Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Learning Collaboratively is the Future

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha

It is important that young people develop the skills and have opportunities to practice working collaboratively with diverse groups, other youth, and community members. Business leaders tell us that the ability to work collaboratively with others and in teams is a primary skill for 21st Century workers. 

We concede that teaching these skills and having kids work in teams takes more planning and group management than having kids work independently. Thus, it is important that youth workers believe that working in teams allow young people to form a stronger sense of belonging, understand the value they can bring to a common goal, and work “smarter” than when working alone. 

Source: Stacey Daraio, Temescal Associates

What COLLABORATIVE learning looks like:
  • Young people work in groups and practice group skills (e.g., actively listen, contribute ideas or actions to the group, take responsibility for a part)
  • Young people work in groups that have a clear purpose and all group members cooperate in accomplishing it and demonstrate a sense of shared accountability to one another and for self
  • Young people assist one another in their learning and act cooperatively 
  • When working in groups every member contributes his or her individual talents
  • When minor conflicts occur, young people are able to problem-solve together to resolve conflicts without adult intervention 

Important Experiences and Skills
Successful collaborative learning takes skills and practice, and requires that the group members are able to engage in activities in a teamwork setting. Also important are establishing an environment where participants feel safe, but challenged and keeping the groups small enough so that all can contribute. 

Social skills for effective cooperative work do not magically appear when cooperative lessons are employed. Instead, social skills must be taught to students just as purposefully and precisely as academic skills. Leadership, decision-making, trust-building, communication, and conflict-management skills empower students to manage both teamwork and taskwork successfully.

Seven things you can do right now to begin promoting collaborative learning:

1. Explore and assess: It is important that you take the time with your staff to explore and assess your alignment with this learning principle.

2. Building a sense of emotional safety: If we expect young people to work positively with one another, there needs to be a sense of trust and safety between them. It is helpful if the group can contribute to a set of group agreements of how they want to be treated by each other. It is important that one of these agreements is “no put-downs” – that when young people disagree or express their opinions, this does not include calling a person a name or any interaction that would cause a person to close down. Promise that you will help them remember and let them know that they can remind each other as well.

3. Active listening through “check-in circles”: You can develop the listening skills of your youth by conducting “check-in circles” at the beginning of your program. This is the time when every participant has the opportunity to briefly share something with the group or respond to a question posed by the group leader. When you first start instituting the check-in circle, it helps to plan a safe and interesting check-in question, such as, “What is your favorite thing to do on the weekend?” or “If you could go anywhere in the world for one day, where would you go?”. Later on, after some practice, you might have each person share one thing about their day or say how the group is working together. You can make use of a “talking” stick or other objects that the speaker holds and only the person holding the object has permission to talk. Everyone else practices active listening by giving eye contact and not distracting the speaker in any way. People with comments or questions can then raise their hands, only when the speaker is finished. 

4. Team-building games: In order for young people to work collaboratively with their peers, it is important that they form a positive sense of belonging with the group. This can be built over time using team-building games to foster a positive sense of group and help kids become accustomed to working positively in small groups and working on a common goal. Program staff can draw upon printed curriculum or activity books and begin by leading group games in the beginning of the year. 

5. Resolving conflicts: Teach a specific protocol that all children can demonstrate and use when they have a difference with a peer that is problematic. When young people have the skills to resolve conflict in healthy and respectful ways, they are kinder and happier, and require less adult intervention. They also feel safer in the after-school program knowing that they can solve problems together and that they can get help if they need it. You can also train “conflict managers” to help peers or younger children resolve conflict. They also feel safer in the after-school program knowing that they can solve problems together and that they can get help if they need it. 

6. Building collaborative skills – brainstorming, prioritizing, and forging agreements: These are things you can teach during your check-in circle. Involve your youth in decision-making, such as the kind of snacks to be served or things to do on “free Fridays”. Allow all the youth to share their idea. “Every idea is a good idea” – let them know in brainstorming that all ideas are to be respectfully accepted. A good brainstorm session collects more ideas than can be used. To prioritize, youth can vote using colored stickers, with each youth having three stickers to place alongside their favorite ideas. The ideas that have received the greatest number of stickers are the ones that will be used. 

7. Begin slowly: Begin with simple collaborative projects that can be completed within one session before moving on to more complex projects.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

What does new brain science tell us about collaborative learning?

