By Sam Piha
We know that young people missed a lot of classroom learning time when schools were closed due to the COVID-19 crisis. We also know that afterschool programs will likely be pressured to help make up for this classroom time that was lost. Afterschool programs may feel pressured to make up for these missed instructional minutes by doubling down on academics. But we know that afterschool programs have something much more important to offer. High quality afterschool programs specialize in positive relationships, safe and supportive environments, and engaging activities. All of these rejuvenating experiences will be essential to get students’ brains re-balanced and ready for learning after an incredibly disruptive spring and summer. We can anticipate that the transition to learning will be particularly hard for students who may be coming from unstable or stressful environments. Afterschool programs can play a vital role in supporting learning and well-being by focusing on their core areas of expertise and experience.
On May 18, 2020 we sponsored a webinar entitled, COVID-19 Era- Afterschool’s Whole Child Approach featuring Katie Brackenridge (Turnaround for Children) and Deborah Moroney (AIR). You can view a recording of the webinar here.
Katie offered Turnaround for Children's “3-R’s Framework” (Relationships, Routines, Resilience) to describe how we should prioritize our work when we re-open afterschool programs. Below she offered relevant practice examples:
Relationships: For example-
- Learn about your students’ lives.
- Talk to students one- on- one.
- Check-in with families.
- Run morning meetings/ advisories.
- Loop teachers for more than one year.
Routines: For example-
- Co-create and practice norms and routines.
- Keep it simple- clear instructions, written signs and non-verbal signals.
- Model ways to organize and prioritize tasks.
Resilience: For example-
- Liberally spread oxytocin with smiles, hugs and laughs.
- Be attuned to individual students’ emotions and reactions.
- Use mindfulness, journaling, movement to calm the brain.
Katie Brackenridge joined Turnaround for Children in 2019 as a Partnership Director. Katie has worked in and with schools, school districts and community organizations for her entire career. Before becoming a consultant, Katie was the Vice President of Programs at the Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY). Katie’s work is grounded in her nine-year experience as Co-Executive Director for the Jamestown Community Center, a grassroots youth organization in the Mission District of San Francisco.
Dr. Deborah Moroney is the Managing Director, American Institutes of Research (AIR). She specializes in bridging research and practice, having worked as a staff member for out-of-school programs early in her career. She's written practitioner and organizational guides; co-authored the fourth edition of Beyond the Bell®, A Toolkit for Creating High-Quality Afterschool and Expanded Learning Programs, a seminal afterschool resource. Presently, Dr. Moroney serves as the principal investigator on national studies of afterschool initiatives.
By Sam Piha
Different communities and individuals have strong opinions about how schools and youth programs treat the issues surrounding human sexuality. We were interested in hearing the views of a young person who is taking a stand on one of these issues.
Maggie Di Sanza is a 16-year-old high school student and advocate for menstrual equity. We first learned about Maggie through her article in EdWeek and her website, Bleed Shamelessly, which works to put an end to the harmful stigmas against menstruation and further gender equity through journalism, education, and protest.
Below are Maggie’s responses to some of our interview questions regarding her work.
Q: How would you define ‘menstrual equity’?
A: Menstrual equity refers to the idea that period hygiene should be a fundamental human right. It encompasses the philosophy that everyone who needs menstrual products, should be able to get them, and that natural need should not inhibit access to education or work. The reason that the term ‘equity’ is used as opposed to ‘equality,’ is because of the economic and social disparities that plague our society.
Q: You have written about the role of schools in supporting menstrual equity, but what about out of school programs that serve a large number of older girls?
A: Afterschool and summer programs carry the same barrier that typical school programs do when it comes to menstrual equity. From supplying menstrual products in all public restrooms, to complete and inclusive education. As a start, ensuring that all restrooms provide pads and tampons for free. No student should be concerned with paying for their menstrual products; as to not get in the way of their education, afterschool and summer programs can ensure that the district or individual school provides said products. This involves clear cut and administrative advocacy.
