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I'm grateful for the opportunity to host a Master Class on the topic of Strengths Based Leadership on Wednesday, April 19th from 2:30-4:30 pm during the BOOST Conference. In nearly 20 years of learning from and working for Gallup, I can't think of a more exciting and impactful topic to share with conference attendees this spring.

Gallup research proves that people succeed when they focus on what they do best. Each person has natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that can be productively applied. Knowing your unique strengths and putting them to good use not only feels good – it has been proven to meaningfully improve performance in a variety of ways, as recently summarized at Strengths-Based Employee Development: The Business Results.


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More than 15 million people have taken the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment since it was introduced several years ago. Learning about your strengths results is certainly a great experience, but it's simply the first step in a development process that continues well into the future. Strengths-based development continues beyond the identification phase as individuals take steps to integrate their strengths awareness into the way they view themselves. From there, real behavior change results in performance improvement across a variety of life and work domains.


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This Master Class is for you if you've never learned about your own strengths and would like to take the first step. It's also for you if you've already learned your strengths and want to learn from others along the journey. We will discuss best practices from educators within the room and across the country, leading to tangible takeaways that you can apply with yourself, your colleagues, and your students!

Hope to see you on April 19th from 2:30-4:30! Click here to register! 

Author and Masterclass Facilitator: Tim Hodges

In partnership with the Afterschool Alliance, we hope you'll pass this along to parents and friends to help raise awareness for afterschool programs by writing a short letter to your local newspaper.  This is a repost from the Afterschool Snack blog. Happy Valentine's Day from all of us at the BOOST office!



"This year, my Valentine is to a program that makes all the difference for me and for my family," So began West Valley City, Utah, resident Amanda Owens in her Salt Lake Tribune letter-to-the editor in 2015. The "program" she went on to describe was her son's afterschool program, run by the Community Education Partnership.

Amanda Owens is not alone. For the past several years, a number of parents of children in afterschool programs around the nation have sent similar letters to their local newspapers explaining from the heart why they love their children's afterschool programs.

Are you a parent with a child in afterschool who feels the same way? Or are you a program provider with parents who might be willing to send a letter?
If yes, here are few questions Valentine letter writers might consider as they write.

  • Do you love that your child's afterschool programs helps with homework?
  • Do you love that your child's program keeps her or him safe in the afternoons and during the summer?
  • Do you love that your child's program gives her or him opportunities to get physical exercise, and provides healthy snacks or meals?
  • Do you love the way afterschool program staff care for your child?
  • Do you love the way your child's eyes sparkle when she or he talks about what they do in the afternoons?




It's easy to submit letters-to-the-editor; most newspapers will take them via their website or by email. To find out about word limits and how to submit, just do a web search for the name of your newspaper and the words "letter-to-the-editor submission." If that doesn't work, try going to the newspaper's website, finding the letters section and looking for submission guidelines.

But the most important tip is the obvious one: Write from the heart!




That tip also applies to another way you can show why you love afterschool: social media. We've created a simple toolkit with guidelines and a printable that you and the afterschool students, parents and providers in your life can use to share what you love about these programs.

Participating is simple: Just print a page straight from the toolkit, fill it out with the heartfelt reasons you love afterschool, snap a photo of the finished product, and share it on your favorite social media sites using the hashtag #AfterschoolWorks (for example, "#AfterschoolWorks for my students!").

We can't wait to see the reasons you and the parents of kids in your program love afterschool. Be sure to tag us @afterschool4all on Twitter and Instagram or @afterschoolalliancedc on Facebook so that we see your social media posts and any letters-to-the-editor that you get published!

We are honored to share this blog post provided by the National Youth Leadership Council. The original blog post is written by: Dr. Robert Shumer, NYLC Board Member, University of Minnesota, and Tiveeda Stovall, University of San Diego. 

America is in its second decade of the 21st century. While the situation is improving in areas of employment rates, health coverage, and increased graduation rates, there are major changes occurring in the US culture and landscape.

The impact of technology, global economy, and apparent deterioration of civic engagement and political participation (American Civic Forum, 1994; Lipset, 1995; Putnam, 1995; Putnam, 2000) has fundamentally altered life. Worse, there is a renewed increase in both income and social inequality that has altered the opportunities for racial/national minorities to experience social justice and improved quality of life.

