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NOV
20
2017

STEM
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Using digital technology for outdoor exploration with PBS KIDS' PLUM LANDING

By Guest Blogger

By Brianne Keith, outreach project manager at WGBH Education.

For out-of-school time program leaders looking to get students outside more, it might seem counterintuitive to introduce digital media into their programming. After all, don’t kids already spend too much time in front of screens? Why use digital media when what you really want to do is get kids outdoors?

PLUM LANDING, the innovative PBS KIDS multimedia project that encourages children to explore the outdoors, has an answer to that question: Because digital media can actually enhance kids’ exploration of nature! The trick is creating media that actively engages kids, and harnesses the unique power of technology to inspire, teach, foster engagement, and turn it towards outdoor learning experiences.

WGBH, a leader in developing educational media for children, developed PLUM LANDING to help kids learn about the environment and inspire them to become caretakers of the planet. The project includes hands-on outdoor learning activities, games, videos, apps, and an online drawing tool and gallery where kids can share their ideas about nature—all designed to promote children’s active investigation of the world around them. The resources are NGSS-standards aligned and available for free on the PLUM LANDING website. Independent evaluation of the project showed that children who used PLUM LANDING were significantly more likely than those in a control group to show growth in their environmental science knowledge and interest in exploring the natural world.

​Building on the success of the program, WGBH has just released the PLUM LANDING Explore Outdoors Toolkit, a new set of materials designed to help kids and families in urban environments get outside, get moving, and get into nature. 

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learn more about: STEM Physical Activity
NOV
15
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: November 15, 2017

By Luci Manning

These Girls Now Have Big Dreams — Thanks to these Mentoring Programs (The Miami Herald, Florida)

Three unique afterschool programs in South Florida are inspiring girls to build their confidence and professional ambition. Honey Shine motivates girls to pursue higher education while improving self-esteem by pairing professional women with young girls. Women of Tomorrow offers a mentoring program between professional women and girls along with college and career trips. PACE Center for Girls offers an alternative to public school with academics, counseling, health and wellness and more. “Insecurity and self-doubt are rampant among the girls when they begin the program, PACE Miami Executive Director Sherry Thompson Giordano told the Miami Herald. “But as they discover their talents and begin to think it will be possible to launch careers, they find a strength that will help guide them through the rest of their lives.”

Students Helping Students Read at Maclary Elementary (The News Journal, Delaware)

A group of Maclary Elementary School fifth graders are volunteering to help 10 kindergarteners improve their reading skills. The mentoring program is a part of The Christina School Board’s resolution for students to participate in 20 minutes of unstructured learning a day. “I wanted to help little kids read, because sometimes in kindergarten I would need help reading and spelling,” 10-year-old Megan Levering told The News Journal. The program helps students improve their leadership skills, cognitive development, decision-making skills, concentration and self-confidence.

With Grammy Nominees, DASH Program Aims to Develop Philly's Next Entertainment Leaders (The Inquirer, Pennsylvania)

The DASH (Destined to Achieve Successful Heights) afterschool program is giving 20 high school students the chance to produce their own music through a 12-week program called “Songwriting 101.” The hands-on learning experience, part of a collaboration with the Philadelphia School District, will allow students to learn about various fields within the entertainment industry from professional musicians. “When you sit with these kids, you get to see their faces light up and you realize they know that they can really do this,” Grammy-nominated songwriter and DASH master instructor Kristal Oliver told The Inquirer.

After-School STEM Programs Inspire Kids to Keep Learning (PBS NewsHour, Rhode Island)

Ella Risk Elementary School is trying to boost the number of low-income, minorities and women in STEM fields through its afterschool program SMILE. The corporate- and foundation-funded program serves more than 500 4th- to 12th-grade Rhode Island students who participate in experiential learning in a low-risk environment that doesn’t punish failure. “We work very hard at promoting a cohesive peer group where everyone knows it’s cool to be smart. They identify with science. They identify with STEM. And that carries them into high school to take the harder science and math courses,” founder Carol Englander told PBS NewsHour.

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learn more about: STEM Arts Literacy Girls In The News
NOV
8
2017

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup: November 8, 2017

By Luci Manning

Former Student Shares How Bellevue’s Jubilee Reach Provided Help (Bellevue Reporter, Washington)

Current University of Washington student and REACH afterschool program alumna Jeyma Garcia will share how instrumental the REACH afterschool program was to her at the annual Festival of Trees fundraiser on November 11. She credits the REACH afterschool staff and coaches with helping her overcome depression. Now she strives to provide the same level of passion and empathy to her students. “Garcia said she doesn’t know where she would be now if she hadn’t had help from her site coach when she was 13 years old,” reports the Bellevue Reporter.

