By Guest Blogger Erik Peterson, Afterschool Alliance
With the 2020 presidential election only 10 months away and primary voting now under way, it is a good time to check in on where the presidential candidates stand on afterschool and summer learning as an issue. As we discussed in our blog last fall, education and childcare has been a popular campaign topic for many candidates, from student loan forgiveness to increasing teacher pay, however several candidates have gone on the record in support of afterschool and summer learning programs as well.
While the nonpartisan Afterschool Alliance does not endorse candidates, we do track their proposals related to support for afterschool and summer learning programs and have summarized the positions of the candidates that have gone on the record in support of afterschool, community schools, summer learning, and wrap around supports for school age children. Read more about the candidates’ (from both parties) positions on afterschool here.
Stay tuned for updates from the campaign trail and review our election toolkit and candidate guide (being updated for the 2020 election).
Erik Peterson joined the Afterschool Alliance in July 2009 and coordinates and advances the Afterschool Alliance’s policy efforts at the federal level by helping develop policy goals and implementing strategies that advance access to quality afterschool programs for all. Erik works to build and strengthen relationships with policy makers and allied organizations to increase public support and funding for quality before-school, afterschool and summer learning programs. Prior to coming to the Afterschool Alliance, Erik worked for the School Nutrition Association (SNA) in the Washington DC, area and as both an AmeriCorps VISTA and staff for the Sustainable Food Center in Austin, Texas.
By Guest Blogger John Fuentes, Bay Area Community Resources
What happens when adult allies continue to make authentic youth voice a priority? When High school students in various leadership groups from San Diego to Oakland, CA speak truth to power? When technology becomes a resource for across state collaboration? When young people meet up in Sacramento to speak to legislators about the challenges they’re faced with and how afterschool funding supports overcoming some of these challenges? Answer: a $50M ASES increase with the support of our “TACA”(Teens Advocating for Civic Engagement) youth.
TACA started a little over a year ago when a group of CA3 (California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance) members discussed how powerful it would be to bring more youth voice to the front lines of civic action. Myself, Brad Lupien (ARC), Donny Faaliliu (L.A. All Stars) and Aleah Rosario (CalSac) spent some time during 2018/19 school year unpacking what TACA should look and feel like.
Once a month from October to May in the 2018/19 school year approximately 8 to 12 students from 5 High Schools representing ARC, L.A All-Stars and Bay Area Community Resources (BACR) got on a Zoom chat and discussed issues they were facing in their communities and what action steps they were taking to help resolve some of these issues. With the support of CalSac’s resource guides and the support from afterschool leadership staff, TACA students learned the difference between service and civic action. They learned more about local government and what issues the local officials were passionate about. This work helped support an informed dialogue between TACA students and their local and state officials.
We found that the reoccurring challenges students were faced with in their communities were affordable housing, violence, suicide, and lack of equity in education. Whether students were attending JFK high school in southern California or Oakland Tech high school in the Bay Area, these issues were similar. Using Zoom video chats, TACA students had an opportunity to see, hear and learn from other students across the state and know that they were not alone doing work. Students shared ideas, action plans and goals for sustainability and systemic change.
TACA students expressed how cool it was to be able to connect with other students across the state, share their ideas and get feedback. How cool it was to see each other on a Zoom chat once a month and then meet in person for the first time in Sacramento; to know that they played a part in getting the $50M ASES increase because they shared their stories and mobilized.
Now, in year two, TACA has over 25 members from San Diego to Oakland, CA representing 14 high schools and 4 middle schools. Me, Brad, Donny and now Ayala Goldstein (CalSac) continue to support the TACA members as adult allies and coaches. This year TACA is made up of 1-2 students who are part of an existing afterschool leadership group and represent that group during our monthly Zoom chat meetings. The goal is for the two TACA representatives from each school site to join the monthly Zooms and share their learning with their peers and mobilize for Civic Action and change.
Affordable housing, violence, and education continue to be pressing topics for our TACA youth and their peers and we will continue to support them with their Civic Action goals. We have a few new goals this year which include: Supporting with the 2020 Census, getting people registered to vote and once again showing up in Sacramento on March 9th and 10th for the California Afterschool and Summer Challenge.
If you want to see, hear and learn more about TACA, please check TACA out at this year’s BOOST Conference as they lead a workshop on Thursday April 30th, 3:45-5:30pm entitled "Student- Lead Campaign for Civic Engagement." You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ayala Goldstein at email@example.com
John Fuentes is a program manager with Bay Area Community Resources in Oakland and Alameda. In addition, John is the lead facilitator for the “Heads Up” Saturday Leadership Academy program at Head Royce School in Oakland and an expanded learning quality support coach and trainer in the San Francisco Bay Area. John is a two-time Alameda Unified School District Salute to Education recipient and a 2018 Region 4-CDE Spotlight on Quality Award recipient.
By Sam Piha
Why is learning enhanced when it is meaningful?
Research tells us that if we hope to make a difference in young people’s learning, we need to provide opportunities for learning that is meaningful. If young people are engaged in meaningful participation, they are empowered to be self-directed, make responsible choices about how to use their time, and participate as group members in making decisions that influence the larger program and what they learn about.
They are also given the opportunity to learn group leadership skills and to assume leadership roles in planning activities and projects. They have opportunities to “give back” by contributing to the program, to other young people, or to their larger community.