With these impending challenges, there is good news. We have opportunities, through well researched educational and social practices, to improve conditions all across the country, especially for youth in schools and colleges. The overriding effort is offered through programs that increase engagement in all aspects of life, from social engagement, to educational engagement, to civic engagement. Programs that embrace service- learning, volunteerism, and experiential learning provide the activities that allow young people to connect with their communities and their social environments to becomeactive contributors to the improvement of the quality of life for others, and as a result, improve the quality of life for themselves. Service-learning, volunteerism, and community involvement provide the opportunities to reclaim the democratic, humane principles that honor the values and traditions of America.

Research on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement

The modern service-learning movement has been around since the 1960s. Programs have developed in schools and colleges for decades, accelerating in the 1990s and 2000s with the infusion of funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service and several philanthropic foundations. Yet, with the CNCS loss of funding after 2011, the expansion of service and civic efforts in schools and colleges has stalled a bit. Hopefully, legislators and educational professionals will realize the great need to support and expand efforts so we can effectively address the great challenges faced by youth and our country in making democracy and social justice thrive again.

Service-learning has been shown to be a critical element in addressing issues of educational success and improved opportunity for minorities and all students who suffer from lack of engagement in school and society. Two major studies and reports, The Silent Epidemic (Bridgeland, et al 2006) and Engaged for Success (Bridgeland,et al,2008) have shown that service-learning, work-based learning, and apprenticeships are identified by more than 80% of the participants as being the kind of educational programs that would keep students in school. In addition, they demonstrate that the strength of service- learning and these other related active learning programs is found in its ability to engage youth in pro-social activities that allow them to contribute to the well-being of others and as a result, helps to improve their own personal well-being and sense of value and efficacy. This strength addresses the primary reason students drop out of school:

Nearly half (47 percent) said a major reason for dropping out was that classes were not interesting. These young people reported being bored and disengaged from high school. Almost as many (42 percent) spent time with people who were not interested in school. These were among the top reasons selected by those with high GPAs and by those who said they were motivated to work hard. (Bridgeland, et al, 2006).

Thus, by addressing the issues of boredom and disengagement service- learning can and does produce the kind of connections necessary to both keep students in school and increase their motivation to actually do interesting projects that lead to substantial learning and connection with community.

Engagement issues increase the longer students remain in school. In fact, by the time students reach high school, more than half report being disengaged from school.

A parallel stream of research and practice focuses not just on the impact of civic engagement on the recipients of services, but rather the benefits for those who engage. The theory and practice of Positive Youth Development (PYD) provides considerable evidence that young people develop in healthier ways when they are given opportunities—or even mandates—to be civically engaged (Eccles and Gootman 2002; Lerner 2004). Longitudinal studies show that young people who serve their communities and join civic associations succeed in school and life better than their peers who do not engage. (Dávila and Mora 2007). Those findings are supported by experiments using PYD programs (e.g., Hahn, Leavitt, and Aaron 1994). 


NYLC Schools

Issues of boredom and disengagement begin to increase the longer students remain in school. More than half of high school students report being disengaged from school.

In studies of adolescents and young adults, volunteerism and collective action are directly connected to various areas of social well-being. These include self- efficacy, hope, and optimism (Uslaner, 2002).Other work has shown impact on collective efficacy and self-confidence (Astin and Sax, 1998). and self-esteem (Thoits and Hewitt, 2001). Specific studies of service-learning in high school and college have found relationships with students' feelings of agency, efficacy, purpose and meaning in life, interpersonal skills, and living up to one's potential (Astin, et al. 2000; Markus, Howard, and King, 1993; and Youniss and Yates, 1999).

Studies show that young people who serve their communities and join civic associations succeed in school and life better than their peers who do not engage.

The above mentioned concern for dropout prevention does not just affect school completion. It influences all aspects of civic involvement, from voting, to participating in all areas of community life. The Silent Epidemic report suggests: The most dramatic divides in civic health related to levels of education. College graduates outperform their less educated peers in every civic category, from volunteering and work on community projects, to attending meetings and voting. For the most part, high school dropouts are no longer even a part of the civil society that would enable them to be effective advocates in their communities and states for efforts to reform high schools. They suffer both from a lack of learning and a lack of service.

