Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Power of Creativity and the Arts

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Last week, I continued my annual tradition of attending the end of the year dance performance by the youth from San Francisco's School of the Arts (SOTA). I was reminded once again of the power of the arts and creativity in promoting young peoples' learning, engagement, and drive for mastery. 

In an age in which we value academic test scores and more recently, STEM, so highly, the importance of creativity and the arts gets the short end of the stick. Afterschool and summer programs are the perfect place to foster creativity, and we should be ready with pride to defend these activities. In a series of upcoming blog posts, we will explore this with interviews with local artists, art teachers, and young people who have much to say on this topic. Below are five of the top ten skills that young people learn from the arts. For the complete list of skills, see the link further below.

The Top Ten Skills Children Learn From the Arts
By Lisa Phillips
1. Creativity – Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program, your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career.
2. Confidence – The skills developed through theater, not only train you how to convincingly deliver a message, but also build the confidence you need to take command of the stage. Theater training gives children practice stepping out of their comfort zone and allows them to make mistakes and learn from them in rehearsal. This process gives children the confidence to perform in front of large audiences.
3. Problem Solving – Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? How will my character react in this situation? Without even realizing it kids that participate in the arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems. All this practice problem solving develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding. This will help develop important problem-solving skills necessary for success in any career.
4. Perseverance – When a child picks up a violin for the first time, she/he knows that playing Bach right away is not an option; however, when that child practices, learns the skills and techniques and doesn’t give up, that Bach concerto is that much closer. In an increasingly competitive world, where people are being asked to continually develop new skills, perseverance is essential to achieving success.
5. Focus – The ability to focus is a key skill developed through ensemble work. Keeping a balance between listening and contributing involves a great deal of concentration and focus. It requires each participant to not only think about their role, but how their role contributes to the big picture of what is being created. Recent research has shown that participation in the arts improves children’s abilities to concentrate and focus in other aspects of their lives.


To read more articles and studies on the importance of creativity and the arts in youth development, click on the titles to view:

- Online Resource: Creativity Culture & Education


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Conversation with UCI Professor and OST Researcher, Deborah Vandell

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha

In late 2012 and early 2013, we conducted a number of videotaped interviews with educational and out-of-school experts on the Learning in Afterschool & Summer learning principles. These taped sessions included interviews with Deborah Vandell, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, neurologist Judy Willis, youth development specialist Karen Pittman, Professor Pedro Noguera, two Bay Area school principals, CDE After School Division Director Michael Funk, and others. These videos will be excellent training tools and will be made available very shortly. The videos were shot by youth videographers and produced by Temescal Associates.

Below is a portion of an interview with UCI Professor and OST researcher, Deborah Vandell. To view two short videotapes of our conversation, click here.

Q: The LIAS learning principles were not intended to apply to strictly afterschool settings. In your experience as an educator and researcher, how are these principles, when taken together, relevant to young people’s learning? 
A: I think that the learning principles in after school and summer really get at the core of learning for students - starting in early childhood, going through to university. So if we think about those core principles, the first is active. We know that young people learn by being active. Many years ago, Piaget started talking about the key to learning being children’s activity. It’s in the context of activity that children and young people develop new skills.  

A second principle is the principle of collaboration. And this is also very important. The most influential of the psychologists would be Vygotsky, who talked to us about collaboration, and that children really learn through what we call the zone of proximal development. What young people can do alone is not as advanced as what they can do with others in a group.  So in a group where they’re collaborating, we're able to actually move them into that zone to develop their skills further.  

A third principle, really important within the learning and after school framework, is that learning needs to be meaningful, it needs to be embedded in activities that are important for young people. When I think about the importance of it being meaningful, what really comes to mind is the work of Reed Larson, who did some really important work looking at development of initiative and engagement. What he found is that when young people are in school, what they often are doing is putting forth a lot of effort, but they’re not really motivated - its not something they really care about. 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 that is meaningful.  

