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JUN
20
2016

STEM
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Making and equity: how a successful program integrated the two

By Erin Murphy

As part of our ongoing celebration of the National Week of Making, we are excited to announce the release of a new STEM program profile highlighting the wonderful work of the California Tinkering Afterschool Network (CTAN). The goal of our STEM program profiles is to share models of successful STEM programs and provide information about high-quality STEM learning experiences, professional development, funding, building partnerships and impressive outcomes for youth success.

CTAN is unique among our program profiles in that it is not an individual afterschool program, but was a partnership that brought together the expertise of afterschool directors, facilitators, and researchers. The network included two out-of-school time organizations—the Community Science Workshop Network (Fresno and Watsonville, CA) and Techbridge (Oakland, CA)—along with two science museums: Discovery Cube (Santa Ana, CA) and the Exploratorium (San Francisco, CA). Together, this group designed and implemented STEM-rich afterschool tinkering/making programs to serve youth from low-income, historically marginalized communities. These making and tinkering programs focus on learning STEM skills through the process of creating, building, or re-designing.

Check out the CTAN profile to learn more about:

  • Key characteristics of high-quality making/tinkering programs.
  • Youth outcomes related to high-quality, STEM-rich making/tinkering programs.
  • Building effective, and equitable partnerships with STEM-rich institutes and researchers.
  • Creating equitable programs that have positive outcomes for youth regardless of gender, ability, socioeconomic status, or community of origin.
  • Professional development strategies to support high-quality making/tinkering.

For more information on a variety of ways to approach STEM learning, check out our STEM Program Profiles!

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learn more about: Robotics Science Community Partners
JUN
17
2016

STEM
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Turn concepts into creations for the National Week of Making!

By Erin Murphy

The act of "making" is to use the process of creating, building or re-designing to learn new things about our world.

Join us in celebrating making this week by participating in the White House’s 2016 National Week of Making, June 17-23. The focus of this year’s event is to highlight the diversity of makers: young and old, experienced and novice, rural and urban. Afterschool programs have long focused on providing hands-on, experiential learning opportunities that allow kids to explore and discover creatively. This week, we will showcase how afterschool is helping kids from various communities and backgrounds become makers!

As part of this campaign, we will be releasing a new program profile for the California Tinkering Afterschool Network (CTAN), a partnership of two museums and three afterschool programs focused on studying and implementing STEM-rich making in the afterschool space. Additionally, we will be participating in the Growing a Nation of Makers tweetchat, hosted by Design Squad. During the tweetchat on June 21 at 12 p.m. ET, we'll join a discussion on how we can help #GrowMakers. Finally, we will be sharing a guest blog from Techbridge, an afterschool program focused on introducing girls to science and engineering, in which the program's leaders will share their best-practices and teaching strategies for making in afterschool.

Get involved with the National Week of Making:

  • Tweet your Making experiences @afterschool4all with the hashtag #NationOfMakers or #WeekofMaking
  • Stay tuned for more blogs, tweets and Facebook posts from us to learn more about making in afterschool
  • Participate in the Growing a Nation of Makers #GrowMakers tweetchat where participants will share their knowledge and expertise around making. Tune in on June 21 at 12 p.m. ET with @Designsquad, @SWEtalk, @TheConnectory and @ngcproject.
  • Attend an event in your community

Respond to the White House’s call to action and make a commitment to helping spread the maker movement

JUN
16
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool Spotlight: Simpson Street Free Press

By Robert Abare

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present this Afterschool Spotlight, part of a series featuring the stories of children, parents and providers of summer and afterschool programs. Also check out the firstsecond, and third installments of the series. Have a story to share? Email Robert Abare at rabare@afterschoolalliance.org.

Kadjata Bah holds up a copy of the Simpson Street Free Press.

Eleven-year-old Kadjata Bah is a 5th grader with a dream of one day becoming a pediatrician. Though ambitious, her career goal seems more attainable thanks to the Simpson Street Free Press afterschool program, which has already allowed her to become a paid, published journalist.

“I just wrote an article about a new species of bee that was discovered in Kenya,” Kadjata enthusiastically explains. “They are very different from how we typically think of bees, like honeybees, which live in hives. These bees are solitary, and they don’t have stingers.”

“It was fun to write this article, and I learned a lot,” she adds.

Jim Kramer founded the Simpson Street Free Press 24 years ago in southeast Madison, WI, after seeking a creative way to get kids in this challenged part of town more excited about their school work while gaining valuable, real-world skills.

“Our concept was to start a newspaper where kids take on the role of reporters,” Jim explains. The program currently reaches approximately 270 students, with two newsrooms located at local schools, a central newsroom in southeast Madison, and a newsroom located at the offices of Capital Newspapers, the publisher of local daily newspapers.

Middle and high school students interested in participating in the Simpson Street Free Press are required to apply as they would to any other job—with writing samples and recommendations from their teachers. If accepted, they are paid once their work makes it through multiple rounds of outlining and editing and is finally published.