Thus, anyone concerned with the preservation of democracy and healthy communities must attend to issues of educational success. The fact that only about 20% of the 18-29 year olds in the US voted in the 2014 election should be great cause for concern about the health of our democracy (CIRCLE, 2015). This was the lowest turnout for this age group ever recorded. Clearly developing programs such as service-learning and other efforts to actively engage students in their communities is of critical importance.

Research confirms that doing classroom- based civic education makes a difference in producing knowledgeable and connected students. A major study of the Chicago schools (Kahne and Sporte, 2007) reported that classroom-based civic learning opportunities mattered. 

Kahne and Sporte find that students' racial and ethnic backgrounds have very little impact on their civic commitments, once other factors are taken into account. The civic engagement of their families and neighborhoods do matter, but the impact of service-learning and other classroom- based civic learning opportunities is substantially larger. Being required by teachers to keep up with politics and government and learning how to improve the community, for example, are highly effective forms of civic education. There are also statistically significant effects from other teaching methods, such as exposing students to civic role models. Kahne and Sporte find positive effects from participating in afterschool programs, but the effect sizes are smaller than those attributed to civically oriented classroom activities such as service-learning and classroom discussions of current issues.

So, service-learning is not only important for helping students to graduate and get connected to community, it is a documented approach to improving civic learning and participation in democratic society.

This notion of engagement and interest is not just limited to potential dropouts. It, according to the Engaged for Success report, actually affects all students. Results from both regular students and those at-risk of dropping out report that making academic learning more interesting, making it more relevant to their lives, and providing more hands-on learning is what is needed to improve the quality of education in all schools.

Thus, programs that make classes more interesting, more relevant, and more experiential in format are the ones that will make schooling more engaging and more educational. Service-learning clearly contains all these elements and is/ should be a model effort to address all the challenges of the educational system. Implementation of service-learning in schools will go a long way to addressing issues of deterioration of community, decline of civic engagement, improved academic performance, and improved involvement of young people in the principles and actions of democracy. Service-learning should be considered by every policy group that is concerned with the conditions of education and society today.


Service Learning


Making learning more interesting and relevant to everyday life is important for quality education and keeping high school students in school.

Engagement, School Climate, and Academic Achievement

Engaged students have to show up to school to be engaged. You cannot do well in school if you do not show up (Fisher, Frey, and Lapp, 2011).

It's a simple enough premise but disengaged and sometimes, disenfranchised students of color and other marginalized students are not present at the table of academic aspirations. Fisher (2011) explored closing the achievement gap by looking at student attendance and engagement. The high school population in their study was comprised of 72% students of color, 60% Title I eligible, and 70% spoke English as a second language.

Fisher et al. (2011) reviewed student attendance at the onset of the study and found that the lowest-performing students missed an average of 6.5 days of school per month while the highest performing students missed an average of 1.8 days per month. Researchers employed an intervention where students were allowed an increased amount of international, open exchange discussions among students in the classroom. At the same time, the amount of teacher "talk" to students decreased in the classroom thereby highlighting more student voice. The study results showed the interventions increased attendance by 5.3% and had significant improvements on standardized tests scores post interventions by as much as a 19% improvement (Fisher, et al., 2011).

Drawing from Purkey and Novak's 1996 theoretical framework of invitational education, where everyone in the school climate is invited to experience success, Vega and Miranda (2015) examined African American and Latino high school students' perceptions of educational barriers to positive experiences in school. The study represented six high-poverty schools in Florida where students, teachers, counselors, and peers completed questionnaires and interviews based on the invitational education's five "P"s: people, policies, programs, processes, and places. These five "P"s serve to inform school settings on the messages transferred to students which impact their perceptions of learning. Vega et al. (2015) discussed "places" results from the study which noted how participant students felt safe at school, the feeling of safety did not carry over to the neighborhood in which they lived. The researchers noted a study in which community violence associated with decreased math and reading scores. Herein lies an opportunity. An opportunity to engage students, districts, teachers, parents, and community in social justice, social change, and academic advancement.




Critical Service-Learning and Social Justice            

"Many activities in life, including education, become difficult undertakings for students constrained by severe social injustices. When these social injustices are engaged and critiqued, students begin to clear intellectual and emotional space for education. They become further engaged in learning when their education becomes a means by which they may challenge oppressive forces within their social contexts." (Cammarota, 2007)

In 2007, Tania Mitchell linked the concept of service-learning and social justice education to illuminate the pedagogy of critical service-learning to engage students in transformative service with communities. Critical service- learning focuses on social justice outcomes by having students analyze the root causes of injustice and the imbalance of power structures while promoting student agency in the ability to create social change (Mitchell, 2008). The tenets of social justice education and critical service-learning can serve as a motivator to engage marginalized students toward academic engagement and success. Social justice education launches from students' lived experiences and acknowledges student viewpoints on the most pressing problems they face and which face their communities (Wade, 2001).