The fourth principle is that programs and activities should be working towards mastery.  Now the striving towards mastery is not an activity that you can do in one day, in half a day, its really an activity that you’re building over time.  When you’re building for a concert, you're practicing, you're developing those skills. When you are getting out to put together a newspaper, when you’re planning a play, which is a complex activity, it gives young people a chance to put those skills together. Notice many of them are also working with others in a group, often with a culminating event. Jacqueline Echols, in a very important book on the role of positive youth settings for development, as part of the National Academy of Science report back in 2002, talked about this learning to support mastery as a key element to support positive youth development.  

And then the fifth principle is that of expanding horizons. Our young people live in a global society. Our young people are living in a society in which science is becoming increasingly important, mathematics and those activities have to really happen in context.  Part of what students can do in afterschool and in summer, in really fine programs, is that we can expand the horizons, beyond where they are in this moment in time.

(This is only an excerpt of our complete interview. To view a complete videotaped interview, click here.)

Deborah Vandell is a Professor of Education and Psychology and Dean of the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine, discusses the relevance of the Learning in Afterschool and Summer Principles. Ms. Vandell has longstanding interests in three areas: (1) early child care and education - its effects on children's social, cognitive, and behavioral development and strategies for improving the quality of early care and education, (2) after school programs and activities - their impact on children and youth and strategies for improving the quality of after-school programs, and (3) children's relationships with peers, parents, siblings, teachers, and mentors as developmental and educational contexts.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

How Summer Learning Strengthens Students' Success

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
We know from research that summer learning loss suffered by kids who do not have access to engaging summer programs is significant. Public Profit, an evaluation and technical assistance firm, has just released their findings on the benefits that children accrued by participating in pilot summer programs across the state. This publication also identified features of quality programs, which are well-aligned with the learning principles promoted by the Learning in Afterschool & Summer project. 

Below is a partial list of benefits that were found and a citing of quality program features. As positive evidence about the effectiveness of summer learning programs mount, so must our advocacy efforts to increase young people's access to these programs. To read a full copy of the executive summary, click here. To access the full report, click here

Key findings include:

  • Students ended the summer with vocabulary skills much closer to their grade level, increasing their instructional grade level by over 1/3 of a grade. 

  • English language learners demonstrated significant increases in their grade-level vocabulary, a gateway to English language fluency. 

  • Parents reported that their kids improved their attitude towards reading (68%) and reading ability (62%). 

  • Overall, 86% of parents reported the summer programs gave their kids opportunities to develop leadership skills. 

  • Parents and educators emphasized summer learning programs’ critical role in providing students with new experiences and opportunities – such as field trips and community service projects – that they do not have during the school year. 

  • Students in Fresno and Los Angeles summer learning programs reported improved academic work habits and reading efficacy, both key contributors to academic achievement. 

Elements of high quality summer learning:

  • Broadens kids’ horizons – by exposing them to new adventures, skills and ideas. These could be activities like going on a nature walking, using a new computer program, giving a presentation, visiting a museum or attending a live performance.  

  • Includes a wide variety of activities – such as reading, writing, math, science, arts and public service projects – in ways that are fun and engaging. 

  • Helps kids build skills – by helping them improve at doing something they enjoy and care about. This could be anything from creating a neighborhood garden, to writing a healthy snacks cookbook to operating a robot. 

  • Fosters cooperative learning – by working with their friends on team projects and group activities such as a neighborhood clean-up, group presentation or canned food drive. 

  • Promotes healthy habits – by providing nutritious food, physical recreation and outdoor activities. 

  • Lasts at least one month – giving kids enough time to benefit from their summer learning experiences. 

To learn more about the Summer Matters initiative, click here.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Promoting Grit and Delayed Gratification

Titus Dalisay

We received the following message and article from one of our followers, which we print below. 

My name is Titus and I am an avid reader of Learning in After School & Summer. I loved reading your articles there and since your blog are also about education and learning I thought I'd share this article that my colleague wrote about, Promoting Grit and Delayed Gratification in the Classroom

Thanks. Titus Dalisay,
Community Outreach Specialist, Open Colleges

Promoting Grit and Delayed Gratification in the ClassroomI

In psychology, intelligence is not the primary predictor of success. It is the ability to persevere in hardship, persist and learn after failure, and have a resilient spirit in the face of obstacles. Intelligence is a gift that can be developed and nurtured, but continuing on a difficult path when the gratification is far away? That is an invaluable skill for all of us to learn.

