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JUL
14
2016

STEM
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Victories for STEM education in recent legislative activity

By Anita Krishnamurthi

As the legislative season winds down, several wins for afterschool STEM education have emerged. Most recently, on July 13-14 the House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill. The bill maintains funding for 21st CCLC at the current level of $1.16 billion, which is very good news! As you might recall, the Senate version of the bill cut afterschool by $117 million, in line with President Obama's budget request.

Informal STEM education has bright outlook in new bills

STEM is increasingly an integral part of afterschool programs, so the House's proposed funding level for 21st CCLC will ensure that millions of children will continue to have access to STEM learning opportunities. The House education spending bill also provides $1 billion for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, the new block grant in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Although this is lower than the authorized level of $1.65 billion, the House appropriation puts the funding at $700 million over the Senate LHHS bill and $500 million above the President’s budget request. STEM education advocates are breathing a collective sigh of relief, as this grant was designed to be a formula grant for districts to use toward a wide range of activities, including STEM programing (with very supportive language about partnerships with afterschool programs), arts education and counseling services. House appropriators have indicated their strong support for the initiative with this funding level, but the final outcome is far from guaranteed as the Senate and House numbers will have to be reconciled eventually.

On July 7, 2016, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a full committee markup of H.R. 5587, The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Actwhich you may know better as the Perkins CTE bill. The update includes changes that recognize the role of afterschool and summer programs in preparing young people for the workforce, and explicitly includes community-based organizations as eligible entities for funding. The bill has provisions for states to award grants that provide “support for programs and activities that increase access, student engagement, and success in STEM fields (including computer science), especially for underrepresented groups.” This provision could be very beneficial for afterschool STEM programs, especially when combined with the new expanded eligibility for starting these activities in the 5th grade (compared to the previous limit of 7th grade). 

Finally, the Senate Commerce Committee marked up S. 3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which encompasses plan to reauthorize the America COMPETES Actin late June. This bill authorizes the various federal science mission agencies, such as NASA, NOAA, NSF, Dept. of Energy etc., including their significant investments in STEM education. There are several key elements of the bill that are supportive of informal/afterschool STEM programming:

JUL
14
2016

IN THE FIELD
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How afterschool can help communities in face of division

By Jodi Grant

Children are often more in touch with the world around them than adults—they constantly ask questions about things they see and hear. Today, this awareness may lead to especially difficult questions, as recent tragedies in Orlando, Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas are still fresh in the hearts of Americans, and heated conversations on racism and prejudice grip the nation.

Thankfully, afterschool programs provide safe, supportive settings for children amid difficult circumstances, and often become one of the first places youth feel comfortable asking questions, sharing views and expressing emotions that spring from tough issues. For some kids, program staff are even like extended family.

That said, helping youth address violence, fear, grief and racism presents a considerable and challenging responsibility. I encourage educators to explore a valuable list of resources provided by the Partnership for After School Education (PASE), which offers guidance on navigating challenging topics and circumstances with children.

As an additional resource, the Afterschool Alliance and the out-of-school time field recently welcomed the advice of Dr. David J. Schonfeld, Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, in a webinar on how to support grieving children. In the webinar recording, youth services professionals can learn coping strategies to minimize children’s distress and behavioral difficulties that may arise from feelings of loss, confusion and anger.

Beyond providing welcoming environments for delicate conversations, afterschool programs serve as a glue that bonds various community partners in a united effort to support youth. Law enforcement agencies have often become those partners, and they are an increasingly vital one. When police and youth get to know each other in a fun, informal setting, they build positive personal relationships. Those bridges can help break down stereotypes, provide youth with new trusted mentors and build bonds that strengthen communities.

Aaron Dworkin, the President of After-School All-Stars, provided an inspiring example of the afterschool field rising to the challenge of building cooperative, peaceful communities. “We believe our programs and staff play an important and powerful role in many communities being affected by violence,” he said in a statement to stakeholders. “Many of us are in a unique position to help facilitate important conversations led by professionally trained counselors and to offer support and assistance to students, families, staff and schools working to reduce violence and cope with the trauma of its aftermath.”

This determined effort to promote harmony and encourage meaningful discussion has the potential to impact more than 70,000 youth who participate in After-School All-Stars programs at 326 schools across the country. These inspiring actions by the afterschool field may not generate bold national headlines, but they inspire the next generation of Americans to work together in peace, respect and mutual understanding.

