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:
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.
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.
Today is Election Day and while we have read, watched, discussed and likely studied candidates, policies, and perspectives, our civic education shouldn't slow down after this important date. As educators, we have the opportunity to creatively teach and engage young people in civic education. Heather Loewecke, Senior Program Manager, Afterschool and Youth Leadership Initiatives at Asia Society has written a timely piece, Civics Education is the Foundation for Global Citizenship, that we highly encourage you to read and take hold of the resources provided within the article.
Here are a few stats that emerge from this piece:
• Despite the mission to promote a thriving democracy, American public schools are inadequately preparing students for participation in civic life. Only 24 percent of high school seniors scored proficient or higher on the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) civics exam.
• Only about 20 percent of young adults aged 18-29 voted in the 2014 elections, the lowest turnout for that demographic ever recorded for a federal election.
• A 2016 Annenberg Public Policy poll reflected that American adults know very little about the US government, with the majority of respondents unable to answer basic questions.
In response to these staggering statistics, Heather shares the benefits of civic education, what's being done in education settings, and additional resources. Visit Asia Society's Center for Global Education website to read this piece.
In addition to this article, Asia Society has also created a companion unit plan overview sheet for afterschool workers. Be sure to visit their site to access this valuable resource. Let us know what your program is doing to engage youth in civic education!
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 originally published on EdWeek's Global Learning Blog. This piece is written by Linda Rosenblum, Education Program Manager and Servicewide Teacher Ranger Teacher Coordinator, National Park Service.
National Park Service (NPS) parks and historic sites provide unique opportunities for students to study history, science, civics, culture, and global issues by providing access to primary historical resources, scientific data, subject matter experts and professionals, and community connections to local cultural heritage. As the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday, increased attention has been focused on expanding its presence in the education community. Most people are familiar with the larger national parks that protect breathtaking natural areas like the Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park, or Everglades National Park, but much of the public is unaware that fully two-thirds of the areas managed by the National Park Service are not natural resource parks but instead are cultural or historical preservation sites. The National Park Service is comprised of 413 protected areas that include national parks, national memorials, national monuments, national battlefields and cemeteries, national historic sites and historical parks, national recreation areas, scenic and wild rivers, natural and historical trails, national seashores and lakeshores, and national preserves. The variety of protected areas is broad and reflects the diverse range of resources that the National Park Service preserves and protects for the enjoyment of future generations.
These special places offer a unique opportunity for educators to engage their students in place-based learning activities. Place-based learning is defined as an approach to education that focuses on the students' surrounding environment and community and often takes the form of engaging in immersive, project-based activities that address real-world issues. According to Janice L. Woodhouse and Clifford E. Knapp, place-based learning prepares students to "live and work to sustain the cultural and ecological integrity of the places they inhabit." They further argue that place-based learning prepares students to actively participate in civic society and the democratic process by providing knowledge of and experiences in real-life environmental and cultural issues. Educators can involve their students in problem solving and community engagement using National Park Service sites.
Teach Cultural Preservation
Cultural preservation can include many different aspects of maintaining and preserving both tangible and intangible human culture. Intangible culture includes religion, language, music, dance, literature, and other non-tangible characteristics of a group. Tangible culture includes the natural and created environments like architecture, art, cultural landscapes, and significant natural areas. The National Park Service and other preservation management organizations work to preserve and protect these treasures through land and resource management policies and procedures. Cultural preservation is one way to teach young people global competencies like critical thinking skills and cultural literacy through engagement in real-life problems and creation of solution strategies.
Teaching cultural preservation could include studying local architecture or historic neighborhoods and talking with local government officials and historical societies to learn about what is being done to protect these resources. Students could work with a nearby National Park Service site in a service learning project maintaining natural or historical resources in the park or their community. Teachers could invite a preservation professional from a local historical society, their state historic preservation office (SHPO), a local city planning office, or the National Park Service to speak to their class about how they help to preserve the cultural heritage of their neighborhood, town, or a nearby historic site and what the community can do to help.
Recently, a group of middle and high school students gathered in New Mexico to participate in a youth summit. Over the course of four days, the students visited historic sites and museums and met with professionals in the fields of preservation, cultural resource interpretation, and heritage tourism. The students studied the importance of historical and cultural preservation and the challenges met by preservation professionals and local leaders who protect these special places. The youth then formed teams and brainstormed ideas to propose solutions to these challenges. Some proposals addressed ways to decrease vandalism at historical or cultural heritage sites. Other teams offered solutions on how to increase youth awareness and engagement in cultural resource stewardship. Still others offered suggestions on how local leadership could better connect with youth. One student described the experience this way, "We get to apply what we learned in real life and actually help people who are in government and help people make decisions. It kind of empowers youth to learn more about their culture and make an impact in their communities."