If it is the job of an after school or summer program to prompt sexual or reproductive health conversations, make sure that you are promoting inclusive and accurate information. If we open the conversation up to gender-expansive and transgender people, much more testimony and accurate information surrounding menstrual stigma becomes clear. Especially when it comes to adolescents, who are already questioning a great deal about gender and sexuality, affirming their bodily experiences regardless of sex or gender, is incredibly important.
Q: How can staff promote menstrual equity while being inclusive to transgender or non-binary youth?
A: Staff can affirm this idea through using gender neutral language when referring to menstruation. Instead of addressing period-having people as women, girls, or females, I do my best to use gender neutral language. This is because not all menstruating people are women, and not all women menstruate.
As we know, typical gendered language does not apply to the transgender, or gender-expansive community; these groups are constantly disregarded when speaking about reproductive health, healthcare, and education. Thus, it is the job of all advocates for menstrual and reproductive healthcare to include all folks in the conversations. I urge all people beginning this conversation to refer to period-having people as menstruating folks, as opposed to using strictly feminine-tied language. Thus, we will eventually disassociate womanhood, with menstruation.
Next, we can ensure that our education is inclusive and accurate by respecting and sharing testimony and menstrual experiences. Everyone experiences menstruation in different ways, shaming someone for not properly experiencing a bodily function is unproductive and dehumanizing. Instead, we can promote the different ways that menstruation occurs by sharing, recognizing, and valuing the encounters of others.
Everyone will, at some point, come across someone who is on their period. Simply because one does not identify with a particular group or experiences does not negate the fact that it is important to have sensitivity regarding the issue. Imagine the compassionate and inclusive society we could have, if we did not limit our education to such outdated binaries.
Q: What about youth programs that offer information related to sexuality?
A: We must make sure to bridge the gaps that traditional schooling excludes from menstrual education. Teach about what healthy menstruation looks like, and equally, what unhealthy menstruation can look like. Educate students about the products they can use to manage their periods, and how to properly take control of their own healthcare and bodies. Inform them of where to get menstrual products, and how they can support their peers who may not have access to menstrual products. Include information surrounding the menstrual disparities that plague our world, and how we can all take action in terms of abolishing social stigma as well as the systemic barriers to menstrual products.
Q: If the schools in which these programs exist do not have any policies or support for menstrual equity, how can after-school programs take on an advocacy role?
A: Those working for and managing afterschool and summer programs can write letters to head administrative staff in a district or school, and ask why certain bathrooms do not have free menstrual products. Urge them to promote not only the wellbeing, but education of all students in order to maintain productive and just educational environments. This can be as simple as an email-writing campaign, or a call to a principal or superintendent.
When advocating for free menstrual products in schools, it is important to emphasize the impact on the productivity of students. How can we expect menstruating students to succeed educationally if we do not give them the tools to manage their periods? If we ensure that menstrual products are physically accessible, it removes the common barrier to education and productivity that many period-havers face. It is the job of out-of-school programs to promote menstrual equity through education and conversation. By pointing out the ways in which students are inhibited by the system itself, administrators are far more likely to adjust their policy.
Menstrual hygiene should be a fundamental human right; we should no longer perceive making menstrual products accessible as a privilege to those receiving them. It is not a privilege to have a period; but rather it is a necessity for those in power to provide the tools to manage it.
You can also advocate by uplifting student testimony. Listen to and value the experiences of students within the program who have faced similar inequality when it comes to menstrual education or a lack of accessible products. Use their stories to advocate for your position and push for their experiences and values to be heard.
[Read this article on this topic from a Philadelphia newspaper.]
How are afterschool programs supporting girls through menstrual equity?
Please write us regarding any activities you conduct in you program.
Maggie Di Sanza is currently a junior at James Madison Memorial High School in Madison, Wisconsin. Social justice has always been a large part of her life, and promoting the wellbeing of all people. She is currently the Co-President of Memorial’s Gender Equity Association, and a member of our Sexual Assault Prevention Club, GSA, and Student Activist Club. She has lobbied for rights at the capitol, protested alongside her peers for equal rights, and presented the importance of equality at multiple educational institutions. She started Bleed Shamelessly with the hope of educating others about the menstrual inequities that exist in our culture, and improving accessibility to menstrual hygiene products; because she believes no one should feel incapable due to their period.
