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APR
25
2017

IN THE FIELD
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How Maryland afterschool partnerships promote health and wellness

By Charlotte Steinecke

Written by Matt Freeman

 

At left, youth from Mars Estates PAL with the PAL center’s new cornhole boards, courtesy of Billy from Creative Touch Graphix.  At right, Albert Lewis demonstrates physical activity exercises at University of Maryland Extension 4H.

“Candy’s not a food!”

Those words from an afterschool student at a Boys & Girls Club in Glen Burnie, Maryland, and the fundamental realization about food choices they reflect, go straight to the heart of the Maryland Out of School Time (MOST) Network’s Healthy Behaviors Initiative (HBI).

Begun in 2013, this effort to promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards rests on a web of partnerships MOST has built with afterschool and summer-learning program providers, a statewide hunger relief organization, one of the mid-Atlantic region’s largest grocery chains and a university-based nutrition education program.

The initiative began when the MOST Network “became the first statewide healthy-out-of-school time intermediary to bring the training, resources and support of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to out-of-school-time (OST) program providers,” according to Ellie Mitchell, MOST network director.

MOST’s first step was to identify afterschool programs to participate. For that, MOST partnered with the Maryland Food Bank, which operates a meal distribution network based in soup kitchens, food pantries and schools across the state, providing more than 41 million meals to Marylanders every year.

The need for the food bank’s services is pressing. Between 2012 and 2016, as the nation’s economy recovered from the Great Recession, participation in the National School Lunch Program, which provides meal subsidies for children of low-income families, declined nationally by more than 1.3 million children. But Maryland was one of eight states to buck that positive trend as more children from low-income families in the state became eligible. The Food Bank provided support to MOST to work with ten afterschool sites in the Food Bank’s network, with funding provided by the Giant Food Foundation, the charitable arm of a regional grocery store chain.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Health and Wellness
APR
18
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Three ways to score #WellnessWins after school

By Charlotte Steinecke

By Sharon Dziedzic-Blanco, Education Supervisor, City of Hialeah’s Young Leaders with Character, Miami-Dade County, FL.

Sharon Dziedzic-Blanco oversees two programs with 15 out-of-school time sites that have been working with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative since 2013.

While many afterschool programs already support kids in making healthy choices by serving nutritious snacks or offering physically active games, we can have a bigger impact by adopting a comprehensive wellness policy that ensures these practices are uniform and long-lasting.

We’re using the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School Time model wellness policy to develop a strategy that meets our wellness goals and aligns with national standards. We’re learning a lot along the way – and already seeing great progress!

That’s why we’re thrilled that the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, in partnership with the American Heart Association’s Voices for Healthy Kids initiative, launched a campaign called #WellnessWins about the benefits of wellness policies.

I’m excited to share three of the top-performing strategies we use to adopt wellness policies in our afterschool sites.

Reinforce healthy messages kids learn in school

When schools and afterschool programs coordinate wellness policy priorities, students receive a consistent message that their health is a priority, no matter the setting. Like Miami-Dade County Public Schools, we provide USDA-compliant snacks and encourage students to participate in at least 30-45 minutes of physical activity five days a week.

Elevate staff members as role model

Afterschool staff can set a healthy example by consuming nutritious foods and beverages and staying active. A wellness policy can provide staff with guidelines on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and become a positive role model for kids.

Encourage students to engage in wellness

We incorporate nutrition lessons into our afterschool program and summer camp to encourage kids to try new foods and learn new recipes. When kids have a hands-on experience, they’re more likely to be excited about practicing healthy habits for years to come.

Ready to follow our lead and achieve wellness wins in your afterschool program? Visit WellnessWins.org to get started today!

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APR
11
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Evaluating afterschool: Find your best data-collection strategy

By Nikki Yamashiro

By Y-USA Achievement Gap Programs Evaluation Team.

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the fourth installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which turns to program providers in the field to answer some of the common questions asked about program evaluation. Be sure to take a look at the firstsecond, and third posts of the series.

 
Photo courtesy of Lori Humphreys, VP of Child Care, YMCA Of East Tennessee. 

At YMCA of the USA, our Achievement Gap Programs evaluation team provides a comprehensive evaluation strategy, training, tools, and support to hundreds of local Ys doing the important work of delivering Achievement Gap Signature Programs to thousands of children. The Achievement Gap Afterschool Program has expanded to over 130 sites since it began in the 2012-2013 school year and is currently serving over 7,000 children across the nation.

Organization leadership, funders, and community partners are often eager to see the data that comes out of program evaluation, and it is not uncommon for organizations to need additional guidance and resources to start the data collection process. We'd like to share what we think are data collection essentials for this important and possibly overwhelming part of the evaluation process.