Promote Environmental Stewardship
Many schools look to the National Park Service to take their students outdoors to learn firsthand about environmental issues. Parks like Great Smoky Mountains National Park offer field trips where middle school and high school students can monitor changes in the natural environment at the park and connect those changes to global issues like climate change. Other opportunities exist for students to engage in service learning projects either through their schools or youth organizations like
Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Educators can connect these on-site activities to their classroom learning units in earth science, weather, geology, biology, or through interdisciplinary approaches combining scientific data gathered at a park with a math project analyzing that data. Several national parks like North Cascades National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site and Petroglyph National Monument are working with Bureau of Indian Education schools developing on-site citizen science programs where students do actual scientific data collection and analysis with National Park Service professionals. Students learn about climate change, erosion, wildlife management, and other natural resource management issues while implementing critical thinking and analysis skills in the program.
Engage in Historical Research
Many educators and students work with parks and historic sites in the development of National History Day projects by studying museum objects, buildings, photographs, maps, landscapes, and other historical resources preserved at National Park Service sites. Youth can choose topics related to the subject matter interpreted and preserved at the site or select a project based on the history of the National Park Service itself. For example, the historian and education specialist at Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas often help students find information and connect with surviving children of plaintiffs from the 1954 Supreme Court decision that ended racial segregation in the nation's public schools. Students are able to conduct interviews with the plaintiff's children to learn firsthand how the case and its aftermath affected the students who were represented by the NAACP lawyers.
Other NPS Resources
The National Park Service is often considered the world's largest informal education organization. In addition to 413 natural, cultural, and historical sites preserved and protected by the NPS, there are many program and technical offices throughout the country that do work in cultural and natural resource preservation and education. There are many other resources provided for educators through the National Park Service:
• Free Admission: Every Kid in a Park is a White House initiative designed to encourage every fourth grader in the United States to visit a federal land or water management area to participate in educational and recreational activities. The program offers a one-year, free pass into federal land and water management areas to fourth graders and their families. Educators can also register for their class to participate in the program. Many parks and historic sites provide hands-on education programs for fourth graders participating in Every Kid in a Park. Lesson plans on getting to know federal lands and waters, environmental stewardship, citizen science, and Native American cultures have been developed to help educators acquaint their students with Every Kid in a Park and the participating federal land and water management agencies.
• Lesson Plans: The National Park Service also provides an online portal where lesson plans, field trips, distance learning programs, and other educational materials and resources can be found. Searches can be conducted by keyword, subject, grade level, or Common Core standards. Over 250 featured lesson plans and materials are available from the main search page, but by clicking on "view archived lesson plans here" from the center of your search results page, you will have access to an additional 1,100 items from our archived content.
• Professional Development: Opportunities for professional development in place-based learning are available at many NPS sites. Some parks, like Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, offer short-term workshops where educators can learn about the park's educational resources and programs and how to integrate historical and natural resources into learning activities and field trips. The NPS also offers a longer-term (4-6 weeks in the summer) professional development opportunity called the Teacher Ranger Teacher program. Participating educators spend their summers at NPS sites learning about the NPS educational resources and themes while taking an online course with University of Colorado, Denver in experiential learning. The NPS provides educators with new insights about the use of primary historical and scientific resources for use in their classrooms and programs so that they can bring their students back to the parks to conduct their own on-site learning experiences.
NPS sites provide many place-based learning opportunities where students and educators can engage in real-life problem solving activities, scientific data gathering and analysis, cultural heritage awareness, historic and environmental preservation, civic engagement, service learning, and global literacy. It is through these learning opportunities that youth can develop an understanding and appreciation for our environmental and cultural heritage and history and become the stewards of our global heritage in the future.
Photos courtesy of the National Park Service.
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.
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.
Mistakes have gotten a bad rap. Reactions to mistakes can range from mild embarrassment to communications of regret to utter outrage. If we always respond to mistakes negatively it has potential to give our kids the impression that mistakes are to be avoided at all costs.
I am a card-carrying member of the mistakes club. Some days I think about running for president of the mistake club. While I've certainly made mistakes I would rather have not, I appreciate the power of mistakes. I knew I was not alone in my thinking about mistakes when I Googled "Mistake Quotes." There were over 10 pages of links. Goodreads had 715 quotes about mistakes...could that be a mistake?
