Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The Advantages of Informal Learning Environments

Source: www.kingartscomplex.com

By Sam Piha

During this past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an even greater appreciation of the informal learning environment in afterschool (sometimes referred to as expanded learning). We know that afterschool is not in competition with classroom learning, rather it is a complement. Afterschool learning has several advantages, which are described below. 

Source: www.victoriaadvocate.com
Topics of Interest: Afterschool programs have the flexibility to pursue topic areas that young people find personally interesting and relevant. These topics include the sciences, visual and performing arts, civic engagement and community service, and physical activity—all of which can easily be aligned with school standards. In many communities, the ability of schools to offer these subjects is adversely affected by budget shortfalls and the need to shore up student performance in language arts and mathematics. Afterschool programs ensure that children who cannot afford fee-based enrichment programs have access to these important learning opportunities. 

Source: www.trevormuir.com
Learning in Small Groups: Afterschool programs have child-to-adult ratios that are lower than most classrooms. Small group settings enable adults to focus on the individual needs of young people, form personal supportive relationships, and engage young people in hands-on, experiential learning. 

Time to Learn: Some learning requires more time than can be allowed in a classroom setting, especially in middle and high school, where youth move from class to class. This learning involves projects that require extra time to plan, to work within a larger team, to analyze problems and persevere until solutions are found. Some learning requires reflection on important lessons that were gained and the opportunity to share and be recognized for one’s accomplishments. This sharing may come in the form of a presentation, a play or a recital, an art exhibition or service project, which may allow children to be acknowledged in ways they never experienced during the school day. Afterschool programs have flexible schedules that can allow young people to immerse themselves in a single program activity for the entire afternoon, if needed. In other cases, young people can participate in projects that build over several weeks or more. These kinds of projects promote important skills such as goal setting, project planning, teamwork, time management, and self- assessment. 

Source: www.youthtoday.org
Learning Beyond Place: Afterschool programs have the flexibility to go outside, beyond the walls of their facilities, using the surrounding neighborhood as a classroom. They are also able to bring the community into the school, by enlisting the talents and resources of individuals and surrounding businesses. Connecting to the local community broadens the variety of activities and experiences available to young people, honors the value of their own communities, provides young people with opportunities to contribute to others, and allows community members to see the learning and positive development of their children in action. 

Active Learning: The learning environment in afterschool is often less formal than in school. Children are allowed to learn by doing and learn as part of a larger team. This approach is very attractive and motivating to young people who may be struggling in the traditional classroom setting. 

Source: www.verywellfamily.com
Parental Access and Involvement: Because programs extend into the late afternoon and early evening, afterschool staff can often engage young people’s family members in ways most schools find difficult. Afterschool programs can serve as a communications bridge between the school and parents, thereby promoting a stronger partnership between them, especially when the afterschool staff live in the same community and share the language and culture of the parents and guardians. Afterschool workers are in a position to use parents as resources to better understand the experiences and needs of participants and to provide input on programming. 

Source: www.msdaz.org
Diverse Teachers and Resources: Afterschool programs rely on a wide variety of workers, including certified teachers, paraprofessionals, youth workers, college students, and community members. This flexibility allows afterschool programs to engage a diverse pool of workers that reflects the cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds of the young people in the program. These workers often present ideas, activities and resources that make education and learning feel relevant and compelling to young people, and thus inspire greater interest and motivation during the school day.  

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Practice Q&A: Complimenting, Not Replicating, Schools

By Sam Piha

Youth workers face a variety of challenges and dilemmas, as they work with a diverse group of young people. We collected a number of questions from youth workers and promised to engage experts and field leaders for their answers. Below are some of the questions we received and the answers that we sought out from field leaders, content experts and innovative practitioners. If you want to submit your own question, click here.

This blog is part 4 of our Q&A series. See part 1 here, part 2 here and part 3 here. Stay tuned as we continue to explore questions from youth workers. (Note: we know that there are many answers to any question. Below, we offer some well-thought-out answers that we received. Because schools and agencies may have specific policies, we recommend that youth workers share their questions with their immediate supervisor. At the bottom we provide a brief bio about the respondent.)

Q: How do we best support our young people in SEL when educators are focusing solely on academic loss during the shelter-in-place and distance learning not reaching those who don't have the technology to participate? - Youth Worker, serving youth 5-11, Humboldt County, CA
Katie Brackenridge,
Turnaround for Children
A: I think youth developers have an incredibly important role to play on several levels. Let's start with relationships - your relationships (or ability to create relationships) with youth and families are likely to be stronger than the districts. In many cases, districts have had trouble even finding the students who haven't connected with distance learning. It would be really helpful and smart for after school and summer providers to offer their support to districts in finding those students. You may be more successful than district staff because of your in-depth knowledge about young people in your programs, their friend networks, their families and other places and people in the community they may be reaching out to for help.