The first step is for the program’s primary stakeholders to define program goals and benchmarks. Identifying the questions that should be answered about the program helps to focus on what matters most for the program.

Before you start

  • Be organized: Develop a plan from start to finish before diving into the data collection process. How will data be collected? What tools will be used to collect data? Who will do the data collection, entry, and analyses? How will the data be reported? Include a general timeline for each activity in the plan.
  • Be realistic: As a data collection plan is developed, be realistic about the resources you can dedicate to the project and plan accordingly.  When you can, simplify.
  • Be clear: All data collection processes should include a clear explanation for why the data is being collected and how the data will be protected and reported. Clarity of purpose ensures that staff, parents, and participants are fully informed on the program’s data collection practices.
  • Be concise: When developing tools to collect data, stay focused on only gathering essential information that relates to goals or the questions stakeholders have agreed upon. Collecting information that you don’t plan to use takes up precious time when creating data collection tools, when users fill out the tools, and when the data is analyzed.
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APR
10
2017

STEM
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Guest blog: Trump budget would devastate afterschool STEM

By Leah Silverberg

By Ron Ottinger, the director of STEM Next, co-chair of the national STEM Funders Network, and the former executive director of the Noyce Foundation. Known as a leader and expert in STEM learning, Ron has spent the last nine years guiding the Noyce foundations initiatives in informal and out-of-school-time science. With STEM Next, Ron continues to work toward increasing STEM learning opportunities for youth nationally.

This blog was reposted with permission from STEM Next.  

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to afterschool programs would deny millions of American youth the opportunity to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning; inhibit the development of the nation’s future scientists, engineers, inventors, and business leaders; and cut young people off from building the skills they need to advance in school, work, citizenship, and life.

If enacted by Congress, the President’s budget would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, the single largest source of funding for afterschool and summer programs that enroll 1.6 million students across rural, urban, and suburban communities in all 50 states.

Afterschool and summer programs provide essential learning opportunities for young people. This is particularly true when it comes to STEM learning – a national priority.

And afterschool programs have the support of an overwhelming number of Americans: a recent Quinnipiac poll found 83% are opposed to cuts in afterschool funding.

The Administration has said there is no evidence that these programs are effective. That is simply not true.

MAR
23
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Evaluating afterschool: How to use data to improve program quality

By Charlotte Steinecke

By Nicole Lovecchio, Chief Program Officer at WINGS for kids.

The Afterschool Alliance is pleased to present the third installment of our "Evaluating afterschool" blog series, which turns to program providers in the field to answer some of the common questions asked about program evaluation. Be sure to take a look at the first and second posts of the series from Dallas Afterschool and After-School All-Stars. 

As afterschool providers, we know that the hours from 3 to 6 p.m. offer an incredible opportunity to engage students who need it most and help them feel more connected to their peers, the school day, and to their community—and the key to maximizing that potential lies in the skills and abilities of the afterschool staff.

For many years we worked on codifying and documenting every element and detail of our program. We created manuals explaining how we ran our social and emotional learning (SEL) afterschool program in an effort to replicate our program throughout several sites in the Southeast. We then focused heavily on fidelity and the implementation of these program elements.

Along the way, we realized that a checklist of items, however exact, couldn’t guarantee a high-quality program.  By gathering data on our staff and kids, we were able to see the shift that was needed: clearer focus on building up the skills of our staff on the ground.

3 ways data collected impacted program quality

Improving adult skills and practices. Quarterly program assessments (observations) of our sites uncovered a trend indicating that our staff (12 college-aged mentors per site who work in 1:12 ratio with students) were primarily focused on reacting to the negative behaviors of our kids. Because our staff was reactive instead of proactive, there was little room for engaging activity.  Therefore, we redesigned staff trainings and redefined the WINGS approach to SEL, all with a focus on building adult skills and practices first and foremost.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Youth Development
MAR
15
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: First-of-its-kind video series helps afterschool providers talk to kids about abuse

By Rachel Clark

By John Thoresen, CEO of the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

More than one in six children suffer from physical abuse, and one in 10 children will be sexually abused—often by someone they know and trust. Yet, in spite of these shocking statistics, there have historically been few resources available to help afterschool providers talk with children about abuse.

That’s why we worked with nationally-recognized child advocates, educators, therapists and scholars to create the “Protect Yourself Rules” videos—a free, first-of-its-kind educational series. We engaged an executive of Nickelodeon’s Rugrats to develop the videos for children using non-threatening, animated characters similar to what they’re used to seeing outside the classroom on electronic devices, television and movie screens.