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Dr. Judy Willis is a board certified neurologist, who turned her attention to becoming a classroom teacher. Her goal was to apply what she knew about the brain and learning to strategies that could be developed for the classroom. She is now an educational consultant who speaks to groups of people from around the world about the interface between the new knowledge of neuroscience and learning. We were particularly interested in her work regarding why collaborative learning works. 

What does new brain science tell us about collaborative learning? 
Dr. Judy Willis
When youth participate in engaging learning activities in well-designed, supportive cooperative groups, their affective filters are not blocking the flow of knowledge. When you plan your group such that each member’s strengths have authentic importance to the ultimate success of the group’s activity, you have created a situation where individual learning styles, skills, and talents are valued and youth shine in their fortes and learn from each other in the areas where they are not as expert. They call on each other's guidance to solve pertinent and compelling problems and develop their interpersonal skills by communicating their ideas to partners. 

The brain scans of subjects learning in this type of supportive and social learning situation show facilitated passage of information from the intake areas into the memory storage regions of the brain. This is consistent with the original cognitive psychology research and theories of Steven Krashen about the affective filter - that learning associated with positive emotion is retained longer and visa versa.

Many of the motivating factors that have been found to release dopamine are intrinsic to successful cooperative or collaborative group work such as social collaboration, motivation, and expectation of success or authentic praise from peers. Because dopamine is also the neurotransmitter associated with attention, memory, learning, and executive function, it follows that when the brain releases dopamine during or in expectation of a pleasurable experience or reward, that this dopamine will be available to increase the processing of new information. That is what occurs when a young person enjoys a positive cooperative learning experience, and even when s/he anticipates participation in that type of activity sometime during the class or program.

Successfully planned group work can help to support adolescent youth by reducing a fear of failure that can cause them to avoid academic challenges. Well-structured cooperative group activities build supportive peer communities, which in turn increase self-esteem and academic performance.” 

– Dr. Judy Willis, Neurologist and Classroom Teacher

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Youth Speak About the Importance of Afterschool

By Guest Blogger, Stu Semigran, EduCare Foundation

Stu Semigran
When FOX TV (Los Angeles affiliate) asked local high school students to speak about the importance of Afterschool Programs, they said "Yes!" On Sunday, March 24, Alvaro Cortes, Senior Executive Director of LAUSD's Beyond the Bell – along with students Abigail Miranda (Sylmar HS) and Lynn Kim (North Hollywood HS) – talked with Hal Eisner, the host of FOX 11's News in Depth.

They told Eisner how much Afterschool Programs have meant to them and their fellow students. They stated what a drastic blow it would be if there should be a cut to funding for these critical programs. Both Abigail and Lynn were articulate and passionate, and spoke from their hearts. All of the state's high school afterschool programs would be eliminated if President Trump's budget is approved. According to Abigail's EduCare Site Coordinator, Viancha Carchi, everyone listening was touched by her story. We're sure you will be, too! 

To see a brief clip of the broadcast, click here.

 To view the full segment which  aired on Sunday, March 24, click here.

Stu Semigran is the co-founder and president of EduCare Foundation and the executive director of EduCare’s ACE (Achievement and Commitment to Excellence) Student Success Program. Currently providing student support services at more than 100 high schools and middle schools in Southern California, EduCare also is the grant manager for the ASSETs after school programs at 17 LAUSD Beyond the Bell high schools and 1 middle school. Over 30,000 students are served each year through EduCare afterschool and youth development programs.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

GRIT: Thinking More Deeply

By Sam Piha

Angela Duckworth’s "grit" has captured the imagination of educators, youth program leaders, and policymakers alike, leading many to agree that we should seek to cultivate grit in our youth. According to The Character Lab, grit is correlated with success and defined as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals”. It was further popularized by author Paul Tough (How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, 2012) and others. 

Source: eschoolnews.com

Like others, we have written a lot about grit in our LIAS blog. But others have called on us to look more closely at the notion of grit and how it intersects with issues of bias, poverty, inequality, deficit thinking, and race.
"Educational outcome disparities are not the result of deficiencies in marginalized communities' cultures, mindsets, or grittiness, but rather of inequities."
- Paul Gorski in Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty

We believe that we can think more deeply about grit by reviewing these writings below:

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Trump says eliminate afterschool in 2020!

Source: pressfrom.info

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Afterschool programs are now a part of the community landscape. Afterschool has been around for over a hundred years, making important contributions to families and the larger society. 

