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Success Story: Girls on the Run

By Faith Savaiano

Twenty years ago in Charlotte, N.C., a young woman began the first Girls On the Run (GOTR) team as an individual effort. But when the program was covered in Runner’s World, a running-focused magazine, the demand for this girls-specific running program exploded. Today, GOTR has more than 200 councils across all 50 states, serving more than 200,000 girls each year.

The program’s rapid growth presented the young organization with the challenge and opportunity to develop a more structured curriculum, according to Dr. Heather Pressley, senior vice president of mission advancement.

“The team at headquarters realized that the organic growth was great but it was very fast, [and] we needed to look into the quality and consistency of the program across sites where it was being offered,” Pressley said. “We took the original concept of building confidence through running and created an intentional curriculum with measurable physical, social, emotional, and life skills outcomes.”



Students harness healthy habits at Camp Fire Wise KidsĀ®

By Tiereny Lloyd

For the students and staff of Camp Fire Wise Kids® afterschool programs in and around Dallas, Texas, health is all about balance. By emphasizing the importance of a balanced diet and of balancing “energy in” and “energy out,” staff hope to empower children to make a lifetime’s worth of healthy and wise choices.

Like other Camp Fire programs across the nation, the Wise Kids program relies on the “Thrive{ology}” framework. Described as a “research-based, measurable approach to youth development,” Camp Fire developed the approach in partnership with the California-based Thrive Foundation for Youth. It comprises four components:

  1. Helping children identify their “sparks” – that is, their interests and passions
  2. Guiding them to adopt a “growth” mindset – the belief that they can learn new skills all the time
  3. Urging them to set and manage goals for themselves
  4. Encouraging them to reflect on what they’ve done and accomplished

Camp Fire Lone Star layers its Wise Kids framework over the health and physical education standards written into the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards issued by the state’s department of education. The health and physical education standards are generally in line with the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards developed by the National AfterSchool Association.



New report from the Wallace Foundation: Strategies to scale up

By Nikki Yamashiro

The question of how to scale up—taking a successful program, project, or policy and growing it to expand its reach and therefore its impact—has been an important one when thinking about systems change. It is a key component in efforts to make sustainable, positive social gains; a subject highly relevant to the afterschool field. Commissioned by The Wallace Foundation, the study, “Strategies to Scale Up Social Programs: Pathways, Partnerships and Fidelity,” takes a close look at the strategic decisions made by 45 programs—ranging in focus from education to the environment—that helped them expand their reach and bring their services to a greater number of people. Key takeaways from the report include:

Pathways, partnerships, and fidelity. The three interrelated strategic choices common to scale up efforts are:

  1. Pathways - the decision of how to scale
  2. Partnerships - whom to partner with and how
  3. Fidelity - how a scale up effort does or does not change or adapt as new partners or communities implement the scale up

Partnerships are critical in scaling up efforts. While funders were identified as core partners by almost all of the programs included in the study, partnerships provided scaling up efforts more than funding. From consultation expertise to volunteers and from infrastructure to implementation, the programs reviewed relied on the support of their partners.

Find the right balance. Finding the right balance between program fidelity and adaptation can help ensure that the scaling up effort is meeting the needs of the community while at the same time maintaining its effectiveness.



Celebrate afterschool STEM during Lights On

By Charlotte Steinecke

Whether it’s cooking up polymer-based jiggly jelly, writing computer code, or exploring urban ecology, we know that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning thrives in afterschool! Afterschool STEM learning presents an incredible opportunity to help students learn, expose them to new ideas and concepts, and involve them in fun experiments and activities. Moreover, afterschool offers a chance to engage students from populations underrepresented in the STEM fields with material they may not otherwise have opportunities to explore.

With so many opportunities for creativity and customization and so many benefits to offer, how could we not include afterschool STEM as one of this year’s Lights On Afterschool themes?

Programs across the country are gearing up with great ideas for 2017! Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Movie night: Show a science fiction or comedy movie and coordinate experiments related to the theme of the film. Science Matters of Fort Collins, Colo. plans to show Flubber at their local movie theater and host table experiments after the show.
  • Fall field trip: Take your students to a local farm to learn about the effect of changing seasons. Cougar Club After School in Centerview, Mon. will be visiting a local farm to learn about the life cycle of pumpkins and press apples into cider.
  • Museum visit: Visit your science center or science museum for a hands-on learning experience. Kids Commons in Columbus, Ind. will offer free admission to their children’s museum for families with kids in pre-K through 6th grade, with STEAM activities throughout the museum.
  • Math crafts: Have kids use model kits or cardstock to create and decorate geometrical solids and shapes. Students at the YMCA of Hobart, Ind. will make and decorate dodecahedrons, icosahedrons, and rhombicuboctahedrons with pictures depicting what they like about afterschool, followed by a family game night.
  • Build and tinker: Illustrate a lesson with a makerspace event. Students at High Desert Leapin’ Lizards in Ridgecrest, Calif. will spend the month of October learning about the laws of motion and building cars from recycled materials, with a special celebration at the end of the month so parents join the fun.

Are you celebrating STEM at your Lights On Afterschool event? Share your plan on Twitter using #LightsOnAfterschool!

You can find more ideas and inspiration from past years by searching for “STEM” in the Events Ideas & Activities database.



