Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Making Way For Play: The Benefits For Kids, Older Youth And Adults

Source: A World Fit for Kids!
By Sam Piha

In a previous post, Is Play a Waste, we made the case that 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. Below we open the door to this by explore some of the benefits of play and resources that may be useful.
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 (1)

The Benefits of Play
According to experts “play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development.” (2)
The gift of imaginative free play has been getting the short end of the stick for some time…play does not exclude learning. Play is the essence of learning and we have the research to back it up…We need to get this concept back into circulation with the mainstream that play is the highest form of learning!  
25 Quotes about the Importance of PLAY by Jayne Clare (3)
Rebecca Fabiano is Founder of FAB Youth Philly, which supports organizations and individuals that work with children and youth by focusing on improving program quality and providing professional development for staff. FAB Youth Philly also works directly with teens. In a newsletter, Rebecca wrote, “There's been so much interest in the last few years in the various ways that play can positively impact children's learning and their overall health and well being.  Play is so important that this report from August 2018 describes the ways in which doctors have begun to 'prescribe' play to their patients. ‘Play is not frivolous,’ the report says. Rather, research shows that play helps children develop language and executive functioning skills, learn to negotiate with others and manage stress, and figure out how to pursue their goals while ignoring distractions, among other things.”

Is Play Good for Older Kids? 
We tend not to give older kids a chance to play. When I taught 6th grade, my students loved visiting the kindergartners - not to be helpers or mentors, but to get a chance to play with the building blocks and other play things. In teens, we see play take different creative forms – theater, project-based learning, making beats, adventure challenges, etc. 

Clockwise: YMCA of Greater Long Beach; Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center;
Youth Radio; and Spotlight: Girls

Hilary Conklin was a middle school teacher and is now an associate professor in the college of education at DePaul University in Chicago, where her research interests include the preparation of middle school social studies teachers. She writes, “One of the casualties of current education reform efforts has been the erosion of play, creativity, and joy from teenagers’ classrooms and lives, with devastating effects… And while play has gotten deserved press in recent months for its role in fostering crucial social-emotional and cognitive skills and cultivating creativity and imagination in the early childhood years, a critical group has been largely left out of these important conversations. Adolescents, too—not to mention adults, need time to play, and they need time to play in school…purposefully infusing play into middle and high school classrooms holds the potential for a more joyful, creative, and educative future for us all—a future in which kids have more interesting things to do in school than count down to summer break.” (4)

Is Play Good for Adults, too?
In a recent newsletter, Rebecca Fabiano writes, “The importance of play for children is well documented. Now researchers are turning their attention to its possible benefits for adults. What they’re finding is that play isn’t just about goofing off; it can also be an important means of reducing stress and contributing to overall well-being. This 2017 article from the Washington Post goes on to talk about why play is important for adults too.
We're sharing a link to a toy we use a lot in our staff meetings and trainings with adults and teens (see photo of the cubes below). They are so popular we've lost several cubes at some of our meetings and trainings. This is just one way you can encourage play or playfulness with adults.”
Source: Learning Resources
Rebecca goes on to offer a few “easy and low cost/free ideas to try:

  • Ask staff to bring in a baby photo- hang them up and have everyone try to guess who the babies are.
  • Have staff work together on a scavenger hunt.
  • Have a dance off during lunch time!
  • At your next staff meeting have one of the staff lead one of their favorite childhood games.
  • Put out a puzzle in a shared space and encourage people to work on it together.”

A Few More Resources 
There are many resources on the topic of play. We cite a few below. 


The power of play – Part 1-5: This is a 5-part series from Michigan State University The Power of Play 

The Genius of Play has created easy to use activities, provides expert advice and more. And it's all FREE for anyone to use.