This next year, under President Trump, federal support of afterschool is again threatened. According to our partners at the Afterschool Alliance

“President Trump’s budget calls for eliminating federal funding for local afterschool and summer programs. If the funding is not maintained, nearly two million children and families would be left without reliable afterschool choices.  
More than 19 million families want and need more afterschool and summer learning opportunities. For every child in a program, two are waiting to get in. Closing 10,000+ afterschool programs will hurt families and children in every part of the country. 
You can make a difference: call on Congress to protect funding for afterschool and summer learning programs.”

According to the Trump Administration budget summary, the justification for eliminating the 21st CCLC is, “This program (21st CCLC) lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.” Research has shown that this is patently untrue. 

The Afterschool Alliance has made it easy to tell your representatives in Congress to stand up for the programs America's children and families rely on. CLICK HERE

Source: CalSAC

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week

Source: National AfterSchool Association
By Sam Piha

Afterschool programs are now a part of the community landscape, with over 10.2 million young participants. Few are even aware that afterschool has been around for over a hundred years, making important contributions to families and the larger society.

Afterschool professionals, numbering over 850,000, are often not acknowledged. But we can change that! Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week is April 22-26. 

According to the National AfterSchool Association (NAA), “this is a joint effort of community partners, afterschool programs, youth and child development workers and individuals who have committed to declaring the last full week of April each year as a time to recognize and appreciate those who work with youth during out-of-school hours.” 

There are a number of ways organizations, schools, parents and program leaders can recognize and appreciate afterschool workers: 

  • Issue an appreciation shout out 
  • “Thank you” card for afterschool program staff 
  • Watch and share the brief Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week video produced by NAA

  • Plan a “Thank You” activity or event 
  • Appreciate the long history and contributions of afterschool youth programs in America: Few are aware that afterschool has been around for over a hundred years, making important contributions to families and the larger society. To ensure that afterschool stakeholders appreciate the long history of afterschool youth programs in America, Temescal Associates and the How Kids Learn Foundation have created a video to document this history, as well as a trailer, media kit and learning guide. 

Join in the celebrations and display your appreciation of afterschool professionals who make a difference in the lives of young people. NAA has developed a toolkit and a number of ideas for AfterSchool Professionals Appreciation Week. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

An Interview with Ivan Garcia, Youth Activist

By Sam Piha

Ivan Garcia
Ivan Garcia is a youth activist in Oakland. We first heard about Ivan’s work through a program by a local NPR station. This program was later turned into a brief video. At the How Kids Learn VIII conference, Ivan was a presenter and panelist on the subject of youth activism. 

We interviewed Ivan and some of his responses are below. 

Q: How did you become active in social causes?

A: I first became involved in 2016, following the Presidential Election. All my classmates and I felt that we needed to speak up and use our voices to share our opinions. I took it upon myself, to create a class video, titled “Dear Mr. Trump” which is a video of our opinions, fears, and hopes for President-Elect Donald Trump at the time. The video has now garnered over 4,000 views and it served as a way for me to connect with many young people who felt as though their voices weren’t being heard.

Q: What are you doing currently?

A: Currently, I serve on the Oakland Youth Commission, serve on the Youth Advisory Board for Youth + Tech + Health, and am an intern for Mayor Libby Schaaf. The Oakland Youth Commission is a group of young people who advise the City Council and Mayor on issues affecting youth in Oakland. With that also comes the task of writing policy and doing lots of outreach to community groups. Youth + Tech + Health, is an organization that provides mental health and sexual health resources to young people all around the world, especially developing nations. Most recently, I helped with a text campaign they have going on in Honduras currently, which tackles the issue of teen dating violence. Lastly, working with the Mayors office, I have a chance to hear from many constituents and learn the inner workings of City Hall.

“I love Ivan. He's a leader. I can't wait for him to sit in my office. And I mean be the mayor. He's going to be an amazing mayor.
And maybe [to Ivan] you're going to bring your talents to some better pursuit besides politics. Whatever it's gonna be, it's gonna be amazing. And you always do it, Ivan, with love and respect.”
-Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

Q:In your view, why is youth voice and youth activism important? 

A: Youth activism, in my view is crucial as it gives young people the opportunity to have their voice heard while expressing themselves in a way that is unique. Being an “activist” can be anything from being an artist to working with lawmakers to create policies that will benefit all people. It also equips youth with many skills that are essential, such as networking, organizing, public speaking, and much more. It’s important for young people to feel as though they have a say in the policies that will affect them in the long run.