Weekly Media Roundup: October 4, 2017

By Luci Manning

Detroit High School Chefs Team Up with Lions for Cooking Competition (Detroit Free Press, Michigan)

Students in the Detroit Food Academy's afterschool culinary program are learning cooking skills and self-development through food and entrepreneurship. High schoolers enrolled in the program recently had the opportunity to cook alongside Detroit Lions football players like defensive tackle Akeem Spence in a cooking competition. The competition, “Eat Up or Cook Up,” awarded winners a $1,500 scholarship from Baker College, a Detroit Lions gift bag, and game tickets as a prize. “These kids, they can definitely cook, especially at the age group they are,” Spence told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s amazing to see their creativity come to life and they are doing what they love to do.”

Penn Students, Faculty and Alumni Work Together at this After-School Program for Latino Students (The Daily Pennsylvanian, Pennsylvania)

Three recent University of Pennsylvania graduates began an afterschool program called Lanzando Líderes, or “Launching Leaders,” to promote leadership and academic excellence in for high schoolers from immigrant or first-generation, low-income families. The program pairs high school students with mentors and tutors from the university and puts on academic and leadership workshops. “In my life I never really felt like I had someone to guide me. I got lucky and got placed into the hands of awesome teachers. But that was all luck. I sort of feel like I owe it to people in my sort of situation to help them reach their full potential,” tutor Enoch Solano-Sanchez told The Daily Pennsylvanian.

The Wrong Way to Fight Gangs (The New York Times, California)

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Lauren Markham, author and Oakland International High School employee, explains how afterschool programs help keep immigrant youths out of gangs: “Newly arrived immigrants are a fast-growing demographic in American schools…. Yet the Trump administration is pushing for cuts that will affect their ability to succeed in school, or even attend school at all. The proposed 2018 education budget includes… an evisceration of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers…. If 21st Century funds go away, these programs vanish. Which means the students will find somewhere else to take them in. [Notorious gang] MS-13, as it happens, welcomes young people with open arms.”

The Right STEPS: Kei-Che Randle Bridges Hearing Gap with Music (The Courier, Iowa)

The STEPS afterschool program teaches American Sign Language to hearing students from kindergarten through eighth grade learn through music. The program is run by Kei-Che Randle, a site coordinator and camp director at the Family YMCA of Black Hawk County. “It was just the most beautiful program,” YMCA chief executive officer Angie Widner told The Courier. “Not only had they learned sign language, they had learned to present themselves with confidence on stage; they had such a presence on stage.” Randle’s goal for STEPS is to create a stronger connection between the Waterloo hearing and deaf communities. 

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learn more about: Arts In The News Nutrition Safety


Administration and tech sector commit to STEM and computer science education

By Stephanie Rodriguez

On September 25, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Education acknowledging that too many of our kids lack access to high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, including computer science (CS).

Pointing to the alarming truth that 40 percent of high schools do not offer physics and 60 percent do not offer computer science1,2—a lack of access that is exacerbated in rural, low income, and minority communities—the memo directs the Department of Education to prioritize STEM education efforts in the federal grant making, with particular emphasis on CS. Specifically, the Secretary of Education is directed to reallocate at least $200 million of existing funds each year toward CS and STEM education and teacher recruitment and training, beginning in FY18. The memo was signed in the presence of students from Boys and Girls Clubs in Maryland.

On the heels of this memorandum came loud support from the tech industry. On September 26, representatives from the private sector gathered in Detroit, Mich., and together pledged an additional $300 million over five years in money, technology, and volunteers to support K-12 CS learning. This commitment, championed by Ivanka Trump, is fueled by several tech giants including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Salesforce, to name a few. The afterschool voice was well represented, with both Namrata Gupta (executive director of After-School All-Stars Bay Area) and Michael Beckerman (president and CEO of the Internet Association and board member for the national After-School All-Stars) in attendance. While the exact recipients of this commitment are not known at this time, some companies, like Microsoft and Salesforce, will continue supporting their ongoing CS investments in programs and organizations such as TEALS,, and others.

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learn more about: White House STEM Computer Science


New funding opp: Discretionary grants up to $20,000

By Marco Ornelas

Looking for a way to inspire the youth in your afterschool program? Want to start a project but don’t have the necessary funds to start?

The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation offers grants of different amounts for projects big and small! Through a fairly simple application process, you can receive anywhere between $1,000 and $20,000 to start projects like bike share programs, art enrichment activities, or STEM exposure projects. The possibilities are endless!

Grant Name: The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation

Description: $1,000 to $20,000



Pro sports can connect kids to afterschool STEAM learning

By Guest Blogger

By Jesse Lovejoy, director of STEAM Education for the San Francisco 49ers and managing partner of EDU Academy. More information on 49ers STEAM programming is available here

On its best days, informal and afterschool education is cool. It’s different. It lights fires. For many kids, it’s a window into new way of thinking about subjects they either don’t know or think they don’t like. Sports can be a powerful connector of kids to content—one on which the San Francisco 49ers capitalize, through the organization’s education work in the Bay Area.

“Some kids think learning isn’t cool,” said George Garcia, lead STEAM instructor for Santa Clara Unified School District, “but you tie it into something they enjoy or see on TV and all of a sudden kids sit up straighter in the classroom and almost forget they’re learning.”