“We have kids applying to our program as young as 3rd grade," says Jim. "For most, this is the first job they have ever applied to."

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learn more about: Youth Development Literacy
JUN
16
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Afterschool programs: an overlooked solution to America's problems

By Jodi Grant

The past few days have been busy ones here in Washington, D.C. Last week, we learned of new information and strategies regarding our nation’s ongoing struggle with inequality—and of a damaging proposal by Congress that would make it more difficult for afterschool programs to rise to the challenge.

On Tuesday, June 6, the Department of Education released new civil rights data that reveal that more than 6.5 million U.S. students are chronically absent—a trend that disproportionally affects students of color.

To help tackle this problem and others linked to poverty, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan last week released a new policy paperA Better Way: Our Vision for a Confident America. The plan calls for streamlining federal programs that help the disadvantaged, while focusing on empowering individuals to escape poverty through avenues like juvenile justice reform and career and technical training.

While the debate ensues over the best ways to tackle these national problems, I invite you to join me in ensuring that afterschool and summer learning programs are not left out of the conversation. We know that these programs strengthen communities by improving student outcomes, keeping kids in school and out of trouble, and by helping working families. According to America After 3PM, 82 percent of U.S. parents say that afterschool programs excite students about learning, and 83 percent say that afterschool programs reduce the likelihood that youth experiment with drugs, crimes and sex.

And as summer heats up, our Vice President of Policy Erik Peterson was recently quoted in The New York Times to highlight the growing demand for summer learning programs, which keep students safe, engaged and growing academically while school is out, but cannot accommodate all the children who wish to participate.

JUN
15
2016

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: June 15, 2016

By Luci Manning

Nutritional Project Sows Seeds of Learning (Times Record News, Texas)

More than 50 members of the Boys & Girls Club explored Morath Orchard and learned about healthy food as part of the Wichita Falls Area Food Bank’s “Grow Health, Grow Strong” program last week. The students participated in a number of activities focused on vegetables and healthy eating, including relay races and arts and crafts. They also got to harvest, clean and snack on carrots from the orchard. “It’s a great way to introduce kids to where healthy food comes from,” Wichita Falls Area Food Bank nutrition services director Jessica Bachman told the Times Record News.

Lessons for Beating the Learning Gap (Daily Astorian, Oregon)

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden advocates for summer learning programs to help low-income students overcome the achievement gap in the Daily Astorian: “The sad truth is that the lack of access to learning programs for underprivileged kids in the summer widens the achievement gap between those students and their higher-income classmates…. As parents, community leaders, educators and policymakers, we must provide every resource possible to bridge that gap for disadvantaged and low-income students…. This year I hope to see even more communities come out and support our students by hosting summer learning activities.”

Everest Young Entrepreneurs Leave the Nest (Wausau Daily Herald, Wisconsin)

The Young Entrepreneurs Academy at the D.C. Everest Area School District gave 13 students the entrepreneurial skills to create their own business ventures this year. Through the afterschool program, students learned to develop a business, keep a budget and market their product to customers. The young entrepreneurs toured local companies and were mentored by local experts as they developed products as diverse as portable ski-waxing tables, self-tied neckties and embroidered clothing. “Because of this program, I have become comfortable with myself and everything I can do,” recent graduate Lukas Lindner told the Wausau Daily Herald.

North Philly Student Artwork on Display at Philadelphia Intl. Airport (Philadelphia Tribune, Pennsylvania)

Middle school students at General Philip Kearny School have been exploring the creative side of science through Wagner Science’s Science, Nature and Art in Philadelphia (SNAP) afterschool program. “The opportunity to give each student in grades six to eight the chance to think artistically about science, make connections between what they are being taught and what they see in the world around, and then to engage in it with critical thought and creative expression is uniquely powerful,” Kearny principal Daniel Kurtz told the Philadelphia Tribune. SNAP directly supports the school’s science curriculum, teaching students to translate scientific principles into works of art, many of which will be on display through October at the Philadelphia Airport as part of the airport’s Exhibitions program.

JUN
13
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Youth Today's Out-of-School Time Hub links latest research to practice

By Robert Abare

Youth Today, a national publication for those working in the field of youth services, has recently launched a new Out-of-School Time (OST) Hub for engaging articles on the latest research and emerging issues in the out-of-school time field. The new resource is funded by a grant from the Robert Bowne Foundation, and "reflects the Foundation's belief in the critical importance of building bridges between research and practice."

The OST Hub is broken into four topic areas: Language and Literacy, Program Quality, Youth Leadership, and Health in OST Programs. Each section features a variety of downloadable PDFs on the latest research, program examples, fieldnotes and other resources relating to each topic. For instance, check out Youth-Adult Partnerships in Community Decision Making: What Does It Take to Involve Adults in the Practice? in the OST Hub's Youth Leadership section.

