Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mindfulness in Afterschool: No Cost Resources Until May 31

By Sam Piha


Sam Piha
We know that teaching mindfulness in afterschool has great benefits for the young people as well as the staff who lead these activities. That is why we are expanding our efforts to help afterschool and summer programs incorporate mindfulness into their activities. Temescal Associates and the LIAS project are partnering with Inner Explorer to move this forward. 

Inner Explorer has answered the call for no/low cost resources through the end of May, 2016 that can sustain your efforts at bringing mindfulness to your afterschool program. These resources come in the form of daily audio sessions that are designed for different age groups and require only 20 minutes of staff training because staff learn with their students! These resources are no/low cost only if you sign up before May 31st, 2016 because Inner Explorer is in an expansion mode, Beta testing their new internet platform and hoping that once folks love the program, they will want to start an easy to use campaign to help pay it forward. Learn more here.



In addition, Laurie Grossman, a team member of Inner Explorer and Temescal Associates, and cofounder of Mindful Schools has published a children’s book entitled Master of Mindfulness: How To Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress. This book is authored and illustrated by 5th graders from Reach Academy in East Oakland, CA with Laurie and Angelina Alvarez. The majority of royalties from the sales of this book will be donated to a fund to support the post high-school educational or vocational endeavors of the twenty five authors who co-wrote the book. 


The book’s description begins by asking a question:

“Do you ever feel angry, disappointed, or stressed out about family problems, school, bullies, or trouble with friends? If so, mindfulness can help. Master of Mindfulness is a unique and empowering book written for kids by kids, with cool illustrations and tips that show you how to be confident, get focused, stay calm, and tap into your own inner strength so that you can be your own superhero—no matter what life throws your way!”

This book can be purchased at your local bookstore or through Amazon. You can also contact Temescal Associates for information on training to bring mindfulness to your staff (self-care strategies) and to your youth program.  

Temescal Associates is delighted about our partnership with Inner Explorer and we look forward to watching the fruits of this collaboration.


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More About Inner Explorer 
The mission and vision of Inner Explorer are: To unlock the academic potential and foster well-being for millions of children through mindfulness and to break the cycle of poverty and violence.

Inner Explorer was created in 2011 by Laura Bakosh and Janice Houlihan, who together have 30 years of experience practicing mindfulness. The K – 12 programs, based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program, were developed to help teachers and students develop a daily mindfulness practice.  

The effective, sustainable and scalable programs are streamed through the internet. It’s a simple push and play; staff and teachers learn with their students and there is no daily preparation. Research has shown the use of Inner Explorer results in a 50% reduction in discipline issues, a 43% reduction in teacher stress and a 10 – 30% increase in grades and test scores. For questions about how to sign onto Inner Explorer, please go to www.innerexplorer.org or contact Laurie Grossman.

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You can read other blogs by the LIAS project by going to: 
  • Expanded Learning 360°/365 Project website 
  • LIAS Blog Written for the California Afterschool Network

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Gender Identity and Implications for Practice: An Interview with a Child Development Specialist, Part 2

By Sam Piha
Sam Piha
We have produced a briefing/background paper on gender identity. We invite you to download this paper by clicking here.

Below, we continue our interview with Dr. Diane Ehrensaft to shed more light on this topic, and ask her about the implications for youth program leaders. You can find part 1 of this interview by clicking here

Dr. Ehrensaft specializes in research, clinical work, and consultation related to gender-nonconforming children. She is an associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco and a developmental and clinical psychologist in the San Francisco Bay Area.  

Q: Can gender identity be chosen―or even changed?
Dr. Diane Ehrensaft

A: We do not choose our gender identities—we discover them. No one can take that away from us, they can just demand that we bury it underground. And yes, our gender identities can change over time. Gender is a lifelong process. But truth be told, gender identity is typically a pretty stable part of ourselves, once we clarify what it is, albeit not necessarily immutable.  

