By Jen Rinehart
Last month the Afterschool Alliance joined MacArthur Foundation, Mozilla, and HASTAC in a commitment to incorporate badges into our work and help optimize the spread and scale of open digital badges for learning at the 2014 Summit to Reconnect Learning.
We committed to work with five statewide afterschool networks to offer badges to youth in afterschool and summer programs and/or to offer badges to afterschool professionals. We are excited to dig deeper into the potential of badges to bring greater recognition to the learning that happens in afterschool and summer programs and to connect in-school and out-of-school learning.
By the end of this year, new badge systems will be piloted in at least five states. We will have lessons learned and ideas for how to make sure that the broader afterschool community can benefit from these pilots and are equipped to bring more badge opportunities to youth and staff in afterschool and summer programs.
In the meantime, there are interesting related badge initiatives already underway. Below are just a few. Stay tuned for more throughout the year.
Lisa Mielke, a former zookeeper, is the Science Manager at TASC (The After-School Corporation). She leads STEM training and professional development for directors and front-line staff at out-of-school-time programs throughout New York City. One of the ways TASC supports schools and community partners to expand learning opportunities is to build the capacity of staff members to lead STEM inquiry.
This post originally appeared on TASC’s blog on Feb. 27, 2014.
As someone who trains hundreds of New York City out-of-school-time program directors and frontline staff every year, I’m excited about the best resource I’ve seen in ages for supporting more and better STEM learning. It’s a new, interactive professional development website called Click2Science.
New MetLife Foundation issue brief: Afterschool Supporting Students with Disabilities and Other Special Needs
At the Afterschool Alliance we constantly work to provide information and research that is most relevant and pressing in the afterschool field. Last week, our communications manager posted a blog that shared our most popular documents in 2013 and the document that took the number two spot was our 2008 issue brief, “Afterschool Benefits Kids with Special Needs.” I’m happy to share that our latest MetLife Foundation issue brief, “Afterschool Supporting Students with Disabilities and Other Special Needs,” is an update to our 2008 brief.
This issue brief provides new statistics and research on students with disabilities and other special needs, highlighting the benefits of inclusive learning environments and the role that afterschool programs play to help students of all abilities grow academically, socially and emotionally. Although students with disabilities and other special needs face their own set of challenges as they move through school and on to adulthood, providing opportunities to participate in activities in a meaningful way, learning side-by-side with peers without disabilities, developing friendships and other life skills, and feeling a sense of belonging and acceptance, are all ways that can help them address and overcome the challenges in their life. The brief discusses the variety of ways afterschool programs provide an inclusive learning environment and features afterschool programs across the country, from Unified Theater in Hartford, Connecticut—a program fostering inclusion and developing student leaders through the arts, to Thriving Minds After-School in Dallas, Texas—an afterschool program that uses parent feedback to tailor their programming to best support their students.
We released this issue brief at the National AfterSchool Association’s Annual Convention in New York City over the weekend. If you attended, I hope that you were able to stop by our booth and pick up a copy.
Sometimes it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to the huge library of research and reports we publish on our website. To help you out, we’ve compiled a reading list of the top 10 most-downloaded documents from our website in 2013.
Even if you’ve read them all before, now is a great time to brush up on these popular afterschool topics for 2014:
- Afterschool Outcomes 1-pager
- Afterschool Benefits Kids with Special Needs (2008)
- Afterschool: A Key to Successful Parent Engagement (2012)
- Afterschool: A Strategy for Addressing and Preventing Middle School Bullying (2011)
- Aligning Afterschool with the Regular School Day: The Perfect Complement (2011)
- English Language Learners: Becoming Fluent in Afterschool (2011)
- Quality Afterschool: Helping Programs Achieve it and Policies Support it (2011)
- The Importance of Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs in Africa-American and Latino Communities (2013)
- Afterschool: Providing Multiple Benefits to Middle School Students (2010)
- Arts Enrichment in Afterschool (2012)
Yesterday at a Miami-area afterschool program, first lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America announced that two more of the largest afterschool program providers have committed to create more healthful environments for five million kids in their programs through adoption of the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards.
Over the next five years, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) have committed to encouraging a combined 5,400 sites and clubs nationwide to adopt strong standards for nutrition and physical activity.
