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MAY
22

RESEARCH
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New Harvard Family Research Project commentary: Why student engagement matters

By Nikki Yamashiro

Leave Them Wanting More!: Engaging Youth in Afterschool,” a new commentary out of the Harvard Family Research Project, discusses the importance of youth engagement in students’ learning, relationship building and development, and the vital role afterschool programs play in engaging youth with the learning opportunities around them. The commentary delves into four dimensions of engagement:  1) cognitive engagement, 2) behavioral engagement, 3) social engagement and 4) emotional engagement. The piece not only calls attention to the need to create environments that engage students in these various dimensions, but outlines the many ways afterschool programs are encouraging student engagement. Below are a few examples of steps programs can take and have taken to leave students wanting more:

  • Cognitive engagement: Steps programs can take within this engagement dimension that deals with critical thinking, problem solving, developing new skills and learning new information include offering new activities that youth express an interest in; customizing and scaffolding activities that can facilitate students moving up the learning ladder; and providing encouragement and support to students as they navigate challenging activities and situations.
  • Behavioral engagement: Practices to support behavioral engagement—which refers to the attendance, behavior and participation of students in afterschool programs—include creating an environment where students can have fun and feel safe and relaxed, providing stability through the intentional structuring of the program, and offering a variety of learning experiences—such as field trips and technology training—to grow attendance and participation in programs.
  • Social engagement: Helping youth to feel like part of a community includes designing activities that create meaningful and positive group interactions, offering activities and devices that spur communication and collaboration, and building a sense of community for youth, both within and outside of the afterschool program.
  • Emotional engagement: Emotional engagement, referring to students feeling accepted and appreciated for who they are, can be supported through practices such as encouraging meaningful relationships between program staff and students and providing students leadership roles within the program.

“Leave Them Wanting More!: Engaging Youth in Afterschool” also includes data from Afterschool Alliance’s America After 3PM survey, which finds that parents view afterschool programs not only as a space that keeps their children safe, but also as an enriching learning environment. The commentary is a part of the latest edition of the FINE Newsletter, which you can access on the Harvard Family Research Project’s website.

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MAY
21

IN THE FIELD
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This Memorial Day, think about inviting your elected officials for a site visit

By Rachel Clark

With Congress preparing to head home for the Memorial Day recess, now is the perfect time to think about inviting a Member of Congress to stop by your afterschool program while they’re back in your district. This year is a critical time for federal afterschool funding—giving Members of Congress and Senators the chance to experience the impact afterschool programs are having in their local community is invaluable!

To help make your event a success, we’ve put together a step-by-step planning guide including a target timeline and sample schedule, as well as case studies of site visits other programs have hosted. If you’ve never invited an elected official to your program before, you may be surprised to see how easy and rewarding the process can be! The all-inclusive guide also includes links to tools you can use to attract press coverage of your event, giving you a great opportunity to increase community awareness of your program while you build a relationship with your representative and their staff.

If the week of Memorial Day is too soon for you to plan a site visit, don’t worry—if your program is open during the summer break, there are plenty of opportunities later in the summer when your representatives will be back home. Check the House and Senate calendars to find a time that works for you and for your elected officials.

Inviting policy makers to visit your afterschool program is a powerful way to help them understand the value your program brings to the community. Having spent the spring working hard to call on Congress to protect afterschool, now is the perfect time to make this personal connection with your representatives!

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MAY
20

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup  May 20, 2015

By Luci Manning

Kids and Yoga Make for Relaxing Combination at Showell (Delmarva Now, Maryland)

An afterschool yoga class at Showell elementary is improving student wellness and helping kids unwind after a long day in the classroom. During the 50-minute class, pre-kindergarten teacher Amy Braciszewski leads students through a variety of poses, teaching them each pose’s Sanskrit name along the way. Assistant principal Joshua Hamborsky thinks the afterschool program is teaching kids a good way to work through their problems. “It’s not fluff,” he told Delmarva Now. “The course offers powerful breathing, thinking and mental exercises to help students cope with anxiety and stresses.”