James Island Elementary's After-School Fishing Program Catches on with Young Anglers (Post & Courier, South Carolina)

Students in the James Island Elementary School Fishing Club are spending their hours after school learning about birds and wildlife, how to tie knots and the difference between different fishing rigs. “The time spent with the kids outdoors has been amazing…. The looks on their faces when they catch that fish by themselves is amazing,” club founder Patrick Harrington told the Post & Courier. The program has helped the children become expert fishermen, earning them plaques and other awards at the annual Trident Fishing Tournament.

Kids Learn the Link Between Food, Health (Record Searchlight, California)

Patient educator Betsy Amstutz and nurse Jayne Cummins are offering a new afterschool cooking class at the Shasta Community Health Center to educate youths about how to cook more nutritious and balanced meals. The class, inspired by an adult nutrition class offered to the center’s patients, also teaches students about knife safety, hand-washing, and how to avoid cross-contamination. “I took this class because my mom made me and, two, I really enjoy cooking. It's my passion. It's a hobby actually,” 12-year-old member Ryder Rogers told the Record Searchlight.

Farm Program Lets Students Learn Hands-On from Animals (Las Vegas Sun, Nevada)

A new club at Mabel Hoggard Elementary School is introducing students to animal care, genealogy and gardening. The program is taught both during the school day and in the out-of-school time Zookeepers club and Green Thumb Kids club. During lunch hour and before school, 25 to 50 students partake in the unique experience of learning about and caring for a variety of over 130 animals. The programs are meant to inspire students with an interest in zoology, veterinary, geology and other science fields. “We wanted to give our kids a more involved experience,” life sciences teacher Kimberly Law told the Las Vegas Sun. “I think this is a unique way for them to learn, and something no other elementary kids get to do.” 

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learn more about: STEM In The News Nutrition
OCT
20
2017

STEM
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New commitments to equity, engagement at the CSforALL Summit

By Stephanie Rodriguez

“Power is the ability to write and author the American story… and that requires ambition to be nurtured; it requires the administration of an infrastructure that can do this.”

These words come from Dr. Kamau Bobb of Georgia Institute of Technology, explaining how institutes of higher education are, can, and should be supporting the effort to get computer science education to ALL of the Nation’s students. Dr. Bobb spoke on a panel during the CSforAll summit, addressing how the computing initiative is at the forefront of what equity in the coming century will ultimately be and offering a salient framing for why more than 400 cross-sector advocated gathered in St. Louis to celebrate successes and design for action toward achieving CSforAll. More than 170 organizations, including the Afterschool Alliance, committed to various activities and supports to bring high quality computer science to all students.

Throughout the day of celebration on October 17, advocates shared resources, policies, and coalitions that have been vital to the ongoing success of the CSforALL movement. Many hammered home how reaching CSforALL will require utilizing the complete learning ecosystem, and reaching kids in all of the places they learn. Some highlights are described below; check out the recording for more!

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learn more about: STEM Computer Science Girls
OCT
19
2017

LIGHTS ON
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Easy, last-minute ideas for an amazing Lights On Afterschool!

By Charlotte Steinecke

Lights On Afterschool is just seven days away! While many programs are wrapping up their plans, some will only start planning this week. Luckily, we’ve got something for everyone over at our Last-Minute Ideas page. Use these ideas as the foundation of your event, or add an extra dimension to your celebration with another fun activity.

Looking for a few more easy ways to celebrate? We’ve got you covered:

  • Celebrate health and wellness by planning a make-your-own-pizza, -snack, or -taco night, with fresh and flavorful fixings that kids can mix and match to make their own meals. Polish it off by offering blank recipe cards so kids can write down their favorite combinations, decorate the cards, and take them home.
  • Bring art to your event with easy crafts and activities: Pinterest is full of instructions for tealight holders, galaxy and tornado jars, yarn pumpkins, dreamcatchers, and more.
  • Connect with your local library and ask if a librarian or staff member can come down to your event for a library card sign-up station. Then, host a read-aloud and encourage students to practice their peer-to-peer reading skills. Staple together some blank booklets so kids can write their own stories!
  • Plan a sidewalk parade around the block, showcasing student art, signs, and representations of all the activities you do in afterschool. Take pictures and tweet @ your reps with a message about why they should keep the #LightsOnAfterschool!
  • Take students on a nature walk or a field trip to explore the changing seasons. Encourage students to observe their surroundings and record their observations by taking notes and sketching points of interest. (Interested in more outdoor STEM fun? Check out the PLUM LANDING Explore Outdoors toolkit!)
  • Host a fall-friendly line or square dance party to get kids and parents moving at your event.

We’ve also got an activity so you can celebrate afterschool anywhere, with anyone: the “My Light’s On Afterschool” challenge! To join the challenge, just recreate our Lights On logo, snap a photo, and share it on social media with a message of support for #LightsOnAfterschool and a challenge to your friends and followers to participate. Head over to the Facebook event page for full details — and be sure to use our Facebook frame!