Videos: There are many TED talks and other videos on play. Below are some that we like. 
TED Talk by Stuart Brown entitled “Play is more than just fun” 

TED Talk by Peter Gray entitled “The decline of play

Monday, January 20, 2020

A Tribute to Mary Jo Ginty

By: Sam Piha

We were very saddened to hear of the passing of Mary Jo Ginty. Mary Jo served at Los Angeles County of Education (LACOE) as CDE’s Region 11 Lead for Expanded Learning Programs in Los Angeles County for over 12 years. She led a unit that provided training and technical assistance to the 1300+ school sites providing after school programs funded through the Afterschool Education and Safety Program (ASES) and/or 21st Century Community Learning Center grants. She was a tireless advocate for young people and leaders of afterschool programs. Mary Jo believed that after school programs have the potential to assist youth to gain the skill sets, tools, and knowledge and have the experiences necessary to make a life for themselves and their families. Prior to her leadership of Region 11, Mary Jo was the owner of a successful consulting firm, a high school teacher, high school principal, college professor, lobbyist, and community organizer.

Mary Jo Ginty

We had the pleasure of working with Mary Jo over the last decade and below are some comments from afterschool leaders who worked alongside her.

Mary Jo was so incredibly dedicated to the Expanded Learning field, and she was always extremely supportive of those doing the great work.  Her leadership and influence is found, and will continue to impact the Expanded Learning field all over California, not just in Region 11.  However, her work in Region 11 was more than exceptional and effective, which is truly remarkable when you factor in the exponential number of programs she served.  She was an amazing force and a truly great friend, so her passing is a loss to the field and a great personal loss for me.  Godspeed Mary Jo!

BOB CABEZA, YMCA of Greater Long Beach
I have known Mary Jo for over 20 years. She was a dear friend and a warrior in the fight to serve and support disenfranchised youth of color. When she worked for the Conservation Corps, she helped hundreds of these youth get their GED’s and move on to college. She carried on that mission of moving youth out of poverty through education as an After School Advocate at LACOE. She never wavered from her mission nor passion. She was wise, patient, kind and so very full of humor. I will miss you my friend, but I’ll see you again in that meadow in the forest.

STACEY DARAIO, Temescal Associates
I’m thinking about MaryJo’s daughter, Savannah. I’m thinking of the many conversations MaryJo and I had about the children we parent. The intersection of youth development and parent development. I’m thinking of the many roles she played and the authenticity with which she played them. I’m thinking of the way she frustrated and inspired and spurred dialogue – always with the intent of making us see how we got in the way of the work. I’m so deeply and profoundly affected by MaryJo’s passing. I’m thinking that she’d kick my *ss and tell me to get back to work.

JENNIFER PECK, The Partnership for Children and Youth 
I so appreciated her extreme honesty, in every situation I ever saw her in. She was never afraid to speak up about what she thought was best for programs and kids, no matter what.  Mary Jo also liked to gossip which you had to love about her, because she so often said kind things about others and when she didn’t, she was probably right!  She was so generous with her invaluable advice and guidance over the years – I will miss her presence and wisdom and her deep kindness and caring.  I am grateful to have known her.

MICHAEL FUNK, California Department of Education
Mary Jo Ginty was a force for good and a warrior for kids. She would always ask me hard questions, and she would then listen closely to my thoughts. That made for many memorable, authentic and generative conversations. MJ was also strongly committed to her own personal growth. In the last couple of years, I watched her challenge herself and join our entire System of Support for Expanded Learning as we embarked on a journey of social and emotional growth together. I will miss her profoundly.

From making sure children’s art decorated the halls of BOOST to relentlessly connecting with line staff to ensure their professional development needs were being met, Mary Jo left a fingerprint on our field that will never be forgotten.  She was a friend, a mentor and one of the strongest social justice warriors I have ever met.  She will be deeply missed.

EDUCARE Foundation
Mary Jo’s brilliance and magnitude of influence goes beyond words.  Her energy, commitment, and kindness ignited the best in each of us and lifted the lives of thousands of young people. Being with Mary Jo was like being in a powerful force field of love in action.  How fortunate for us all to have been touched by her dynamic presence and inspired by her life of heartfelt service.

It’s not easy to share thoughts about Mary Jo and keep it brief because there’s so much to say about her. I considered Mary Jo to be a great role model and mentor because she was one of the most passionate, committed and inspiring champions for young people, as well as the adults who work with them. Whenever I had any questions or challenges, she was my go-to person because she was always willing to assist, and she did so with a smile on her face and an answer or suggestion that was just what was needed. I came to know and admire her even more as a Co-Chair of the CA Afterschool Network because of her impeccable clarity of vision, purpose and direction. We have lost an amazing human being who will be missed by so many, but we are forever touched by who she was and who she will continue to be in our hearts. Thank you, Mary Jo, and God bless you on your new journey!