Similarly, you may already know family members in a way that district staff don't. And even if you don't already have relationships with specific students and families, you may be better equipped to reach out because of your network of relationships with other young people and your connections in the community. Most importantly, this service would be helpful to the families that have been excluded by distance learning. It would also be a strategic way to demonstrate your value as a district partner.

The second role that youth developers can play is supporting the social and emotional needs of young people. This is a completely crazy and stressful time for everyone, and particularly for young people who are in unstable or unsafe environments. As a youth developer, you probably already know which young people from your program need help right now and will need additional support to re-acclimate to the expectations of the school environment. Students who come back to school having experienced trauma - and there will be many - will not be able to sit down and focus on learning. We know that from the science of learning and development - specifically, the fact that the parts of our brains that manage emotions, concentration and learning are interconnected. That's why it's so hard to focus under stress - as many of us have been experiencing. Caring, supportive adults can help calm students' brains so that they are ready for learning. You can do this with all the youth development strategies you already have in your toolbox - for example, one-on-one check-ins with students; safe, supportive environments for peer connections; mindfulness practices; and physical activity.

I'll leave you with those two ideas, though there are many more. This blog on the BOOST Collaborative website provides some more of the science grounding related to youth development practice. You may also want to direct district staff to research reports on the SoLD Alliance website to ground them in the science of learning and development.
- Katie Brackenridge, 
Turnaround for Children

Source: Wings for Kids
Q: How do we make sure organizational practices in schools support our expanded learning program staff, recognizing that we are often better equipped and available to promote healthy youth development? - Youth Worker, serving youth 5-11, Humboldt County, CA
A: It seems like the youth development field has been mulling over this question forever... and yet, getting schools to acknowledge the value of afterschool programs and partner effectively is still really challenging. There are many different answers and resources for thinking intentionally and strategically about school/after school partnerships. Here, for example, are a link to a video about partnerships and a set of case studies about partnerships from the California Afterschool Network. Other state afterschool networks, the National Afterschool Association and many other intermediary organizations will also have guides, reports and videos for partnerships.

When I was an afterschool site coordinator, my most important asset was relationships - all across the school. Of course, making sure the principal knows what you're doing and how it supports their school priorities is critical. But, it's also important that every teacher is pleased with your work, and sees how it also supports their goals for students. This is a one-on-one strategy between your staff and teachers, and also a school-wide strategy requiring the site coordinator's participation in school staff, school site council, PTA and other meetings. And of course, you can't ever forget staff who clean the school, work in the front office, drive the buses and other essential supporting roles in the school. If they like your staff and your program, they can make sure it runs smoothly and help resolve any hiccups - the opposite, of course, is also true.
- Katie Brackenridge, 
Turnaround for Children

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.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

SEL and Character Building Program Practices

By Sam Piha

There is great agreement that social emotional learning skills are very beneficial in preparing youth for success. While we hear a lot about the “why” of SEL and character building, little is heard about the application (the “what” and “how”) within expanded learning (afterschool) programs. Expanded learning practices need to be uplifted so that the field can begin to see what good character/SEL practices look like.
Source: CASEL

We were interested in how programs promote these skills, so we put out an announcement asking afterschool programs to submit a program practice. We compiled these practices into a paper entitled, “Promising Activities, Practices and Resources: Promoting SEL and Character Skills in Expanded Learning Programs”. Each submission included a description of the submitting organization, a contact person within the organization, and a description of the practice or activity (i.e. purpose, time needed/frequency, target audience, and supporting resources).
The concept of social emotional learning has come to a frenzy in the past couple of years. Where does afterschool fit in to all of this? You would hope that we’d be right at the forefront. We’ve been doing this for years we know how to do it. – Karen Pittman, Forum for Youth Investment
Below are some practices that programs submitted:

Source: Temescal Associates
EDUCARE- Guided Visualizations. Visualizations are guided around a particular theme. There are a variety of mindfulness and centering practices they enjoy using and have found valuable. An example theme: Gratefulness. Youth close their eyes and review on an imaginary movie screen, images of who and what they are grateful for or appreciate - friends, family members, their health, people who support or inspire them, opportunities they have at school or elsewhere, etc.

Source: Ever Forward Club
EVER FORWARD CLUB- Mask Making. Youth are given a handout and asked to follow 3 steps anonymously. They are also asked to keep their eyes on their own paper. 1. Draw a mask on the left side. 2. Write 3 words on the front of the mask that represent qualities they let people see. 3. Write 3 words on the back of the mask that represent the things they don’t usually let people see. Adult leaders collect the masks and then have a few volunteers read a few of the responses anonymously. Youth are then invited to share how it felt hearing about the front and back of the masks of their peers. This would be a good time to discuss their commonalities and differences. Deeper processes can be created depending on the level of safety that has been generated in the room.

