rising.  However, most funding is usually allocated to develop and implement programs.  This important legislation recognizes the need to provide resources that will help afterschool practitioners with their professional development and quality improvement efforts. 

The Supporting Afterschool STEM Act authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award three-year grants to existing afterschool or STEM networks, with 20 percent of all funding reserved to develop new afterschool or STEM networks in states or regions where they don't yet exist.  This bill will enable afterschool networks as well as STEM networks to provide the infrastructure needed for supporting high-quality afterschool STEM programs regionally.  It rightly draws on existing networks and their experience and expertise to assist new and existing afterschool STEM programs and increase the effectiveness of existing federal investments.  The effort would help afterschool programs nationwide develop activities and programming that works in other communities in their state.  The bill also encourages mentorship between students and federal STEM research grantees, and provides hands-on learning and exposure to STEM research facilities for young people.

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learn more about: Congress Federal Funding Legislation Science State Networks Sustainability
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JUN
29

POLICY
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Bipartisan Summer Meals Act introduced in Senate

By Erik Peterson

This week Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced the bipartisan Summer Meals ActS. 2527, which would enhance the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summer Food Service Program. The legislation would help improve nutrition and enhance learning in underserved areas by better integrating summer learning programs with meal programs, making it easier for community-based organizations to participate in the summer meals program, addressing barriers to summer meals in rural communities and by providing a third meal for children who attend evening enrichment programs.

Across the country, 31 million children receive free or reduced price school lunch—meaning their families live at or near the poverty line—but only 1 in 7 of these high-need children have access to summer meals. The Summer Meals Act would help more children access healthful food by lowering the community threshold from 50 percent to 40 percent or more of students receiving free or reduced price lunch to be eligible for the summer meals program, making it consistent with the eligibility for summer learning programs provided through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative. This legislation would also reduce the paperwork burden for community based organizations who want to participate in the program, provide children with transportation to the summer meals sites in hard-to-serve areas, and would also offer an additional meal to children who attend evening programs.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Congress Federal Policy Legislation Nutrition Summer Learning Sustainability
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JUN
29

IN THE FIELD
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2 events, 2 days, 2 great opportunities for afterschool

By Jodi Grant

What an incredible way to start the summer!  Two events, two days and two great shout-outs for our afterschool and summer learning programs.

White House Summit on Working Families

On Mon., June 23, the White House hosted its first ever White House Summit on Working Families.  The event featured celebrities, journalists and Members of Congress, as well as Dr. Jill Biden, Vice Pres. Joe Biden, Pres. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and pulled out every stop to showcase and highlight the challenges facing our working families.

While every speaker mentioned the need for high-quality childcare, I cheered loudest for Vice Pres. Biden, whose impassioned speech kicked off with a tribute to the power and impact of afterschool programs.  Defining families as more than just parents, the vice president spoke about how afterschool programs make a tremendous difference not only for working families, but also for the students who are at the gravest risk during the hours of 3 to 6 p.m.  The vice president even gave a shout-out to many of the community-based organizations that help to provide care during the afterschool hours. 

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learn more about: Advocacy Afterschool Voices Department of Education Equity Events and Briefings Federal Policy Obama Summer Learning Working Families
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JUN
25

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Digital badges in Rhode Island

By Sarah Simpson

Michelle Un and Alexis Stern are project managers for the Rhode Island After School Plus Alliance, an education initiative of United Way of Rhode Island that leads policy, practice and systems change to ensure that all of Rhode Island’s children and youth have access to high-quality afterschool and summer learning opportunities.

 

Out-of-school time and other expanded learning programs are increasingly recognizing the potential of digital badging to help make learning consequential for their students. In Rhode Island, several organizations, such as the Providence After School Alliance (PASA), have already successfully piloted the use of digital badges with their students and are now entering exciting new phases of development and complexity. While digital badges have great potential to recognize and reward students for their learning within programs, the real value of digital badges is what they mean to the rest of the world, including employers and institutions of higher education. Can statewide badging systems help us to make these connections and meet this need in our states?

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learn more about: Digital Learning Guest Blog State Networks Youth Development
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JUN
25

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup - June 25, 2014

By Luci Manning

Kids Can Learn and Stay Healthy over Their Summer Break (News Tribune, Washington)

To promote summer learning and increasing access to healthy food and physical activity, Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared June 20th Washington Summer Learning Day.  Connie Ladenburg, a former state legislator and current member of the Piece County Council, commended the declaration in a piece for the News Tribune.  Ladenburg wrote, “We have research and knowledge telling us quality summer programs make a difference, and we must continue investing in community and school partnerships that provide the quality summer learning experiences that both support children’s health and academic success while promoting experiences that create the lasting memories that all kids deserve during their summer vacation.”

Tennessee First Lady Kicks Off Reading Program (Daily Times, Tennessee)

Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam is on “book patrol” with the Memphis Police Department, traveling to summer camps and neighborhoods throughout the city to encourage students to read. READ20 Book Patrol goes beyond improving literacy, and as Haslam tells the Daily Times, it helps students connect with police officers “in the community in a casual and supportive environment.” 

Sixth-Graders Launch Farm Punt (Register-Star, New York)

Last Wednesday a boat designed and built by 15 sixth graders after school was launched at Oakdale Lake. The students from M.C. Smith Intermediate School worked with the Hudson Sloop Club for the past ten weeks, studying boat design and building the farm punt style boat from scratch with hand tools.  “They surprised us with every class.  They took to using the tools and didn’t want to let them go” said Ed Csukas, one of the Hudson Sloop Club members who headed the project, to the Register-Star.

Gardening Program Teaches Kids Healthy Growing, Cooking (News Journal, Delaware)

Students who tend the Southbridge Community Youth Garden are making their community a little brighter with fresh vegetables and an entrepreneurial spirit.  When the afterschool program first started, many students could not name a vegetable they wanted to grow, but now they are experts, the News Journal reports. The students grow a variety of vegetables and sell them at a youth-led farm stand on the last Friday of each month.  According to the National Gardening Association, this sort of program is so important because kids who are involved in gardening tend know more about good nutrition, have broader tastes, and eat more vegetables. 

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learn more about: Nutrition Summer Learning
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JUN
19

IN THE FIELD
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Power down & celebrate summer

By Ursula Helminski

This weekend, longtime afterschool supporter Torani Syrups has posed a positive challenge:  take the Power Down Pledge and #PowerDown your devices, and connect up with friends, family and community to celebrate the start of summer.  They’ve been posting some creative ideas for your Power Down activity: family camping in the living room, using a cell phone pile where no one is allowed to look at their device for the duration of the meal, or going on a celestial scavenger hunt with help from NASA

Afterschool programs are taking up the challenge, too, displaying the creative energy that we all love about our field—from families creating a 3D town using supplies they are donating to a local pantry, to a family dinner night at an animal shelter where families make doggie treats and read to the animals!

We’re all in here at the Afterschool Alliance, and I hope you will join us—take the Power Down Pledge—and celebrate the start of summer this weekend as we will, connecting with those around us.

For the past nine years, Torani’s Art for Kids project has highlighted the importance of afterschool programs nationwide by featuring the artwork of afterschool students on limited-edition beverage labels. The company donates a percentage of the sales of the limited edition bottles to the Afterschool Alliance.

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Summer Learning Community Partners
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