Kids Learn Fitness, Life Skills from Circus Staff (Bloomington Pantagraph, Illinois)

Twenty-three Cedar Ridge Elementary School students participated in a unique physical education class last week when Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey circus performers visited their afterschool program. A clown taught them about healthy eating and several other performers, including a dancer and four unicyclists, taught them to juggle, hula hoop and jump rope. “CircusFit is designed to get kids moving and show that exercise can be fun,” Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey’s Jillian Kaplan told the Bloomington Pantagraph. “Hula-hooping and jumping rope are everyday skills that children can become proficient at instead of sitting and playing video games.” Students even got a bit of a performance from the King Charles Unicycle Troupe, who shot hoops and jumped rope while on their unicycles.

Students Design Prosthetics, Compete for First Place at Oregon MESA Day (Oregonian, Oregon)

At the 15th annual Oregon MESA Day Middle and High School Engineering and Science competition, more than 350 students showed off the inventions they had created that year through their STEM-based afterschool program. Oregon MESA (Mathematics Engineers Science Achievement) targets students typically underrepresented in STEM fields, pairing them with mentors who help them develop projects to present at the year-end competition. One group of students from Franklin High created a prosthetic arm out of cardboard tubes, clamps, metal tongs and rubber bands, which they used to pick up and move items and fasten screws to a wooden board. “My touchstone is just watching the kids go crazy,” MESA board chair Kevin Bell told the Oregonian. “They walk away basically believing ‘I can do this.’ It’s contagious.”

MDC Students Mentor Children through Literacy Program (Miami Herald, Florida)

With the help of mentors from Miami Dade College (MDC), seven-year-old Diana Arellano wrote a story about reuniting with her sister in Mexico and ten-year-old Joan Espinosa created an action-packed graphic novel about superheroes, the Miami Herald reports. The students are part of Pages for All Ages, an afterschool literacy program for students from the large population of migrant farm workers and low-income families living in South Miami Dade. Each semester, kids are matched with MDC students who help them improve their reading and writing skills. The stories they create are then hardbound and displayed at the college library. 

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MAY
20

RESEARCH
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New findings on high school graduation rates are in...

By Nikki Yamashiro

…And overall, the outlook is positive, with the nation’s high school graduation rate reaching 81.4 percent—the highest it has ever been. Last week, the 2015 edition of Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic was released and found that for the third year in a row, graduation rates have stayed on target to reach the goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. The report by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, and in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, uncovers that increased graduation rates among Hispanic and African-American students, a decrease in the number of “dropout factories”(high schools with low graduation rates), and 29 states reaching at least the national graduation rate average of 81.4 percent, have helped to move the national graduation rate closer to the 90 percent graduation rate goal.

To continue to increase graduation rates and reach the 90 percent high school graduation rate target by 2020, Building a Grad Nation singles out five key drivers to focus on:

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MAY
13

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup  May 13, 2015

By Luci Manning

Teaching Science (and More) Through Bunnies (New York Times, New York)

The Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE) provides low-cost community programs for Spanish-speaking families in Long Island, including a weekly afterschool program called Ciencia en CMEE. Leah Oppenheimer, a social worker who works in the afterschool program, told the New York Times that Long Island’s Latino families “constitute a large, underserved population when it comes to education and culture,” and that CMEE hopes to fill the gap of available programs. Ciencia (“science” in Spanish) creatively weaves together a variety of subjects in its sessions. This week, the topic was bunny rabbits. The class explored the biological differences between European hares and New World cottontails, discussed how rabbits were introduced to Australia from Europe and created bunny-themed artwork.

Can Gaming Become an Interscholastic Sport? (Indianapolis Star, Indiana)

Video games are often a solitary activity, but Kerwin Rent hopes to gather isolated gamers with afterschool gaming clubs at Indianapolis schools. The games in Rent’s programs include sports, auto racing and fighting, no shooting games or extreme violence, and in order to qualify for city championships students also have to complete educational online exercises, including essays about technology. Rent hopes video gaming can offer a niche for students who don’t want to participate in sports or music and teach them about tech careers. “These are the kids who will build our software applications and solutions on the tech side in the future,” he told the Indianapolis Star.