Source: LA's BEST
LA’S BEST- Sanford Harmony Cards. These cards provide engaging questions and activities to explore with a "buddy". The students then get to know each other and connect, which prepares them to handle future challenges and conflicts and opportunities to collaborate in a meaningful and constructive way. Sanford Harmony also provides recommendations of how and why to pair students together. The "Meet Up" strategy provides a way to strengthen a program's daily routine by incorporating practices that allow the entire group of students to explore how they treat each other and how they communicate with one another.

CALSAC- Regular Check Ins. This is an intentional space created for staff and youth to share how they are showing up in that space. Participants typically sit or stand in a circle during the check in. Next, a volunteer is asked to start and then chooses a direction for participants to follow. The information shared allows everyone in the room to understand what may be going on for them and honor that each individual may be coming into the space with varying life experiences. This allows everyone to see each other more wholly and create safety for people to be authentic in the space. It is recommended to create an opportunity for everyone to lead the check-in. (From Temescal Associates: It is recommended that each speaker holds a talking piece, such as a feather or item chosen by the group. The talking piece is held by the person speaking and then passed around the circle. Those not holding the talking piece are engaged in active listening.)

Source: Greater Good Science Center
GREATER GOOD SCIENCE CENTER- Gratitude Letter. In this activity, youth are guided to complete the Gratitude Letter practice, where they write a letter of thanks and then try to deliver it in person. To introduce the activity, the following script may be helpful: 'Most everyone enjoys thanks for a job well done or for a favor done for a friend, and most of us remember to say “thank you” to others. But sometimes our “thank you” is said so casually or quickly that it is nearly meaningless.' In this activity, you will have the opportunity to express your gratitude in a very thoughtful manner. Think of the people—parents, friends, coaches, teammates, and so on—who have been especially kind to you but whom you have never properly thanked. Choose one person you could meet individually for a face-to-face meeting in the next week. Your task is to write a gratitude letter (a letter of thanks) to this individual and deliver it in person. The letter should be specific about what he or she did that affected your life. It is important that you meet him or her in person. Don’t tell this person, however, about the purpose of this meeting. This activity is much more fun when it is a surprise to the person you are thanking.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Understanding Gender Identity: An Interview with a Child Development Specialist, Part 1

We are reposting this blog to acknowledge the last day of LGBTQ+ Pride Month. To read part 2 of this interview, click here.

By Sam Piha

There is a growing awareness in our society that gender is more than the sex that is assigned at birth. Gender identity is no longer an esoteric concept for child development experts. The importance of understanding gender identity is increasingly important for educators and leaders of youth programs. 

In a previous post, Understanding Gender Identity in Young People, we reviewed the terminology surrounding this topic. 

In this post, we interview Dr. Diane Ehrensaft to shed more light on this topic. She specializes in research, clinical work, and consultation related to gender-nonconforming children. Diane 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.   

Dr. Diane Ehrensaft

Q: Is gender inborn or learned? 

A: As implied in the title of my book, Gender Born, Gender Made, the answer is neither—it’s both. Each one of our genders includes a combination of nature, nurture, and culture. To really answer this question, of inborn or learned, we have to differentiate gender identity from gender expressions: gender identity is our inner sense of self as male, female, or other; gender expressions are the ways we show our gender to the world—our appearance, our activities, our words, our ways of relating to the world.  

Present research indicates that our gender identities have a strong constitutional loading, while our gender expressions have a stronger social, cultural loading, but that both gender identity and gender expressions can have elements of all three influences—nature, nurture, and culture.  

Regarding nature, the most important concept to mark is that gender does not lie between our legs; it lays in our brains and our minds, and the messages those brains and minds send to you inside about what your gender is are paramount.

Q: Developmentally, when does this happen? 

A: Our old developmental theories said one thing, newer developmental theories say another. I’m going to answer according to the new. By the second year of life a toddler can exhibit both understanding of the gender label given to the child by the outside world (i.e., They call me boy; they call me girl) and their own internal sense of their core gender which will either match that label (the cisgender child) or show the incipient signs of being opposed to that label, as when a toddler, upon developing language, says, Me not boy, me girl. From age two to six, we all learn what it means to be a boy or girl or other, in other words, how to “do” our gender. We learn this through observation, direct teaching or coaching, even gender policing, and through our close relationships with those around us.  