JUL
13
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: July 13, 2016

By Luci Manning

Kids Bring Legos to Life in the Woodlands (Houston Chronicle, Texas)

The Woodlands Children’s Museum is hosting workshops on Shakespearian theater, arts and crafts and chemistry this summer, but the museum’s Lego robotics course is by far the most popular. The elementary schoolers learn to reverse engineer Lego robots using their knowledge of gear ratios and construction, building up to five robots a week. “We educated, empowered and excited them, and they didn’t even know,” museum executive director Angela Colton told the Houston Chronicle. The course shows students how fun working with technology can be while helping them develop skills like teamwork, problem solving and creativity.

Camp Susan Curtiss Provides Lifetime Lessons (Portland Press Herald, Maine)

Underprivileged youths rarely get to enjoy the opportunities that come with afterschool activities and summer camps. But for more than 40 years, Camp Susan Curtis in the foothills of western Maine has provided a place for economically disadvantaged students to participate in all the outdoor activities summer camp is known for while also providing free educational programs to build confidence and job skills for the future. All the campers come from disadvantaged homes and many are on the autism spectrum, but at Camp Susan Curtis they learn how to set goals, think critically about the world around them and build their self-esteem, the Portland Press Herald reports.

Full STEAM Ahead: Summer Camp Puts Students in the Laboratory (Auburn Journal, California)

Hundreds of Auburn students are learning about how rockets work, how to build robots and what happens when you mix Mentos with Diet Coke at summer camps all over the area. STEAM-based summer programs are popping up all over Auburn, from the Boys & Girls Club to the Colfax Library. The programs not only help stem the summer slide, but also focus on social-emotional learning, forging friendships, improving teamwork and creative problem-solving. “(Students) see a challenge and work to fix it. If it doesn’t work out great the first time they reassess,” Boys & Girls Club program director Jennifer Cross told the Auburn Journal. “It’s a great life lesson.”

Put Down Your Cell Phones and Learn How to Sew (Weston Forum, Connecticut)

Weston resident Gabriela Low thinks young people today spend too much time on their cell phones, so she has started running afterschool programs at Weston public schools encouraging students to work on hand-on creative projects, primarily sewing and knitting. The enrichment classes helps students build fine motor skills and give them a chance to work independently to develop their individual creativity. “When the kids complete a project in my class and see the end product, it raises their self-esteem and gives them something to feel good about,” Low told the Weston Forum. “Also, the process of sewing, knitting or braiding seems to help the kids focus and relax.” Low hopes to expand her program to the middle school and high school, where she would teach fashion design and other more complex programs. 

JUL
12
2016

STEM
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Start a Girls Who Code Club and help close the tech gender gap

By Erin Murphy

Girls Who Code is actively working to create a world in which men and women are represented equally in the ever-important technology industry. This year, Girls Who Code is looking to scale-up efforts through their afterschool clubs program. You can apply to be an official host site, and access free curriculum, teaching resources and support from Girls Who Code!

What is a Girls Who Code Club?

In a Girls Who Code Club, 6th to 12th grade girls explore coding in a fun and friendly environment. Students learn core computer science concepts through projects based on their interests, such as music, art or games. The curriculum is designed for students with varying experience levels, with lessons for students with zero coding experience or lessons that introduce college-level concepts. Field trips and guest speakers compliment the curriculum by demonstrating how these skills can be applied in the future. Additionally, this program provides girls a supportive community. They become part of a diverse sisterhood while gaining many female role models who are working at the world’s leading engineering and tech companies.

Become part of the movement

To get girls coding in your community, you can to host a club in either Fall 2016 or Spring 2017. All you need are computers, internet access, a facilitator (two is even better), and (of course) girls in 6th to 12th grade.

The lead facilitator can be an afterschool program employee or a community volunteer like a college student majoring in computer science or a tech industry professional. However, for the Fall 2016 session, the facilitator must have knowledge of programming fundamentals such as loops, conditionals, and functions. In Spring 2017, a newly-released curriculum will support non-technical facilitators, i.e. afterschool educators without prior knowledge of programming. If you need to recruit a tech-capable facilitator, here are some helpful resources:

If you are still having trouble finding someone to facilitate, Girls Who Code can help out! Just indicate this on your application.