When it comes to our gender expressions, yes, they can be both chosen and changed, either over time or depending on the circumstances. For example, when I was growing up I was both a ballerina and an avid student of math. When a ballerina, I was the essence of femininity. But when in my accelerated math class, I expressed myself in a competitive, driven manner more associated with male gender expressions at the time I was growing up. 

The terrible affront we do to transgender people is the same one that has been laid on gay, lesbian, and queer people—the accusation that they choose to be the way they are and they could stop it if they wanted (often with the help of harmful, reparative therapies). The reality is: that is who they are, they didn’t “choose” it, and it is the task of all around them to acknowledge, honor, and support that person for who they let us know they are.  

Q: Does gender have to be one or the other? 

A: Not only does gender not have to be one or the other—it isn’t. The only problem is that many people get nervous when we take that idea of only two genders away from them. The concept of binary gender—male/female--has been bedrock for many people; and now we’re taking that bedrock away and replacing it with gender as moving boulders. But that binary concept has never really held true in reality. When we look at the animal world, when we look at cultures across the globe and throughout history, and when we look at the phenomenal sea change that is occurring right now in our own culture’s redefinitions of gender, particularly among youth, we discover that gender, rather than binary, is actually infinite in its potential variations.  

On our own land, Native Americans have taught us about third and fourth genders. And these variations should be considered a healthy part of human existence, rather than something that has to be fixed or exterminated (as did the white settlers with the Native American third and fourth gender people). 

Turning back to youth, we now have children and teens who identify as agender, pangender, gender queer, gender fluid. Indeed Facebook has provided over 58 categories of gender to choose from, in addition to “other.”  And more will come. We now think of gender as a spectrum, a rainbow, a web, no more boxes.  

Q: What would you advise for youth workers regarding their work with gender fluid youth? 

A: More important than anything else, listen to the youth. It is not for us to say, but for them to tell us who they are and how they want to “do” their gender. Know that by the time they come to you they may have suffered years of teasing, harassment, or rejection because of their gender fluidity. Gender fluidity doesn’t always play well in a world that is genderist or transphobic. Alternatively, know that by the time they come to you they may have discovered support, acceptance, and pride in themselves, and that is to be celebrated. 

But going back to the negative, know that the risk factors for gender fluid youth are many. If not supported, gender fluid youth are at risk for anxiety, depression, self-harm, even suicide. And know that they depend on you to watch their back, to mirror back to them a positive sense of who they are, to use the names and pronouns they ask you to use for them, to step in rather than step aside as a passive bystander if others are giving them grief about their gender.

Q: What would you advise for youth workers as they look to create a safe and unbiased (gender) environment for all youth? 

A: First, look inside yourselves and check yourselves for your own biases and discomfort with gender-nonconforming and transgender youth. How do you really feel about a boy wearing a dress? A boy-girl? A girl who binds her breasts? All of us have “gender ghosts”—negative feelings about people who live outside gender boxes, a normative way of being that was instilled in us in our own socialization in a world that was not accepting of such gender differences.  
Photo Credit: Brian Peterson
http://www.startribune.com/

If we are to work with youth and afford all youth an opportunity to maximize their gender health—which means having the opportunity to live in the gender that feels most authentic to them - free of aspersion and rejection and filled with gender acceptance and support, it is necessary to expel our gender ghosts and replace them with gender angels—positive feelings and actions toward youth of all genders.

Anyone who works with a gender-nonconforming youth holds two responsibilities: 
  • To make sure you function as an accurate mirror for the youth: No one wants to feel invisible, so make sure you reflect back to the youth the gender self they are, not the one you want them or expect them to be.
  • To ensure that no insults or impingements/microaggressions come the youth’s way: The youth are counting on you to run interference for them and either not allow or be responsible for the minor or major insults that might come their way. So just make sure you step up to the plate.
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Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D. is an associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco and a developmental and clinical psychologist in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a private practice in Oakland, California.  She is Director of Mental Health of the Child and Adolescent Gender Center and chief psychologist at the Child and Adolescent Gender Center Clinic at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. She specializes in research, clinical work, and consultation related to gender-nonconforming children, lecturing, publishing, and serving as an expert witness on both topics nationally and internationally.