By age six, most children will have a fairly stable sense of their gender identity, but not all children do, and some children may go through several iterations throughout their childhood until they land on “the gender that is me.”  The most important element in this developmental process is that the adults around the child allow children the freedom to establish their own gender selves, rather than have it dictated by others. 

Notable is that in traditional gender theories it was expected that for a child to have successfully reached their developmental markers regarding gender identity, they must have a clear and stable sense of themselves as boy or girl by age 6, and that sense should match the sex assigned to them at birth. But if a child says, “Hey, you all have it wrong, I’m not the gender you think I am” that child is not acknowledged as capable of having a stable gender identity by age six. That child is told, “You are too young to know.” That child is a member of our youngest cohort of transgender people, and we have to ask the defenders of the traditional developmental theories—How come a cisgender child can know who they are by age six, but a transgender child cannot?

Q: What is gender fluidity? 

A: Gender fluidity is living outside binary gender boxes—male/female; boy/girl. It also indicates a flexibility and creativity in composing for oneself a gender mosaic, if you will, based on a potpourri of the social expressions of gender within one’s culture and also on an internal sense of self as neither male, female, but somewhere in between or all and any rather than either/or. A child can be gender fluid at any moment in time (think pink boys) or over time (ballerina for awhile, then Darth Vader, then a “gender hybrid”).


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 Made; Mommies, Daddies, Donors, Surrogates; Building 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. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Meet America's Newest Chess Master, 10-Year-Old Tanitoluwa Adewumi

Source: NPR/ HarperCollins

By Sam Piha

We posted a prior LIAS blog on Chess and Afterschool. For readers who were particularly interested in this topic, we wanted to introduce you to America’s newest chess master, 10-year-old Tanitoluwa Adewumi. After fleeing his home country of Nigeria, he arrived in America with his family and stayed in a homeless shelter. 

I say to myself that I never lose, that I only learn. Because when you lose, you have to make a mistake to lose that game. So you learn from that mistake, and so you learn [overall]. So losing is the way of winning for yourself."- Tanitoluwa Adewumi

He was recently interviewed by NPR. You can listen to the interview by clicking the image below. If you prefer to read his story, click here and here.

He's also written a book about his life called My Name Is Tani ... and I Believe in Miracles. The book has been optioned for a Trevor Noah-produced film adaptation with a script by The Pursuit of Happyness screenwriter, Steven Conrad. 

Teacher-turned-principal Salome Thomas-EL says chess can help students develop a slew of practical skills they can use for many years to come." 

Check out the full article, When Implementing Games In Your Classroom, Don’t Forget About Chess, on Edutopia here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

How Expanded Learning Programs and Schools Work Together to Support Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic

According to the American Institutes for Research (AIR), “COVID-19 created a host of new challenges for educators and exacerbated many pre-existing ones. Conversely, the pandemic also provided educators and policymakers with opportunities to innovate, become more adaptive, and learn best practices that will continue to be relevant long after the crisis has passed.”

In April 2021, AIR published an interview with Femi Vance, Ph.D., an AIR researcher, on how expanded learning programs and schools can work together to support students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are excerpts from the interview. The full interview is available here.

Q: How has COVID-19 affected expanded learning programs? And how have the programs helped students? 

Femi Vance
A: Expanded learning refers to the programs that operate outside of the normal class hours—before and after school, in the summer, and over holiday breaks. Such programs offer students a whole host of supports and learning opportunities: a safe and supportive learning environment, academic enrichment, caring adults, opportunities to build peer relationships, social and emotional support, and fun. These programs have quickly and creatively figured out how to keep serving families during the pandemic. According to the Afterschool Alliance, when the pandemic hit last year, 25% of programs nationwide closed; as of March 2021, only 3% are closed. 

In December 2020, California’s Afterschool Network (CAN) released a report on the state of afterschool programs. Remarkably, it showed that California’s expanded learning programs continue to serve students who have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, including Black and Latinx students, English language learners, and students who are living in poverty. That’s really important, because the evidence tells us that high-quality expanded learning programs lead to measurable positive outcomes for students, including improved school attendance and stronger social and emotional skills. 

During the pandemic, many expanded learning programs pivoted in all sorts of ways. For instance, they delivered meals to families who are struggling, and they helped families without internet obtain educational resources. In a few instances, expanded learning programs have been able to help social services connect with hard-to-reach families, because they can draw upon existing relationships. Some programs have kept their doors open, providing child care to the children of essential workers. In general, they’ve continued to offer emotional support and connection, which is essential in these socially distant times. 

Q: Why is it important for schools and districts to coordinate on expanded learning programs, and what are some takeaways from AIR’s work on how to strengthen those partnerships? 

