Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Is Play a “Waste”?

Source: Joel deWaard

By Sam Piha

There is an inscription over a public school in northern Washington state that reads “Waste Not Thy Hour”. It reminds me of how young people’s play is often regarded as a waste. For many, play is the antithesis of learning time, however, there is growing evidence that there is a great deal of learning in play.
In an age of standardized testing and intense academic competition, it’s easy to believe that play is one more thing American children will have to do without. But free play encourages the development of the two skills that no robot can replace: creativity and teamwork. -The Secret Power of Play; Bethan Mooney for TIME (1)
Now is the time to reexamine the value of play, educate our stakeholders, and be unashamed to make play an important part of our afterschool programs. In this post we open the door to this reexamination by offering some information and definitions of terms you may find as you read about play. In a later blog post on play, we offer some additional  information and resources to encourage a reexamination of play. 
Many afterschool programs prioritize an extension of academics and homework completion over organized play, free play, and physical activity.  - The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds (2)

The Move AWAY From Play 
Over the years, there has been a pronounced reduction in the time that children spend in play. According to the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health (3), this is due to several factors: 
  1. Child supervision: Fewer families have available adult supervision in the home during the workday, which makes it necessary for children to be in settings in which they can be monitored by adults throughout the day.
  2. Afterschool program changes: Many afterschool programs prioritize an extension of academics and homework completion over organized play, free play, and physical activity. 
  3. Educational trends: There is a national trend to focus on the academic fundamentals of reading and arithmetic. This trend was spearheaded by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. One of the practical effects of the trend is decreased time left during the school day for other academic subjects, as well as recess, creative arts, and physical education. This trend may have implications for the social and emotional development of children and adolescents.
  4. Safety: In many communities, children cannot play safely outside of the home unless they are under close adult supervision and protection. This is particularly true in areas that are unsafe because of increased violence or other environmental dangers.
  5. Screentime: Children are increasingly being passively entertained through television or computer/video games. 
  6. Super-achieving children: Parents receive messages that good parents actively build every skill and aptitude their child might need to become super-achieving children, and if their children are not well prepared and high-achieving, they will not get a desired spot in higher education. 

Terms 
There are many terms that one encounters when exploring the issues of play. Below are some definitions that may be helpful. 

Characteristics of play (4) 
  1. Active. During active play, children use their bodies and minds in play by interacting with the environment, materials and other people.
  2. Adventurous and risky. This type of play involves children exploring unknown or new concepts. When children engage in adventurous or risky pretend play, they are able to safely explore these concepts within the confines of a safety net.
  3. Communicative. Play presents a natural opportunity for children to share information and knowledge. Children can communicate verbally, using words or their bodies, postures and other non-verbal cues and these messages can be simple or more complicated.
  4. Enjoyable. Simply put, play is fun! When children play they should be enjoying themselves and they can often find excitement and humor in or through their play. If they aren’t having fun, it probably isn’t play. Instead of playing to win, children should be playing to play and have fun!
  5. Involved. Remember that play is a child’s work, and just like adults need to concentrate while working, children should concentrate during their play also. Children might become very involved while playing as they are actively thinking about what they are doing.
  6. Meaningful. Play provides opportunities for children to make sense of their world. Through play, children process the things they have seen and heard, what they know and what they don’t yet know. These experiences help children build upon their current knowledge, test out new theories and roles and grow their knowledge, understanding and skills.
  7. Sociable and interactive. While it is healthy and necessary for children to play independently, at least some of the time, play presents a unique and formative opportunity for children to engage in social interactions and build relationships with other children and adults.
  8. Symbolic. Children are able to test out roles, feelings, behaviors and relationships, replay things that have already happened in order to make sense of them. Symbolic play may just look like pretending, but it is actually laying the foundation for understanding of themselves and the larger world.
  9. Therapeutic. When play is fun, engaging and meaningful, it can be very therapeutic for children. Play can be a natural way for children to relieve stress and work through different emotions and experiences.
  10. Voluntary. Play is a self-chosen, spontaneous pursuit that children can change, alter and manipulate freely. Children should and will change the story, characters, materials, events, locations and purpose of their play at will.