Dr. Ehrensaft is author of Gender Born, Gender MadeMommies, Daddies, Donors, SurrogatesBuilding a Home Within (co-edited with Toni Heineman); Spoiling Childhood; Parenting Together; and the new release, The Gender Creative Child.  Dr. Ehrensaft serves on the Board of Directors of Gender Spectrum, a national organization addressing the needs of gender-expansive children and their families. 
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You can read other blogs by the LIAS project by going to: 
  • Expanded Learning 360°/365 Project website 
  • LIAS Blog Written for the California Afterschool Network

Friday, April 15, 2016

Save Quality Afterschool

By Sam Piha
Sam Piha
There are calls for improving the quality of afterschool programs. The California Department of Education has issued new quality standards and there are numerous toolkits to assist afterschool programs. In response to this call, we have assembled a number of program improvement learning circles. 

The number one barrier to program improvement is financial resources. It takes time on the part of the afterschool staff to seriously work to improve practice and program quality. And between the stagnant funding levels and the rise in labor costs, afterschool budgets are simply too stressed to take on the challenge of program improvement. 

Photo Credit: www.saveafterschool.com

In an article entitled "Some After-School Program Providers Say Flat Funding May Cause Them to Close", written by Susan Frey for EdSource, she wrote:

A survey of after-school program providers found that 29 percent of respondents – including large programs such as LA’s BEST and THINKTogether – say they are likely to close in the next two years without an increase in the daily reimbursement rate from the state.
More than 86 percent of providers said they were having trouble hiring quality staff, and two-thirds said their programs had a waiting list, according to the survey by the Oakland-based advocacy group Partnership for Children & Youth
Each year, more than 400,000 students in over 4,000 elementary and middle schools participate in these programs, which are located primarily in high-poverty neighborhoods. The programs offer tutoring, sports and enrichment activities such as arts and science projects. They also provide a safe place for elementary and middle school children while their parents are working.
The daily reimbursement rate of $7.50 per student for three hours of programming has not changed since the After School Education and Safety Act was passed 10 years ago. The law provides $550 million each year for the programs, but does not include a cost-of-living adjustment.
Meanwhile, since 2007 the Consumer Price Index has increased by about 19 percent, the state minimum wage has grown by 33 percent and state law now requires employers to offer three days of annual sick leave.
There are a number of afterschool advocates that are working to raise the funding levels of state ASES programs. You can learn more and choose to get involved by going to http://www.saveafterschool.com/

Photo Credit: www.saveafterschool.com

Friday, April 8, 2016

History of Afterschool in America

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Many years ago, I developed a series of PowerPoint slides on the history of afterschool in America. I included these slides in all of my presentations throughout the country and these slides were the most popular ones I did. 

After every presentation, young youth workers would approach me and say things like, “I had no idea that I belonged to something that has such a long and important history”. 

I believe strongly that in order for Afterschool to be considered a field, it is necessary to have a documented history. By “field”, think of medicine, nursing, social work, or education - each has a documented history. Although afterschool youth programs date back to the late 1800s, our history has not been documented fully. 


To address this, we are launching a project to produce a 1-hour video documentary on the history of afterschool in America. This will be broken into three 20-minute sections suitable for use in staff training. Each section will be accompanied by a brief study guide. These materials will be distributed to afterschool programs across the country at no charge. Interviews and video clips will be conducted by youth videographers that are part of local afterschool programs and youth-led social enterprises. To ensure that we create a quality product, we have assembled a distinguished national advisory group.


We are currently raising funds to support this project by reaching out to individuals for small donations. We will also be reaching out to afterschool organizations and philanthropists. 

Please consider supporting this project by sharing this campaign through your social networks. You can also donate to this project by clicking here or clicking the "Donate Now" button below. If you choose to donate, please share your donation through the social media share buttons.