A: I think a lot of educators don’t want to go back to the system we had before. There were major disparities in how students were being served, and the pandemic provides an opportunity to reimagine the system to eliminate those gaps. Many programs are really just starting to think about equity, but this requires intentionality: Equity has to be defined, and existing barriers have to be named and identified before they can be dismantled. 

Partnerships between schools and expanded learning programs have always been important; the pandemic has reinforced that point. We can leverage those partnerships to create a seamless learning experience from school to afterschool and also provide equitable learning opportunities. Implementing that kind of programming—one that meets the needs of each student—requires collaborative planning. That way, both partners can establish shared goals and make adjustments to achieve them. Our discussion tool offers guiding questions that can be used in collaborative meetings about whole child learning opportunities. Schools and expanded learning partners can use these questions to initiate conversations about a range of topics, including equity.  

Source: AIR

Q: Many children are returning or have returned to in-person schooling after learning elsewhere for some time. What supports will they need, and how can partnerships between schools and expanded learning programs help? 

A: We know from our analysis of re-opening plans that states are elevating the critical need to provide whole child supports to students, including social and emotional supports and mental health services. As I see it, supports for social and emotional learning and development are built into the fabric of expanded learning programs. As expanded learning programs and schools better integrate learning, as I described earlier, it would be great if that led to more active conversations about strengthening social and emotional learning and development across the school day and expanded learning programs. 

For mental health, expanded learning programs typically don’t have a mental health professional on site. But these programs can be a wonderful resource to make referrals to local free and low-cost mental health service providers. They also can serve as an early warning system for families whose children are experiencing mental health issues. This is important because the earlier that problems are identified and treated, the better the outcomes are likely to be. 

Q: What are some lessons learned for both California and other states as they address the current educational challenges the pandemic poses, but also anticipate new challenges after the pandemic ends? 

A: One very exciting lesson is that these innovative partnerships are possible, because they’re building on existing strengths and assets. The current structure is not necessarily optimized, but there are a lot of opportunities available. For example, the California governor’s 2021-2022 proposed budget allocates $4.55 billion for expanded learning time and academic interventions, which includes expanded learning programs. We’ve also seen California become more flexible on the grant requirements for these programs, and this has allowed programs to continue serving families in spite of the pandemic. 

Another major takeaway is that we should be thinking about how to help children succeed on every level, figuring out what families need and how we can provide it. That’s the approach expanded learning programs in California have taken during the pandemic, but it would also serve us well even when this moment passes. 

Lastly, we should continue to focus on equity. Even after the pandemic, we need to continue to ask ourselves: Who do we typically not hear from? How do we get them what they need? In other words, how can our partnerships continue to chip away at systemic inequities? 



Femi Vance, Ph.D. is a researcher at American Institutes for Research (AIR). She researches and evaluates out-of-school time programs and provides technical assistance to youth development professionals. She strives to translate her research into practice via board service, training, and practical and relevant blog posts and guides. 

About AIR: Established in 1946, with headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, the American Institutes for Research® (AIR®) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance to solve some of the most urgent challenges in the U.S. and around the world. We advance evidence in the areas of education, health, the workforce, human services, and international development to create a better, more equitable world. The AIR family of organizations now includes IMPAQ, Maher & Maher, and Kimetrica. For more information, visit www.air.org.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

A New Way to Subscribe to the LIAS Blog

At the end of June 2021, Feedburner, our subscription service for this blog, will come to an end. Beginning June 8, 2021, we will begin using Follow.It for our subscription services. Please check your email filters to ensure you receive our LIAS Blog notifications. 
If you'd like to subscribe, look for the above box on the right side of the blog posts, right under the blog archive. If you have any questions or concerns about this, please email info@temescalassociates.com. Thank you for your continued support of the Learning in Afterschool & Summer Blog. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Dr. Deborah Lowe Vandell and the Longitudinal 26- Year Afterschool Study

​Ongoing research on out-of-school time programs is essential to help shape our practice and ensure ongoing support from policy makers. Dr. Deborah Lowe Vandell, founding Dean Emerita of Education at the University of California Irvine, has been a leading researcher on expanded learning programs since 1985. Dr. Vandell appeared in our video on the Learning in Afterschool & Summer Learning Principles and our documentary on the History of Afterschool in America. She also shared her thoughts in a plenary presentation and workshop at the How Kids Learn VIII conference and has been interviewed for past LIAS Blogs

In a recent article from the Mott Foundation she was interviewed about the release of a 26- year study on the impacts of early childhood and afterschool programs. “As one of the principal investigators with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, she has conducted an intensive study of the development of 1,300 people from birth to 26 years. This work is viewed by many social scientists as one of the most comprehensive studies of the short- and long-term effects of early care and afterschool education to date.”  

Below we quote some excerpts from the interview with Dr. Vandell published by the Mott Foundation. You can read the full Mott interview here.