Julio Cammarota (2007), piloted and researched a social science curriculum, the Social Justice Education Project (SJEP), targeting Latina/o students and their perspectives on their potential to graduate high school and advance to college. SJEP engaged students in participatory action research to think critically about the social issues which impeded their progress. Within the first cohort of students, many students were labeled "at-risk" of dropping out. The students developed and participated in action research around four topics: (1) cultural assimilation, (2) critical thinking vs. passivity in education, (3) racial and gender stereotypes of students, and (4) media representations of students of color (Cammarota, 20007). Students investigated topics with peers, school members, and community. Students then presented recommendations to both school officials and community members on areas focused on 1) better media relations with students of color, 2) improving multicultural education, 3) expanding critical thinking in education, and 4) ways to prevent racism and stereotyping (Cammarota, 2007). Although Cammarota noted that many of the recommendations were not taken up by officials, the positive impact of the social justice curriculum and critical service-learning led 15 of the 17 student participants to graduate while the other two prepared for taking the GED.

The Stanford CEPA Working Paper

"When students' lives and experiences connect with the curriculum, they become more invested in their education (Trueba, 1991)."

With the makings of becoming a seminal work of research, Stanford's Center for Education Policy Analysis published "The Casual Effects of Cultural Relevance: Evidence from Ethnic Studies Curriculum" (Dee and Penner, 2016). The paper reports data over a five-year span on 1,405 students during their 9th-grade year in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). Participating students were identified as "at-risk" of dropping out of school, with GPAs below 2.0. Students assigned to take an Ethnic Studies course incorporated culturally relevant pedagogy, as social justice education, and critical service-learning pedagogy as tools to support marginalized students of color.

"The course also encouraged students 'to explore their individual identity, their family history, and their community history' and required students to design and implement service-learning projects based on their study of their local community. The designers of this curriculum hoped that these lessons and projects would increase students' commitment to social justice and improve self-esteem." – (Dee et al., 2016, p.10)

The ethnic studies project piloted in the 2010-2011 academic year with five high schools in SFUSD with the explicit statement that the Ethnic Studies course and components would contribute to closing achievement gaps. The SFUSD school board voted to expand the Ethnic Studies course to all 19 high schools by the end of 2014. Findings from the study revealed positive gains. Student GPAs increased an average of 1.4 points. Students earned an increase of 23 credits and attendance at school improved by 21 percentage points (Dee et al, 2016).

Social Justice Curriculum

"This is not a moment, It's a movement" – Black Lives Matter

An important note was made in the Stanford CEPA paper on the significance of its findings. The degree to which this study might be replicated is dependent on applying the amount of preparation, planning, duration of the course, and integrity that went into this program intervention. The study did illuminate "proof of concept" that academic gains can be made by engaging students in curriculum and activities which reflect their lives (Dee et al, 2016).

Though scalability seen at SFUSD may not be available to most schools or districts, there are accessible resources to begin the development of social justice education and critical service- learning through online resources. In January 2012, the FAIR (Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful) Education Act went into effect in the state of California. Free standards-based curriculum to support educators in the law is available on the FAIR Education Act website at http://www. The Fair Education Act amends the California Education Code to require courses of study and instructional materials:

"51204.5. Instruction in social sciences shall include the early history of California and a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society."

Social justice curriculum has been developed on specific topics ranging from combating human trafficking from the Fredrick Douglass Family Foundation to environmental justice in Flint, Michigan from Discovering Place. When five school librarians came together to compile online
#BlackLivesMatter curriculum for the San Francisco Public Libraries and local school district, they validate youth voices, to engage and connect in classrooms, on what they were experiencing in their neighborhoods and national communities. These tools for engagement, with thoughtful and authentic application, could ignite increased academic achievement for marginalized students.


