You are here: Home BREAKFAST CLUB Displaying items by tag: Social Emotional Learning


Spending more than half of my life in and out of a locker room, one gets very used to sound of competition. Sayings like, "failure is not an option" and "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," were common echoes in my upbringing. From one coach to the next, it was always about winning, getting better, playing your best, minimizing mistakes, practice makes perfect, etc., etc. It's no wonder that I wanted to quit after losing my first soccer game in 4th grade or quitting during the 4th quarter of my first contact football game in 8th grade. I was convinced by others, that if we weren't winning or if I wasn't playing well, we were losers (or I was) and should concede. As I look back, all I remember about my playing days is that every coach I ever played for was obsessed with one thing – winning. That is, except for one. My dad.


loss football


Frank Escobar Sr. never officially served as one of my coaches but I'm certainly convinced today, he taught me more about sports than any formal coach I ever had. You see, my dad had what we call growth mindset. A former junior college athlete himself, it wasn't that he lacked competitive drive or a will to win, he simply had perspective. And, that perspective helped me find my balance and competitive spirit for years to come, even today.

I do consider myself competitive, even hyper-competitive at times. The difference is my competitiveness is not tied to winning, rather just competing. I went 0-10 my senior year in college and while most of my teammates (and coaches) were rather embarrassed of our performance, I didn't seem to mind telling friends and family how my last hurrah in college football ended up. You see, I was just happy to have been playing college football. A 5-foot, 100-nothing pound little Mexican kid from Nowhere, California was just lucky to attend a college, let alone convince a college to pay for me to attend. This is how I kept perspective and as a result, didn't allow an 0-10 final season discourage or distort my beliefs about who I was, what I was capable of, or what I should or shouldn't pursue in my future. Call me uncaring, of low expectations, accepting of failure, and I'll call me keeping perspective and exercising an attitude of learn from your mistakes and move forward.

Today, our American culture makes it difficult to accept a loss. After all, we have to be the best at everything don't we? Whether in finance, business, sports or education, America was built on competition, and not just competition but winning that competition. Now we strive to place our children in the best institutions, raise them in the best neighborhoods, give them the best advantages in life so that we can help them live the American dream – to be a winner. It is quite scary how we have become a society consumed with wining at all costs and accepting nothing less. This is all too evident in our material wealth, showroom lifestyles, and obsession with Facebook stalking the reality-show lives of the rich and famous.

I believe if we are to willing to win, we must accept failure as a part of that process. We must also accept that winning is up to one's own interpretation and right to define. Where one may define winning as earning a 4-year college degree and entering their dream career, another not so far away might define winning as a stay-at-home parent committed to their child's upbringing. I wish America, in all it's diversity, would better accept that winning is as diverse in definition as the very social-fabric that clothes it. And where one may define a loss another defines it a win.




I choose to believe that losing is an important, necessary experience in life. And not just for the sake of winning but for the simple sake of living. I also believe that the more we teach our young one's to lose, the more they'll win at whatever it is they define as winning in life. In our after school sports league, RIZE, we constantly tell our coaches they should be hoping for a loss. Obviously, we get lots of blank stares and every now and then a good laugh. But the honesty in it all, is that when our students lose in the after school program, whether in a sports game or a dance competition or on a quiz, our staff "win" the opportunity to develop their grit, resiliency and growth mindset. The social-emotional skills and perspective that will help them deal with the real losses in life that will inevitably challenge them in their years to come.




Today, I couldn't be more proud of my colleagues and our field for the wide embrace that we have given the act of failure. As odd as it may seem and indifferent to how I was raised (in the locker room), I do believe that my losses in life and work, have not only defined me, but have also helped me developed into the person of resiliency and persistence that I am today. For me, I truly believe that losing is the new winning.

For breakfast I had oatmeal, 2 pieces of wheat toast and glass of water.

Published in Breakfast Club

Under normal circumstances, I'm not one to be political in a public and professional forum, but really, I'm in need of some writing therapy. Every day, I read the latest news story about another negative appointment to the President- elect's cabinet. Who knew there were so many people who both seem to despise the role of government AND also want to lead it? While alarming, those aren't even the most upsetting parts of my daily doldrums. What really brings me down are the escalating stories about racist attacks on a whole array of people who are part of the fabric and heart of this country. Apparently freed by Donald Trump's purposefully divisive and unimaginably offensive comments, far too many people are letting lose what they really think.

To battle my dark cloud, I have three shining lights that brighten my day:

1) California.
2) Expanded learning programs and staff who make a difference in the lives of young people.
3) The amazing young people who will be that difference.

The day after the election, the Partnership for Children & Youth co-hosted a public seminar on social-emotional learning in Sacramento. Driving up from Oakland that morning, I couldn't think past the previous night's unbelievable disappointment. I also assumed there would be zero attendance at the seminar.

Much to my surprise, the room was packed with energetic people, eager to be positive, forward-thinking and impactful. Love California! (If you haven't already, please read this inspiring statement from the California Legislature.) The conversation about social-emotional learning was certainly timely – what stronger call to action than the election of a person who lacks the most basic skills around self-management, social awareness, growth mindset, etc. As you can imagine, the conversation was rich. It focused on the educational imperative to go beyond testing and academics, and to intentionally and effectively support students in building the skills they will need to be responsible, inclusive and active citizens. These citizens – with stronger critical thinking skills and experience as leaders - can work together to build and maintain a positive community for everyone.

SEL circle

Expanded learning was a primary player in this conversation. With deep roots in youth development, expanded learning programs help young people understand their potential and reach for it. Staff, like you, are deeply committed to creating safe spaces, giving kids the opportunity to learn and practice skills, encouraging their ideas and actions, and teaching them about their impact on each other and the world. The essence of youth worker skill is captured in the CDE's quality standards that clearly define what we're doing to make young people feel "I am, I belong, I can" – the essence of SEL skills as defined by your peers in "Student Success Comes Full Circle." Thank you, ELO staff. You are nurturing the next and better generation.


My 16-year-old daughter cried the night Trump won. But, she woke up in the morning with a smile and the realization that she'll be 18 and eligible to vote in the mid-term election. And then there's my favorite map from the election – showing the beautiful blue voting patterns of 18 to 25-year-olds. Watch out, Trump! There are a lot of smart, extremely motivated young women and men eager to mess with your agenda. Amazing young people who will be the difference!


For breakfast, I've been adding extra sugar in my coffee, hoping to get rid of the bitter taste in my mouth. 

Published in Breakfast Club

The third issue of the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO) has arrived! This spring issue launched at the 2016 BOOST conference and features a conversation about quality programming in afterschool, an article on the role that social emotional learning can play to close the achievement and learning gaps, and an article focusing on the links between professional development and quality STEM learning experiences. You can visit last week's installment about social emotional learning and today, we invite you into a researcher and practitioner conversation.

The expanded learning field continues to bring multiple stakeholders together to advance program quality and research. In this issue of the JELO, we talk to Carol McElvain, J.D. from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Michael Funk from the California Department of Education (CDE) about their ideas on program quality in the expanded learning field. Ms. McElvain is the Managing Technical Assistance Consultant at AIR. She directs AIR's expanded learning work, focusing on providing research-based, high-quality training, and professional development, and disseminating research results and policy reports to diverse audiences in the public education sector throughout the country. Mr. Funk is Director of the After School Division (ASD) at CDE. He led the development of a strategic plan for the ASD, building upon expanded learning to create programs that maximize outcomes for youth, families, school, and communities. This work led to the development and implementation of California's Quality Standards for Expanded Learning Programs in 2014. Prior to his current work at CDE, Mr. Funk was the founder and executive director of the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center in San Francisco for two decades. He also started Experience Corps and Aspiranet Oakland Afterschool.

Ms. McElvain is representing the researcher perspective and Mr. Funk is representing the practitioner perspective. Following their responses below, both Ms. McElvain and Mr. Funk share their reflections on each other's perspectives, revealing a common vision to move the great work of this field forward.


Many states have developed and adopted quality standards for expanded learning programs. What value do these standards bring to the expanded learning field?

Michael: California's quality standards are the North Star for program quality. They give us a common vision and common language. This is critical if we are to maximize the unique scale of our state's expanded learning ecosystem. The standards make it possible to align the state's system of support, policy decisions, funding process and statewide evaluation. Of course, that alignment requires disciplined intentionality at all levels and is very hard work. That hard work is taking place in California right now. The implementation of the Expanded Learning Strategic Plan is underway, and the first and most critical step was the development of the Quality Standards for Expanded Learning.

California's quality standards go one step further and include the "standards in action" which describe what the standard looks like at the program, student, and staff levels. This makes the standards incredibly accessible and relevant. Since the California standards have been released I have heard countless people state that, "The Quality Standards affirm what we value. The California Department of Education is endorsing what we have always believed quality programs look like."

The context and guidance for how the standards should be used is just as important as what the standards articulate. In California, we have specified that the standards be used for site level continuous quality improvement. They are not to be used as a compliance tool for outsiders to judge the quality of a program, for ranking of programs, or for assessment to determine future funding.

Finally, the Quality Standards tell a story. They are the base of a very important narrative that needs to shift. Since the early 1990's the Expanded Learning (afterschool) "brand" was primarily public safety. "Keep kids safe and off the streets." Gradually, the importance of childcare for low-income families and homework completion became part of the narrative. What we now know is that high-quality expanded learning opportunities are an engaging place of learning that is an integral part of a young person's education, preparing them for college, career and life. We need to position expanded learning programs as a place of learning. To that end, my office has just launched the Expanding Student Success campaign. At the heart of the effort is a direct line of communication between K-12 education leaders in order to tell the story of the power of high-quality expanded learning opportunities. We would not be able to tell that story if we did not have the Expanded Learning Quality Standards in place.

Carol: Only a small handful (less than 10) of states are not in the process of either developing or adopting quality standards. In some cases, states that are not actively working on their own standards have provided a variety of options for programs to assess themselves, such as the NAA core competencies, or the Weikert Center's Youth Program Quality Assessment, just to name a couple, so programs can begin to look actively at their own quality and plan for improvement. While most of the states who have participated in standards adoption have built their own state coalitions to build their programs' values into their standards, a recent crosswalk of existing state standards showed us that there is enough critical overlap in the main areas addressed to state that there is essential agreement on what quality is. These areas include safety, staffing, human relationships and youth development, activities and activity structure, as well as program administration and family engagement. Several states have already undergone revisions or expansions to their standards to include more specific guidance to programs on areas such as social and emotional learning, diversity and equity, sustainability, and program quality standards for older youth.