Some of the quotes that stood out as I scanned the pages were:
• "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."
- Albert Einstein
• "Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes."
- Mahatma Gandhi
• "We learn from failure, not from success!"
- Bram Stoker, Dracula
• "The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one."
- Elbert Hubbard
Additionally, I've noticed that many of my Professional Learning conversations with after-school leaders have included rich discussions around the importance of kids being able to make mistakes and feel okay about it. This is also a frequent topic I share with my own children.
When kids are taught to avoid mistakes, or worse, are not given the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them they are denied a great deal of learning. It's not surprising that children are taught not to make mistakes. We don't embrace mistakes as adults. I lose sleep over the mistakes I make. When I am talking to after school leaders about working with kids and giving them opportunities to get out of the box and solve problems...I often use the example, "Someone didn't wake up one morning and invent a cure for cancer. Solutions to problems take time and learning from mistakes and trying again. In fact, it often takes many people sharing their mistakes to arrive at the right answer." I also share what a scientist once said to me. She said, "Science is about making mistakes and kids need to be comfortable with this to succeed." When I share this with after-school leaders a light bulb often goes off.
Join (and Start) a Mistakes Club
At the conclusion of a recent training I led on good teaching practices I asked folks what they were taking from our time together and one young man said, "I am going to go back to my site and start a Mistakes Club!" He got a round of applause and I felt like I had reached my goal that day. This was after a day focused not on making mistakes, but on good teaching.
If you're ready to start a Mistakes Club of your own, GREAT! There's no secret handshake (or a membership card—but you can create them). All you have to do is invite kids in and encourage them to view their mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
Ways to help you kids build their mistake muscle
1. Let. Them. Fail. (First Attempt In Learning) it's easy to step in when you're afraid a child is about to feel the sting of failure. Often we design experiences so that we can be sure the children will be successful. But if they are safe from bodily harm, it's okay to let them fail and try again. Don't focus on the mistake but the next step. Say, "How would you like to try that this time?" or "What else might you try? ?"
2. Celebrate mistakes. Instead of consoling kids or getting upset...treat the mistake as a normal or inevitable thing that happens to everyone. To err is human after all.
3. Make mistakes the call out for a next step. When a child makes a mistake, let it be the beginning or the process for getting it right. Prompt them by asking, "What did you learn from that? How can we change it?"
4. Support them in the discomfort-but don't alleviate it. There's a lot of research around the merits of productive struggle. When a child is frustrated or disappointed by an outcome, know that the struggle feeds directly into their future academic and personal success. Nudge them along with encouraging words like, "I know this doesn't feel great, but how can me make it right?" "Let's try!"
5. Work together. We all know more brains are better than one. Collaboration encourages kids to get help from others, builds community, teaches important social skills, and helps children learn there are many ways to approach a problem.
6. Give help with out giving the answer. You don't have to know all the answers. Instead of telling kids how to arrive at the desired result, ask "How could you do that a different way?"
7. Make mistakes a part of the culture. When debriefing an activity, have kids share mistakes they made and what they learned from them. If mistakes are an accepted part of your culture, kids won't be afraid to make them. You can even share some mistakes you have made.
Exercising Your Mistake Muscle
The best thing about these mistake exercises is that they work for adults too. I invite you to join the Mistakes Club. Give yourself some breathing room. Fail (or succeed) spectacularly, but take some risks, learn, and grow. Share your reflections on mistakes in the comments. We can have a virtual Mistakes Club meeting! Share ideas for changing your practice with your kids and in your own learning. You might also read these helpful articles from Edutopia and BrightHorizons about the importance of mistakes and failure.
If I am not mistaken I had Trader Joe's Corn Flakes this morning and a banana for breakfast.
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 originally published on EdWeek's Global Learning Blog. This piece is written by Muslima Niyozmamadova, a high school student at Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa in Kenya.
Global citizenship means an awareness of the issues in my community as well as those faced by the world. My role as a global citizen is to promote positive change by trying to solve global problems. I am responsible for my city, country, and the world.
When I was six years old, my family moved to accommodate construction of the University of Central Asia in Khorog, Tajikistan. My family talked about how the university would become one of the best in the world. I was proud that the new university was being built where my family had lived. Even as a young child, education was important to me. I decided that I would one day become the head of the University of Central Asia. At the age of seven, I attended the only school in Badakhshan, the eastern part of Tajikistan. The school offered all subjects in English. I felt that learning the language was my first step towards achieving my dream.