Class Goes to the Dogs (Siskiyou Daily News, California)

A 6-foot-tall, 120 pound Malamute/shepherd mix named Bandit is helping children who have trouble reading. Every Wednesday, Bandit sits and listens while struggling readers and students with behavioral issues in the Safe After School Program read him stories. SAFE teacher Dawn Wallace said she’s already noticed drastic changes for students in just four months – kids with behavioral problems are increasingly kind to Bandit, and her students are growing more enthusiastic about reading. “He’s a very attentive audience for a child that is struggling,” she told the Siskiyou Daily News. “He’s a nonjudgmental party that the children can just be with.”

YES Students Planning Fundraiser for the Homeless (New Britain Herald, Connecticut)

Students in the Vance Elementary School Youth Enrichment and Sports (YES) afterschool program recently held a community pasta dinner to raise money to support New Britain’s homeless population. The YES program includes homework help, wellness instruction, sports activities and even acting lessons, but the core of the program is a “random act of kindness project,” which each participating school selected at the beginning of the year. Vance students chose to learn more about the homeless population and, after six months researching the issue of homelessness, sponsored a fundraiser for a local church to help with supplies for the weekly dinners they provide to the area homeless. “YES is important because our kids realize that doing good for others makes you feel good,” school district extended day programs facilitator Nancy Puglisi told the New Britain Herald.

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MAY
13

IN THE FIELD
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#MoveInMay with afterschool programs

By Shaun Gray

National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is the perfect time to celebrate afterschool and summer programs that are keeping kids active and healthy, and for programs to cement their commitment to combating the childhood obesity epidemic—we know from America After 3PM data that they’re doing a tremendous amount to encourage healthy habits that kids can keep with them for life.

Programs looking to foster healthy practices in the out-of-school time space have plenty of resources to explore. The Healthy Out-of-School Time (HOST) Coalition serves as a hub for the latest in physical activity and healthy eating news from afterschool and summer learning programs, from research to activities and ideas, as well as physical activity resources. The Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards can also be found on the HOST Coalition’s website, along with background on how the standards were developed, offering guidelines to help programs effectively foster healthy behaviors.  First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign offers even more resources to encourage active and healthy lifestyles, from key facts to simple steps for success.

To learn more about the state of healthy afterschool programs in your community, dive into our America After 3PM dashboard—compelling statistics about parent demand and satisfaction for these programs help make a strong case for the importance of afterschool. And to help make the case, check out these eye-catching infographics that can be used to grab people’s attention and share key America After 3PM findings. The research is clear: Afterschool programs are vital resources to keep kids active and healthy. Celebrate National Physical Fitness and Sports month by spreading the word!

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MAY
13

RESEARCH
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Guest blog: The Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities establishing a new research resource for the afterschool field

By Nikki Yamashiro

Dr. Kimberley Boyer is the executive director of the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation (CVAF). In 2014, CVAF launched the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO)—a peer-reviewed, online, open-access publication—where she serves as the chief editor. The JELO connects research and promising practices throughout California and the nation, fostering a dialogue that engages both researchers and practitioners in the field.

Evidence-based programming is becoming a major thrust in expanded learning. While a multitude of research about the impact of expanded learning exists, it is not always easy to find. This was the dilemma I encountered when I started working for the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation in 2007. I remember approaching our then executive director at that time, and expressing the need to develop a resource that houses reliable studies and research about the positive impacts of afterschool programs. I said, “What about developing an academic journal that can house work like this? Then researchers, practitioners, legislators and advocates can have this information.” Now, I also mentioned to her that I was completing my dissertation that focused on afterschool programs and was beginning my search to find a journal to submit for publication. I found that there was very few to none of these specific journals available. Fast forward to 2014 and the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO) was born. It took a few years and a few journal name changes, but the JELO is finally here and I couldn’t be more proud to share it with the field.  