Even though resilience is partly a genetic trait, you can teach this skill in the classroom. It is imperative that you do, because many lessons and concepts require days, weeks, and months of practice before your student will feel that warm feeling of satisfaction. In a world filled with streaming Internet and fast food joints on every corner, you’re going to have to deliberately make it a topic point.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. End of the day reward
Set up simple (and frequent) opportunities for your students to practice delayed gratification. If you have young children in the classroom, it can be something as simple as an end-of-the-day reward. If your students had a good day, offer them a token that goes towards a free homework pass (10 tokens = pass). Most kids will want to take that token and start building their cash flow, but offer something a bit better if they wait.

For example, if they forfeit the free homework pass each day for a week, at the end of the week, the kids who did get an extra 15 minutes of recess. You’ll quickly see who likes the immediate gratification and who is willing to wait it out.

2. Visual savings
Use a jar of marbles or some sort of visual so your students can watch it get filled up as they perform tasks, help each other, and showcase good behavior. A full jar can equal an ice cream party or some other special reward.

3. Math fact practice
If your goal as a teacher is to have your student fill out 100 multiplication facts in five minutes, use it as an opportunity to teach resilience. Rather than waiting until you’re sure they can meet the goal easily, set up a chart for practice and growth. Explain to them that you don’t expect them to meet the goal, but to simply record the time it takes to do the 100 problems.

First time around, it may take the student 15 minutes. Have him/her write it in the chart. Each day or week, have them redo the exercise and record the time – watching as it slowly gets lower and lower as the days pass. When he/she finally reaches that 5-minute mark, there will be tremendous sense of accomplishment.

4. Break down big projects
First, you need to make sure your students are engaged in a long-term project. Just like running, athletes train very differently for a sprint than a marathon. The long project will help them to learn about process, mini-goals, and step-by-step persistence to a final destination.

5. Give an assignment that isn’t meant to have a perfect ending
In other words, once in awhile it will benefit your students to give them a problem or worksheet that they cannot complete perfectly. Warn them ahead of time that the goal of this exercise is simply to try – not to succeed. At the end, hand out a reward or grade that is dependent on their effort, not the aptitude.

6. Group assignments
Nothing promotes learning how to “grit your teeth” and get through it more than group work. In these situations, kids must not only produce a product or presentation, they must also learn to work with other students and use teamwork to accomplish the goal.

7. Create a classroom bank
If you have the time and motivation to set up a classroom bank, you can teach all sorts of delayed gratification lessons. In one corner of the room, set up a store. You can sell homework passes, pencils, Chapstick, etc. Each child starts out the year with a certain amount of classroom cash. They can earn more throughout the year doing various things, but as you add new and better “items” in your store, the students will have to forgo the immediate reward in order to save up for the item they really want.

8. Use educational simulation computer games
The Oregon Trail is a classic example of this type of game. You have to get your family to the West Coast safely, and budget your supplies and money accordingly. The same principle works in games like SimCity, where the student is master over a domain and must learn how to manage his/her resources.

9. Group competitions
If you have the students’ desks arranged in groups, have them participate in friendly competitions. For example, to encourage healthy snacking, have each team earn a point every day the whole group brings in a healthy snack. The reward will be something that happens in the future (like an ice cream party or movie). In this case, students will have to be mindful of their snack each morning at home when they pack it.

10. Offer positive distractors to help during difficult tasks
During long state mandated testing or big tests, offer the students the chance to chew gum, something that isn’t normally allowed but might help with focus and/or concentration. The same goes for listening to music in earbuds (provided you can trust them to not cheat).