JUL
11
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool Spotlight: New York City Police Athletic League

By Robert Abare

This post is presented as part of the Afterschool Spotlight blog series, which tells the stories of the parents, participants and providers of afterschool programs. This post is also an installment in our new Afterschool & Law Enforcement series, which explores the ways afterschool programs are partnering with police to keep communities safe and growing strong. Last week's installment of the Afterschool & Law Enforcement series focused on motivations for partnerships.

Written by Matt Freeman

Since its founding on the eve of World War I, New York City’s Police Athletic League (PAL) has been a daily presence in the lives of New York City youth. Today, it serves upwards of 40,000 children a year at 24 sites that span all five of the city’s boroughs, providing afterschool and summer programming that includes healthy meals and snacks, as well as ample opportunity for exercise and sports.

What began decades ago as an effort to provide children with a safe place to play now provides tools and opportunities designed to set youth on a path to a healthy lifestyle.

“Sports have always been a core area for us,” says Marcel Braithwaite, director of center operations at PAL. “And we make a concerted effort with sports, not just for the kids who rise to the top and are candidates for high school sports, but for all kids. We make sports accessible to everyone, with a curriculum designed around teaching fundamentals—sportsmanship, how to play the game right, problem-solving, teamwork—things people don’t always associate with sports.”

In 2010, PAL’s health and fitness program took on an even more deliberate focus when the organization partnered with a local public school in Harlem to create the PAL Physical Education Program (PEP). Supported by a grant from the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program, PAL PEP began carefully measuring students’ progress toward specific fitness goals. PAL staffers led students through what amounted to a fitness pre-test at the beginning of the year, gauging individual participants’ fitness across a series of measures, including body mass index, cardio-vascular capacity, foot speed and other measures from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education standards. Subsequent measurements throughout the year allow PAL to track participants’ progress.

We make sports accessible to everyone, with a curriculum designed around teaching fundamentals

Over the four-year life of the grant, students regularly exceeded the state-recommended 150 weekly minutes of physical education, doubling the time they had spent in PE before the program began. “While other students around the city continued to struggle with obesity and youth fitness issues,” Braithwaite says, “in 2012-2013, 77 percent of our participants were either in the Healthy Fitness Zone for cardiovascular health, or had increased their laps run by 15 percent.” The program’s health and nutrition components also led to an 18.5 percent increase in the number of participants who reported eating fruit two or more times per day, and vegetables three or more times.

JUL
8
2016

POLICY
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Afterschool and summer learning protected in FY17 House education spending bill

By Erik Peterson

The House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Committee today marked up its fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill, which could be debated and voted on by the full Appropriations Committee the week of July 11th. In total, the draft bill includes $161.6 billion in discretionary funding, which is $569 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $2.8 billion below the President’s budget request.

Unofficial reports: 21st CCLC avoids funding cut

According to a statement by the Appropriations Committee, “funding within the bill is targeted to proven programs with the most national benefit.” The bill cuts discretionary funding for the Department of Education by $1.3 billion compared to fiscal year 2016 levels but (according to unofficial reports) keeps 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) level with last year’s funding at $1.16 billion. This news on 21st CCLC funding will need to be confirmed once language is officially released. 

The new Student Support and Academic Achievement State Grant program in Title IV Part A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is funded at $1 billion, $700 million above the Senate LHHS bill and $500 million above the President’s budget request, for grants that provide flexible funds to states and school districts to expand access to a well-rounded education (including afterschool STEM initiatives), improve school conditions, and improve the use of technology.

The legislation includes funding for programs within the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

With regard to 21st CCLC, the funding level set in the House bill will allow 21st CCLC to continue providing quality afterschool and summer learning programs for almost two million children through local school-community partnerships. The bill also funds the Child Care Development Block Grant at $2.8 billion, a significant funding stream for school-age child care.

On the Senate side, the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee and full Committee marked up its FY17 spending bill earlier this summer, cutting $117 million from 21st CCLC

Add your voice to the debate on afterschool funding

Given the activity in the House and Senate around important policy and funding decisions, now is an opportune time to reach out to members of Congress to remind them of the value of afterschool and summer learning programs in inspiring learning, keeping young people safe, and helping working families.

share this link: http://bit.ly/29mzrTn
learn more about: 21st CCLC Congress Federal Funding
JUL
7
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool & Law Enforcement: Motivations for partnerships

By Erin Murphy

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the second installment of the new Afterschool & Law Enforcement blog series. Through interviews with police officers and public service officials, this post focuses on the motivations that lead afterschool programs and law enforcement agencies to work together.