Ivan Garcia at HKL VIII Conference
Q: What advice do you have for afterschool programs who want to provide opportunities for youth to become actively involved?

A: I would tell afterschool programs to give students the freedom to try different methods of expression. Don’t limit a young person’s perspective and provide safe spaces where they can feel free to be themselves. Creating an environment that encourages truth and honesty can go a long way for young people who want to be active in their communities. Furthermore, I think it’s important to note that adult allies, should support the work of young people, but not take over and determine the way that work should be done. That should be done by the students, themselves. Lastly, bring people in who are doing this work as an example to motivate other students. It’s not a competition, but it’s one way that students can often see what’s possible when they think about more than just themselves.

Q: What activities and issues do you think youth are most interested in? 

A: Most recently, I think youth have been invested in gun violence, given the many incidents that have rocked our nation. Following Parkland, many young people created groups and organizations that are still doing meaningful work in their communities. Some other areas of interest for youth, I think are: criminal justice reform, sexual assault and harassment, and education (especially in places where schools are underfunded and under resourced).

Q: Looking ahead, what are your plans for continuing your activism? 

A: To be honest, I’m not quite sure what plans I have next. Lately, I’ve taken a step back from some of the work I was previously doing and have engaged in deep discussions with many of my peers. It’s been humbling to be in spaces with people my age, discussing things that matter to us. I hope to continue to touch the hearts of people along the way and work on a project that helps all young people find what it is that they love to do and are inspired by.

Ivan Garcia is a freshman at Head-Royce School in Oakland. Ivan is a member of the Oakland Youth Advisory Committee. He played a key role in the March for Our Lives Oakland rally and is a Youth Ambassador for Litterati, an app that makes it easy for anyone to create an environmental impact around the world. Ivan is proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. He hopes to inspire others to love themselves for who they are and fight for a better tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

An Interview with Youth Development Researcher, Reed Larson

By Sam Piha

According to the Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring, "Reed Larson’s seminal research on the lives of teenagers helped to launch the field of positive youth development, and his insights and findings continue to enrich the work of mentoring researchers. His work explores the contexts of daily life and how developmental processes unfold in extra-curricular activities."

Researcher, Deborah Vandell (UC Irvine), stated, "Reed Larson did some really  important work looking at the development of initiative and engagement. What he found is that when children are in school what they often are doing is putting forth a lot of effort, but they're not really motivated. What happens in afterschool activities, when they're really working, when they're active, they're choosing those activities and they are also focused on them. It's the best combination for learning."

Reed Larson will share his work at a Speaker's Forum entitled, "How Demanding Program Roles Can Facilitate Youth’s Positive Development" on April 19, 2019 in Oakland, CA. You can register here. We recently interviewed Reed and some of his responses are below.

Reed Larson
Q: You have been a pioneer in the field of youth development. What drew you to this work? 
A: I have done research and teaching on the age period of adolescence all my life. We know it is a time of enormous potentials for growth. Yet our society does not get that. Teens are disrespected, misunderstood, and terribly underestimated. As a result, they are not given the opportunities to develop their potentials. I discovered that after school and out of school programs were the main exception. They are a part of teens’ lives where they have opportunities to develop their full potentials.

Q: The work of promoting youth development is not easy. In your research, what did you find to be the greatest challenges facing youth workers? 
A: There are a lot of challenges: being present and attuned to youth, being both a friend and a mentor, teacher, or sometimes parent; seeing societal injustice and hurt in teens; having too few resources; taking care of yourself at the same time you are engaged in caring relationships with others. 

Q: What settings and practices are most successful in engaging youth? 
A: I don’t claim to have all the answers. But in our research, youth have described becoming highly motivated in youth program settings where they feel safe, feel they belong, experience positive relationships, and experience a culture that supports these positive ways of being. Further, in settings where they are engaged in activities: that have meaningful goals, are challenging while allowing them to experience competence, and involve high-functioning collaborative relationships. I’ve also observed that high quality programs provide an environment that helps youth disengage from distractions and anxieties in their lives at the beginning of the program session, and reflect on what they have learned at the end.  

Q: What is the most important lesson that you learned in your research? 
A: I have seen again and again that young people have enormous resources. They can be extremely resilient. They are eager, active learners who learn from experiences. They are ready to have deep insights about complex social and emotional truths. We just need to provide the right conditions for them to feel save, loved, and to see a way forward. 