  • Astin, A. W., and L. J. Sax. 1998. "How Undergraduates Are Affected by Service Participation." Journal of College Student Development 39 (3): 251–63.
  • Astin, A. W., L. J. Vogelgesang, E. K. Ikeda, and J. A. Yee. 2000. How Service Learning Affects Students. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute.
  • Bridgeland, J., Dilulio, J., and Morison, K. (2006). The silent epidemic: perspectives of high school dropouts. Civic Enterprises, in association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Bridgeland, J., Dilulio, J., Wulsin, S. (2008). Engaged for success: service-learning as a tool for high school dropout prevention.Civic Enterprises, in association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the National Conference on Citizenship.
  • Cammarota, J. (2007). A social justice approach to achievement: Guiding latina/o students toward educational attainment with a challenging, socially relevant curriculum. Equity & Excellence in Education, 40:1, 87-96, DOI: 10.1080/10665680601015153
  • Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). Quick Facts from voting. Tufts University. 2016.
  • Dávila, A., and M. T. Mora. 2007. "Civic Engagement and High School Academic Progress: An Analysis Using NELS Data." CIRCLE working paper 52, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, Tufts University, Medford, MA. WorkingPapers/WP52Mora.pdf.  
  • Dee, T., & Penner, E. (2016). The casual effects of cultural relevance: Evidence from an ethnic studies curriculum (CEPA Working Paper No.16-01). Retrieved from Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis: http://cepa.stanford. edu/wp16-01
  • Eccles, J., and J. A. Gootman, eds. 2002. Community Programs to Promote Youth Development. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
  • Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Lapp, D. (2011). Focusing on the participation and engagement gap: A case study on closing the achievement gap. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 16(1), 56-64.
  • Hahn, A., T. Leavitt, and P. Aaron. 1994. Evaluation of the Quantum Opportunities Program (QOP): Did the Program Work? Waltham, MA: Brandeis University.
  • Kahne, J. and Sporte, S. (2008). Developing citizens: the impact of civic learning opportunities on students' commitment to civic participation. Civic Engagement Research Group. American Educational Research Journal, September 2008, Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 738-766.
  • Lerner, R. M. 2004. Liberty: Thriving and Civic Engagement among America's Youth. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Markus, G. B., J. P. F. Howard, and D. C. King. 1993. "Integrating Community Service and Classroom Instruction Enhances Learning: Results from an Experiment." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 15 (4): 410–19.
  • Metz, E. and Youniss, J. (2003). "A demonstration that school-based required service does not deter, but heightens, volunteerism. PS: Political Science & Politics 36 (2): 281-6.
  • Thoits, P. A. and L. N. Hewitt. 2001. "Volunteer Work and Well-Being." Journal of Health and Social Behavior 42 (June): 115–31.
  • Trueba, H. T. (1991). From failure to success: The roles of culture and cultural conflict in the academic achievement of Chicano students. In R. R. Valencia (Ed.), Chicano school failure and success: Research and policy agendas for the 1990s (pp. 151-163). New York: Falmer
  • Uslaner, E. M. 2002. The Moral Foundation of Trust. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Vega, D., Moore III, J.L., & Miranda A. H. (2015). In their own words: Perceived barriers to achievement by african american and latino high school students. American Secondary Education, 43(3), 36.
  • Wade, R. (2007). Service-learning for social justice in the elementary classroom: can we get there from here?, Equity & Excellence in Education, 40:2, 156-165, DOI: 10.1080/10665680701221313
  • Youniss, J., and M. Yates. 1999. "Youth Service and Moral-Civic Identity: A Case for Everyday Morality." Educational Psychology Review 11 (4): 363–78.



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 Kantor Swerdlow. In her new book, Global Activism in an American School from Empathy to Action, Linda shares an example of how students can take action and use their own agency to make a difference in the world. 

I first met seventh grade English teacher Ron Adams and two of his students, Kristin and Tom, from Broad Meadows Middle School in Quincy, Massachusetts when they presented at a two-day seminar on Global Child Labor for educators, that included noble prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi and the top curriculum writers in the field. The middle school students captured our hearts by their passionate appeal to end child labor. They had a strong sense of social justice—something unusual for most middle school students.

A History of Global Activism

Ron shared with me the story of global activism at his school. When twelve-year-old Iqbal Masih, a former bonded child laborer turned anti child labor activist from Pakistan, came to Boston in 1994 to receive Reebok's Youth in Action Award, he asked to meet youth his own age. Reebok award organizers selected Broad Meadows Middle School because of its human rights curriculum and history of student activism.

