Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Can Afterschool with a Foundation in SEL Help Disrupt the School-to-Prison Pipeline?

By Sam Piha

In a recent Forum For Thought on the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) website, AYPF Policy and Research Intern, Olivia Thomas, raised the concern about the school-to-prison pipeline and cited afterschool as a contributing solution. (See original post here.)

She began by sharing a number of facts: 

Olivia Thomas
  • In the 2009-2010 school year, 96,000 students were arrested at their schools, and an additional 242,000 were referred to law enforcement by a school administrator.
  • Black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of those students.
  • LGBTQ students and disabled students are also disproportionately punished under punitive policies as compared to their peers.
  • Black youth in particular make up about 16% of students in public schools, but approximately 40% of the students being arrested and committed to the juvenile justice system. This translates to black students being more than four times as likely as their white peers to be arrested at school despite the fact that both groups commit disciplinary offenses at similar rates.”
She then made a case why afterschool can be part of the solution: 
  • "Social and emotional learning (SEL) has long been a central point of afterschool programming. In learning skills such as self-awareness and responsible decision making, youth can learn to better manage their emotions and experiences, and navigate potentially hostile classroom environments in a way that is considered more acceptable by school administrators.
  • Afterschool and OST programs provide a safe, supportive place for young people to spend their time. The activities offered by specific programs provide a positive focus for their energy and keep them engaged between the critical hours of 3:00-7:00 pm – the time frame in which juveniles are most frequently victims or perpetrators of violent crimes. 
  • Another longtime focus of afterschool has been on culturally relevant teaching. This practice ensures that different narratives and cultures are represented truthfully and equitably in lessons and activities. As a result, students from disadvantaged backgrounds feel seen and heard in their learning experience, and can play an active, productive role in it.
  • Afterschool can connect students to various opportunities and resources that allow them to explore postsecondary career and education options that they would not have access to otherwise. Career exploration, college visits, and internships are the types of experiences that can help keep students engaged in their learning by challenging and motivating them to think about their future path.
  • Wraparound services exist to holistically serve the needs of youth. Afterschool programs can integrate these services to further provide students with the tools and support they need, from access to healthy food to connections to social services. Wraparound supports in OST settings can ensure young people have the resources and support they need so they can better function and thrive in a school environment.” 

To learn more about the school-to-prison pipeline, check out these two videos: 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Importance of Collaboration in STEM

By Sam Piha

We recently took note of this Education Week article entitled “Science Is a Team Sport” promoting the importance of collaboration in STEM activities. (Collaboration is one of the five LIAS learning principles).

The article opens by reporting, “Hollywood's version of science—the lone genius toiling in the basement, the socially awkward computer engineer—stands in stark contrast to the real life, increasingly team-oriented work in science and engineering fields. A new study suggests correcting that misconception could encourage more American students to engage in science.” A similar article appeared in the NAA newsletter entitled Boost Learning By Combining Teamwork and STEM.

Dr. Carol Tang
We asked Carol Tang, Executive Director at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco and Former Director of the Coalition for Science After School, to comment on this. Below, we share her remarks. 

“One of the most interesting learning principles in my mind is the one about collaboration. Because studies have shown that one of the reasons young people do not go into science is because they think that scientists work alone and they're isolated. In fact, most scientists would think that they're very collaborative in their work. 

A lot of big teams are needed to really tackle some of the biggest questions in science. If you think about looking for life on other planets or you think about how to invent new medicine, all of those take a team of scientists and engineers to work together. 

For scientists, we think of our work as collaborative. We email people all over the world with our ideas and we hear their criticism and their critiques and that's how we do science. 

Photo Credit:

For scientists, collaboration is a key part of what we do everyday. Yet most young people think that scientists work alone in their labs blowing things up. And so I think I like the collaboration learning principle and to make sure that when we do science, we encourage people to think of science as a collaborative effort because that's what it is in today's society.”

You can view Dr. Tang’s entire interview here. 

Carol M. Tang, Ph.D. is the Executive Director at the Children’s Creativity Museum (SF) and former Director of the Coalition for Science After School. She is experienced in non-profit management, strategic planning, envisioning, meeting facilitation, team building, fundraising and public speaking. She also has extensive experience in teaching, organizing, and leading science education efforts including out-of-school programming, exhibitions, teacher professional development, public programs, volunteer management and higher education. 


You can read other blogs by the LIAS project by going to: 

  • Expanded Learning 360°/365 Project website
  • LIAS Blog Written for the California Afterschool Network

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Growing Importance of Social Emotional Learning and Character Building

By Sam Piha

Sam Piha
The pendulum is swinging back from our obsession with measuring learning using standardized tests to thinking about the whole child and the skills they will need to be successful. As a result, social emotional learning and character building have become important in schools and youth programs. Over the last year, we have been tracking recent articles, blogs, videos, and reports on these important issues. 

To view our listing of social emotional learning and character building resources, click here. All of the resources listed are links to the original documents.