A few years later, I was accepted to the Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa (AKA), one of the best secondary schools in the world, with a full scholarship. I applied to the school as it gave me the opportunity to become globally competent and prepare me better as a leader. While a student at AKA, I began studying the education system in Tajikistan. I was surprised to learn that Tajikistan's literacy rate is 98%. However, few Tajiks qualify for professional jobs outside of Tajikistan because students learn basic proficiency in reading, but do not hone other skills needed to be successful workers, such as internationally qualified doctors, engineers, lawyers etc. I began to connect how poverty is linked to the quality of education.
As a participant at the Global Citizens Youth Summit in Cambridge, MA, I had the unique opportunity to engage in conversations with peers from around the world on issues of education and poverty. This experience helped me to build the global skills and confidence necessary to work toward a solution to these issues in my community. With my peers, I developed an initiative called YOUTHeory, which strives to ensure that children from low-income communities thrive in their early years of development. Our mission is to empower young people to exceed their circumstances through self-discovery and identifying their passions in life. We believe that education is the means of breaking the cycle of poverty. For children to thrive, they need resources, direction, and purpose. Together, my peers and I strive to provide these resources to children in different parts of the world.
Since I attend school in Kenya, I decided to implement my project in the local community in Mombasa. I began working with a government school in the lower income area of the city. Eight of my peers from AKA support my work. My group and I have led workshop based sessions with the 140 students at their school on topics like the importance of education, effective study techniques, goal setting, good hygiene, and water conservation. We either go to their school after our classes to spend about two hours with them every two weeks, or we bring them to our school in groups of 50 over the weekends. Aside from academic sessions, we try and engage the students in sports, crochet, and board games. In addition, we raised money for the school to replace a broken water pump, which will give students access to clean water. We also held a clothing drive at AKA and shared these donations with the students in need at the school. My group also works with students to identify their passions through sports and games. In the future, I plan to donate solar panels to provide sustainable and reliable energy to the school. I am also working to identify sponsors who might donate breakfast to the kindergarten students (200 students) every morning. Without these donations, the students go hungry.
Over the coming summer, a leadership camp, Global Encounters (GE), will take place in my school. Because the camp aims to encourage students to engage in community service, I have handed my project to them to continue the work that I have done, as I believe it is crucial to have sustainability to really make a difference. My school falls under the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) which has done several development projects across Kenya. The Service Coordinator of GE has been able to connect with the Ministry of Education of the country and has communicated YOUTHeory vision to him. He was highly impressed by what we do, and therefore, wants us to be the bridge between the government and the individual schools. Many of our visions are similar to the plans of the government, like the focus on Early Childhood Development (ECD) and giving students motivation and support to continue with their education up to secondary school and university. One of the other focuses of the ministry of education is encouraging environmental awareness in the country, and he is trying to achieve this through the youth in schools. We are looking forward to making both our and the country's visions for education a reality, and with the support of the government, we will reach great heights with this project.
During the Celebration of Service Day in school, I will be advertising my project to get younger students to join so that the project can be continued even when I leave in 2017 to go university. After a few years, I see myself launching YOUTheory in Tajikistan for children from low-income families. I want to continue empowering children to succeed against the odds. Moving forward, I will continue to work towards my goal of serving as the head for the University of Central Asia. Education is a basic right for children, whether they live in Kenya or Tajikistan or elsewhere. If we want a more equitable and harmonious world, we must all consider how we can help a child to learn how to act as a global citizen.
For all the youth across the world who wish to make a difference in the world, I want to tell you that it all starts from identifying the issues in your community and taking an initiative to contribute to the prevention or solution of the problem. It is important to go deep into the issue and find the root causes first, as this is the best way to tackle the issue, although it might take the longest time. Base your project mainly on sustainable development instead of on giving aid or charity. I believe the moment you plan to make a difference in your community you will be on the right path to becoming global citizens.
Photo courtesy of the author.
BOOST Collaborative is partnering with the Alliance with a Healthier Generation to share the #GirlsAre campaign that inspires a new generation of strong, active women.
Here are some ways you can get involved:
• Visit the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's website, take a quiz, and learn more.
• Read Jillian Michael's blog and hear her story of #GirlsAre Powerful.
• Watch the videos posted on the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Facebook page. Share these videos with your staff and use them as a platform for discussion in your next staff meeting.