The value of adopting, promoting, and training to quality standards is first and foremost that high quality standards in action provide the best possible afterschool and summer learning programs for youth of all ages. There are many other elements, as well. In training, I often ask whether anyone was given the job of running an afterschool program as part of several other responsibilities they had at the time, without much more guidance than that. I am surprised each time at the number of hands raised in answer to that question. Program quality standards help any afterschool or summer learning program (regardless of funding source) provide the baseline for understanding what a good program should look like. They help build common understanding, a language for staff and other programs to talk with and help each other, and provide a pathway for improvement and professional development.

Standards bring other benefits such as informing key decision makers like policy makers and families of the elements they should be either funding or looking for when looking at available programs.

What does a quality after school or summer program look like to you?

Michael: Notwithstanding my listing all of the standards in action to answer this question, what I look for first is youth and staff who are engaged. When you walk into a room you can feel it. It is palpable. What creates engagement? I'll take this moment to plug the Learning In Afterschool and Summer's five elements. Learning that is active, collaborative, has meaning, supports mastery, and expands horizons. These five elements constitute the foundation on which the California Quality Standards for Expanded Learning were designed. They are also easily understandable and relatively easy to observe. I also look for passion. Does the leader of the program have a passion for helping staff and students find their life's calling? Is it just a j-o-b or is it an opportunity to impact other humans in a way that is almost sacred?

Carol: I could go through a litany of elements of high quality programs but let's talk the essentials. When it comes to the critical part of a quality afterschool or summer school program, I look for programs that engage and respect youth and provide them with opportunities to develop their skills, interests, confidence, and provides encouragement for their growth and development. It's not a matter of the type of program or even the focus—it could involve recreation, STEM, arts, language or career development or really anything--it almost doesn't matter what focus the program has, as long as the basics of providing children and youth with the building blocks they need for success in life is present, the program is focusing on quality.

What do you think it costs to run a quality program?

Michael: The cost of quality is impacted by so many variables including the program's emphasis, the area's cost of living, staff to participant ratio and many others. The Wallace Foundation has developed a cost calculator that accounts for all these variables. 

I plugged the following variables into the calculator. The program had 100 slots, run by a community-based organization, located at a school, and operating five days per week for three hours during the school year. The staff ratio was 15:1 because that is the lowest ratio that they have data for. Then, selecting a city for cost of living the calculator gave me the following information on the cost per participating student per day to run a quality program.

JELO Article 2

There are more studies looking at the true cost of quality. One thing we know for sure is that the current California rate of $7.50 per day per student is well below what is necessary and, sadly, has not increased since 2006.

Carol: I wish I could give you a straight dollar amount, but it's going to vary based on local factors such as the goals, services, and structure of the program, average area salaries, what kind of staffing structure is involved in the program (volunteers, aides, certified teaching staff, youth development staff, etc.), the number of children participating and the ages, and whether transportation is a large factor in the budget, among other factors. Depending on the location and safety, for example, the budget line item for transportation might be the smallest or largest part of the budget with perfect justification.

A couple of things I think are highly important in developing a quality program are attention to who is responsible for running the program and whether time is built in adequately for program preparation and staff development. Over and over we have seen the value of a full-time program director focused on the development of and attention to quality in the program. While that's not to say that programs that do not have a full-time leader can't be of high quality, it certainly makes the job harder, because quality takes observation, planning, and development. Providing opportunities for staff to reflect on how the program is doing and get guidance on improving practices helps build a path toward quality, wherever your program is.

Think of the programs you visit. Do you feel the programs you see are quality programs? Why or why not?

Michael: If I am invited to a site visit, it is usually going to be a program that a school district or community-based organization considers high quality. It is probably the case that quality will vary from program to program in the same district or city and that quality can vary at different times of the year (or even the day) in the same program. The principle of continuous quality improvement means that regardless of how high quality the program appears, the work of improving things for our students and staff is never over. If I walk into a program that is obviously high quality, or into a program that is struggling, I am always going to ask the same questions: "How are you being intentional about improving the quality of your program?" "What influenced you to choose the area of focus you did?" and "What is your plan for improving the quality in that area of focus?" I am always more impressed by depth rather than breadth; therefore, any program choosing more than three standards to improve is not necessarily working harder at quality improvement.

Carol: I would say that for the most part, we see programs that offer a safe place and are run with good intentions by people who care about the youth and families in their programs. I know that sounds like I'm damning programs with faint praise, but I'm not. When I look at bullying, violence, and safety statistics for youth—particularly in the out of school time hours, keeping our children safe should be our number one priority. There are still too many children in this country who face going home alone every day.

That said, I also think rigid academic requirements or improved test scores that many schools and programs look for as markers of success have a tendency to make programs too uncreative and boring for too large a number of kids, particularly in higher poverty areas or in struggling schools. Adherence to program funding requirements without enough resources to adequately meet children's needs generally tends to lead to a rote program. Programs in that mode tend to be overly directive and rule-driven, and may not take families' needs into account. I really think this is because this is the best a lot of programs can do with the resources they are provided.

However, that is not to say that any community or program regardless of the level of poverty—urban, rural, sub- or exurban can't pull together to provide high quality programs for youth and their families. Some of the best programs we see are ones that honestly assess their resources and assets and provide support through youth and adult programming, job training, professional development time for staff, and a strong link to the school day. Focusing on the critical element of paying attention to youth and supporting them as they develop their interests, confidence, and skills goes a long way toward helping youth come to (and stay in) school, and where they can get more support to develop their academic skills.

What do we need to do to ensure programs run at that quality level? 

a. What do practitioners need to do?

Michael: Practitioners need to implement the continuous quality improvement process as outlined in the California Department of Education web page.

Then, practitioners need to seek resources to help them with quality improvement. California has a robust system of support for quality. Don't go at it alone! Bring in a fresh set of eyes to help you see what you might overlook.

Carol: Practitioners need to study quality standards and really make a concerted effort to look honestly at their programs to determine where their strengths and weaknesses are, then look at paths they can take to work on improving their program. Looking to each other as peers to support each other (either through peer assessment or regular professional development) creates a stronger understanding of what quality in afterschool is and how programs can get there.

In trainings, I often tell practitioners that if they are going to pay attention to one thing, it should be attendance from day to day. This is not primarily because I think programs should be keeping track of this statistic for its own sake, but because I think daily attendance and its fluctuations can tell a program so much about how it is doing. The highest quality programs I've seen have a system in place where they follow up with youth and/or their families if attendance is off for more than two days. Often, these programs find out the real reason for not attending the program is something they can help with or help get the right people to assist. For example, a family may have lost its housing, or a local employer has changed its scheduling so that the program hours may need to be adjusted. Looking at attendance trends over time, a program might find that there is unchecked behavior or bullying issues in an activity, or just maybe that they need to shake up staffing or the activities that are offered to keep children engaged.

b. What do researchers need to do?

Michael: We need more researchers to tailor their work to inform quality improvement. We also need research for publishing and documenting the impact of the programs. Research should inform quality improvement.

Carol: We are thrilled with the recent focus on developing closer interim measures of youth success other than test scores in both school- and out-of-school time. Providing a research base for more effective models of this success would give policymakers and practitioners more options for how they structure their programs to be more engaging and creative, not just an extension of the school day.

As someone who works to apply research to the practice of running a high quality program, I would also welcome further dialogue about how to put research into practice in programs. For example, researchers could ask, "Where have we seen programs improve significantly from the process of going through quality assessment and continuous improvement planning?"

c. What do policy makers need to do?

Michael: In some cases, get out of the way! Policy makers and government agencies are starting to focus more on performance management than simple compliance. This shift is taking root across the country. We must help programs successfully meet the compliance requirements. If programs feel supported around compliance the leadership can more easily focus on other aspects of quality.

Carol: Policy makers at all levels need to take a much more holistic approach to what children need to be successful and provide funding for programs with those goals. Although saying "more money" tends to make policymakers roll their eyes, we also need to be frank that most mid- to upper-income range families who can afford to do so participate in the type of afterschool and summer activities that lower income communities need to "prove" increased achievement. Asking afterschool and related programs to directly affect test scores is too long term and depends on too many other factors to be the measure of success for programs. Are the children happy? Healthy? Made to feel like they (and their voice) matter? Are children provided with a variety of engaging activities to better develop their interests? Do they have access to activities in which their family's circumstances might not allow them to participate? These are important elements that funded programs can address that I think are an investment well made in our youth that our policy makers can encourage (and fund).

d. What does the community need to do?

Michael: Our communities need to come together to build partnerships that bring supports and opportunities to kids. The power of partnerships is often lost because people confuse attending meetings or community input with true engagement and collaboration. We need communities to build true partnerships and for each institution in the community to also commit to a cycle of quality improvement.

Carol: The best thing a community can do is come together and leverage all of its resources together and work toward a common goal—it can be as simple as raising healthy and happy children or as lofty as everyone in the community has access to a path to higher education. This is not to dismiss that bringing everyone together is easy: it's not. It is often difficult to get people to put aside their own interests toward that larger goal. It is possible, however. Whether it's a commitment to providing safe transportation to students so they can actually attend programs, or training a cadre of volunteers in mentoring or tutoring skills so regular program staff can pursue improvement and development activities, or providing language classes to parents who are new to the country to help them feel welcome—every effort a community makes demonstrates commitment to the children of that community.

Researcher and Practitioner Reflections

Michael: I really didn't know what to expect when sharing my responses and then viewing Carol's. How near or how far apart would our perspectives be? I knew how closely Carol has worked with the Afterschool Networks across the country so it does not surprise me that her comments are informed by wisdom and a clear passion for what is good for kids. I discovered so many similarities in our perspectives.

I loved that when describing quality Carol emphasized the importance of engagement and respectful opportunities for youth to develop their skills, interests, and confidence. We are so on the same page. She went on to state that the design and focus of the program are in fact less important than these kinds of opportunities.

Carol also emphasized that program staff must have the capacity to reflect on their program and get guidance on improving practice to build a path towards quality. This is certainly in alignment with California's Senate Bill 1221 that dropped a lot of old accountability language and now requires programs to engage in a data driven cycle of continuous improvement.

Here is one of my favorite quotes. "... I also think rigid academic requirements or improved test scores that many schools and programs look for as markers of success have a tendency to make programs too uncreative and boring for too large a number of kids." Amen.

Carol: When I responded to a series of questions thinking deeply about the afterschool and expanded learning field and quality programs, I had a moment of panic the moment when I shared my responses. Although I am very passionate about the field and our work, was I too critical? Too far removed from day-to-day work? What would a practitioner think about these responses? However, I felt instantly calm once I read Michael Funk's responses to the same questions.