Shawn Ginwright and Jennifer Peck are important leaders in the afterschool and youth development movements. They have both been frequent contributors to our blogs and conferences. Below are articles they recently published during the COVID-19 crisis.
Coronavirus Underscores Need for Healing America's Racial Divisions
By Dr. Shawn Ginwright
A history of policies that exclude and inflict harm have led to higher rates of persistent traumatic stress environment, leaving African Americans and Lations more vulnerable in the fight against COVID-19.
Now is the time to shape a new world and remedy past injustices. The reports of racial disparities among COVID-19 victims should not surprise us. African Americans and Latinos have typically experienced disproportionate exposure to a range of health issues. (Read the full article published in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 14, 2020.)
Summer Matters More Than Ever
By Jennifer Peck
There are some unique challenges in front of us as we think about this coming summer, when learning loss, social disconnection and mental health challenges will be as intense as ever.
We should be doubling down on supports for kids over the summer, but there are a lot of unknowns. We don’t yet know to what extent we will be allowed to congregate in groups and when. We don’t know what the resource picture will look like. We don’t know how we can staff programs. The barriers seem immense, and feel overwhelming while our system is still trying to implement distance learning at scale.
What we cannot do is become paralyzed. There is too much at stake. Right now, we must be planning for different scenarios so that we can be ready to serve as many students as possible with various combinations of virtual and small group in-person time, including creative, project-based activities for students. (Read the full article published on Ed100.org on April 24, 2020.)
Shawn Ginwright is professor of Education, and African American Studies at San Francisco State University and chairman of the Board of Directors for the California Endowment. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Pivot: A Dramatic Shift Toward a Healing Centered Society. Dr. Ginwright has been a frequent contributor and speaker for Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation.
Jennifer Peck, Executive Director of the Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY), has led the organization since its founding in 2001. During this time, she has grown PCY to be the leading California intermediary building access to high quality expanded learning opportunities for students living in our state’s lowest-income communities. Jennifer led the creation of the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance, the California Summer Matters Campaign, the California Community Schools Network, and HousED which builds on-site learning supports for students living in public and affordable housing.
By Sam Piha
(Note: The COVID-19 pandemic has been very disruptive to afterschool providers and we will cover this topic ongoing. However, as afterschool leaders plan for Summer and next Fall, we will also offer posts that advances thinking for the afterschool movement.)
Katie Brackenridge is a long- time pioneer and advocate for afterschool learning opportunities which promote positive youth development. She recently joined Turnaround for Children, and we interviewed her regarding their Developing the Whole Child project. Below are some of her responses.
Q: Can you say something about Turnaround for Children.
A: Turnaround for Children was founded immediately after the 9/11 attacks in New York City. Our founder, Dr. Pamela Cantor, was commissioned by the NYC Board of Education to assess the impact of the attacks on the city’s public school students. She found that 68% of the children observed were experiencing trauma that impaired their school functioning. But, the trauma was not related to the attacks, rather it was from their on-going experience of adversity and stress from growing up in poverty.
This realization led Dr. Cantor to initiate a set of supports in New York City that involved intensive mental health services for students in schools in high poverty communities. Turnaround for Children has since expanded beyond New York City to schools and school districts in Washington DC, Chicago, Tulsa and the San Francisco Bay Area. It is a member of the Science of Learning and Development (SoLD) Alliance, which includes the Learning Policy Institute, the Forum for Youth Investment, the American Institutes for Research, Education Counsel and Populace.
Katie Brackenridge will be joined by Dr. Deborah Moroney (AIR) to host a webinar on COVID-19 Era- Afterschool's Whole Child Approach.
Q: Regarding your work on the Developing the Whole Child project, can you cite the main takeaways of the brain science that undergirds the work?