Q: What has research on afterschool programs revealed since you first started working in this field? 

Deborah Lowe Vandell
Photo: Steve Zylius
A: Many researchers in both the United States and other countries are now studying afterschool programs and activities in childhood and adolescence. The good news is that our science has now substantially increased what we know about these important developmental contexts, and we are now much better situated to meet the needs of children and adolescents by providing accessible, affordable, high-quality afterschool learning opportunities. 

We’ve also identified many of the key ingredients needed for out-of-school time to have positive effects. This work has shown that consistent and sustained participation in high-quality afterschool programs is linked to positive academic and social outcomes for both children and adolescents. However, findings are less clear (and sometimes even negative) when participation is sporadic or activities are lower in quality, so we have to pay close attention to program quality and to participation over time. 

Q: Tell us about your latest study. What were the biggest questions? 

A: My latest study is one that circles back to that first afterschool study. This latest study looked at children’s early care and education and their organized afterschool activities in elementary school and asked how these two sets of experiences (early care and afterschool care) are related to children’s academic and social functioning in high school. 

In this study, my coauthors and I followed almost 1,000 children over time and asked if both early care and education (ECE) and afterschool organized activities during elementary school are related to how students are doing in high school — both academically and socially. We focused on ninth graders because the high school transition is challenging for many adolescents, and we wanted to know if children’s early care and afterschool activities in elementary school could help adolescents to meet these challenges. 

Q: What did you and your coauthors find?

A: We found that both early child care and out-of-school time during elementary school predicted higher academic achievement at age 15. 

Children who received higher quality ECE and who had sustained participation in afterschool organized activities demonstrated higher academic achievement in high school. These effects on academic achievement were additive — with the effects associated with afterschool programs building on or adding to the early care effects. Importantly, the effects associated with early care and afterschool care also were exactly the same size, indicating that both are good investments. 

In this paper, we also found that early care and out-of-school time were related to different aspects of behavioral development. Higher quality ECE predicted fewer behavioral problems in adolescence, whereas afterschool organized activities were linked to greater social confidence. 

We found that consistent participation in afterschool was important for building children’s social competence — including feeling more confident about meeting new people and interacting with peers and adults — which bodes well for students’ future success in school and in the workplace. These benefits were not associated with ECE experiences, suggesting that afterschool programs serve a unique role in this respect. 

Q: What makes this body of work unique and its findings important? 

A: There are several factors that make the study noteworthy, I think. The first is the effort to examine early care and education and out-of-school time in relation to later development. For the most part, these two important developmental contexts have been studied separately. 

Second, the study finds effects of these earlier experiences on longer term outcomes in adolescence. These effects, evident in the 15-year-olds, suggest that the benefits of early care and elementary school activities do not fade away, but persist over time. Now we are asking if the effects continue to be evident in adulthood. 

Third, the sample in this study was economically, geographically and ethnically diverse, suggesting that these findings on the benefits of afterschool programming have wide generalizability for children in the United States. 

This work is consistent with and extends prior research by showing that sustained participation in high- quality afterschool programs in elementary school is linked to positive academic and social outcomes in high school and that those effects persist. 

Q: What does the study imply for post-COVID-19 recovery? 

Source: www.njsacc.org
A: Researchers and educators are deeply concerned about the effects of COVID on children’s learning and development — and the impact of school closures, disruptions and trauma brought on by the pandemic. 

In one set of studies released by NWEA, a nonprofit research organization, researchers documented a significant widening of academic achievement gaps by income and race last spring, which was further exacerbated by school closings and disruptions this fall. Other researchers are reporting increases in students’ social-emotional problems as a result of the trauma and disruptions brought on by COVID. 

The work by NWEA and others is highlighting that children growing up in under-resourced families and communities are going to be in particular need of high-quality afterschool and summer programs. However, because of the financial disruptions being experienced by many low-income and working families — and because of the budget shortfalls facing many communities — children who most need high-quality afterschool programs will likely have less access to these programs and services. To address these serious issues, a coordinated response is going to be needed — one that brings together the resources of early childhood programs, afterschool programs and schools. 

Source: www.whitehouse.gov

President Biden's COVID Relief Bill contains billions of dollars for afterschool and summer learning programs. To learn more:

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

ODE To This Thing Called Family

Sheila McKinney,
Richmond, CA's Youth Poet Laureate

RYSE Youth Center announced Sheila McKinney as Richmond CA's first Youth Poet Laureate (YPL)! The YPL is a new role for the city of Richmond that highlights the artistic endeavors and artistry of youth within their community, while bridging the gap between youth and adults. She is mentored by the former Richmond Poet Laureate and RYSE Media, Arts, & Culture Manager, Ciera Jevae, and will work with youth and adult poets nationally.