I feel as though we are strongly reiterating one another from different angles. We both value quality and believe it is possible, with appropriate development and planning. Being intentional in that planning—that is, knowing your ultimate goals and aligning your decisions toward meeting them—is essential. It was great to learn more about how California emphasizes "standards in action," to provide additional guidance to move toward quality, and to reiterate how quality improvement is a process that is never done.

It was good to see the calculations of costs for a program based on location, and the reference to Wallace's excellent cost calculator. Even more potent is the recognition that current funding levels are not adequate for our children. I hope that can build a call to action for the field to bring to policymakers to invest in our children's participation in expanded learning activities because they know it contributes to a child's successful development.

What most impressed me, though, is that the respected leader of the largest state-funded afterschool and expanded learning programs in the country clearly stated, essentially, that engagement is key for students. He didn't say "finishing their homework" or "increasing their test scores on phonemic awareness:" Instead, he said he looks for whether a leader has passion for helping their staff and students "find their life's calling" and a path toward it in engaging and meaningful ways. That is extraordinarily powerful and it makes me glad to be part of a field that emphasizes students' pursuit of happiness.


For breakfast, Carol usually swaps between a big protein fruit smoothie to last me all morning, and Noosa yogurt with granola and fruit. And coffee. Lots of coffee.

For Michael, every morning it is a Peanut Crunch Cliff Bar. Boring eh? But on a special day it is eggs over easy, shredded hash browns and Tabasco.  Plenty of strong coffee and some crisp bacon.


In 2107, The JELO will publish two issues: a special issue in Spring and a regular issue in the Fall. At this time, they welcome the submission of papers for both the Spring 2017 special and Fall 2017 regular issue. Please visit the blog post from yesterday to learn about the call for papers for more details. The deadline to submit is August 29, 2016. You can also visit Central Valley Afterschool Foundation for more information. 

Published in Breakfast Club

The third issue of the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO) has arrived! This spring issue launched at the 2016 BOOST conference and features a conversation about quality programming in afterschool, an article on the role that social emotional learning can play to close the achievement and learning gaps, and an article focusing on the links between professional development and quality STEM learning experiences.

The JELO serves as an important resource for the expanded learning field as well as makes the connection between research and practice for afterschool program providers and increases public awareness of the expansive work taking place in afterschool programs. This blog features one of the articles in the current issue titled, "Filling in the Gaps: How Developmental Theory Supports Social Emotional Learning in Afterschool Programs" authored by Andrea Canzano, Kenneth A. Anthony II, Ed.D., Elise Scott, M.S. All are with the Connecticut AfterSchool Network.


This paper examines studies, census reports, and afterschool data to shed light on how afterschool programs can help close the opportunity, achievement, and learning gap found in traditional education. The theories of Bronfenbrenner and Gardner can inform programming during out-of-school time, improving the ability of programs to craft curriculum that can close the education gap through social emotional development. Census and afterschool data show that minority and/or impoverished children are most in need of social emotional and academic support, but are given the least access to high quality afterschool programs. Research shows that, while brain-building often stops with early childhood interventions, it is essential for school-age children as well. The paper closes with recommendations for SAFE (sequenced, active, focused, explicit) programming and best practices for implementation.

Keywords: social emotional learning, afterschool, promising practices, program implementation

Filling in the Gaps:
How Developmental Theory Supports Social Emotional Learning in Afterschool Programs

Many of the institutionalized inequalities of the education system hinder the ability to reach learners of every race, socioeconomic standing, and family background equally. Formal public education systems are primarily locally funded, abide by strict curriculum guidelines and standardized assessments, and attempt to decrease the opportunity, achievement, and learning gaps for minorities (U.S. Department of Education, 2014). Afterschool programs have a similar structure, however are unrestricted by curriculum guidelines, standardized accountability, and, for the most part, state and federal mandates. They have the ability to support academic success and social emotional competence through individualization to students' needs and background.

School curricula are developed with the hope of achieving student success, yet become impeded by challenges within the traditional classroom and the bureaucracy of education. In Smith and Kovac's (2011) survey, teachers saw preparing students for standardized tests as "reducing the quality of instruction they are able to provide students" (p. 210). Quality instruction cultivates success by connecting students' social emotional and academic skills. Afterschool programs can facilitate real-life application of academic content through collaboration with teachers and families (Afterschool Alliance, 2011). This article explores ways Afterschool programs can promote and encourage social emotional learning for students who are failing academically or behaviorally within the public education system.

Environmental Contexts

Children's social emotional development is affected by economic conditions, beliefs, and educational family structures. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015), 68.2% of single mothers, 81.2% of single fathers, and 59.1% two-parent households are in the workforce. Low-income children are limited by their comparative lack of access to resources and experiences (Bandura, 2001). In addition, high stress levels can affect brain development in regions associated with language and reading (Noble et al., 2015). The United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights found that "the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed" (U.S. Department of Education, 2014, para. 4). Because of their ability to understand the environments in which their students develop, afterschool programs can help support success for all students.

Bronfenbrenner's Biological Model of Human Development examines the environmental contexts in which children live (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006). Bronfenbrenner focuses on the events a child experiences, or Proximal Processes. The characteristics of the developing Person, the Context of the environment, and the historical Time are all factors in the Proximal Process. Within these processes are systems of influence. The smallest systems have direct contact with the child and the largest systems consist of societal norms that indirectly shape the environment. Afterschool programs are found in the two smallest systems that hold direct influence over the child, the microsystem and mesosystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1994).

Each microsystem consists of people and places that are frequent in the developing child's life (e.g., home, grandma's house, school, afterschool, etc.). Through their microsystems, the child develops tools they will use "to accomplish the tasks and goals that give meaning, direction, and satisfaction to their lives" (Bandura, 2001, p. 4).

Influencers in each microsystem provide basic necessities and maintain consistent structure. In environments which do not provide these prerequisites, social emotional development is focused on avoiding dysfunction rather than advancing competence. Students are likely to develop traits that best fulfill the behavioral expectations to which they are exposed (Thompson, 2014). For students from an unstable home microsystem, social expectations in structured environments such as school or afterschool may cause challenging behavior. These environments have expectations that are often unfamiliar or uncomfortable.

For this reason, learning about the social norms and behavioral expectations in each child's home environment microsystem is our first recommendation. This is one step that can help reduce the achievement gap.

Afterschool Context

If an afterschool program's behavioral expectation varies drastically from those in other environments, afterschool program educators must understand how to work within both systems to further students' social emotional competence. Durlak and Weissberg (2007) proved that when afterschool programs implemented sequenced, active, focused, and explicit (SAFE) curriculum, it enhanced students' social emotional development. This helped close the gap in supports, resources, and interactions that low-income children experience.

For example, Paul and Sally have similar socioeconomic status, family structure, and live in a similar neighborhood but have different experiences growing up (see Table 1). At age 3 Sally experiences a major social change at home, and has challenging behaviors due to the bilateral nature of social and emotional development (Lerner, Bowers, Geldhof, Gestsdóttir, & DeSouza, 2012). From ages 5-15, Sally adapts as she receives guidance around these behaviors, and develops greater social emotional competence, with stronger relationships and improved communication. As Paul develops, he only learns the limited communication skills he's accustomed to at home, causing him complications in other environments where communication is open. During the final and greatest variance between their environments, Sally's family becomes financially unstable, limiting their necessities such as the food budget. Sally's academic success and communication skills began to suffer. Her home and afterschool program microsystems may be able to hypothesize that hunger or stress is the cause of the undesirable behaviors and academic trouble, and collaborate to find a solution.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 10.47.47 PM

Bronfenbrenner and Morris (2006) assert that when dealing with a destabilized home environment there is "greater impact in reducing dysfunction rather than in enhancing [a child's] knowledge about and skill in dealing with the external environment" (p. 803). Understanding this position can help afterschool professionals move towards constructive behavior management techniques instead of disciplining behaviors. Over time, the child and their environment (the proximal processes) change, and behavior management and social emotional development goals at home and in the afterschool program need to adapt together to support the child.

These philosophies can apply to students who are in severely disadvantaged situations, where preventing dysfunction is the goal. Disadvantaged situations may include challenges in one or all of the following elements: family structure, socioeconomic standing, neighborhood, parent or guardian education level, instability, and lack of necessities. In these situations, afterschool programs can "improve the quality of the environment" by being a part of the solution, and in turn "increase the developmental power of promising processes" (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006, p. 808). If the family context is unable to intervene, the child's other microsystems (such as an afterschool program) have the responsibility of intervening.

Children often look to peers for guidance. Within the afterschool program, a student's peer group is a central component of the microsystem. Peer groups encourage developmentally generative or developmentally disruptive characteristics dependent on their dispositions. Peers can set in motion proximal processes that strengthen or hinder outcomes. In afterschool programs, advancing students' social emotional development through building developmentally generative characteristics within peer groups is essential.

The contexts of family, school, afterschool, and peer groups have the opportunity to work together towards encouraging positive outcomes, understanding each student's needs, and making resources accessible. A student's brain-building, through the use of enriching experiences, is extremely prevalent in early childhood interventions (Shonkoff, Boyce, & McEwen, 2009; Lenroot & Giedd, 2006).

By age 5, the brain has reached 90% of its adult size, but is continuously undergoing transformation. Between ages 4 to 18, the part of the brain controlling emotions, memory, and language changes dramatically. The area that regulates communication across parts of the brain and links brain function to behaviors and feelings continues to change and mature at a rapid rate beyond the age of 40. This means that brain-building must continue through school-age and beyond (Blakemore & Choudhury, 2006; Lenroot & Giedd, 2006; Nagy, Westerberg, & Klingberg, 2004; Paus et al., 2001). Figure 1 illustrates numerous ways that afterschool programs stimulate continued brain development in school-age youth. Afterschool programs have the potential to facilitate development in nearly every area of the brain through their unique blending of academic, social-emotional, physical, and 21st century learning experiences (Shernoff, 2010; Beets, Beighle, Erwin, & Huberty, 2009; Silva, 2008; Blakemore & Choudhury, 2006; Zeif, Louver, & Maynard, 2006; Posner & Vandell, 1999) ( see Figure 1).

Figure 1 JELO

Figure 1. How Afterschool Impacts Brain Development. Reprinted from Brain-Building in Afterschool by E. Scott, 2016, Hartford, CT: Connecticut After School Network. Retrieved from ‎Copyright 2016 by the Connecticut After School Network. Reprinted with permission.

Afterschool programs which have an understanding of the unique contexts that influence each child work to close gaps in the ability of the home and other microsystems to advance development. Programs can identify what is missing for a child to have the social emotional skills to be successful in all contexts. Equipped with an awareness of the gaps, programs can help children develop skills in areas that are lacking.