Iqbal's inspirational visit and untimely murder five months later on his return to Pakistan inspired the Broad Meadows students to take action and build a school in his memory. The middle school students started a grassroots activist movement called The Kid's Campaign to Build a School for Iqbal. The campaign's success led to Broad Meadow's selection as a pilot school for Operation Day's Work-USA (ODW-USA), an American adaptation of Norway's popular youth global social action program. ODW has been operating as a highly successful afterschool program at Broad Meadows since 1996.

Linda Swerdlow.jpeg

A Student-Centered Program

Operation Day's Work-USA is a student-centered, global education afterschool program based on the idea of youth helping youth. Its aim is to help participants develop global understanding and democratic practice. Each year, all seven of the member middle and high schools solicit proposals from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide services for youth in the developing world. US students research the issues and learn how to assess the proposals. After considerable discussion and debate, each school votes and the students develop a year-long educational and funding campaign for the program that receives the most votes. The campaign ends with the students either working for a day to make a contribution of that day's pay or by developing a community service project and finding sponsors who pledge to contribute for each hour of community service the students perform.

At Broad Meadows, the educational campaign has a dual focus: self-education and community education. Each year before the proposals arrive, Ron provides incoming students with a general understanding of global inequality through a series of hands-on simulations and research activities. The returning students take on the role of mentor and teaching assistants.

Once the proposals have been evaluated and the vote is in, the students need to develop education programs to accompany their fundraising efforts in both the school and the community. They must develop an understanding of the country, the culture(s) of its inhabitants, and the problem the NGO is attempting to address. Over the years, the middle school students have worked to fund a wide range of programs. They have partnered with Goodweave to provide education and healthcare for rescued child laborers in Nepal and India; Partners in Health to provide vaccinations and scholarships for children in rural Haiti; and Selamta Family Project to build group homes from AIDs orphans in Ethiopia. The list goes on and on.

Global Partnerships

One of the unique aspects of ODW is the educational role played by the NGO partners. Students learn about the organization's activities through in-person and Skype meetings with agency officials. They have the opportunity to speak with their peers overseas who are beneficiaries of these programs.

The fundraising and educational campaigns are student-run according to student-generated rules that enforce democratic practice. After the proposals are in, Ron gradually transfers the leadership roles to the veterans—eighth graders who have been in the program for one or two years. As program facilitator, he encourages democratic practice and decision-making but will jump in to assist when needed, especially with tasks that require academic guidance.

Outcomes for Students

The student-run nature of the program allows students to experiment with adult work roles and exposes them to career options they might not otherwise have known about. They also develop a wide range of real-world skills, including research, writing, public speaking, critical thinking, ability to work collaboratively, fundraising, publicity, and the ability to facilitate meetings and make professional presentations.

Most importantly, participation in ODW enhances students' awareness and understanding of the global community. This is essential if we want American students to solve complex global problems and to succeed in the increasingly globalized economy of the 21st century.

As Ron Adams notes, "Each campaign is an attempt to provide students with real-world experiences, meaningful to the students and to apply skills learned in class. Ironically, application, a true sense of learning is not measured by high stakes state testing nor by teacher evaluations. Still it is the right thing to do. As teachers, we need to always save room for student voice."

If you are a middle or high school teacher interested in starting an ODW chapter at your school, please contact: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Image courtesy of Ron Adams.

Today's post is written by guest author Monica Burns and was originally posted on  Monica Burns is an Author, Speaker, Curriculum & EdTech Consultant and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.


Podcasts are a great way to help strengthen student listening skills. Podcasts are audio (and sometimes video) recordings similar to a radio program or television episode. A wide range of organizations and individuals host podcasts and share their thinking around a topic through this medium. You can access podcasts through iTunes and the How-To-Strengthen-Listening-Skills-with-Podcasts-Podcast app on iOS devices or through web-based tools. Most individual podcasts have their own site where you can stream each episode directly from their webpage.

There are a wide range of podcasts to choose from and I share some of my favorite kid-friendly podcasts in this post. If you are teaching a specific subject area, like American History or Ocean Ecosystems, you can search for a related podcast to find a clip to share with your students. The search feature in iTunes lets you find episodes as well as podcasts that focus on a topic related to the keyword you enter.

Teachers can use podcasts to help students build listening skills. By listening to a narrator tell a story or an expert discuss a topic, podcasts can help students strengthen their ability to gather information through multimedia.