In remarks at the event, the first lady applauded the announcement, “Between today’s announcement and our work to serve better food and get more activity into our schools, we’re now ensuring that more and more of our kids will be staying healthy throughout the entire arc of their day.” She added, students “… are getting active through the day, whether that’s during recess, or PE class, or during an exercise break between lessons. And when the school day ends, they’ll head to an afterschool program like this one, and they’ll get even more nutritious food and even more opportunities to get active.”
By Luci Manning
Cut out Junk Food Ads in Schools, Government Says (Associated Press, National)
Yesterday, first lady Michelle Obama announced that the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the National Recreation and Park Association will serve more fruits and vegetables at afterschool programs and ensure kids get 30-60 minutes of physical activity a day. The announcement was part of the fourth anniversary of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative. Mrs. Obama said “This new approach to eating and activity is not just a fad," the Associated Press reports.
Later Gator, the new afterschool program at Lake Cormorant Elementary, offers a “life-changing experience” for its students, the Desoto Times reports. Dr. Margaret Boyd, Lake Cormorant Elementary school principal and founder of Later Gator, said she started the program to help “working parents whose jobs often prevent them from helping children with their homework.”
Empowerment Circle Expands Horizons (Marion Star, Ohio)
Members of the Girls Empowerment Circle at Grant Middle School and Marion Harding High School are learning about dating violence so they can educate themselves and other students about healthy relationships. The group, which is funded by 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, is comprised of about 13 to 15 girls who are dedicated to helping their peers make smart life decisions. Not only do they help others by providing important information and resources, but organizer Rosalind Burks explains to the Marion Star that the program encourages girls to set goals for themselves, engage in community service and to continue their education after graduating from high school.
STEM Pilot Exposes Young to Tech, Science Careers (Journal-News, Ohio)
Elementary and junior high students in Hamilton will be able to enjoy a new afterschool program focused primarily on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education starting next month. Tyrome Bembry, founder of the new pilot program STEM2Dream program, told the Journal-News that the program is targeting kids from an under-served neighborhood because “STEM education will give them the ability to dream. It’s a tool they can use to fight the war on poverty.”
Reps. Kildee, DeLauro introduce bill to strengthen support of afterschool and summer learning programs
Yesterday evening Reps. Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Afterschool for America's Children Act in the House of Representatives, HR 4086. The legislation would reauthorize and strengthen the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative—the nation’s chief federal funding stream for afterschool programs—by supporting innovative advances taking root in before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs. The bill is companion legislation to S. 326 introduced previously in the Senate. A summary of the legislation is available here.
The House bill:
- Strengthens school-community partnerships to include sharing of data and resources, the ability to better leverage relationships within the community and provide an intentional alignment with the school day.
- Promotes professional development and training of afterschool program staff.
- Encourages innovative new ways to engage students in learning that looks different from a traditional school day, with an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and physical activity and nutrition education.
- Supports approaches that focus on individualized learning that provide a variety of ways for students to master core skills and knowledge.
- Provides accountability measures that are connected to college- and career-readiness goals and show student progress over time toward meeting indicators of student success including school attendance, grades and on-time grade level advancement.
- Ensures that funding supports programs that utilize evidence-based, successful practices.
- Increases quality and accountability through parent engagement; better alignment with state learning objectives; and coordination between federal, state and local agencies.
- Does not prioritize any one model of expanded learning opportunities over another.
- Maintains formula grants to states that then distribute funds to local school-community partnerships through a competitive grant process.
To celebrate last week’s national Engineers Week, the Afterschool Alliance hosted a webinar featuring three incredible afterschool programs engaging students in engineering, computing and technology education. We were joined by:
- Jen Joyce, Director of Professional Development at Techbridge in Oakland, CA
- Andrew Coy, Executive Director of Digital Harbor Foundation in Baltimore, MD
- Maureen Psaila-Dombrowski, Program Coordinator at the Santa Fe Institute, representing Project GUTS
All three were featured in our latest issue brief on computing and engineering, and they were able to provide a clearer picture on what has made their afterschool programs successful. Program profiles in our Afterschool STEM Storybook provide additional information. You can watch the full recording and view the slides on our webinar archives page. Below is a quick re-cap!