Sheila McKinney is a 16 year old poet attending Pinole Valley High (West Contra Costa School District, Ca). She serves on the Debate team, the African American Student Union, as well as WISE (Women in STEM Education). She recently started writing and performing over this past year, and is already co-facilitating a series of poetry workshops on the national level. Sheila uses poetry as a form of activism and as a tool for moving the world into a more just and loving place.  

We asked Sheila to submit a poem for our LIAS Blog which is presented below. 

ODE To This Thing Called Family 
By Sheila McKinney 

Ode to that smacking I hear
I hate when you do it but miss it when you not here
Passed down recipes from ancestors that show up every now and again 
And in honor of you
We eat gracely
With bowed heads we say Amen
The taste that opens heaven gates on my tongue 

Ode to those who were once young
Tellin stories nobody knew
Surprised faces with a burst of comfort feels the room 
The long talks that have my eyes open
Ears perked like a dog
Even when you’re miles away
I vision the moments we have shared
The thoughts that evolved 

People that I’m always around 
Knows me like the back of my hand 
Enough love to last my whole life 
Enough friction to create strife
Ode to this thing we call family 

RYSE is a Youth Serving Organization based in Richmond, Ca. RYSE consists of 4 departments; Community Health, Education & Justice, Youth Organizing, and the Media Arts, and Culture Department. Their aim is to eliminate any barriers youth may face in the pursuit of education, life goals, and liberation, as well as create platforms that elevate youth voice and youth leadership in the present and the future. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The Well-Being of Adolescents During COVID-19

Source: www.cdc.gov

In our work with young people, it is important that we think about the many ways they may have been impacted by COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), "Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can affect adolescents directly and indirectly. Beyond getting sick, many adolescents’ social, emotional and mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic. Trauma faced at this developmental stage may have long-term consequences across their lifespan."

The CDC offers several briefing papers on how the pandemic has impacted the mental health of young people. They offer 4 papers by age group. Below we include excerpts from Social, Emotional, and Mental Well-being of Adolescents during COVID-19. You can read the complete paper here.


Change in Routines- In addition to everyday steps to prevent COVID-19, physical or social distancing is one of the best tools we have to avoid being exposed to the virus and to slow its spread. However, having to physically distance from someone you love – like friends, boyfriend or girlfriend, family or your worship community – can be hard. Adolescents may struggle when asked to change their social routines – from choosing to skip in-person gatherings, to consistently wear masks in public settings. It is important for adults to help adolescents take personal responsibility to protect themselves and others, as well as support them in safely taking time to connect with friends and family remotely. 

Break in Continuity of Learning- School closures due to COVID-19 have meant that adolescents have been participating in learning from home. Online platforms and communities have become essential, as families turn to digital solutions more than ever to support students’ learning. Unfortunately, the immediate need for virtual learning environments brought to light inequity in resources, access and connectivity across families and communities. School closures have also meant a break in access to some essential developmental services like occupational, behavioral, or speech therapy. It could also have impeded continuity in adolescents’ development of athletic or hands-on vocational skills, with potential impacts on their higher education and professional future. It is important to understand how virtual learning could make learning increasingly challenging for students with limited resources or special needs. Moreover, some children may experience anxiety about going back to school in-person or virtually. Some may also experience fatigue from online video conferencing— commonly referred to as “zoom fatigue .” 

Break in Continuity of Health Care- Parents may have avoided seeking health care for their adolescents due to stay-at-home orders and may continue to do so because they are afraid of getting sick with COVID-19. This includes important well-child visits, immunizations and oral health care. Additionally, school closures have impacted many adolescents’ ability to receive mental health, speech therapy and occupational health services on campus. It is important to ensure adolescents receive continuity of health care, including continuing mental health, occupational and speech therapies (e.g. via telehealth), and receiving vaccines – including COVID-19, when it becomes available.

Source: www.cdc.gov
Missed Significant Life Events- Physical distancing can feel as if one is placing life on hold. The truth is that the clock keeps ticking. Birthdays, graduations, proms, homecoming, vacation plans, births and funerals are just a sample of the many significant life events that adolescents may have missed experiencing during COVID-19. Social distancing, stay-at-home orders and limits to gatherings have affected their ability to gather in person with friends and family to celebrate or grieve in typical ways. Grief is a normal response to losing someone or something important to you. It is important for family and friends to help adolescents and alternate, creative and safe ways to connect and support each other at a distance. 