Help strengthen student listening skills with podcasts:

  1. Listening in partners gives students another person to share a story with. Just like students might sit and read side-by-side, children can listen to an audio podcast in pairs to gather information or experience a new story.
  2. Talking about topics helps students set a purpose for listening. In the same way you'd expect students to share their thinking about a text, students can respond to the information or story presented in a podcast.
  3. Teaching students to replay is a strategy similar to rereading. Students are using a wide range of media to learn new information. It's important to help students understand how pressing rewind can boost their comprehension.
  4. Using podcasts at home is a great way to extend a learning activity. Pick a few kid-friendly podcasts or episodes to share with families in a class newsletter to help connect learning in the classroom to activities at home.

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.

NPS 2These 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.

In March of 2003, after being a stay at home mom for almost a year, I decided it was time to rejoin the workforce. I applied for and accepted a part time line staff position with a local after school program. I was assigned to work at Riverview Middle School in Bay Point. Riverview Middle had a tough reputation with students who resisted structure and authority. This program competed with the neighborhood gangs and drugs found at every corner. So having consistent student attendance was already a victory.

After the first few weeks, I questioned my decision of taking the position. Destructive student behavior and my car being vandalized was not exactly a highlight of my job. I learned that the majority of my students had already endured a tough life. Some were homeless, abused, neglected and even abandoned. Others were new to the country and struggled with settling into a foreign land and then with the deportation of their parents or other relatives. I devoted my time to my students as much as possible and made it my mission to be there for them and show that they can count on me as a constant source of support.

A year and a half later, I was promoted to a Site Coordinator at Riverview Middle School. By then we also had a new name. We were now the Mt. Diablo CARES After School Program serving students at 15 different school sites within the district. As a site coordinator, I worked with over 3000 students in over 10 years. It brings me joy to hear my kids (now adults) tell me that I am the reason they are teaching, in college or inviting me to their graduations. Knowing that they remember my name and specific details after so many years, countless mentors and teachers throughout their life, is an amazing reward. These students are the reason I continue to work in the after school world. They are the reason I continue to seek fresh ways to engage them. So when the opportunity to attend the BOOST conference came to me this past April, I was very excited. I had heard great things about it through colleagues who had attended in previous years. I truly did not expect to have the experience that I did.

I arrived to the conference and was checked in by the happiest people on earth outside of Disneyland. I entered the Expo Hall and it was sensory overload. There was fun music, hands on activities and vendors galore. I had entered my happy place. I felt like a kid in a toy store who can't make up its mind on what to play with first. So I took my time and visited every booth and played with everything I was allowed to during the next couple of days.

Rosa blog 1

I listened to keynote speakers like Dr. Tererai Trent who shared her incredible story inspiring women everywhere to have a dream and work towards attaining it no matter the challenge to get to it. I attended workshops that motivated me to adjust my approach to the work I do. After sessions, I was able to network with folks from around the country and learn about the great things happening all around me. On my final day at BOOST, I walked out of the conference center feeling grateful for the experience. I sat in my quiet hotel room and reflected on all the great moments of the week and things I couldn't wait to share with my colleagues. I wanted to find the appropriate verbiage and attempt to explain how amazing the conference was. Everything from the interactive and informative sessions to the fun activities planned after the workshops. Every detail of that weeks' conference was well thought out and executed. I appreciated the wide variety of workshops that our entire program would benefit from. Workshops from nutrition education and STEM to working with students with special needs and staffing issues were wonderful. All of the presenters I encountered were engaging and knowledgeable. They provided real ideas and tools to take back to our sites.

Rosa Blog 3

I am looking forward to next year's BOOST conference and I hope to be accompanied by a core group from our team. I have attended conferences over the years, but none can compare to the energy, passion and intention that BOOST provided. After working for the CARES program for over 13 years, BOOST has contributed to reigniting the fire to dream bigger and seek to provide the best program possible for our students and the families we serve. After all, our students deserve to have the very best every day.

Don't miss out on the BOOST experience! Register for the 2017 BOOST Conference today!


For breakfast, I had a hard boiled egg (with cayenne pepper sauce – I love spicy food any time of day), fresh strawberries, ½ banana and cup of black coffee.

Rosa Palomino is the Nutrition Coordinator, Mt Diablo CARES After School Program in Concord CA.