JOHN HAN, Beyond the Bell LAUSD
As many of us process the loss of our dear friend MaryJo, I am reminded about how precious life is, and how people come in and out of our lives. In the business of education, one comes across hundreds if not thousands of people throughout one’s career. Some leave a lasting impression, while others not so much. MaryJo, was one that left a large footprint, not only in me professionally, but personally as well. From the moment I met MaryJo, I knew she was someone who cared not only about students, but the people that served them as well. She was an amazing teacher and I always learned from her. READ MORE.

We lost a giant and it hurts. Mary Jo made a significant impact on all of us in so many ways, personally and professionally. Her passing is a momentous loss to everyone that knew her. Her contributions to the Expanded Learning field will be one of her greatest legacies. It is fair to say, she taught us so many valuable lessons along the way.

As many of you know Mary Jo was chosen as our 2020 BOOST OSTI Award winner for the trailblazing contributions that she made to our field. We were so excited to honor Mary Jo in front of her peers at the BOOST Conference and recognize her for the tireless love and commitment she made to Expanded Learning programs. She deserved to be on the stage in all the glory as she planned for her retirement in October 2020 and to celebrate her immense legacy. As a field and community, we still plan to honor Mary Jo on the stage on Wednesday, April 29 that the BOOST Conference. Behind the scenes, we have been collecting video testimonials and photos of Mary Jo over the years that will result in a video tribute to honor Mary Jo. This video will live on as a special memory of LOVE for her family, for Savannah, and as an inspiration to the field to carry on Mary Jo’s legacy.

We hope that you will contribute a 15-20 second video tribute to honor Mary Jo, feel free to use the prompts below. You can also send photos to be included in the video.

Option 1

We are offering an opportunity with a professional videographer immediately following the LACOE Advisory meeting on January 24, 2020 in Room 610, located just inside the entry of the building and on the way to and from the meeting room. Please sign up for your timeslot here

*Deadline to sign up, January 15, 2020.

Option 2

Please email your video submission and/or photos to Gabriela Delgado gaby@boostcollaborative.org by 5pm Jan. 25, 2020.
Prompting Questions for Tributes 
Sample prompting questions below- you can answer as many as you like or create your own.

  • A favorite memory with Mary Jo
  • What you loved most about Mary Jo
  • How Mary Jo has influenced/impacted your life/program/career
  • The greatest lesson Mary Jo has ever taught you
  • Your favorite quality about Mary Jo
  • Funniest story about Mary Jo

Go Fund Me
Another lasting legacy that Mary Jo has left behind is being a mother to Savannah. She took great pride in loving and raising her daughter, Savannah. Right now, we are trying to navigate next steps and determine what support is needed to make sure Savannah has everything she needs to be aided through this loss. We have set up a Go Fund Me page to assist Savannah financially in the short term. We hope that you will consider giving back the same way Mary Jo always did for all of us.

Flowers can be sent to Savannah Ginty at 5224 E Daggett St, Long Beach, CA 90815. A Celebration of Life will be held January 26th. For more information contact info@temescalassociates.com.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Afterschool Ignored in the 2020 Political Conversation

Guest Blogger, Dr. Gil Noam

Dr. Gil Noam
The election season is upon us. As a researcher in the field of education, I pay close attention to the ways education and youth development are discussed and framed on large policy platforms. This year, I have noticed one area consistently neglected in these high-profile discussions: educational settings that care for school-aged children and adolescents beyond the school day. These spaces are often referred to as afterschool programs, out-of-school time, summer experiences, or extended education.

This year, the Democratic candidates have largely focused their talking points on health care, immigration, trade, and gun violence with education in the periphery. When education came up in the first five debates, the most discussed issues were universal pre-K and tuition-free public colleges and universities. Some candidates also argued for raising teacher salaries and increasing funding for low-income students and schools.  But every family in this country has to figure out what to do when school is out and how to pay for high quality and safe environments for learning and care.

