Monday, August 24, 2015

HKL V: Preparing Youth for Work and Career Success

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha

In the winter of 2015/2016, we will sponsor our fifth How Kids Learn conference. If we are to achieve economic equity, young people must have access to activities that prepare them for work and career success. This means starting with young children through high school. 

Hear from leading thinkers and afterschool practitioners on research and strategies for Preparing Youth for Work and Career Success

Speakers will include: 

  • Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education, UCLA
  • Jenny Nagaoka, Deputy Director, University of Chicago and lead author of the recently released Wallace Report entitled, Foundations for Young Adult Success
  • Alvaro Cortes, Executive Director, Beyond the Bell/LAUSD
  • Alex Taghavian, Vice President, Linked Learning Alliance
  • Michael Funk, Director, After School Division at the California Department of Education
  • Beth Kay, Linked Learning Manager, Foundation for California Community Colleges
In addition to the above speakers, we will host a bevy of workshops led by innovative practitioners who work with young people, K-12. 

For more information, go to

To register:

Monday, August 10, 2015

Talk Like TED: 9 Tips from Reviewing the Most Popular TED Presentations

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
TED Talks are a cultural phenomena. These are 18 minute presentations by the world’s leading thinkers in a variety of disciplines. These talks inspired the format for our How Kids Learn conference. They have been viewed by over a billion people. Carmine Gallo recently wrote a book, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds.  

These 9 tips on giving presentations are useful for youth program leaders who give presentations, and can be shared with older youth who are interested in improving their public speaking. His 9 tips, taken from an article in Forbes, are listed below:

Carmine Gallo,
Forbes Magazine Contributor
1. Unleash the master within. Passion leads to mastery and mastery forms the foundation of an extraordinary presentation. You cannot inspire others unless you are inspired yourself. You stand a much greater chance of persuading and inspiring your listeners if you express an enthusiastic, passionate, and meaningful connection to your topic.

2. Tell three stories. Tell stories to reach people’s hearts and minds. Brain scans reveal that stories stimulate and engage the human brain, helping the speaker connect with the audience and making it much more likely that the audience will agree with the speaker’s point of view. Recently I wrote this column about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Her original TED talk was going to be “chock full of facts and figures, and nothing personal.” Instead she told three stories and ignited a movement. Stories connect us. Tell more of them.

3. Practice relentlessly. Harvard brain researcher Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor had this “stroke of insight” that has been viewed 15 million times on Dr. Jill rehearsed her presentation 200 times before she delivered it live. Practice relentlessly and internalize your content so that you can deliver the presentation as comfortably as having a conversation with a close friend.

4. Teach your audience something new. The human brain loves novelty. An unfamiliar, unusual, or unexpected element in a presentation jolts the audience out of their preconceived notions, and quickly gives them a new way of looking at the world. Robert Ballard is an explorer who discovered Titanic in 1985. He told me, “Your mission in any presentation is to inform, educate, and inspire. You can only inspire when you give people a new way of looking at the world in which they live.”

5. Deliver jaw-dropping moments. The jaw-dropping moment—scientists call it an ‘emotionally competent stimulus’— is anything in a presentation that elicits a strong emotional response such as joy, fear, shock, or surprise. It grabs the listener’s attention and is remembered long after the presentation is over. In this column on how Bill Gates radically transformed his public-speaking skills, I demonstrate how Gates learned to incorporate a jaw-dropping moment into many of his public presentations, including his now famous TED talks.

Sir Ken Robinson on How Schools Kill Creativity

6. Use humor without telling a joke. Humor lowers defenses, making your audience more receptive to your message. It also makes you seem more likable, and people are more willing to do business with or support someone they like. The funny thing about humor is that you don’t need to tell a joke to get a laugh. Educator Sir Ken Robinson educated and amused his audience in the most popular TED talk of all time: How Schools Kill Creativity. Robinson makes humorous, often self-deprecating, observations about his chosen field, education. “If you’re at a dinner party and you say you work in education—actually, you’re not often at dinner parties, frankly, if you work in education…” Robinson makes very strong, provocative observations about nurturing creativity in children, and he packages the material around humorous anecdotes and asides that endear him to the audience. Lighten up. Don’t take yourself (or your topic) too seriously.

7. Stick to the 18-minute rule. A TED presentation can be no longer than 18 minutes. Eighteen minutes is the ideal length of time to get your point across. Researchers have discovered that “cognitive backlog,” too much information, prevents the successful transmission of ideas. TED curator Chris Anderson has been quoted as saying that 18 minutes is “long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention.”

8. Favor pictures over text. PowerPoint is not the enemy. Bullet points are. Some of the best TED presentations are designed in PowerPoint. Others use Apple Keynote or Prezi. Regardless of the software, there are no bullet points on the slides of the best TED presentations. There are pictures, animations, and limited amounts of text—but no slides cluttered with line after line of bullet points. This technique is called “picture superiority.” It simply means we are much more likely to recall an idea when a picture complements it.