11. Play-it-out visual exercises
When children can imagine and follow through with a scenario in the mind, it is easier to make a decision that delays gratification. For example, if you are offering a child a free recess instead of a chip in a jar, walk through with them how it will feel on that day when the sun is beating on their arms and the smell of fresh grass signals spring. Engage the senses so they have motivation to wait it out.

12. Delayed gratification in physical education
Sports like golf and cross-country running help develop an appreciation for long-term rewards.

13. Write down goals and hang them up
If the children have a concrete reminder of what it is they are reaching for, they are more likely to wait it out. When you are helping your students assess their goals, have them decorate a paper and keep it in front of the room or in their cubby. It should be seen daily.

14. When a student doesn’t show grit, offer a time of reflection
Help him/her to see how it feels when the immediate reward wears off. Usually a disappointment sets in because it wasn’t part of the ultimate goal. If they can remember that feeling, it might deter them in the future.

15. Avoid the “all or nothing” disease
Children can see things in black and white. If they haven’t gotten a 100 on a test, it might as well be a zero. It helps to model a positive attitude of progress. Getting some right is better than nothing.

16. Don’t test willpower to the point of exhaustion
These sorts of activities mentioned above must be balanced with positive reinforcement. Just like dieting can induce binge eating, you want to make sure the stress isn’t going to lead to a pendulum swing in the opposite direction. A good mixture of delayed and immediate rewards are the best way to keep a student motivated.

Julie DeNeen

Julie DeNeen has her bachelor's degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of New Haven. She spent several years working for a local Connecticut school at the district level, implementing new technologies to help students and teachers in the classroom. She also taught workshops to teachers about the importance of digital student management software, designed to keep students, parents, and teachers connected to the learning process.
You can find out more about her @jdeneen4 and Google+.
Cited From:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Provide Input on California's New Afterschool Quality Standards

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha,
Quality Standards
Work Group Member
The California Work Group on Quality Standards is drafting recommendations for statewide program quality standards to submit to the CDE After School Division in June.  We have drafted all 11 standards which are awaiting your input here. The Learning in Afterschool & Summer learning principles were very influential and are well-represented in the standards.

The draft standards are shown below. I hope you will take a few minutes to add your ideas and perspectives to this next step of our work.  Your input is critically important to setting the vision and expectations for after school and summer programs across the state.  Thanks!  

Here are the 11 standards – provide your input here 

Clear vision, mission and purpose: The program has clearly defined vision, mission, goals, and measurable outcomes that are shared and supported by stakeholders, and are understood and used by the program at all levels to drive program design, implementation and improvement.

Safe and supportive climate:  The program provides a safe and nurturing environment that supports the developmental, emotional and mental health needs of all students.
Active and engaged learning:  Program design and youth activities reflect active, meaningful, and engaging learning methods that expand student horizons.
Skill building:  The program maintains high expectations for all students, intentionally links program goals and curricula with development of 21st-century skills and designs activities to help students achieve mastery.
Youth voice and leadership: The program provides and supports intentional opportunities for youth to play a meaningful role in program design and implementation, and sustains youth access to authentic leadership roles.
Healthy choices and behaviors:  The program provides all students with the opportunity to learn about and practice healthy eating, and physical activity in an environment that supports a healthy life style.
Quality Staff:  The program recruits and retains high quality staff and volunteers who are focused on creating a positive learning environment, and provides on going performance feedback and continuous professional learning experiences.
Diversity, Access and Equity: The program policies, procedures and services create an environment that values and embraces diversity and equity regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age , income level, national origin, physical ability, sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression.

Collaborative relationships:  The program intentionally builds and leverages collaborative relationships among internal and external stakeholders to achieve program goals.

Continuous quality improvement:  The program continuously utilizes a variety of information to improve its outcomes and the quality of its design, activities, and management.

Program management and sustainability: Program has sound fiscal and administrative practices supported by well-defined and documented policies and procedures that meet grant requirements and support sustainability.

For more information, go to the California Afterschool Network's website by clicking here.

Youth Vote 2024: Benefits of Youth Civic Engagement

Source: By Sam Piha The 2024 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth. But these opportunities require i...