• Join the Thunderclap, scheduled for May 25.
• As out-of-school time professionals, there are many model programs and resources you can use in your program that empower girls. The Alliance for a Heathier Generation has listed their collaborators here and you can find a list of excellent resources and programs.
Let's change the story together and spread the word that #GirlsAre unstoppable, powerful, strong, and more. Below, our BOOST leaders share what they believe.
If you are an educator responsible for providing a high quality summer program for children and youth in your community, you are probably busy right now with planning for summer and making sure you finish the school year strong. It is easy to fall into the routine of this busy time. Take just a moment to consider some of the proactive things you can do to take your summer program to the next level.
1. Brainstorm ideas for your unique program culture
High quality summer learning programs feel more like camp than school. If your program is school based consider decorating and re-branding classrooms and other learning spaces. With the right theme, you can transform a classroom into a cabin or a cafeteria into a mess hall. Or go with a space theme and turn the office into mission control. The opportunities are endless.
2. Sharpen your plan for professional development
Begin with the end in mind. What are your goals for the training? How will you achieve them? Consider what other support is available for summer program staff. Who will provide coaching? Focus on continuous improvement. Review the feedback you received on the training you provided last year. Are there changes you can make?
3. Find creative ways to give youth a voice
Public Profit developed a great resource, Creative Ways to Solicit Youth Input, that has many non-traditional ways to solicit input from youth, including interviews, collages, and song and dance routines.
4. Plan an event for National Summer Learning Day
Summer Learning Day is July 14, 2016! Summer Learning Day is an annual national advocacy day led by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) to elevate the importance of keeping kids learning, safe and healthy every summer.
5. Engage a local leader as your Summer Matters Champion
Have your superintendent or other local leaders sign on publicly to say that summer matters in your community. You can also host a site visit with local stakeholders such as superintendents, school board members, and community members to highlight your summer program.
What are you doing differently to get ready for summer this year? Tell us in the comments below.
As I write this blog entry, I am driving back on a large charter bus with 50 high school students, after spending the last 3 days exploring the many adventures that the great city of Chicago has to offer. A high-energy experience filled with museums, college tours, tilting over the John Hancock Observatory, deep dish pizza, and even an evening swim. Throughout the last three days of this fun-filled journey, one of the great "reminders" that was stated every time we stepped off the bus was proper phone etiquette, leaving your headphones on the bus, and not disconnecting from the experience. Much like a game of tug of war, the battle of the phone was a constant. Every stop, there was an opportunity to take pictures, to share with all their friends all the incredible things we are doing.
Several times throughout the experience, I had to pull kids aside to talk about "excessive" behaviors enabled by the crutch of the phone. At one point while listening to a guided tour, one student spent 10 minutes trying to perfect her selfie posing for at least 20 different shots, all while ignoring what was going on in front of her. A few other students, completely disengaged from the tour, were literally standing next to the presenter, just playing on their phones, while a few others hovered over each other staring at their photos trying to edit them for perfection. Or my favorite – as I washed my hands in a museum bathroom, I watched a young girl pose five different ways in the bathroom mirror as she took a picture of herself! In a public bathroom!! These moments reminded me that we play a very fine line between using technology for good and as a crutch.
The challenges of the impact of technology are vast in size and number, but in looking at the social emotional development of young people, I have to wonder if we are ignoring something that will impact our world for generations to come. We see the same issue in many adults today, heck, sometimes I catch myself analyzing my own selfie, ensuring only the best images make it to Facebook, and I have to remind myself I am not that important. So what happens when we continue to create individuals more interested in their own self-absorbed world that they miss the world that is in front of them?
So again, we can't fix the world in a day, but we can have some fun testing the waters. Last summer, when we spent a week in the Appalachian mountains with 42 of our kids, we decided that they needed to experience the trip from the eyes of a child of the 1980's (aka cell phone free) and upon arriving in the mountains, collected their phones, put them in a bag and locked them away for the week. Much like any other addiction there were some immediate withdrawl symptoms- whining, twitching, even a few mood swings. However, within a few days, they were actually having fun, playing games, enjoying group conversations, even playing a game they were convinced they had created, called "Telephone"! Yup, couldn't break their bubble on that one.
We continued this research in Chicago this past week. Each meal we shared, was shared without the phones. Yes, we had to threaten to take their phones if we saw them, and not return them until the end of the trip, but it worked. Tables of kids were conversing across from one another. One table of teenage boys were talking about disgusting bodily functions, another table started telling jokes, and a third table was having competitions to see who could eat the most deep dish pizza. It was as if we had stepped back in time and for those two hours, the sheer level of noise was welcomed, embraced, and celebrated.