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.

education action project

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.

Follow Global Citizen's Initiative, Asia Society, and BOOST Collaborative on Twitter.


I will be teaching on Project-Based Learning (PBL) strategies, and more, at a Master Class offered during the upcoming BOOST Conference. I hope you'll join me on Thursday, April 28, from 1:15 to 2:30 p.m., for an interactive session on "Leading for Student Engagement: How to Plan and Sustain Effective Project-Based Learning Initiatives.

What sorts of projects might students tackle during out-of-school time? I've seen students design low-cost prosthetic devices to improve the lives of injured children living in a refugee camp. In the process, they developed their ability to think like an engineer and, perhaps, sparked a long-term interest in STEM. Others have made digital films that combat bullying, lobbied for sidewalks to increase pedestrian safety, or launched small businesses that fill a niche in their community. When high-interest project-based learning meets out-of-school time, the possibilities are practically endless.

Bringing PBL to informal education doesn't happen by chance. School leaders and program directors who are heading in this direction can learn from colleagues who have launched successful initiatives.

Here are some of their recommendations, described in detail in our new book, Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning (Larmer, Mergendoller & Boss, ASCD, 2015). To set the stage for PBL success in informal learning, consider these questions:

How Will You Build Staff Capacity?
Taking a project-based approach is likely to be new for many out-of-school time staff. They need to understand why projects are worth doing and how well-designed projects lead to meaningful outcomes for kids and communities. Your staff will benefit from ongoing professional development and project planning resources (many of which are freely available). As a program leader, emphasize the positives: Your colleagues are already skilled at building positive relationships with youth. They know kids' interests. Those are great starting points for PBL.

PBL suzie

 High-interest projects in out-of-school time can spark students' interests in STEM. Just ask these students, who are inventing energy-saving devices.

How Will You Make Time and Space for Projects?
Before launching into PBL, consider the current demands on your program calendar. Which activities do children and parents expect (such as homework help)? How might you leverage existing activities in the arts or sports as resources for longer-term projects? There's no minimum time requirement for PBL, but well-designed projects allow enough time for students to dig into questions and arrive at their own conclusions.

How Will You Connect With Your Community?
Projects open opportunities for students to tackle community issues or connect with content experts. Who are your local allies? How might you engage experts for short-term help with projects? At the end of projects, when students are ready to present their ideas or solutions, be sure to invite the broader community (along with parents and extended family members). It's an opportunity for strengthening community ties and celebrating students' accomplishments.

I hope to see you there at the BOOST Master Class. Sign up today!

SuzieBossPhotoSuzie Boss is an Edutopia Blogger, a Writer and Consultant, and a Buck Institute Education National Faculty member. She resides in Portland, OR.  

I've very excited to host a Master Class on Scannable Technology at the BOOST Conference this April. My new book Deeper Learning with QR Codes and Augmented Reality: A Scannable Solution for Your Classroom includes lots of ways teachers can use #ScannableTech with students. Many of the ideas and activities I share are perfect for educators working outside of the classroom or in nontraditional learning spaces. Here are three ways to use #ScannableTech in after school programs.

Let Kids Design their Own Imaginary Land

One of my favorite – and totally free – augmented reality experiences are the coloring pages that work with the Quiver app. Students can print out the "Make Your Own Flag" page and color away. Once they are finished children can scan the flag with the Quiver app for iPads and Android to watch their flag fly off the page.

3-Ways-to-Use-ScannableTech-in-After-School-ProgramsDesign a QR Code Scavenger Hunt

Students with access to a mobile device (iPad, Android tablet, smartphone) can quickly scan QR codes to access information. After school program leaders can create QR code scavenger hunts with links connected to information about a topic, place or space. Once students have participated in a QR scavenger hunt let a group design their own. They can send other groups of kids on their scavenger hunt to see it in action!

Create Persuasive Posters

Let students design posters on a topic they are passionate about using a graphic design tool like Canva. Their poster can include QR codes that link to extra information on the topic – like a public service announcement video or additional reading. In addition to adding QR codes you could also turn their posters into augmented reality experiences using an app like Aurasma.

I hope you will join me at the Master Class I will be presenting at the BOOST Conference on Thursday, April 28 from 10 am - 12 pm to learn more about  scannable technology. 

monica burnsMonica Burns is an EdTech & Curriculum Consultant, Author and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.

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