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

Friday, June 19, 2015

Having a Conversation About Race in Expanded Learning Programs

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
Several years ago, I sat in a circle of afterschool leaders across the country. This learning circle was hosted by the National Institute on Out of School Time (NIOST) and we met several times. Along with my friend, Greg Roberts, former Director of the Muhammad Ali Foundation, we insisted that it was important that we discuss the impact of race within our conversations and within our programs. 

The recent tragedy in Charleston follows many others and is a stark reminder that we must engage in a discussion of race with our staff and our youth. To this end, Temescal Associates and LIAS sponsored a number of film screenings of Finding the Gold Within for the afterschool community in the Bay Area. This is a documentary about young men in transition to college, the support they received from their afterschool program, Alchemy, Inc., and their confronting the issue of race. These screenings were followed by discussions led by the young men portrayed in the documentary and the film’s director. These screenings were very powerful and the discussions that followed were very important. If you are interested in screening this film and supporting conversation afterward, please email us, and we can share our learnings and loan you a blu-ray DVD of the film. 

Photo credit: NY Daily News
Below, we offer a statement from a leader from the Alameda County Office of Education, followed by a few comments from afterschool stakeholders.

“I was truly honored to have the opportunity to again work with and support this project.  I believe that this can be one of those rare transformative experiences, that allow youth and supportive adults to look both internally and externally at themselves and their environments and decide to engage in agency, for the betterment of themselves and their communities.  I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and getting to know Karina and I’m definitely interested in supporting getting this film and conversation/study guide into schools and afterschool programs.”  
- Joe Hudson,
Region 4 Lead & Program Manager
Expanded Learning Program Office

“I had been especially bowled over by Darius in the film, so imagine my delight that he was one of the representatives there. I was so impressed by how well articulated all their struggles were, and by the ways that Alchemy is working to shepherd these boys and young men through the dangerous waters of society and through the shoals of their own emotions.  Anyway, I just wanted to say ‘Bravo’.  This film goes a long way to expressing how imperative learning outside of the confines of school is.  And so much more.”

“Amazing vantage point for an issue that has exploded across America.”

“Thank you so much for making this screening happen! It is a beautifully crafted film – great stories and great breaking down of stereotypes. I love the Alchemy program – myths and drumming, young black men, multi-generational.”

“Powerful. Honest. Painful. Real. Thank you for insisting we hear and see this rare perspective.”

“The film was very moving because of the strong sense of community displayed in the movie.”

“Well done. You can really feel the struggle and journey of the young men and get a glimpse of where they were at the time. Thank you for introducing us to Alchemy, it seems like a powerful program.”

“This film broke stereotypes of young black men; the need for society to set higher expectations for young black men and view them as the gold within.”

“A sensitive and authentic portrayal of the Alchemy program. I’d love to have access to this film in a medium for use with men’s circles.”

“Great focus on emotion and long-lasting impact.”

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