OCT
17
2017

STEM
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New AYPF article: 3 steps to afterschool STEM success

By Leah Silverberg

When making the case for afterschool STEM, one point often pops up: STEM learning experiences teach kids essential skills for their futures in college and careers. But how does that skill-building actually happen? And what strategies should afterschool programs use to harness it?

A new article from the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) highlights afterschool STEM programs that focus on career and college exploration initiatives. As part of STEM Ready America compendium, which features more than 40 authors, “Career and College Exploration in Afterschool Programs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” provides examples of afterschool and summer learning STEM programs that are preparing youth for their futures and supporting their engagement with the STEM field. Developed by STEM Next, with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, STEM Ready America discusses the importance of access for quality STEM programs, the evidence behind these programs, and the partnerships that make STEM learning successful.

In the article, AYPF highlights the best practices of three afterschool and summer STEM programs that intentionally introduce students to STEM fields, prepare them to study or have a career in a STEM field, and build skills that will benefit them in the workforce. Looking at SHINE (Jim Thorpe, Pa.), EVOLUTIONS (New Haven, Conn.), and Project Exploration (Chicago, Ill.) AYPF concluded that successful programs:

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learn more about: STEM College and Career Readiness
OCT
5
2017

LIGHTS ON
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Celebrate afterschool STEM during Lights On

By Charlotte Steinecke

Whether it’s cooking up polymer-based jiggly jelly, writing computer code, or exploring urban ecology, we know that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning thrives in afterschool! Afterschool STEM learning presents an incredible opportunity to help students learn, expose them to new ideas and concepts, and involve them in fun experiments and activities. Moreover, afterschool offers a chance to engage students from populations underrepresented in the STEM fields with material they may not otherwise have opportunities to explore.

With so many opportunities for creativity and customization and so many benefits to offer, how could we not include afterschool STEM as one of this year’s Lights On Afterschool themes?

Programs across the country are gearing up with great ideas for 2017! Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Movie night: Show a science fiction or comedy movie and coordinate experiments related to the theme of the film. Science Matters of Fort Collins, Colo. plans to show Flubber at their local movie theater and host table experiments after the show.
  • Fall field trip: Take your students to a local farm to learn about the effect of changing seasons. Cougar Club After School in Centerview, Mon. will be visiting a local farm to learn about the life cycle of pumpkins and press apples into cider.
  • Museum visit: Visit your science center or science museum for a hands-on learning experience. Kids Commons in Columbus, Ind. will offer free admission to their children’s museum for families with kids in pre-K through 6th grade, with STEAM activities throughout the museum.
  • Math crafts: Have kids use model kits or cardstock to create and decorate geometrical solids and shapes. Students at the YMCA of Hobart, Ind. will make and decorate dodecahedrons, icosahedrons, and rhombicuboctahedrons with pictures depicting what they like about afterschool, followed by a family game night.
  • Build and tinker: Illustrate a lesson with a makerspace event. Students at High Desert Leapin’ Lizards in Ridgecrest, Calif. will spend the month of October learning about the laws of motion and building cars from recycled materials, with a special celebration at the end of the month so parents join the fun.

Are you celebrating STEM at your Lights On Afterschool event? Share your plan on Twitter using #LightsOnAfterschool!

You can find more ideas and inspiration from past years by searching for “STEM” in the Events Ideas & Activities database.

OCT
3
2017

STEM
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Administration and tech sector commit to STEM and computer science education

By Stephanie Rodriguez

On September 25, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Education acknowledging that too many of our kids lack access to high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, including computer science (CS).

Pointing to the alarming truth that 40 percent of high schools do not offer physics and 60 percent do not offer computer science1,2—a lack of access that is exacerbated in rural, low income, and minority communities—the memo directs the Department of Education to prioritize STEM education efforts in the federal grant making, with particular emphasis on CS. Specifically, the Secretary of Education is directed to reallocate at least $200 million of existing funds each year toward CS and STEM education and teacher recruitment and training, beginning in FY18. The memo was signed in the presence of students from Boys and Girls Clubs in Maryland.

On the heels of this memorandum came loud support from the tech industry. On September 26, representatives from the private sector gathered in Detroit, Mich., and together pledged an additional $300 million over five years in money, technology, and volunteers to support K-12 CS learning. This commitment, championed by Ivanka Trump, is fueled by several tech giants including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Salesforce, to name a few. The afterschool voice was well represented, with both Namrata Gupta (executive director of After-School All-Stars Bay Area) and Michael Beckerman (president and CEO of the Internet Association and board member for the national After-School All-Stars) in attendance. While the exact recipients of this commitment are not known at this time, some companies, like Microsoft and Salesforce, will continue supporting their ongoing CS investments in programs and organizations such as TEALS, code.org, and others.

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learn more about: White House STEM Computer Science