Unstructured play is open-ended play that has no specific learning objective. Unstructured play is often informally referred to as simply "letting kids be kids" or "just play." At times, you may also hear it called "free play" or “self-play."(5

Unstructured play doesn't usually have any rules or instructions, and the possibilities tend to be unlimited! (6

Free play is unstructured, voluntary, child-initiated activity that allows children to develop their imaginations while exploring and experiencing the world around them. It is the spontaneous play that comes naturally from children's natural curiosity, love of discovery, and enthusiasm. (7)

Structured play is any type of activity that has a set of rules or instructions with a goal. For example, most games, puzzles, construction toys and organized sports are structured activities (8)

Organized play is ordered, overseen by rules, and managed or directed by another person. (9)
 


Source: Lapin Yliopisto University of Lapland

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Youth Media Network Virtual Summit

By Guest Blogger Jason Wyman

The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture has been convening and organizing an intergenerational network of youth media practitioners for over 20 years, and in 2019 we are more uncertain than ever what exactly youth media actually is. We've spoken with Youth Filmmakers, Teen Librarians, Teaching Artists, Museum Educators, Executive Directors, Musicians, Youth Organizers, Public School Teachers, Poets and Storytellers and each one has a different understanding of what makes and is youth media. It's beautifully messy and complex. Join The Alliance in an engaging conversation and inquiry into what exactly is youth media on Friday, October 25. Share your voice and shift your perspective.

ABOUT MEDIA LITERACY WEEK
Inspired by Canada’s Media Literacy Week, the 5th annual U.S. Media Literacy Week, October 21-25, 2019, is hosted by the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). The mission is to highlight the power of media literacy education and its essential role in education all across the country. Each U.S. Media Literacy Week event calls attention to media literacy education by bringing together hundreds of partners for events and activities around the country.

Whether you are an individual teacher, an employee at an organization, or a researcher, you can get involved with Media Literacy Week by hosting a media literacy event or activity between October 21 and 25. It’s up to you to decide what, when, where, and how you want to execute your Media Literacy Week plans, but NAMLE has put together a list of resources if you need help getting started.

Source: http://www.thealliance.media/


ABOUT THE ALLIANCE
The Alliance Youth Media Network convenes, connects, nurtures and sustains strategic development in the broad Youth Media field. We support innovative and emerging models of practice within the fields of youth media, creative youth development, and media literacy. We do this through the collaborative production of a youth media magazine, ongoing Collective Action work, hosting national Video Roundtable conversations, designing and producing youth media conference content with global partners, and through the leadership of an international network of youth media organizations.

All of the programs of our Youth Media Initiative use an intergenerational, co-creative approach as a means to demonstrate the possibilities and impact of a range of youth and elders working collaboratively and inclusively, interrogating power and privilege across program areas. To learn more click here.

Source: http://www.thealliance.media/

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Voices from the Field: Pay and Professionalism, Part 2

By Stacey Daraio


Rick Rood
Rick Rood has been on the front lines of Out-of-School-Time (OST) programs for over 25 years, working directly with children and front-line staff. (Note: OST programs are also referred to as afterschool or expanded learning programs.) Rick is an OST trainer, an author, and co-creator of the Beyond School Time Conference, and a bold thinker in the OST arena. He also serves on the Leadership Team of the California AfterSchool Network.

Below is part 2 of Rick’s responses to our interview questions. You can view part 1 here.

Q: Can you say more about professionalization of the field?

A: I believe that if we are to create a network of vibrant, healthy OST programs, we need to have a stronger sense of professionalism and unity as a field.  I think that the seeds of professionalism are there… but mostly only exist for the upper levels of management – not for the on-the-floor teachers and site coordinators. We need to extend this sense of professionalism all the way down to the grassroots – make sure that line staff understand that they’re part of something bigger, something that makes a difference. On a positive note, I think this year’s Site Coordinator Symposium put on by the California Afterschool Network took a HUGE step toward extending that professionalism to line staff. We need LOTS more of that type of experience.

Of course, the issue of professionalism is directly linked to the issue of pay. To create a professional system, we need to signal to front-line workers that their work is worthy. We want them to treat it as a profession – to continue their education and sharpen their expertise – but it gets difficult to convince someone their work is worthwhile when Carl's Jr. is offering better pay and more hours just down the street.