Reaching all Learners through SAFE Curriculum

Reaching all learners is an overwhelming task. Yet the need is high. According to Baker (2014), the average Caucasian student at age 13 reads at the same level as an African-American student at 17. In addition, 61% of African-Americans and 50% of Latinos living in low-income situations would enroll their students in structured and focused afterschool programs if they were available (Afterschool Alliance, 2009). Each student has a unique social emotional skill set and individual learning style. The Campaign for Educational Equity emphasized that increasing access to high-quality afterschool programs is essential to achieving educational equity (Afterschool Alliance, 2013).

Vandell, Reisner, and Pierce (2007) demonstrated the potential of afterschool programs to increase academic scores through application of personal skills and talents. Programs can partner with traditional education to build complimentary learning. Afterschool activities can encourage 21st Century Skills such as problem solving, teamwork, and critical thinking (Hart, 2008). Though these skills may be addressed in the traditional classroom, a meta-analysis conducted by Durlak, Weissberg, and Pachan (2010) illustrated that when students participate in the skills being taught, such as by the Active element of SAFE curriculum, acquisition of knowledge occurs in a more effective and efficient manner.

The ability to continually reach and encourage academic growth in afterschool programs requires an understanding of progression in academic knowledge, environmental influences, and learning styles. Understanding these characteristics enables afterschool programs to create engaging activities while promoting academic growth. It is essential that learning builds on the background knowledge students receive from the school curriculum, social emotional capabilities, and school philosophies. Once there is an understanding of a student's social emotional development, thoughtfully structured curriculum is a key to their success. Afterschool programs which integrate Sequenced, Active, Focused, and Explicit (SAFE) curriculum have shown positive social emotional development gains (Durlak, Weissberg, & Pachan, 2010). This includes structuring behavioral expectations similar to the school district students attend, collaboration with teachers to expand on curriculum, and developing partnerships that facilitate joint training between school and afterschool program personnel in current teaching techniques. For this reason thoughtful implementation of SAFE curriculum is a tool to be utilized when introducing social emotional curriculum within afterschool programs.

Considering Student Ability and Interest in SAFE Curriculum

Student interest and talents should drive the afterschool program curriculum, and be based on SAFE components. When incorporating explicit activities, students must comprehend the skills they are practicing in order to make improvement (Durlak, Weissberg, & Pachan, 2010). In afterschool, it is important for staff to avoid the mistake of providing students with simplistic activities.

Gardner's Seven Multiple Intelligences provide afterschool programs the tools to implement SAFE activities. Current criticisms of Gardner's Multiple Intelligences include lack of empirical support and flaws in some of the research supporting the theory (McConnell, 2015). However Armstrong (2009) asserted that the Multiple Intelligence model is conducive to the needs of after school professionals when developing complex instruction which encourages confidence and trust in oneself and others.

The process of participating in activities not only teaches students how to complete the task (e.g, build with Legos) but also teaches social strategies (e.g., building with Legos with a partner). Gardner and Hatch (1989) assert that individuals have multiple ways of showing intelligence. The intelligences are Logical-Mathematical, Linguistic, Spatial, Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal. Afterschool program staff can gather information on students' learning styles from teachers, guardians, and their own observations.

These intelligences are listed individually, however Gardner found that they rarely act independently (Brualdi, 1996; Gardner & Hatch, 1989). This is something for afterschool programs to consider. Due to the large number of students a program can serve daily, it would be nearly impossible to consider each student's environmental history, social emotional zone of development, and individual interests when creating activities. However, Gardner states that to have a functional society all seven intelligences must be present. For education, this means that focusing solely on Language Arts and Math skills is actually a hindrance to intelligences outside of logic and verbal (Gardner & Hatch, 1989; Brualdi, 1996). Afterschool programs can encourage student interest and talents by focusing on activities that reinforce traditional education skills and foster success through many or all intelligences. Reflecting on a student's abilities (intelligences) and their contribution to an activity can prevent a student with low self-efficacy from having a negative experience and reacting with challenging behaviors. Figures 2 and 3 feature example activities which illustrate this. 

 Figure 2 JELO    Figure 2. Activity with Skill-Level Adjustments, Broken Square Example


Figure 3 JELO
                                             Figure 3. Activity with Skill-Level Adjustments, Copy Cat Example                                                                      

Case Studies

The New Hampshire Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) targets at risk students and promotes success through student interest. One teacher learned that potential high school dropouts enjoyed rap, but struggled with traditional English classes. The teacher worked collaboratively with students to develop curriculum which challenges them to display confidence in their own abilities, and reflect on the experience. Through following interest, the curriculum incorporated musical intelligence and specific developmental needs allowing the students to experience academic success and the highest level of cognition. These students were able to develop individualized learning portfolios, reaching a knowledge level of metacognition and cognitive level of creation (Heer, 2012) versus failing English.

This model demonstrates what partnerships between school and community providers can accomplish. By understanding student needs in adverse developmental situations this teacher was able to show success while applying the highest level of thinking skills. In the hierarchy of cognitive processes, many high order skills require social emotional abilities, such as working in inter- and intrapersonal settings, reflection, direct purpose, confidence, and the ability to respond constructively to environmental influences. Using multiple intelligences and social emotional abilities can encourage positive experiences for students. Incorporating daily strategies that build on students' interests and needs is a good starting point for afterschool programs to implement social emotional curriculum (as shown in Appendix A).

An excellent example of this is the California Afterschool Outcome Measures Project (CAOMP), which tracks data based on student input, school staff academic and behavioral data, as well as afterschool professionals' interaction quality and availability of level appropriate activities. CAOMP's focus within social emotional growth surveys afterschool professionals' and classroom teachers' observations of student social behavior, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and work habits. CAOMP incorporates student surveys initiating self-reflection of students' social emotional development regarding interactions with afterschool professionals, interactions with peers, and interest and engagement in activities. Due to programs participating in persistent data collection such as CAOMP, there is evidence that social emotional curriculum supports closing achievement gaps (Vandell, 2013).

A recent case study by Humans of New York story cited a teacher at the Mott Hall Bridges Academy who used to run an afterschool program for 5-12 year olds. One activity he created was a group building challenge (using manila folders, tape, and straws). The first attempt at implementation was unsuccessful. The next day, however, he bought yellow hard hats, and found "they transformed the kids. The hats made them feel like builders. . . . Other kids saw them through the window and asked to join, until all the hats were gone" (Stanton, 2015, para. 1). This one simple act encouraged social emotional gains, high levels of cognitive functioning, and academic skills.

Ramapo for Children is an organization which offers programs for youth who have academic, social, or emotional special needs. Their mission, to "help young people learn to align their behaviors with their aspirations," mirrors the intention of the building challenge (Ramapo for Children, About Us, n.d., para. 2). The children's social emotional toolbox develops through a four-tiered pyramid: (a) relationships and role models, (b) implementation of clear expectations, (c) structures and routines, adapting to individual needs, and (c) responding, reflecting, and repairing. Similar to SAFE programs, this pyramid is sequenced, responds actively to the needs of individuals, focuses on data driven practices and provides explicit structure for participants. The success of their toolbox is exemplified through their partnerships with Urban Assembly, which is "dedicated to empowering underserved youth by providing them with the academic and life skills necessary for postsecondary success" (The Urban Assembly, Our Mission, n.d., para. 1).

The parallel missions allowed Ramapo and Urban Assembly to provide teachers and students with trainings to develop social and emotional needs demonstrated through their partnership with the New Technology School located in a Harlem, NY public housing project. Jeff Chetriko, principal of New Tech in Harlem, stated the trainings, "gave students an opportunity to see a world outside of Harlem and helped prove to them that they are worth something," creating a school atmosphere that students and staff were proud of due to the new ability to talk about issues versus the previous norm of resorting to violence (Ramapo for Children, Our Impact, n.d., para. 6). The school previously was unsafe, unwelcoming, and ultimately counterproductive in providing students with quality education; however, there was a 33% reduction in suspensions and 40% reduction in behavioral incidents after the installation of a social emotional curriculum (Ramapo for Children, Our Impact, n.d., para. 3).

Conclusion: Filling in the Gaps with SAFE Afterschool

Youth in adverse environments are more likely to be unsupervised in the hours after school then youth in more advantageous environments (Afterschool Alliance, 2014). Likewise, parents reported that programs in their area often did not include challenging and enriching environments (Afterschool Alliance, 2014). This seems to suggest that students most in need of social emotional development are the least likely to receive the necessary support. Understanding students' social emotional processes, personal interest, and abilities in these communities can help develop SAFE afterschool programs and begin to close the opportunity, learning, and achievement gaps. There is need for SAFE and purposefully designed activities in afterschool programs where the factors of low socioeconomic standing, unstable environments, and low educational funding are pervasive. The ability to function productively, understand and thrive in institutionalized social systems, and achieve social emotional competence is required to succeed in today's societal structure (Bandura, 2001).

SAFE afterschool programs have been found to improve students' self-efficacy and academic performance, while decreasing developmentally disruptive characteristics. Durlak and Weissberg (2007) conducted a meta-analysis of 69 different programs which served children ages 5-18 across the country. Programs which continuously used SAFE structure and simultaneously aligned with the school day improved students standardized test scores, improved social behaviors, and reduced problem behaviors compared to programs without consistent social emotional curriculum (Bennett, 2015; Durlak & Weissberg, 2013; Vandell, Reisner, & Pierce, 2007) (see Figure 4). Afterschool programs which connect social emotionally centered curriculum and student interest can utilize the toolboxes provided through the example of Ramapo for Children and the California Afterschool Outcome Measures Project.

Success develops from a student's ability to use cognitive and social emotional skills collectively (Farnham, Fernando, Perigo, Brosman, & Tough, 2015). Developing these competencies is the first step to help students succeed in traditional education. Afterschool programs are in a position to make change and impact the closing of the opportunity, learning, and achievement gaps in education.

Figure 4 JELO

Figure 4. Average percentile gains on selected outcomes for participants in SAFE vs. other afterschool programs. Reprinted from Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer (p. 196), by T. K. Peterson (Ed.), 2013, Washington, DC: Collaborative Communications Group. Copyright 2013 by Collaborative Communications Group. Reprinted with permission.

Recommendations for Practitioners

Afterschool programs and educators, particularly those who serve children from low-income or at-risk families, are encouraged to consider the following steps. First, consider the contexts or microsystems that each child in your program has been exposed to. Are any unmet needs impacting the child's behavior or performance? What skills has the child developed as a result? What skills are missing or need to be developed more fully?

Second, keeping this insight in mind, consider how your afterschool program can be a support. Can you help families find or access resources to address unmet needs? How can your behavior management strategies encourage a positive behavior that builds a social emotional skill (like communication or self-regulation) rather than just halting an unwanted behavior? How can you build up self-esteem in areas where it may be lacking?