The creation of the JELO was further spurred by the interest of OST/expanded learning program providers, educational administrators, community members, and young people in the Central Valley of California to create such a project. As more experts joined the conversation, the discussion grew to incorporate research and programs within California and throughout the nation. The mission of this journal is to foster the discovery, collection, and dissemination of scholarly research and deeper learning from a variety of disciplines related to out-of-school-time or expanded learning time. This work builds upon Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success, edited by Terry K. Peterson, Ph.D. This groundbreaking compendium contains studies, reports and commentaries by more than 100 thought leaders including community leaders, elected officials, educators, researchers, advocates and other prominent authors. Very few academic journals dedicate themselves primarily to the field of expanded learning. Research in this field is being sought out by institutions of higher learning, as well as policy makers and advocates. From an academic standpoint, this area of research has grown to the point that merits the development of a publication like the JELO. From a policy and advocacy standpoint, the JELO increases public awareness of the field of expanded learning, but also supports empirical research. Finally, from a practitioner standpoint, the JELO provides guidance and insights about innovative practices that are being applied elsewhere.

Our inaugural issue launched in the spring of 2014 and our second issue was just released. The second issue of the JELO features a dialogue between Michelle Perrenoud, of Los Angeles County Office of Education, and Dr. Deborah Vandell, of University of California, Irvine, on the topic of the networks and systems which support the expanded learning field. Three articles are featured that focus on the value of networks and systems. Two articles discuss the importance of on-going communication between school day and afterschool providers to maximize student impact. The third article articulates the importance of staffing structure, staff knowledge, and external partners as key factors associated with effective inquiry-based science opportunities in expanded learning programs. To download both issues of the JELO and to learn about submitting an original article, please go to: http://www.centralvalleyafterschool.org/case-for-afterschool/the-journal-of-expanded-learning-opportunities-project/.

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MAY
6

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup  May 6, 2015

By Luci Manning

Texas Kids Need More After-School Options (TribTalk, Texas)

Andy Roddick, a former professional tennis player, and Molly Clayton, executive director of the Texas Partnership for Out of School Time, advocated for more state funding for afterschool programs in TribTalk: “Over 935,000 Texas schoolchildren are unsupervised in the critical hours after school… But despite continually unmet demand and positive academic outcomes, current public and private investments in after-school and summer programs are simply not enough. Federal funding for these programs, which is already unable to meet the growing demand, is at risk. Local governments and private philanthropy have been working to fill in gaps, but they can’t do it alone. The state of Texas has a much bigger role to play in ensuring that these programs are available, affordable and high quality.”

School Gardens Sprout in Central San Joaquin Valley (Fresno Bee, California)

Visalia Unified School District launched Growbiotics, an afterschool gardening program, last fall, and it’s already so popular that most of its 25 elementary schools have waiting lists. Each child gets one square foot of the garden, where it is their responsibility to plant seeds and seedlings, remove weeds, water the plants and harvest what they grow. They also regularly measure and record air and ground temperature. In the fall the students grow broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, carrots, spinach and beets, and spring gardens include squash, carrots, tomatoes, herbs, eggplants and lettuce. “I like how we can all come together and plant and harvest stuff,” fifth-grader Faith Bither told the Fresno Bee. “You can learn and do something fun.”

St. Paul Students Explore Jazz in Mobile After-School Program (St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minnesota)

The Mobile Jazz afterschool program is introducing students to jazz. At the twice-weekly program, 80 middle and high school students get a lesson from local professional musicians then break into smaller, concentrated groups – poets and songwriters, instrumentalists, singers and dancers, and those interested in audio production and the technical side of music. Students performed for their peers and the community at the culminating exhibition last week. Program creator Andrew Fischer said he hopes to give kids a place where their creativity can flow freely. “These little people need a safe environment to come out, to express themselves,” he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press

YWCA Children Go on Mother’s Day Shopping Spree (Deseret News, Utah)

Mother’s Day can be a hard time for women in domestic violence shelters, but a YWCA afterschool program and the nonprofit Women’s Edge are doing what they can to help. Nearly 40 students in the afterschool program participated in an all-expenses-paid Mother’s Day shopping spree Monday. Each child was paired with a Women’s Edge hostess, who helped the children find gifts for their moms and adhere to the $50 per mother budget. Kids selected bags, books, dresses and jewelry at marked-down prices, taking care to consider their moms’ favorite colors. “It’s cool to see how selfless kids can be,” Fred Meyers Jewelers sales associate Clark Henrikson told Deseret News. “They’re so excited to be able to be so generous.” 

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