We know that young people experience their participation as meaningful when they report feeling a sense of belonging and ownership in the program. When they are participating in meaningful ways, they feel that their contributions are valued, and, by participating, they “make a difference.” In a program that fosters meaningful youth participation, adults serve as mentors and facilitators to build the skills of the young people. “Fostering meaningful youth participation means providing opportunities for problem solving, decision making, planning, goal setting, and helping others, and involves adults sharing power in real ways with children,” writes Nan Henderson, prevention specialist.
What MEANINGFUL learning looks like:
Three things you can do right now to promote meaningful participation:
1. Explore and assess: It is important that you take the time with your staff to explore and assess your alignment with this meaningful principle.
2. Encourage self-reliance and responsibility to the group: Allow young people to responsibly address their own needs, whether it is access to the drinking fountain or to art supplies. Design your program space and storage system in a way that allows young people free access to needed project supplies, materials and equipment. The privilege of access comes with responsibilities of caring for and returning things to their proper place. Brainstorm the needed agreements with your group to ensure the respectful use of these materials.
3. Incorporating the Interests of Young People: Regardless of the teaching and learning methods you employ, it is important to incorporate young people’s interests in your program. You may want to survey the young people in your program about their interests, and then work to incorporate opportunities to learn academic and life skills into activities that reflect these interests.
You can build on learners’ existing knowledge and skills. When introducing a new topic or project, begin by allowing young people to show what they already know. There may be some true “experts” among them. By building off the momentum of their knowledge and prior experiences, you can help them both test and deepen their present understanding. Equally as important to designing programs with young people’s interests in mind, is ensuring that programs are relevant to the learners. It is crucial that staff understand young people’s life contexts, including their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and have the flexibility to design programs that are relevant to participants.
To learn more see our Youth Development Guide 2.0. This 165- page guide is available as a free download or can be ordered as a spiral bound, hard copy.
By Sam Piha
In a previous post, Is Play a Waste, we made the case that now is the time to reexamine the value of play, educate our stakeholders, and be unashamed to make play an important part of our afterschool programs. Below we open the door to this by explore some of the benefits of play and resources that may be useful.
Many afterschool programs prioritize an extension of academics and homework completion over organized play, free play, and physical activity."
The Benefits of Play
According to experts “play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development.” (2)
The gift of imaginative free play has been getting the short end of the stick for some time…play does not exclude learning. Play is the essence of learning and we have the research to back it up…We need to get this concept back into circulation with the mainstream that play is the highest form of learning!"
Rebecca Fabiano is Founder of FAB Youth Philly, which supports organizations and individuals that work with children and youth by focusing on improving program quality and providing professional development for staff. FAB Youth Philly also works directly with teens. In a newsletter, Rebecca wrote, “There's been so much interest in the last few years in the various ways that play can positively impact children's learning and their overall health and well being. Play is so important that this report from August 2018 describes the ways in which doctors have begun to 'prescribe' play to their patients. ‘Play is not frivolous,’ the report says. Rather, research shows that play helps children develop language and executive functioning skills, learn to negotiate with others and manage stress, and figure out how to pursue their goals while ignoring distractions, among other things.”
Is Play Good for Older Kids?
We tend not to give older kids a chance to play. When I taught 6th grade, my students loved visiting the kindergartners - not to be helpers or mentors, but to get a chance to play with the building blocks and other play things. In teens, we see play take different creative forms – theater, project-based learning, making beats, adventure challenges, etc.
Hilary Conklin was a middle school teacher and is now an associate professor in the college of education at DePaul University in Chicago, where her research interests include the preparation of middle school social studies teachers. She writes, “One of the casualties of current education reform efforts has been the erosion of play, creativity, and joy from teenagers’ classrooms and lives, with devastating effects… And while play has gotten deserved press in recent months for its role in fostering crucial social-emotional and cognitive skills and cultivating creativity and imagination in the early childhood years, a critical group has been largely left out of these important conversations. Adolescents, too—not to mention adults, need time to play, and they need time to play in school…purposefully infusing play into middle and high school classrooms holds the potential for a more joyful, creative, and educative future for us all—a future in which kids have more interesting things to do in school than count down to summer break.” (4)
Is Play Good for Adults, too?
In a recent newsletter, Rebecca Fabiano writes, “The importance of play for children is well documented. Now researchers are turning their attention to its possible benefits for adults. What they’re finding is that play isn’t just about goofing off; it can also be an important means of reducing stress and contributing to overall well-being. This 2017 article from the Washington Post goes on to talk about why play is important for adults too. We're sharing a link to a toy we use a lot in our staff meetings and trainings with adults and teens (see photo of the cubes below). They are so popular we've lost several cubes at some of our meetings and trainings. This is just one way you can encourage play or playfulness with adults.”
Rebecca goes on to offer a few “easy and low cost/free ideas to try:
A Few More Resources
There are many resources on the topic of play. We cite a few below.
The power of play – Part 1-5: This is a 5-part series from Michigan State University The Power of Play
The Genius of Play has created easy to use activities, provides expert advice and more. And it's all FREE for anyone to use.
Videos: There are many TED talks and other videos on play. Below are some that we like.
• TED Talk by Stuart Brown entitled “Play is more than just fun”
• TED Talk by Peter Gray entitled “The decline of play”
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.