Third, build and implement a SAFE curriculum. Sequence your activities, so that each activity builds on the ideas and skills explored in the activities that came before. Start by thinking in week-long units, with new ideas appearing at the start of the week, and building knowledge and skills as the week progresses. Make your activities Active, so that students participate in fun, hands-on learning, practice new skills, and in activities which are related to their interests. Focus your activities, devoting specific, regularly scheduled time to developing the social emotional and academic skills your students need most. Be Explicit, defining what skills the students are learning and practicing. Tell students before the activity what they will be learning, and afterwards, check in to see if they learned what you were hoping and how they felt about the experience. For more specific ideas and a glossary of terms, explore Appendix A and Appendix B to jumpstart the process of integrating SAFE curriculum to promote social-emotional and academic success in the children you serve.


In 2107, The JELO will publish two issues: a special issue in Spring and a regular issue in the Fall. At this time, they welcome the submission of papers for both the Spring 2017 special and Fall 2017 regular issue. Please visit the blog post from yesterday to learn about the call for papers for more details. The deadline to submit is August 29, 2016. You can also visit Central Valley Afterschool Foundation for more information. 



Afterschool Alliance. (2009). Afterschool and workforce development: Helping kids compete. Issue Brief. Retrieved from

Afterschool Alliance. (2011). New progress reports find every state has room for improvement in making afterschool programs available to all kids who need them. Retrieved from National-Progress-Report-NR-10202011.pdf

Afterschool Alliance. (2013). The importance of afterschool and summer learning programs in African-American and Latino communities (2013). Issue Brief. Retrieved from

Afterschool Alliance. (2014). America after 3PM: Afterschool programs in demand. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from

Armstrong, T. (2009). Multiple intelligences in the classroom (3 ed.). ASCD: Alexandria, VA.

Baker, P. (2014). Bush urges effort to close black and white students' achievement Gap. New York Times. Retrieved from

Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Reviews: Psychology, 1-18.

Beets, M. W., Beighle, A., Erwin, H. E., & Huberty, J. L. (2009). After-school program impact on physical activity and fitness: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 36(6), 527-537.

Bennett, T. L. (2015). Examining levels of alignment between school and afterschool and associations on student academic achievement. Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities (JELO), 1(2), 4-22.

Blakemore, S. J., & Choudhury, S. (2006). Development of the adolescent brain: Implications for executive function and social cognition. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47(3‐4), 296-312.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994) Ecological models of human development. In T. Husen, & T. N. Postlephwaite, (Eds.), International encyclopedia of education (2nd ed., Vol. 3, 1643-1647). Oxford, England: Pergamon.

Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. (2006). The bioecological model of human development. In R.M. Learner, & W.E. Damon (Eds.). Handbook of child psychology, Vol. 1: Theoretical models of human development (6th ed., Vol. 1, 793-825). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Brualdi, A. (1996). Multiple intelligences: Gardner's theory. ERIC Digest. Eric Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation, Washington D.C. Retrieved from

Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2007). The impact of after-school programs that promote personal and social skills. Chicago, IL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.

Durlak, J., & Weissberg, R. (2013). Afterschool programs that follow evidence-based practices to promote social and emotional development are effective. In T. K. Peterson (Ed.), Expanding minds and opportunities: Leveraging the power of afterschool and summer learning for student success, (pp.194-198).Washington, DC: Collaborative Communications Group.

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., & Pachan, M. (2010). A meta-analysis of afterschool programs that seek to promote personal and social skills in children and adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45, 294–309.

Farnham, L., Fernando, G., Perigo, M., Brosman, C., & Tough, P. (2015). Rethinking how students succeed. Stanford Social Innovation Review Retrieved from

Gardner, H., & Hatch, T. (1989). Educational implications of the theory of multiple intelligences. Educational Researcher, 18(8), 4-10.

Hart, P. (2008). Key findings on attitudes toward education and learning. Peter Hart and Associates, Inc.: Washington D.C.

Heer, R. (2012). A model of learning objectives based on a taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. Iowa State University: Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Lenroot, R. K., & Giedd, J. N. (2006). Brain development in children and adolescents: insights from anatomical magnetic resonance imaging. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 30(6), 718-729.

Lerner, R. M., Bowers, E. P., Geldhof, G. J., Gestsdóttir, S., & DeSouza, L. (2012), Promoting positive youth development in the face of contextual changes and challenges: The roles of individual strengths and ecological assets. New Directions for Youth Development, (pp.119-126). Hoboken, NJ; John Wiley & Sons.

McConnell, M. (2015) Reflections of the impact of individualized instruction. National Teacher Education Journal. (53-56).

Nagy, Z., Westerberg, H., & Klingberg, T. (2004). Maturation of white matter is associated with the development of cognitive functions during childhood. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 16(7), 1227-1233.

Noble, K. G., Houston, S. M., Brito, N. H., Bartsch, H., Kan, E., Kuperman, J. M., . . . Sowell, E. R. (2015). Family income, parental education and brain structure in children and adolescents. Nature Neuroscience, 18(5), 773-778.

Paus, T., Collins, D. L., Evans, A. C., Leonard, G., Pike, B., & Zijdenbos, A. (2001). Maturation of white matter in the human brain: A review of magnetic resonance studies. Brain Research Bulletin, 54(3), 255-266.

Peterson, T.K. (Ed.). (2013). Expanding minds and opportunities: Leveraging the power of afterschool and summer learning for student success. Washington, DC: Collaborative Communications Group.

Posner, J. K., & Vandell, D. L. (1999). After-school activities and the development of low-income urban children: A longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 35(3), 868.

Quinton, S. (2014). The race gap in high school honors classes. National Journal Retrieved from

Ramapo for Children, About us. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Ramapo for Children, Our impact. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Shernoff, D. J. (2010). Engagement in after-school programs as a predictor of social competence and academic performance. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45(3-4), 325-337.

Shonkoff, J. P., Boyce, W. T., & McEwen, B. S. (2009). Neuroscience, molecular biology, and the childhood roots of health disparities: Building a new framework for health promotion and disease prevention. Jama, 301(21), 2252-2259.

Silva, E. (2008). Measuring skills for the 21st century. Education Sector, p. 2. Retrieved from

Smith, J. M., & Kovacs, P. E. (2011). The impact of standards-based reform on teachers: The case of No Child Left Behind. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 17(2), 201-225. doi: 10.1080/13540602.2011.539802

Stanton, B. (2015). Humans of New York. Retrieved from

Thompson, R. (2014). Stress and child development. The Future of Children (1st ed., Vol. 24, pp. 41-55). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University.

The Urban Assembly, Our mission. (n.d.). Mission. Retrieved from

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor. (2015). Employment characteristics of families - 2014. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education. (2014). Expansive survey of America's public schools reveals troubling racial disparities. Retrieved from

Vandell, D. (2013). Afterschool program quality and student outcomes: Reflections on positive key findings on learning and development from recent research. In T. K. Peterson (Ed.), Expanding minds and opportunities: Leveraging the power of afterschool and summer learning for student success. (pp. 180-186). Washington, DC: Collaborative Communications Group.

Vandell, D., Reisner, E., & Pierce, K. (2007). Outcomes linked to high-quality afterschool programs: Longitudinal findings from the study of promising afterschool programs. Washington, DC: Policy Studies Associates. Retrieved from

Zief, S. G., Lauver, S., & Maynard, R. A. (2006). Impacts of after-school programs on student outcomes: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 2(3).

Appendix A

Jumpstart Social Emotional Learning: Activities to Understand Your Students' Interests and Experiences and to Build Personalized Social Emotional Learning

Thumb Up, Thumb Flat, Thumb Down

  • When students arrive and throughout the program, have them show "Thumb Up" if they are having a good day, "Thumb Flat" if they are having an okay day, or "Thumb Down" if they are having a difficult day. Incorporate this into the staff's routine with the students, having staff show how their day is going with their thumbs as well. It is a simple tool to check in with the students and for students to check in with staff, leading to a safe, understanding atmosphere.

One Word Share

  • Upon arrival, have students and staff members individually choose one word that describes them right now. Go around in the large group or in small groups sharing the word. No discussion of the word anyone chose is allowed, which creates the safety to be honest. They can share an emotion they are having, an interest of theirs, or even something silly; the intent is to promote authenticity and build knowledge of each person over time, not simply in the moment of sharing.

Silent Cheers

  • Have each staff member and student go around and say something they enjoy (e.g., tacos, soccer, painting, math). If it is something that you like as well, silently wave your hands in the air as if you were cheering. This will help staff and students cultivate relationships based on common interests and learn what students are interested in, to support interest-based activity development.

Commonality Line

  • In an area that students and staff can stand and step forward, create two lines facing each other. Have one person say a statement that applies to them. (e.g., "I have two sisters," "I am 10 years old," escalating to personal statements, "I am in foster care," "I have two moms," etc.) Everyone that the statement applies to silently steps forward for a brief moment, looking around, and then returns to the original line. As the activity progresses, the hope is to learn more about the students and staff's home-life and encourage understanding that we have similar and different experiences but we are all still standing together.

Safe Box

  • Create a box in which students and staff can put writings or drawings anonymously. On a predetermined time randomly choose a writing or drawing from the box to share. The box should be safe and have no instructions other than you are not allowed to bring others down. You may vent about anything but cannot specifically mention names or reference specific people (e.g., "I am frustrated with the way Johnny bothers me during homework club" is not allowed, but "I am frustrated when people distract me during homework club" is fine). This activity is designed to build discussion and empathy, and should be implemented once a safe atmosphere has been created among the staff and students.

Appendix B

Glossary of key terms

Achievement Gap: refers to any significant and persistent disparity in academic performance or educational attainment between different groups of students, such as white students and minorities, for example, or students from higher-income and lower-income households.

Assistance Assumption: skills that students are able to accomplish with assistance from a more competent peer or adult (their instructional level).

Bloom's Taxonomy: a classification system used to define and distinguish different levels of human cognition (i.e., thinking, learning, and understanding).

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence: the ability to use one's mental abilities to coordinate one's own bodily movements. This intelligence challenges the popular belief that mental and physical activity are unrelated.

Chronosystem: encompasses change or consistency over time not only in the characteristics of the person but also of the environment in which that person lives (e.g., changes over the life course in family structure, socioeconomic status, employment, place of residence, or the degree of chaos and ability in everyday life).

Cognitive Process Dimension: represents a continuum of increasing cognitive complexity — from lower order thinking skills to higher order thinking skills.

Complex Instruction: Cooperative learning is a form of classroom instruction that structures collaborative interactions among learners to achieve the teacher's learning goals. This includes assigning competencies, multiple abilities, heterogeneous grouping, and equalization of academic status.