Another thing that I find paradoxical is how some of the leaders of the field promote jobs in out-of-school-time as stepping stones to other fields like classroom teaching, social work, nursing, et cetera. While I understand that working in out-of-school time can give people exposure to what it is like to work with children and youth, I think the unconscious message is dangerous to the field, and that is “Out-of-School Time isn’t a real profession… it’s just a pit stop on the way to something else.” Yet we continue to raise the bar for what we expect from our OST programming as well as the level of professionalism we expect from directors and front-line workers. I think it’s time that the leaders of the field take a stand for professionalizing the field and stop sending mixed messages about whether or not Out-of-School-Time is a standalone field that is worthy of professionalization and the pay and status that goes with that designation. 

I’m not saying that figuring out the money equation is going to be easy. It does seem that it’s going to take a consortium of departments of education and government (city, county, state, and federal) private sector investment and sustaining support, as well as a free-market fee-for-service component. If there’s one thing we’ve learned is that we can’t balance the cost of quality on the backs of any one of those options alone. The problem is that I don’t see a lot of movement on this front – at least not as much movement as one would expect given our pledges around the importance of OST Programs.

Q: The Beyond School Time Conference has a focus this year on youth development. Can you tell us about that?

A: The youth development philosophy, to my mind, is the only one that makes sense when you’re talking about OST Programs. I feel that in the mid 2000’s the overall philosophy behind OST programs shifted away from the Youth Development camp into many programs just being an extension of the school day.

With the recent upsurge in the understanding of the importance of Social/Emotional Learning, as well as the Aspen Group’s phenomenal report “A Nation at Hope”, and Temescal’s beautiful re-introduction of the Youth Development Philosophy, I think that it’s time that Youth Development philosophy takes its rightful place as the bedrock of how we look at quality in Afterschool and Out-of-School-Time programs. This year at the Beyond School Time Conference, our theme is Youth Development and the Whole Child.


Source: Temescal Associates

Since the late 1980s, there has been a cadre of dedicated professionals who have practiced and embodied the Youth Development Philosophy in so many OST Programs. When the philosophical discussion of the field turned to embracing a more strict academic track, the Youth Development folks kept on keeping on. Now they’re finding that their hard work and perseverance is paying off and the field is finally listening to their voice.


Q: Final thoughts?

A: I’m beyond thrilled to be an OST practitioner at this time in the history of the field. With the various points of research coming together to support SEL, the Whole Child Paradigm, and Youth Development Theory and Philosophy, I feel we’re in a renaissance of sorts in this field. And I’m excited (as I always have been) that it always seems as though California is leading the way. Now we have a governor who has repeatedly shown that he is supportive of our work, and we have momentum with various stakeholders such as the California Afterschool Network, Partnership for Children and Youth, and a leader like Michael Funk of the CDE who comes from Youth Development roots. I feel like the field of OST is ready and poised to go to the next level.




Back when I got my graduate degree in School-Age Care from Concordia University… there was a popular monograph that made its rounds called “Generation Theory in School Age Care”.  The theory followed the origins of the OST field from Generation One, which was characterized by the dominance of keeping kids safe as it’s raison d’etre, to Generation Two which ushered in the Kids’ Choice revolution, to Generation Three, which began to usher in the Youth Development Philosophy as the driving force in afterschool.

Generation Four was the pendulum swing toward strict academics and now I think, especially in light of the Aspen Report, we are seeing the dawn of Generation Five – which I believe will lead to the unification and professionalization of the field. I’m also optimistic that Generation Five will usher OST Programs into an empowering, synergistic alignment with the education field as a whole.

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Rick Rood has been on the front lines of Out-of-School-Time for over 25 years, working directly with children and front-line staff. With degrees in Education, Afterschool Care, and Applied Mathematics, Rick is a student of the thought leader movement, distilling lessons from master teachers like Jack Canfield, Tony Robbins, and Brendon Burchard - giving them practical application to education professionals.  Participants have described his workshops as “fascinating” and “life-changing.” 

In addition to running Out-of-School-Time Centers, Rick has also taught kids’ music, computer programming, and youth leadership through his workshops. Rick is a contributor to “Youth Today!” and is the author of “Games Teachers Play Before the Bell Rings”. Rick is a Certified High Performance Coach™ and works privately and in groups with education professionals to help them achieve higher levels of performance in their work and personal lives. Rick and his team created the Beyond School Time Conference for Out-of-School-Time Professionals in 2018 as a way for Northern California OST Professionals to connect, learn, and gather inspiration. He also serves on the Leadership Team of the California AfterSchool Network.

Is Play a “Waste”?

Source: Joel deWaard By Sam Piha There is an inscription over a public school in northern Washington state that reads “Waste Not Thy ...