Source: www.cdc.gov
Loss of Security and Safety- Job loss and lost wages affected the household income of many adolescents’ families during COVID-19. Economic insecurity is consistently linked to adverse development, academic achievement, and health outcomes. It may affect adolescents’ ability to consistently access healthy foods, safe transportation and housing. Mounting economic stressors can increase their risk for exposure to violence. Along with stay-at-home orders during COVID-19, some adolescents may have been increasingly exposed to abuse and neglect, intimate partner violence at home, and sexual violence. Their increased online activity also puts them at increased risk for online harms, such as online sexual exploitation, cyberbullying, online risk-taking behavior, and exposure to potentially harmful content. It is important for parents and other prosocial adults to maintain a trustworthy relationship and open communication with adolescents, watching for behavior changes that may signal distress.


Recognize and Address Fear and Stress- Adolescence is a time of big changes. Adolescents can be particularly overwhelmed when stress is related to a traumatic event, expressed as excessive worry or sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, and difficulty with attention and concentration. Adults can provide stability and support to help them cope, as well as facilitate access to professional help and distress emergency hotlines, as needed. 

Source: www.news-medical.net
Teach and Reinforce Everyday Preventive Actions- There are actions we can take to protect others, prevent getting sick and slow the spread of COVID-19. Encourage adolescents to be good role models— if they wash their hands often, stay at least 6 feet apart from others, and wear their masks in public spaces to help protect themselves and others, then younger children – and even their peers – are more likely to do the same.

Help Keep Adolescent Children Healthy- Teach adolescents the importance of taking care of their health. Engage them in scheduling routine check and immunizations visits. Ensure continuity in their mental health and occupational health care. Encourage them to eat healthy, drink water – instead of sugar sweetened beverages – for strong teeth, be physically active, or learn something new. It can help them stay healthy and focused.

Help Adolescents Stay Socially Connected- Encourage adolescents to reach out to friends and family via phone, video chats, social media, or even via video games. Schools may have tips and guidelines to help support their social and emotional needs.

Steps to Help Provide Stability and Support to Adolescents

  • Maintain a normal routine
  • Talk, listen, and encourage expression
  • Give honest and accurate information
  • Teach simple steps to stay healthy
  • Be alert for any change in behavior
  • Reassure adolescents about their safety and well-being


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Missing Hours: COVID Shutdown and Afterschool

By Sam Piha

This fall, after nearly a year of isolation, youth are likely returning to school full time. What did young people experience during this time? A recent article in the NY Times, The Missing Hours: 7 Students on Losing a Year of After-School Activities, by Juliana Kim, quoted young people about their experience during the last year of shut down. 

Julianna writes, “From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. That block of time, between the end of classes and the beginning of dinner, were for millions of teenagers everywhere the golden hours of the day. They provided a release from the pressures of school or an escape from a stressful home. It was a time for friendship and fun.”  

Below we provide some excerpts from this article. To read the full article, click here

Source: NY Times,
Lila Barth

I’ve done the Y.M.C.A. from sixth grade onward. It started because my mom was working, my dad was working, my sister was working, so my mom needed to find somewhere I could spend my time instead of staying home alone. I haven’t gone to the Flushing Y in a year; it’s tough. I really miss going. We still have our meetings but they’re online — very rarely do I get to go outside and see my friends or counselors, so it’s a big adjustment. Sometimes I feel like I’m just far away from the world.”— Samir, 16 


Source: NY Times,
Lila Barth
The 96th street library on the East Side was my second happy place, after home. I would go there after school, get my work done, then go home. The security guard knows me, some staff know me. It was like a family to me over there… Libraries were the place you could rely on and have peace. I’ve been through shelters since I was 8 years old. My dad kicked out my mom, and she took me and my little sister with her. It was a lot of back and forth. Some kids out there might go to a cafe, but they have to buy something if they want to study. So it’s hard. The library is really the only option. When they were opening up schools, I was like, OK, are they going to open up the library? But they mentioned nothing about the library. What’s the whole point of opening up schools if you can’t go to the library?” — Sam, 18

Source: NY Times,
Lila Barth
 . This year, remote learning has been very isolating for me. My mom works at a hospital and my dad is a taxi driver so it can feel very lonely at home. And I haven’t danced after school since March. There’s no space to dance but also, I’ve become more self-conscious. I realize how important it is to have company when you do activities that might spark insecurities, like dancing. I feel like there’s been an insensitivity about youth mental health. There’s a huge emphasis on taking care of and making time for yourself, but the best way to take care of myself was through my extracurriculars. I feel like a part of myself has been erased.” — Meril, 17

Source: NY Times,
Lila Barth

These activities and organizations are so important. They might just save somebody’s life, you know?” — Rafael, 15

The Advantages of Informal Learning Environments

Source: www.kingartscomplex.com By Sam Piha During this past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an even greater appreciation of the info...