Context: a series of nested systems that affect the developing person ranging from micro to macro.

Developmental Competence: demonstrated acquisition and further development of knowledge and skills — whether intellectual, physical, social emotional, or a combination of them.

Developmentally Disruptive: includes such characteristics as impulsiveness, explosiveness, distractibility, inability to defer gratification, or, in a more extreme form, ready resort to aggression and violence; in short, difficulties in maintaining control over emotions and behavior. At the opposite pole are such Person attributes as apathy, inattentiveness, unresponsiveness, lack of interest in the surroundings, feelings of insecurity, shyness, or a general tendency to avoid or withdraw from activity.

Developmental Dysfunction: refers to the recurrent manifestation of difficulties on the part of the developing person in maintaining control and integration of behavior across situations.

Developmentally Generative: involves such active orientations as curiosity, tendency to initiate and engage in activity alone or with others, responsiveness to initiatives by others, and readiness to defer immediate gratification to pursue long-term goals.

Exosystem: comprises the linkages and processes taking place between two or more settings, at least one of which does not contain the developing person, but in which events occur that indirectly influence processes within the immediate setting in which the developing person lives (e.g., for a child, the relation between home and the parent's workplace; for a parent, the relation between the school and the neighborhood group).

Generality Assumption: skills that students are able to accomplish without assistance (their independence level).

Intelligence (Gardner): the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting.

Knowledge Dimension: classifies four types of knowledge that learners may be expected to acquire or contract —ranging from concrete to abstract.

Learning Gap: the difference between what a student has learned (i.e., the academic progress he or she has made) and what the student was expected to learn at a certain point in his or her education, such as a particular age or grade level. A learning gap can be relatively minor—the failure to acquire a specific skill or meet a particular learning standard, for example—or it can be significant and educationally consequential, as in the case of students who have missed large amounts of schooling.

Linguistic Intelligence: involves having a mastery of language. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively manipulate language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically. It also allows one to use language as a means to remember information.

Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: consists of the ability to detect patterns, reason deductively and think logically. This intelligence is most often associated with scientific and mathematical thinking.

Macrosystem: consists of the overarching pattern of micro-, meso-, and ecosystems characteristic of a given culture or subculture, with particular reference to the belief systems, bodies of knowledge, material resources, customs, life-styles, opportunity structures, hazards, and life course options that are embedded in each of these broader systems.

Mesosystem: comprises the linkages and processes taking place between two or more settings containing the developing person (e.g., the relations between home and school, school and workplace, etc.).
Microsystem: a pattern of activities, social roles, and interpersonal relations experienced by the developing person in a given face-to-face setting with particular physical, social, and symbolic features that invite, permit, or inhibit engagement in sustained, progressively more complex interaction with, and activity in, the immediate environment. Examples include such settings as family, school, peer group, and workplace.

Musical Intelligence: encompasses the capability to recognize and compose musical pitches, tones, and rhythms. (Auditory functions are required for a person to develop this intelligence in relation to pitch and tone, but not needed for the knowledge of rhythm.).

Opportunity Gap: refers to the ways in which race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, English proficiency, community wealth, familial situations, or other factors contribute to or perpetuate lower educational aspirations, achievement, and attainment for certain groups of students.

Person: describing the developing person distinguished most by three types of characteristics that are most influential in shaping the course of future development through the capacity to affect the direction and power of proximal processes through the life course: dispositions that set proximal processes in motion and sustain their operation, resources of ability, experience, knowledge, and skill, demand characteristics that invite or discourage reactions from social environment that can foster or disrupt the operation of proximal processes.

Personal Intelligences: includes interpersonal feelings and intentions of others--and intrapersonal intelligence--the ability to understand one's own feelings and motivations. These two intelligences are separate from each other. Nevertheless, because of their close association in most cultures, they are often linked together.

Potential Assumption: skills that are within a student's potential (their challenge level).

Proximal Process: particular forms of interaction between organism and environment that operate over time and are posited as the primary mechanisms producing human development.

Spatial Intelligence: gives one the ability to manipulate and create mental images in order to solve problems. This intelligence is not limited to visual domains--Gardner notes that spatial intelligence is also formed in blind children.

Time: broken into three successive levels: microtime refers to continuity versus discontinuity in ongoing episodes of proximal processes, mesotime is the periodicity of these episodes across broader time intervals, such as days and weeks, macrotime focuses on the changing expectations and events in larger society, both within and across generations, as they affect and are affected by processes and outcomes of human development over the life course.

Zone of Proximal Development: the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.


Published in Breakfast Club

The Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY) has recently released Finding Common Ground: Connecting Social-Emotional Learning During and Beyond the School Day. This brief provides language and strategies to support alignment between K-12 and expanded learning programs, by cross-walking key priorities and initiatives in California that impact social-emotional learning (SEL).

common ground study

In PCY's work with school districts and expanded learning providers over the last year, we have seen that many districts already have learning and behavioral goals that provide a strong foundation to focus their SEL efforts and that expanded learning providers are natural allies in this work. But too often the opportunities to better coordinate efforts are missed because these educators use different language and operate within separate initiatives. This brief finds common ground amid these initiatives and provides San Francisco Unified School District as a case study to illustrate how to operationalize this alignment. Read the full brief here.

This work is based on Student Success Comes Full Circle, a previous publication by Expanded Learning 360º/365, outlining a shared understanding of what and how expanded learning programs contribute to SEL. Expanded Learning 360º/365 is a collaborative statewide initiative to improve SEL in expanded learning programs. Click here to learn more about the Partnership for Children & Youth's social-emotional learning projects.

For those interested in assessing SEL practices, PCY is also releasing a more technical document - Measuring Quality: Assessment Tools to Evaluate Your Social-Emotional Practices – that crosswalks commonly used quality assessment tools with practices that support SEL outcomes.

We hope you find these documents useful to advance your work and facilitate conversations around alignment. 

Published in Breakfast Club

Asia Society and BOOST Collaborative are partnering to create a series of blogs on global learning in out-of-school time. This blog entry was orginally published on EdWeek's Global Learning Blog. Documentaries and film can bring the world to students in very real ways. Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Education Director for Global Oneness Project, tells us how and shares resources and strategies.

Why do we need stories? Stories are universal and create connections across time, place, and cultures. Now more than ever, we need stories to help us understand and connect to our fast-changing world. Impactful stories—a book, a film, or an oral story passed down from generations—have the power to bring us closer to something much greater than ourselves.

Films, according to director Beeban Kidron in her 2012 TED talk, are the 20th century's most influential art form. Why? They tell universal stories across national boundaries and languages. Film helps us expand our world, introducing us to values, struggles, innovations, and beliefs beyond our daily experience.

Today, the short form documentary has filled an important role in education. Teacher and educational journalist Mark Phillips explains in his Edutopia blog "Film as a Great Motivator" that "this generation of students is film and video oriented; we should use this, not bewail it." We need to meet students where they are, and the continuously growing digital landscape is an important opportunity for educators.

How can teachers use short documentary films in a meaningful and compelling way for young people? The following strategies exemplify ways in which short documentaries can enhance classroom environments.

documentary blogBuild Social & Emotional Awareness
In his blog, Phillips writes that in order to grab and hold students' attention, educators need to reach them emotionally. Films are multi-sensory. A film has the potential to create an emotional connection to its subject matter and can provide a human experience. The impact of audio and visual components supports students' retention of information.

Documentaries are emotionally powerful vehicles that can transport students to other cultures and create an awareness of global issues from the inside out through feeling and empathy. When enhanced with written reflection, films help students develop social and emotional learning in ways not available from textbooks or lectures. Students can experience the world through real-life people as well as see and feel what it is like for a person living around the world. PBS LearningMedia has lesson plans that include reflection questions to help students process the feelings evoked from documentary films.

I recently talked to Jennifer Klein, a former high school English teacher for 19 years and now a National Faculty member for The Buck Institute. She believes in an authentic approach to global learning and has been using short documentary films in her international classrooms for years. "There is nothing more humanizing for students than short documentary films; they grab the heart, offer a window into the daily lives of real people, and allow students to see other cultures and places as populated by living, breathing human beings on a planet we need for our survival," Klein said.

Connect to Current Events
Students are exposed to a range of real-world problems in their daily lives, either through media or in their own backyards. Some of these issues include poverty, substance abuse, violence, consumerism, indigenous rights, immigration, modernization, and the effects of environmental changes. A short documentary can expose students to any number of global issues, reduce isolation, and allow students to connect to innovations and inspiration from sources beyond their immediate environment.

Film Club is a new teaching and discussion forum using short documentaries from the New York Times Learning Network. The platform complements classroom curricula and highlights issues that teenagers care about, such as technology and society, race and gender identity, and civil rights.

I met Mike Dunn, a history teacher turned college and career counselor at AIM Academy in Pennsylvania, this past June at the International Society for Technology in Education conference in Philadelphia. He said that students look at the past for relevancy and relationships. For example, students who may grapple with the idea of the French Revolution can relate to the more recent revolutionary actions in the Arab Spring and the Baltimore riots of 2015. He described that screening a short documentary film in a social studies class offers a vehicle for critical thinking and analysis of the historical events: "My goal is to encourage students to reflect on their own lives and scrutinize their actions/choices in meaningful ways. The combination of writing with film has resulted in more rich understanding for students and output options that encourage creative and critical communication." Take a look at Dunn's portfolio where he explores merging media in the social studies classroom.

Incorporate Reflective Writing Assignments
A short documentary story can increase students' literacy with connections to a source, to self, and to the world. Just as students use quotes from a book or text to prove an analytical thought, students use the film as a source to justify their reasoning.

After viewing and discussing a film, a writing prompt can provide a way to integrate knowledge from various points of view and apply newly learned ideas. An English or art teacher may use a short documentary to study character development or themes in writing such as identity, family values, or commitment. A science or history teacher may examine how the issues explored in a film relate to students' lives, such as the effects of environmental changes, immigration, the global economy, or consumer decision-making.

Global Oneness Project provides short documentary films that highlight global cultures and environmental issues, and related lesson plans contain reflective writing questions to accompany the stories. See the bottom of this page for a sample documentary.

By using film in a learning environment, educators can get the attention of young people and take them on a journey to experience the world. Global stories and issues become relevant to students' lives and can support truly meaningful classroom discussions and activities, allowing students to find their own voices, making them stronger global citizens in this fast changing world. Because short, global documentaries can transcend boundaries and cultures, they are powerful tools for integrating universal human values integral to global education.

Connect with Cleary, Global Oneness Project, and Asia Society on Twitter.

Image and video are courtesy of the author.