Sure enough the next day we stood at the Chicago Bean and the phones were in full effect, but the joy of dinner that night, much like the memories of them playing the summer before, are strong and still resonate with me. So my question is, do we have a responsibility in monitoring our kids' experiences today and in monitoring their experiences within themselves? I am not suggesting that we take their phones away all the time, but maybe we need to be more aware of how the phone can limit their experience with the outside world, and determine how to teach them boundaries and discipline, much like we would with anything else we argue needs to be used in moderation.
It is my belief that our responsibility goes beyond just providing them the opportunities to see the world, but opening their mind to the world they can't see on the monitor of the phone screen. Even if we create a world of well-educated individuals, if they can't function in life without the comfort of their phone and the world they create within their phone, then have we set them up to fail in the bigger picture of life? I guess we can't fix the world and the challenges of technology in one day, but we can engage in social experiments that push them outside their comfort zone and teach them through practice that your life can exist outside the screen of your phone.
So what will be your next social experiment?
For breakfast I had 2 eggs, 3 egg whites, vegetables, swiss cheese, and a bowl of fresh fruit.
Image credit: Flickr
I remember it like yesterday, sitting in a room that contained an elderly gentleman recovering from hip surgery as he talked about his passion for ballroom dancing. Photos of this pastime decorated his temporary recovery room. I was an awkward middle school student delivering a handmade snow globe (yes, the kind made from a baby food jar). This was part of a 4-H club's service project, visit an assisted living community and sing songs to bring a little cheer to the residents. Almost thirty minutes later, our club leader came around the corner and breathlessly peaked into the room. "We've been looking for you!" she exclaimed. What came out of this experience was the knowledge was the knowledge that by sharing a small piece of my time and my talent for listening, I brought great comfort (or treasure) to a very lonely individual.
This started me on a personal and professional mission to promote youth philanthropy. Now don't be afraid of using that "p" word, it's a great and powerful word that belongs to everyone that is sharing their time, talent, and treasure with others. Everyone can be philanthropist regardless of their age, social-economic income, and family dynamics. But what is youth philanthropy and why should you integrate it into your own programs?
Youth philanthropy is the ongoing and intentional giving of one's time, talent, and treasure to help the common good (both locally and for national/international efforts). Youth-serving organizations can integrate youth philanthropy by engaging their youth in on-going giving, serving, fundraising, and grantmaking (or the giving of funds). Over the years, the most successful youth philanthropy programs tend to include a combination of the following components: philanthropy education and training, leadership development, community service, civic engagement, grantmaking, encouragement of personal giving, fundraising events/ activities, and the development of youth and adult partnerships.
Young people all over the country and in my home state of Indiana are serving their communities by both recognizing community needs and then finding solutions and even in some cases creating non-profit organization to solve those needs. They are giving of their time, talent, and treasure by dedicating many hours of volunteer service and raising funds for their cause. These youth are leaders, strong role models that lead by example so their peers will also take action and care. Lastly, youth have the ability and passion to engage others to make a difference, regardless of an individual's age.
Through research and evaluation I've also found that the Search Institute's 40 Developmental Assets are supported through youth philanthropy experiences. Interviews with youth participants report that they've learning life-skills through youth philanthropy programs/service-learning. These include the following:
• Consensus Building
• Critical Thinking Skills
• Organizational Skills
• Understanding Group Dynamics
• Facilitation Skills
• Relationship Building
So I'll conclude with a question, why should you be thinking about incorporating youth philanthropy in your organization? Because providing philanthropic educational resources for youth and their families can nurture the spirit of generosity among all, regardless of income level. Engaging youth in giving and serving is an integral part of developing and maintaining a vibrant community and is an investment in building a base of committed nonprofit volunteers, potential board members, and future donors who realize the difference they can make individually and collectively for their community. As educators and the staff of nonprofit youth-serving organizations we have an obligation to help and educate others understand what philanthropy can do for their schools, community and society at large.
Visit these helpful links to learn about program and resources that will help you integrate concepts of giving and serving (youth philanthropy) into your programs.
For breakfast I had homemade gluten free "everything" muffins (cranberries, nuts, yogurt, banana, apple sauce, etc.) and a banana. Every breakfast includes two cups of coffee at home and one more for good measure at work!