The New York State Sheriff Association's Sheriffs' Camp summer program

Across the nation, law enforcement and afterschool programs are partnering up to keep children safe and support working families. Juvenile interaction with law enforcement and victimization peak between 3 and 6 p.m., the hours after school before parents get home from work. Finding care for children during this time can be challenging for families, especially for working single parents.

Officer Kenney Aguilar of the Santa Ana Police Department described how many law enforcement departments recognize afterschool programs as the perfect partner in keeping communities safe. “Afterschool programs provide a safe haven for children to focus on academics,” he said. “These programs also keep kids off of the streets and away from the gangs that plague the neighborhoods.”

Rene Fiechter, Assistant District Attorney of Nassau County (NY), noted the role of afterschool in a community initiative to help single moms. “Affordable afterschool became a large necessity to achieve the goals of that initiative,” he said.

Additionally, working with afterschool programs provides an opportunity for law enforcement departments to build relationships, trust and understanding with community youth. Besides giving kids a safe place to learn in the summer, The Sheriffs' Institute in New York hopes to “encourage kids to see law enforcement as a friend and not an enemy,” said Chris O’Brien, executive director of the institute.

Darren Grimshaw, a major at the Burlington (IA) Police Department, has similarly seen his department’s partnership with an afterschool program transform the relationship of law enforcement and the local community. Participants in the program frequently say hello to officers and share their positive experiences with friends and family.

These partnerships between afterschool and law enforcement vary dramatically depending on the needs of the community and the capacity of the police department. Some departments provide funding for afterschool programs, while others run their own afterschool programs and camps.

JUL
6
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: July 6, 2016

By Luci Manning

Kids Have a Blast, Learn Cyber Basics (Pensacola News Journal, Florida)

Elementary and middle school students are learning how to better secure their computers, phones and tablets at Global Business Solutions Inc.’s (GBSI’s) Summer Cyber Camp. The program teaches students about the dangers of sharing personal information with strangers and shows them how to create complex passwords to protect their devices. The camp aims to expose young people to cybersecurity and computer science to encourage them to pursue careers in those fields. “The goal is to get them young and to get them interested,” GBSI technical writer Steve Samaha told the Pensacola News Journal

Free Range Fun (The Landmark, Massachusetts)

Lisa Burris thinks young students today suffer from a nature deficit, so she’s trying to give them opportunities to explore the outdoors at her Turn Back Time Farm. The nonprofit farm offers summer camps, home schooling and afterschool programs for students of all abilities, but particularly for children with special needs who may have trouble thriving in a traditional classroom. “The overarching goal is just play,” Burris told The Landmark. “It happens naturally, and it ticks all the boxes – development, gross motor skills. Kids learn, heal, negotiate through play.” The 58-acre farm boasts a trail system, a cultivated garden and plenty of farm animals for children to interact with, including goats, pigs and a pony.

Summer Camp an EPIC Way to Learn (Post & Courier, South Carolina)

Nearly a thousand Charleston County elementary schoolers are learning to be scientists and creative problem solvers at EPIC summer camp. Many of the students spend the whole day at EPIC (which stands for Engaging, Purposeful, Innovative, Creative), working on STEM projects in the mornings and art and other enrichment activities in the afternoons. The camp aims to improve students’ social skills and keep them learning over the long summer months so they don’t fall behind at the start of the school year. “I really like it because you can learn a lot so you don’t forget in the summertime,” fourth-grader Leila Nadar told the Post & Courier. “I’ve always had a hard time when I get back from the summer and I’m like, Oh my God, I forgot everything, but now I won’t forget.”

Horizons Helping More Hoosier Kids (Indianapolis Star, Indiana)

While many students lose ground in core academic subjects over the summer, 150 students in the Horizons summer program are gaining two to three months of reading proficiency, improving their math skills and learning how to be stronger communicators. The students, most of whom are at risk of falling behind their peers during the school year, spend their summer days on Butler College’s campus participating in classroom activities and field trips meant to sharpen their academic and social skills in all areas, including art, STEM, physical fitness and community service. They also get a glimpse into the college life, showing them that they could succeed after high school as well. “It makes me so happy because I get to see people eating lunch and they’re in college,” 13-year-old Quintez Tucker told the Indianapolis Star. “That makes me think I can do it. I walk past the door and see them in class, I know I can do that.”