Published in Breakfast Club

Our minds are incredibly powerful. They have the ability to help us create amazing things; or, they can us! The perfect example is worrying.

We've all experienced worry — it's a natural human phenomenon. Worry happens when we have thoughts or emotions about a potential threat or problem in the future — something going wrong or something bad happening.

Worry can serve a purpose if we use it to help us identify issues that we can get prepared for. However, it can be detrimental, and an energy drain, if it leads to rumination (to think about it over and over) and anxiety. And most people, especially kids, are never taught how to break through the worry cycle!

The key to alleviating the worry cycle is to shift worry from anxiety and rumination to concern and preparation.

In this article we will look at a process you can use to step through your worries and several strategies you can use to ease your mind. And this process works for kids too!

worried boy dreaming1. The first step is to acknowledge your worries – give them time. The more you try to resist something the more it will persist. It's like trying not to imagine a green monkey wearing a big orange cowboy hat sitting on a purple giraffe in the middle of your just can't help it. The best way to stop rumination is to write it down and then go to step two.

2. Second, put boundaries around your worries. Set aside a specific time to focus on your worries. During this time, write down anything that you're worried about. If something comes up later in the day...just add it to the list and tell yourself that you can think about it tomorrow during your allotted time. The process of writing the worry down lets your mind rest because it knows you've got it on the agenda.

3. Third, change your language. Language is a very powerful tool – it creates our experience. Instead of using the word "worried" which automatically triggers a feeling of anxiety in most people, use the word "concerned" followed by the word "prepared". For example instead of saying, "I am worried about the economy and losing my job" you could say, "I am concerned about the economy and losing my job. To get prepare I am going to examine my budget and add to my emergency savings fund. I might also consider a part time job."

(How might you use this with a child? If you hear a child say, "I'm worried I'm going to fail this test". You can help her shift her language to something like, "I'm concerned about this test. To get prepared I'm going to ask the teacher for an extra practice sheet.")

4. Fourth, shift you worry into action. Tell your mind what you are going to do about the situation. For each concern, map out a plan. Put it in writing so that each time that concern comes up you can ease your mind by reviewing your plan.

5. Fifth, focus on what you want, not on what you don't want. Your mind is very powerful. Your thoughts trigger both your conscious mind and your subconscious mind to create whatever you focus on. Supportive self-talk and visualization are powerful tools to help you stay focused on what you want.

6. Sixth, focus on what is working in your life, not on what is not working. Shifting thoughts of worry to thoughts of gratitude can help ease your mind and create positive energy throughout your body. Did you know that multiple research studies have shown that practicing gratitude actually creates happiness? Positive energy and positive thoughts are essential for creating what you want in your life.

7. Seventh, look at what you can control versus what you can't control. If the thing you are worried about is something you can control, such as building up your savings account, then take action on that. However, if it's is something that you have no control over, such as when someone dies, then worrying about it only creates negative energy that doesn't serve you. Depending on your spiritual beliefs, you may want to create a "ritual" or personal practice where you turn over your worries to that which is greater than you.

8. Eight, adopt a personal practice that can help you relax. Many people find that meditation, exercise, or journaling can help them ease their mind. A daily practice of relaxation can help neutralize the impact of worrying

Finally, remember that worrying and rumination doesn't serve you – it steals the beauty of the present moment and can rob you of your happiness. Learning to focus on what you can do versus focusing on things outside of your control can lead to a feeling of personal power versus feeling like a victim of the future.

As I mentioned, worry is a phenomena that our kids will also experience. One of the greatest gifts you can give them is to teach them how to turn worry into action.

For more information about how you can use stories to empower kids Adventures in Wisdom to check out a free story.


For breakfast, I had an egg white and turkey sausage breakfast taco and a hug from my hubby and kids!

Published in Breakfast Club

"For the future, it's vital to rethink the dynamic relationships
between heart and mind within human consciousness and
their essential place in the education of all our students."

—Sir Ken Robinson, PH.D., author, speaker and leader
in the development of education, creativity and innovation

In conjunction with academic learning, social emotional learning (SEL) plays a critical role in educating the whole child and laying the foundation for lifelong learning, engagement, and well-being. While the development and implementation of SEL in traditional education presents challenges, it also presents immense opportunities to support our youth and benefit our society as a whole.

What is social emotional learning?

Social emotional learning encompasses both intra- and interpersonal processes with the overarching goal of developing fundamental skills for life success within supportive, participatory, learning environments. "Attained through both curricula and instructional practices, SEL skills include recognizing and managing emotions, developing caring and concern for others, establishing positive relationships, and making responsible decisions."1 These are the "soft skills" that lead students on the path to becoming fully actualized adults—future doctors, entrepreneurs, artists, politicians, engineers, educators—who are able to live rich, fulfilling lives as socially responsible members of society.

social-and-emotional-learning-core-competenciesWhy is SEL important?

Given the extensive body of research that supports quality SEL programs and recognizes their profoundly positive impact on student engagement, academic performance, and prosocial behavior, it is becoming increasingly clear that the traditional goals of public education need to be reframed to prioritize both social emotional and cognitive development. The two types of learning already go hand in hand: "academic learning and SEL are inextricably linked—emotions and relationships affect how and what we learn."2

So why are we still struggling to keep students in school and failing to equip them with the skills required to thrive in both work and life?

Federal mandates on education standards

Despite the evidence that SEL bridges the gap between what is being taught in traditional public school curricula and what students need to learn in order to become successful, responsible members of society, a single-minded focus continues to drive federal education policy. This focus, clearly evident in 'No Child Left Behind' (NCLB), overemphasizes the standardized testing of linguistic and mathematic proficiencies to determine academic achievement, student intelligence, and school success. While one can appreciate the well-intended notion for using standardized tests to measure school progress and drive improvements, NCLB's focus on "punishing" schools that do not live up to federal performance expectations has led to a "one size fits all" approach to learning that leaves many children behind—predominantly those whose diverse socioeconomic backgrounds do not coincide with our policymakers' standardized version of achievement.

Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund, explains, "NCLB's narrow focus on 'high stakes' testing and its overreliance on sanctions that punish struggling schools encouraged states to lower standards, districts to narrow the curriculum, and teachers to teach to the test."3 The consequences of federal and state educational policies like NCLB are creating an imbalance not only in the aims of public education, but also in the lives of our youth. Teachers are under immense pressure to deliver the prescribed curriculum and ensure that their students are passing academic tests—they are being pushed to raise reading and math scores without focusing on the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that provide the foundation for school and life success."4

What do we really want our children to know by the time the graduate?

The fundamental competencies associated with SEL echo the goals that other parents have for their children: "parents and teachers want schooling to support children's ability to become lifelong learners who are able to love, work, and act as responsible members of the community."5 Essentially, this general desire can be broken down into a group of inter-related core competencies as defined by The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning:

Self-awareness: accurately assessing one's feelings, interests, values, and strengths; maintaining a well-grounded sense of self-confidence;
Self-management: regulating one's emotions to handle stress, controlling impulses, and persevering in addressing challenges; expressing emotions appropriately; and setting and monitoring progress toward personal and academic goals;
Social awareness: being able to take the perspective of and empathize with others; recognizing and appreciating individual and group similarities and differences; and recognizing and making best use of family, school, and community resources;
Relationship skills: establishing and maintaining healthy and rewarding relationships based on cooperation; resisting inappropriate social pressure; preventing, managing, and resolving interpersonal conflict; and seeking help when needed; and
Responsible decision making: making decisions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, appropriate social norms, respect for others, and likely consequences of various actions; applying decision-making skills to academic and social situations; and contributing to the well-being of one's school and community.

What are the benefits of developing these social and emotional competencies?

When students lack the ability to maintain a sense of self-confidence, effectively manage their emotions, make responsible decisions, and develop healthy relationships, they will have much more difficulty learning and benefiting from instruction, let alone meeting the demands of the classroom. Quality SEL programs promoting and teaching social emotional skills to supplement academic learning has yielded multiple benefits, including "improved attitudes about self and others, connection to school, positive social behavior, and academic performance."6 Additionally, SEL programs reduce students' emotional distress, risky behaviors, and conduct problems. Given the substantial research showing that "SEL can have a positive impact on school climate and promote a host of academic, social, and emotional benefits for students," it is highly recommended that federal, state, and local policies encourage and support well-designed, evidence-based SEL programs in our school systems.7

Integrating these values alongside academic learning

As mentioned above, teachers already have their hands full with the current academic curriculum and standards—"they often believe that they do not have enough time to cover the prescribed curriculum, let alone teach to the test or become social emotional teachers."8 This is where the expanded learning field can step in to fill an incredibly important need by providing SEL programming during out-of-school time.

If we are to educate and prepare our youth to become socially responsible lifelong learners and healthy, happy members of society, then we need to develop robust after school SEL programs with highly trained staff and supportive home-school partnerships that operate within a safe, caring learning environment.


"All, regardless of race or class or economic status, are entitled to a fair chance and to the tools for developing their individual powers of mind and spirit to the utmost. This promise means that all children by virtue of their own efforts, competently guided, can hope to attain the mature and informed judgment needed to secure gainful employment, and to manage their own lives, thereby serving not only their own interests but also the progress of society itself."

—A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform

And for breakfast, I had some peanut butter toast and a glass of orange juice.




[1] Cohen, J. (2006). Social, emotional, ethical, and academic education: Creating a climate for learning, participation in democracy, and well-being. Harvard Educational Review, 76(2). 

[1] Cohen, J. (2006). Social, emotional, ethical, and academic education: Creating a climate for learning, participation in democracy, and well-being. Harvard Educational Review, 76(2).



[1] Cohen, J. (2006). Social, emotional, ethical, and academic education: Creating a climate for learning, participation in democracy, and well-being. Harvard Educational Review, 76(2).

Published in Breakfast Club

Included in this post is a basic outline for a four-session Dance/Visual Arts and Poetry workshop. The following session series is created around the poem, “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou. I have used the following experiences as a part of a curriculum for teenage girls who identified challenges with positive self-image and bullying within their peer group.

As you read through the outline keep in mind the age of the children or young people you work with. Also, think about the theme or message you feel needs to be heard and experienced by your young people. The following outline can serve as a starting point for you. Choose your own theme, a poem that fits, and then adapt the experiences appropriately!

dance pic 2
Day 1:

1. Opening ritual.

A. Close your eyes and think of one word that describes how you feel right now. Open your eyes when you have it. Close your eyes again and think of one simple movement that represents how you feel. Show your movement and have the rest of the group repeat your movement in unison. Move around the circle until each young person has shared their created movement. You can keep this as a simple call and response or cumulatively add the movements together to create a dance/movement phrase that communicates the collective story of how the group feels today.