Q: What most surprised you? 
A: It is maybe not a surprise, but I have been impressed by meeting many, many wonderful, smart, and caring people who have devoted themselves to working with young people. It has been increasingly clear to me that to improve programs the field needs to seek out, understand, and draw on the expertise of experienced youth development practitioners. Communication between researchers and practitioners need to involve two-way conversations. 

Q: What are you working on currently? 
A: We just finished a research paper on how “substantive demanding roles” can provide powerful opportunities for youth’s development of new competencies, including responsibility to others. (This will be the main topic of my Speaker's Forum presentation). Although my research has been mainly focused on processes of positive development, I am currently interested in times when youth in programs experience “psychological meltdowns” from a setback or being overwhelmed, and how staff are effective in helping youth respond with resiliency. 

Reed Larson’s seminal research on the lives of teenagers helped to launch the field of positive youth development, and his insights and findings continue to enrich this field. His work has involved over a thousand interviews with youth and front line staff in diverse youth development programs. It has focused on understanding how developmental experiences unfold in programs (including extracurricular activities) and how program staff are effective in supporting these learning processes. His team’s research was the basis for the Weikart Foundation’s research-practitioner collaboration that identified effective staff practices for supporting social emotional learning in programs. Reed is a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was recently the President of the Society for Research on Adolescence. He also served as Editor-in-Chief of New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development (with Lene Jensen).

Friday, February 15, 2019

Collaboration Leads to Successful SEL Implementation

By Guest Blogger, Jennifer Peck

Jennifer Peck
As educators, afterschool providers, and advocates for children, we know social emotional learning (SEL) is the foundation for academic success for all students — especially children experiencing trauma and extreme stress. The challenge we face today is implementation and that challenge is why we joined others (ASAPconnect, CalSAC, California AfterSchool Network, and Temescal Associates) in forming the Expanded Learning 360°/365 initiative in 2015. That challenge is why The Aspen Institute released its recommendations for SEL implementation earlier this month, and why our partner, Temescal Associates researched and published Promoting SEL and Character Skills in Expanded Learning Programs.

Partnership for Children and Youth’s focus within the 360°/365 initiative is to assist California school districts with SEL implementation across the school day, afterschool, and summer. The American Institutes for Research evaluated Expanded Learning 360°/365’s work and saw impact like:

  • Increased Professional Development: Monthly videos, articles, and activities to build common SEL understanding; meetings to align practices; and sessions to build culturally responsive teaching practices and student and adult SEL strategies.
Source (clockwise): LA's BEST; Kimochi Dolls; and Educare Foundation
  • Collaboration Between School-Day & Expanded Learning Staff: Deliberate efforts built into SEL action plans included joint classroom walkthroughs and expanded learning staff participating in school-day staff meetings.
  • Stronger Data Usage & Sharing: Engaged in a cycle of continuous improvement using student data to establish system- and site-level goals, assess readiness, and track progress; including pre-post measures of relationship skill-building, SEL competencies, school climate, and program observations.

This evaluation affirms that collaboration and accountability are powerful forces for change — and that skilled facilitation is an essential catalyst for deep, effective collaboration. We are eager to share the lessons learned from the Expanded Learning 360°/365 initiative and hope you find this to be a useful resource as you expand SEL in your community.

If you have questions or are interested in partnering with us, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Thank you for everything you do for California’s students. Please share the findings widely! Here is a sample tweet you can customize:

Quality #SEL implementation takes collaboration between school-day, #afterschool, and summer staff, according to a new evaluation: https://www.partnerforchildren.org/resources/2019/1/29/the-key-to-bringing-social-emotional-learning-to-life #edchat #k12  

Jennifer Peck, Executive Director, has led the Partnership for Children & Youth (PCY) since the organization’s 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. 

Dr. Shawn Ginwright
Temescal Associates recently sponsored a Speaker’s Forum led by Dr. Shawn Ginwright on the topic of Healing Centered Engagement.  For those that were unable to attend, Flourish Agenda is sponsoring a webinar on March 21st, 2019 at 10am PST on Healing Centered Engagement facilitated by Dr. Ginwright. This is a free online event but space is limited and filling up fast. To learn more, click here.

Learning Collaboratively is the Future

By Sam Piha Sam Piha It is important that young people develop the skills and have opportunities to practice working col...