Take advantage of webinars exploring afterschool innovations

The OST Hub also provides a number of webinars for professionals to engage directly with experts in the out-of-school time field. This Wednesday, June 15th at 1 p.m., the OST Hub is hosting a webinar on "Documenting Youth Learning with Badges and Portfolios," part of Youth Today's "From Research to Practice" webinar series. The webinar explores how afterschool programs can offer trusted certifications to participants who gain specific skills, focusing on Mouse, Inc. 

Mouse, Inc. is a nonprofit that involved high school students in an afterschool computer project. The participating students, upon completion, were able to earn a badge recognized  by the admissions department of Parsons School of Art. The webinar's presenters are Marc Lesser of Mouse, Inc. and Sarah Zeller-Berkman, Ph.D, of Mozilla.

Add your voice to the Hub!

The OST Hub is looking to hear from you! In particular, the publication seeks writing from afterschool practitioners in the OST Fieldnotes section, in every topic area. If your program is embarking on an innovative project and you'd like to share insights from your work, contact the OST Hub editor Sara Hill at sarahill@youthtoday.org.

JUN
10
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Advocates sing praises of musical education to leaders in Washington

By Robert Abare

From left to right, NAMM president Joe Lamond, Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 

Last month, the week of May 23-26, members and supporters of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) arrived in Washington, D.C. to highlight the importance of making music education available to all students, as a part of a well-rounded education. You can read the full description of the week's events through NAMM's press release.

Here are some highlights from NAMM's week of music education advocacy:

  • A day of service, during which NAMM members donated musical instruments and supplies to students in need, and provided three hours of music lessons to 75 students at D.C.’s Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy.
  • Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) was awarded the SupportMusic Champion Award by the NAMM Foundation in recognition of the Senator’s long history in supporting music education. The award came on the heels of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015. The passage of ESSA is the first federal law to provide a framework for access to music and arts education for every student.
  • Over 150 meetings with Congressional offices to emphasize the importance of supporting music education and highlight the benefits music education offers students.
  • A special reception was held for the Turnaround Arts, a program under the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. During the reception, a variety of artists were honored for their work in arts education advocacy, of which music education is a core topic.
  • A call with Secretary of Education John King, during which King discussed ESSA and the law's goal of creating a more dynamic and well-rounded education experience for America's students. Listen to the call via NAMM's website.
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learn more about: Advocacy Arts
JUN
10
2016

STEM
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Professional development improves afterschool STEM learning and student outcomes

By Erin Murphy

This blog is part of series highlighting articles from the third issue of the new Journal for Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO). This is a peer-reviewed, open-access publication from the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation.

In one of the first studies linking STEM professional development to positive student outcomes in the afterschool context, Findings From an Afterschool STEM Learning Initiative: Links to Professional Development and Quality STEM Learning Experiences discusses the impact of high-quality professional development on afterschool staff and students. The study, by Deborah Lowe Vandell, Rahila Simzar, Pilar O’Cadiz, and Valerie Hall from the University of California – Irvine, reports that high-quality professional development for afterschool staff increases staff belief in the importance of STEM and staff competency. In turn, these gains by staff lead to the increased quality of STEM learning activities, improving student outcomes and their STEM learning experience in the program.

Awareness of the important role of afterschool in STEM education has been growing, but challenges implementing high-quality STEM programming in afterschool—such as limited staff experience with STEM, high staff turnover, and structural barriers—persist. The purpose of this study was to examine the impacts of a 3-year initiative, led by the California Afterschool Network, aimed at increasing STEM learning opportunities in publicly funded afterschool programs through professional development. The study—which evaluated 96 publicly funded California afterschool programs, measured staff beliefs and competency providing STEM programming, collected student outcomes, and documented close to 2,500 STEM activities—found:

  • High-quality professional development has a positive impact on afterschool staff. The study found that increases in the frequency of staff training, discussions of program issues and STEM programming, and meetings with school teachers and parents were all shown to have positive impacts on staff beliefs about the importance of STEM learning, as well as staff competency to implement STEM programming.
  • When afterschool staff have quality STEM professional development, it positively impacts student’s STEM learning experience. Increases in staff beliefs about the importance of STEM and staff competency were correlated with increased student engagement in activities and overall activity success.
  • Improved student outcomes in afterschool support overall academic engagement and success. Student engagement and activity success in their afterschool program were both shown to have positive impacts on student work habits, math efficacy, science efficacy, social competency and interest in science.

These results suggest high-quality professional development is an important part of high-quality afterschool STEM programming and has direct impacts on student outcomes. Additionally, a well-rounded, multi-pronged approach to staff development—including staff training, regular staff meetings, and staff communication with teachers and parents—is most effective.

Afterschool programming is an important part of K-12 STEM education, and it is clear that professional development plays a key role in helping programs provide high-quality STEM programming and encourages positive student outcomes. 

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learn more about: Science