2. Facilitator reads “Phenomenal Woman” out loud to the group.

A. Instruct participants to make themselves comfortable, lying down, sitting, or standing.

B. Ask, “What do you think Maya Angelou, the author, means by ‘inner mystery’?”

C. Take several responses. Maintain high expectations for peers listening to one another in order to ensure the space is safe. Guide young people to listen, build upon one another’s ideas, or respectfully hold a different opinion, do not accept comments that attack ideas shared.

3. Facilitator instructs the group, “Draw your inner mystery.”

A. Provide markers, colored pencils, and paper. Place materials in the center of the circle for the group to choose from. Emphasize sharing materials if needed by discussing it prior to placing the materials down.

B. Ask, “Who is willing to share about your drawing with the group?”

C. Provide an opportunity for all who choose to, to share. Decide prior whether the rest of the group will listen only, or if the group is ready to make positive comments about what they see in one another’s drawings and what it tells them about the person who is sharing.

4. Facilitator instructs the group, “Find your own space in the room and create one simple movement that represents your ‘inner mystery’.”

A. Play soothing music. Encourage the group to try out their movements in their body to find something that feels genuinely representative of their inner mystery. Circulate around the room to offer support if needed.

B. When each person has created a movement, bring the group back to standing in a circle. Each person will share their movement and the group will repeat it in unison. Add all of the movements together cumulatively to create a dance that tells the collective story of each person’s inner mystery.

C. Say, “You are choreographers!”

5. Closing ritual.

A. Standing in a circle, the whole group says in unison, “I am a woman, phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s _____________.” Fill in the blank with each person’s name until all names have been spoken out loud.

6. Journal entry.

A. Instruct the group to reflect in a journal about their experience in the session. Journals can be provided or made by folding paper in half to create a book. Have the group leave their journals with the facilitator to be used each session. Tell the group that you will not read their journals unless they ask you to, or if you plan to read them make sure you tell the group this. It is suggested that you do not read them in order to encourage true reflection without fear.

dance picDay 2:

1. Opening ritual.

2. Facilitator reads “Phenomenal Woman” to students as they improvise creative movement.

A. Ask, “What do you think Maya Angelou means by the ‘fire in my eyes’?”

B. Take several responses. Maintain expectations for listening and responding.

C. Facilitate connecting the previous session’s discussion of inner mystery (Who are you?) to the fire in my eyes (What are your goals? Where are you going?). How are they both connected?

3. Facilitator instructs the group, “Draw the fire in your eyes” (vision for the future, goals, sense of purpose, motivation).

A. Ask, “Who is willing to share about your drawing with the group?”

4. Facilitator instructs the group, “Find your own space in the room and create one simple movement that represents the “fire in your eyes.”

A. Weave all movements together to create a dance.

B. Review the inner mystery dance and combine the two dances created to tell the collective story of the group’s inner mystery and the fire in their eyes.

5. Closing ritual.

A. “I am a woman, phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s _____________.”

6. Journal entry.

Day 3:

1. Opening ritual.

2. Each participant takes a turn reading a line of the “Phenomenal Woman” poem.

A. “What do you think Maya Angelou means by ‘my head’s not bowed’?”

B. Take several responses. Maintain expectations for listening and responding.

C. Facilitate connecting the previous two discussions of inner mystery (Who are you?) to the fire in my eyes (What are your goals? Where are you going?) to not bowing our heads (overcoming challenges, strength, efficacy, believing in one’s self, working with others to achieve goals). How are they all connected? What does and what will help you to overcome your challenges?

3. Facilitator instructs the group, “Find your own space in the room and create a still shape/body sculpture that represents the biggest challenge you have or will have to grow through.

A. Have the group view each body sculpture and try it on.

B. Have the group collaborate to create one large sculpture that represents overcoming or growing through challenges that tells the story of being transformed and triumphant.

C. Have the group move from their individual challenge sculptures into the full group triumphant sculpture.

D. Review the inner mystery and fire in my eyes dance. Add the sculpture section to the end of the dance (or have the group decide where it should be placed in the order of the sections).

4. Closing ritual:

A. “I am a woman, phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s _____________.”

5. Journal entry

Day 4:

1. Opening ritual.

2. Each participant takes a turn reading a line of the “Phenomenal Woman” poem while the rest of the group improvises creative movement.

A. Review previous discussions about “inner mystery,” “fire in my eyes,” and “head’s not bowed.”

3. Facilitator assigns small groups (2 – 3 per group will most likely work best).

A. Instruct the group, “In your groups choreograph a short dance that tells the story of a journey through discovering inner mystery, the fire in your eyes, and why your head’s not bowed.”

B. Share each dance with the rest of the group.

C. Analyze the dances. Ask, “What did you see in the dance?” “What did you learn about the choreographers?”

D. Review the cumulative dance created in previous sessions. Add these small group sections in (they could be performed simultaneously, as small group sessions spread throughout intermittently, or one at a time added to the end of the dance).

4. Closing ritual.

A. “I am a woman, phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, that’s _____________.”

5. Journal entry

The experiences included in these sessions provide participants with the opportunity to reflect on who they are and where they are going while learning about one another more deeply. These four sessions could be expanded into several more or could be incorporated into a larger curriculum. You might even have participants write their own poem about why they are Phenomenal (individually or as a group) and then independently choreograph a dance to represent it. This is just one more way to use creative art-making as a structure for teaching and practicing new skills!

For breakfast I had a coffee, an English muffin and an avocado.

Images: School of Harmony and BuildaBridge International.

Published in Breakfast Club

At Techbridge we host a book club that gives us a chance to make time to read and come together to talk about research. We don't always agree on the subject matter, but the book discussions always get us thinking about how we approach our work with kids and with one another. Our last read was Quiet. In her best seller, Susan Cain shares research and personal experiences about the continuum of extroversion-introversion and how the trait can impact engagement and performance at work and school.

Quiet got me rethinking how we support the girls in our after-school programs and how we work at Techbridge. Here are some of my take-aways from the book for our work with kids in our after-school programs.

1) One third to one half of us are introverts yet there is some bias in our culture towards extraverts. Research shows that those who are talkative are more likely to have the chance to present their ideas and more likely to be perceived as competent. As we plan activities, let's stop and think about how we can encourage kids—and especially the introverts—to get their fair share of time and attention so they can fully engage in every part of the lesson.

2) Introverts and extroverts have different preferences for levels of stimulation. We can value both types of learning styles and create sweet spots for introverts and extroverts. In cooperative projects, we can be mindful of the demands placed on introverts and keep some space and time for individual work, especially at the start of a project.

3) It helps when kids know their roles in group activities. Clearly defined goals can help introverts take an active role and not get overshadowed by those more extroverted. With thoughtfulness, role assignment can gently nudge introverts to take on more active roles and extroverts to be more reflective.

4) Despite years of research on what works (and what doesn't), we're still setting up brainstorm situations in ways that are likely to be less productive. Invite kids to think about the project at hand and brainstorm on their own in advance of sharing in a group. With time to think kids are likely to generate more useful ideas and introverts are more likely to have the chance to add their ideas in the mix.

5) Many of the projects we introduce in our after-school programs ask kids to work with others. Sometimes kids get to choose who they work with while other times we assign partners. We have heard from some of our girls that they appreciate moving outside their comfort zone and working with others. These opportunities help kids go beyond their circle of friends, grade level, racial group, ability level, or place on the introversion-extroversion continuum.

6) Explain why it's important to learn to work with others and why you do social engineering. From our experience we found it helpful to explain to kids and parents. We promote teamwork to prepare our girls for what's ahead in high school, college, and the work place.

7) Working collaboratively can also create challenges. Some pairs find that two minds are better than one. These groups jump in and share ideas that build upon one another's efforts. They quickly try out their plans and when their first design fails—as they typically do—the girls step back and discuss how they can improve upon the redesign. In contrast, others just can't seem to figure out how to work together. Through trial and error, we have learned lessons to reduce these challenges and help more of our girls to work together with success.

8) At the end of the afternoon, allow time for kids to reflect in ways that support introverts and extraverts. Give everyone a post-it and invite them to share an idea they learned or a question they want to pursue. Collect and discuss them at the end or start of your program.

9) Help parents appreciate their child for who they are and offer strategies to support their child's strengths.

Our discussion around Quiet also gave us food for thought on our workspace and how we work at the office.

1) The open space concept is very popular, yet research suggests a different approach may work better. Top performers have workplaces that provide the most privacy, personal space, and freedom from interruption. Excessive stimulation and frequent interruptions can reduce productivity. Places with the optimal work environments offer a mix of personal and private quiet areas where staff can focus on individual projects and work alone along with casual meet-up areas where folks can brainstorm and share work in progress without interrupting others. This arrangement allows people to choose when and how much they want to collaborate. The set-up also accommodates for differences among introverts and extroverts. While it may not be possible to totally reconfigure an office, it is possible to reimagine elements within the office.

2) Some of our staff have jobs that bring frequent interruptions and interactions with others. They have been encouraged to create systems that let others know when they need quiet and uninterrupted time. A stop sign, a cartoon, or closed door gives them permission to have quiet time when they need it and to let others know when to hold off on a request or question.

3) Meetings are an important and frequent part of our work day. We are trying to be more mindful of differences among staff and support the inclusion of ideas from everyone during meetings and project planning. From Quiet, we learned that we can create opportunities for introverts to participate by inviting them in advance to present an idea or project update. With time to prepare they will be able to think about and rehearse their contribution. Another idea we are trying is asking staff to brainstorm by themselves and compiling their ideas for group discussion. This gives everyone time to contribute and reflect in advance. Not only does this encourage introverts but it also makes for more productive discussions.

I encourage you to read Quiet and think about how you support the introverts and extroverts in the work you do. What did you learn from the research? Do you disagree with any messages in the book? I invite you to share your experiences.

By the way, I had breakfast this Sunday morning here at the Techbridge office. I find that the quiet and uninterrupted time allows me to write and think about where I want to go during the week.

Published in Breakfast Club
  • «
  •  Start 
  •  Prev 
  •  Next 
  •  End 
  • »
Page 1 of 2


Email Sign Up
First Name (*)
Please type your full name.
Last Name
Invalid Input
Your Email (*)
Invalid email address.
Invalid Input
Company Name
Invalid Input
Invalid Input
Invalid Input
Invalid Input
I Want Information On

Invalid Input
Enter Code Enter Code
Invalid Input


Breakfast Club Blog Archive

« July 2017 »
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

LOGOS_01LOGOS_02logos 05bLOGOS_06LOGOS_07LOGOS_08rise-footertrust-logo4x4LOGOS_03