9. Stay in your lane. The most inspiring TED speakers are open, authentic, and, at times, vulnerable. Researcher BrenĂ© Brown even gave a TED talk on the topic of vulnerability and how her own research led to her personal journey to know herself. Opening up paid off for Brown in a big way. Oprah discovered Brown on TED, invited Brown to be on her show, and today Brown is a bestselling author and regular contributor to O, The Oprah Magazine.

For a piece by Charlie Rose, where he explored TED Talks, shown on a recent 60 Minutes, click here. One thing we learned from his piece is that TED provides coaches for all of the speakers months before they present on stage. This is to ensure that their presentations are simple and provocative. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

"Inside Out" is On Point

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Pixar is famous for feature-length, animated films that are appealing to both children and adults. Their films have included “Finding Nemo”, “Toy Story”, “Wall-E”, and “Up”. They have created some of the most enduring characters in film and have spoken to the archetypal issues of loss and resilience, of being lost and finding the way home, and the importance of friendship. 

Photo Credit:
Their latest film, “Inside Out", is a special gift for those who work in expanded learning programs. It echoes much of the research and work done on social emotional learning, character building, non-cognitive skills, growth mindsets, and our most recent knowledge of how the brain works. 

"Inside Out" focuses on the emotions within an 11-year old girl - emotions that battle for control and ways to influence her behavior. The film is an important tool in helping young people understand where their emotions come from, how to identify them, and empowering young people to manage their own feelings and behavior. I highly recommend you see the film. Better yet, take along a young friend who is 6 years or older. 

Below, we cite some of the important takeaways from the film: 

- I HAVE FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS: It is important that young people appreciate that everyone has feelings and emotions deep inside. Sometimes these are the result of past experiences we have had but may not even remember. Sometimes we don’t know where they come from. It is especially important that young people develop the language and ability to describe their feelings and emotions. 

Photo Credit:

- FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS CAN BE CONTRADICTORY AND MIXED: The film beautifully illustrates how different emotions can coexist. We can be both happy and sad. We can also experience anger that is rooted in hurt and sadness.

- FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS CAN EFFECT MY BEHAVIOR: If we want to help young people manage their feelings and behavior, it is essential that they understand what they are feeling and where it came from. Further, that these feelings and emotions can drive behavior.  

- IF I CAN UNDERSTAND MY OWN FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS, I CAN BETTER MANAGE MY OWN BEHAVIOR: Understanding feelings and managing one’s behavior is a skill that needs to be practiced. We want young people to experience the art of not immediately acting out their feelings through meanness or violence. 

Photo Credit:

- IF I CAN UNDERSTAND MY OWN FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS, I CAN BETTER UNDERSTAND AND FEEL EMPATHY FOR OTHERS: When young people better understand themselves, they can put themselves in the shoes of others, thereby responding with understanding and empathy. 

In a future blog post, we will share some specific strategies to teach these lessons within expanded learning programs. 

For a recent article from the NY Times on the brain science behind the film, click here. For a recent interview by Terry Gross/NPR with film creator, Pete Doctor, click hereFor a trailer of the film, click here.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Promoting Social Emotional Skills

By Guest Blogger, Jennifer Peck, Executive Director, Partnership for Children and Youth

(Note: Much of this commentary first appeared on EdSource on April 29, 2015. To view the entire article, along with others, please click here.)

Jennifer Peck
With the introduction of new Common Core State Standards, teachers and administrators can concentrate on helping students develop the ability to collaborate, create, communicate and think critically. There is growing recognition that strengthening students’ social and emotional skills is essential to developing those abilities, and thus critical to success in school, the workplace, and in life generally.

Further good news is that schools don’t have to do this work on their own. In California, a strong network of expanded learning programs – operating after school and in the summer – are already experienced at helping young people build social-emotional skills. Their practices are specifically designed to help children:

learn about themselves,
relate to other people, and
develop confidence about learning.

This work by California’s expanded learning community is guided by new Quality Standards for Expanded Learning. The state is using these standards to inform its decisions about program funding, and schools, program providers and parents can use them to identify high quality programs and practices.

A robust after-school and summer strategy helps ensure that all children are developing the social-emotional skills they need to function well in the classroom. It also adds at least 740 hours to the 1,080 hours of school year learning. That extra learning time is not a luxury. The research on summer learning loss, for example, documents that the failure to use this time well has significant negative impacts on children, particularly those whose families cannot afford to pay for camps, trips, and other enriching activities.

California has more than 4,500 publicly funded expanded learning programs, most of which are located in schools in our state’s lowest-income communities. These programs add great value to the work of schools, but too often work in isolation. As a recent Partnership for Children and Youth report documents, when schools think outside the classroom and develop partnerships that expand the day and the year and offer opportunities to learn in different ways, kids benefit.

Let’s use this additional learning time to make sure all children have the social-emotional skills they need to thrive in school, work and life.
Jennifer Peck was a founding staff member of the Partnership in 2001 and became its executive director in 2003.  Through her leadership, the Partnership has developed and implemented initiatives to finance and build after-school and summer-learning programs, and increase access to school meals and nutrition education programs in the Bay Area’s lowest-income communities. Jennifer leads a coalition of California organizations advocating for new federal policies to improve the effectiveness of after-school and summer-learning programs. To learn more about the Partnership and sign up for their e-newsletter, visit their website