A: I’ve been working in the youth development field for a very long time. As a young after school educator, I figured out quickly that having good relationships with students made my job easier and more enjoyable for everyone. In my thirties, I was involved in all the great San Francisco work that you, Sam, were leading with the Community Network for Youth Development where I learned the research backing for positive relationships and supportive environments.
From the science, I’ve now learned that relationships and environments are important because that’s how our brains are wired. You can find a full description in this article and in this video on the SoLD Alliance website. The key takeaways are:
This science provides the biological rationale for the positive relationships and safe, supportive environments that researchers and practitioners have found to be so important and effective.
Q: Can you cite the primary essentials for the Developing the Whole Child framework that supports all aspects of child development?
A: Youth developers will see the immediate parallels to expanded learning quality standards and the principles of Learning in Afterschool and Summer from Temescal Associates.
Turnaround’s Vision for Student Success takes the Blue Wheel into practice for schools (and possibly youth development organizations) by defining resources and tools at the educator, classroom and school level, all supported by strong leadership and shared ownership. The Turnaround wheel looks like this:
For each of the components of the Vision for Student Success (VSSS), Turnaround has professional development resources and practice toolkits. The “Whole Child Inventory” allows staff to self- assess their current strategies, structures and practices against criteria in each component of the VSSS.
Q: The concepts represented in your blue wheel are very similar to earlier research on youth development, the features of quality afterschool programs, the YPQA, etc. What do you think are the added benefits of the Whole Child wheel?
A: What’s exciting to me is that this framework and the science of learning are a strong and concrete affirmation of the youth program quality standards, in place across the country. They provide further call to action for school systems and youth development organizations to work together to provide more consistency and coherence in young people’s experiences.
The frameworks and related tools provide some new and more specific approaches for some of youth development’s tried and true practices. Turnaround, for example, has taken the concept of relationships and further defined - based on research - the exact characteristics that need to be in place for a relationship to be developmental and therefore impactful. These characteristics include emotional attachment, reciprocity, joint activity and balance of power. The message is not different from youth development principles, but provides a level of detail based in science that can help practitioners be more intentional.
Turnaround also names the specific skills and mindsets (the Building Blocks for Learning) that young people need to succeed. Executive Functions, for example, are the skills that everyone needs to get things done and include remembering what you’re supposed to do, keeping yourself on task and being flexible when things change or don’t work out. These Executive Functions are particularly challenging for young people who experience adversity because they require high functioning of our pre-frontal cortex (regulation) and hippocampus (learning and memory) and not as much from the amygdala (reactions and emotion). Teachers and youth developers can help students build Executive Functions by teaching them to use tools (ie: calendars, check lists, breathing) and structures (ie: visual reminders, quiet spaces) that help them succeed academically and in all kinds of tasks. This additional information and the way it is translated into practices can help educators, including youth developers, be more intentional and individualized in their support for students.
Q: Does your organization offer any tools or resources that will help afterschool program leaders implement practices that support the development of the whole child?
A: Turnaround is primarily focused on K-12 education, but, clearly the science of learning and development is relevant to the youth development field. Many of the tools and resources could be easily adapted for youth development leaders and practitioners. The Forum for Youth Investment is a member of the SoLD Alliance and is intentionally working to ensure that the perspectives and strengths of the youth development field are understood and leveraged as the momentum around the science of learning and development builds. The science of learning and development is a significant asset to after school and summer programs, particularly those that are hoping to align more closely with the school day. The science clearly validates youth development practice and supports the building of authentic partnerships for student skills and success.
Katie Brackenridge joined Turnaround for Children in 2019 as a Partnership Director. Katie has worked in and with schools, school districts and community organizations for her entire career. Most recently, she was an independent consultant focused on improving learning conditions and social-emotional supports for young people through public school systems. Before becoming a consultant, Katie was the Vice President of Programs at the Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY), a nonprofit intermediary organization focused on improving practice and policy for after-school and summer programs in public schools and affordable housing. Katie’s work is grounded in her nine-year experience as Co-Executive Director for the Jamestown Community Center, a grassroots youth organization in the Mission District of San Francisco.
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.