The animated videos educate school-aged children in grades K-6 about what to do when confronted with an abusive situation by emphasizing three simple rules: Shout. Run. Tell. The videos also reinforce lessons such as:

  1. Tell a Grown-Up
  2. It Doesn’t Matter Who It Is
  3. Hitting is Wrong
  4. Stranger Safety
  5. Internet Safe Choices
  6. Shout, Run, Tell

The series aims to empower children to protect themselves by helping them recognize abuse and giving them simple, memorable rules to make sure the abuse stops—or better yet, never starts.

The free videos are available for afterschool programs, summer programs, school classrooms, community organizations, religious groups, clubs, advocacy groups, Scouts, and other interested organizations. We also developed lesson plans to help afterschool program staff guide discussions with kids about the rules.

Visit fightchildabuse.org to download the free video series and accompanying lessons. Every child in an afterschool program needs this information and statistics would indicate that some of them—the faces behind the statistics—can’t wait.

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MAR
14
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: 3 years of resources for healthy out-of-school time in parks and recreation

By Rachel Clark

By Allison Coleman, program manager at the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), and Ava DeBovis, national network manager at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. This post was originally published on NRPA's Open Space blog.

In February 2014, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) launched Commit to Health, a campaign devoted to creating healthier out-of-school time (OST) programs in local parks and recreation. This month, we’re celebrating three years of successful implementation, great partnerships, new resources, and stories from communities across the country!

Over the last three years, park and recreation agencies have committed to implementing the Healthy Eating Physical Activity (HEPA) standards at their OST sites. The HEPA standards are things like ensuring that a fruit or vegetable is served at every meal, making sure that kids are getting 60 minutes of physical activity in a summer camp program, and providing drinking water at all times to youth and staff. Through implementation of these standards, more than 1270 park and recreation sites have provided increased access to healthy foods and new opportunities for physical activity for more than 228,000 youth. 

While the impact numbers alone are impressive, there are many reasons to celebrate this initiative—new partnerships have been created, new resources have been developed, and families across the county are eating healthy and moving more.

Key partnerships have created even larger impacts

In parks and recreation, we know how important partnerships are to the success of a program. Commit to Health has helped to spark numerous partnerships and collaborations across the country. From local agencies working in collaboration with state health departments, school districts, volunteer groups, YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs, to national partnerships with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Partnership for a Healthier America, new relationships have flourished. 

MAR
8
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: An equity action agenda for youth development professionals

By Rachel Clark

By Jennifer Siaca Curry, Ed.D. Jennifer has worked in the afterschool and expanded learning field for over a decade, working with the statewide afterschool network in New York and ExpandED Schools. She explored afterschool programs delivered through school/community partnerships in her doctoral dissertation and is a member of the board of the NYS Network for Youth Success. This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

Illustration via The Second Line Education Blog.

We are living in an important moment in time (an understatement!), and recommitting ourselves to equity and inclusion for all in the youth development field is a must. Youth programs have a long history of responding to social needs—sheltering kids from war in the early 20th century, providing child care as women entered the workforce in the 1970s, extending academic learning time in the No Child Left Behind-era.

I argue that today we are preparing for a new focus: the social and emotional needs of young people, and that this new opportunity is incomplete without an antidiscrimination framework. The youth development field is poised to protect children and youth of all races, religions, ethnicities, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, appearances, and abilities - to embrace their identities and lift their assets to support them in becoming productive, engaged, and successful adults.

And the good news? You don’t need a grant to make this happen. Here are six things you can do today to have a positive impact on the youth you serve.

Build a personal understanding of the history of oppression.

Experts agree that having deeper knowledge about our country’s history is central to weakening racism. While it’s certainly easier to leave the past behind us, building an understanding of the events, constructs, and people who laid the foundation for today’s discriminatory structures and beliefs will make you a stronger advocate and enable you to pass accurate historical knowledge on. One of my favorite anecdotes is from Marian Wright Edelman: a Texas student recognized his social studies textbook ignored the brutality of the slave trade, which he had learned in his Children’s Defense Fund program. Not only did he educate his classmates, but his protest led to McGraw-Hill issuing an apology and an updated version of the textbook!

Mind your words—they matter.

First, I recommend youth development professionals subscribe to a philosophy of multiculturalism rather than color blindness. Saying things like, “I don’t see color” or “I treat everyone the same” may feel innocuous, but research and experience suggest that people primed to have a color-blind perspective display more explicit and implicit biases than those primed with a multicultural perspective. When it comes to specifics, the Opportunity Agenda has curated a list of words and phrases that impede equity and inclusion, as well as replacement terms to use instead. It's a great document to use as required reading for new staff.

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