Source: Getty Images

Some Democratic candidates have more detailed platforms that include expanded learning opportunities. For example, Bernie Sanders has proposed spending $5 billion annually to expand summer and afterschool programs and youth centers in particular. Elizabeth Warren’s platform includes investing $100 billion over ten years to restore and implement in-school and out-of-school programs. Amy Klobuchar also has had a record of speaking up in favor of increasing access to afterschool programs and community hubs. On the other side of the political aisle, President Trump’s campaign platform does not specifically mention afterschool programming, but his administration did attempt to cut the only federal funding stream dedicated to afterschool and summer programs (21st Century Community Learning Centers) on three occasions. 

Source: metro.co.uk
I believe that out-of-school time should be treated with the same attention as current education hot topics like pre-K and college tuition costs. Often times, when politicians debate over resource allocation or ways to increase the quality of education, they focus on the start and end of a child’s educational journey (i.e. universal pre-school and college access). This approach often overlooks the many opportunities that could be improved upon in elementary, middle, and high school years. For example, the three months of vacation between each school year can lead to “summer slide,” which denotes the loss of academic gains during the summer months when young people are often less engaged with academic material.  Also, the opportunity divide during the summer between children who grow up in poverty and those who have affluent parents is enormous.

Candidates in any party would be well-served by putting more emphasis on this topic. Unlike debates surrounding healthcare or gun regulations, it is not a matter of taking away or replacing something, but rather about the expansion and supplementation of new programs. There are more than 30 million families with children under the age of 18 in America, with the majority being employed. The workday does not correspond with the school day and that is a very serious matter. Many of these voters are in essential primary and swing states and know whether a leader takes their situation seriously. Ultimately, this is a low-risk, high-yield topic, and it’s time to give it the deserved place on the debate floor. If you don’t discuss your plan, you will be seen as being out of touch with a very significant need of every family in our nation. READ MORE

Gil Noam, Ed.D., is the founder and director of The PEAR Institute (Partnerships in Education and Resilience) at Harvard University and McLean Hospital. The PEAR Institute is a translational center that connects research to practice and is dedicated to serving “the whole child-the whole day.” An Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School focusing on prevention and resilience, Dr. Noam trained as a clinical and developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst in both Europe and the United States. Dr. Noam has a strong interest in translating research and innovation to support resilience in youth in educational settings.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Best Posts of 2019

By Sam Piha

Since we launched the Learning in Afterschool & Summer (LIAS) project, we have published over 381 blog posts, attracting over 500,000 views. In 2019, we published over 40 blog posts and below, we list some of our favorites.

Ivan Garcia at HKL VIII Conference
An Interview with Ivan Garcia, Youth Activist (March 2019)
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. According to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, “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.” Read more.

Reed Larson

An Interview with Youth Development Researcher, Reed Larson (February 2019)
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." Read more.

Youth Activism and Social Media: An Interview with Historian Gordon Alexandre (April 2019)
Since the school shooting in Parkland, FL and the response of young people to gun violence, we have all become more aware of youth activism and civic engagement. We were curious about how youth have been involved historically in social movements, and the effect of social media on social movements. Thus, we interviewed Gordon Alexandre, a historian and activist about these questions. Read more.

A Mindfulness Story For Kids By Kids: An Interview with Laurie Grossman, Inner Explorer (January 2019)
We have been promoting the use of mindfulness techniques in afterschool, for both young people and adult staff self-care, for many years. We are happy to announce that a second book created by young people on this topic was recently released. “From the creators of the hugely successful Master of Mindfulness, this charming children’s book for readers ages 4 to 7 tells the story of Nessa and Leo’s friendship, and how mindfulness helps them deal with strong emotions such as fear, shyness, and anger.” -Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley. Read more.

Youth Speak About the Importance of Afterschool: Guest Blogger Stu Semigran, Educare Foundation (April 2019)

Local high school students spoke with Hal Eisner, FOX 11 about 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 Miranda and Lynn Kim 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! 

Read more

Learning From a Monumental Philanthropic Leader: Bill White's Legacy to Advance Our Field: Guest Blogger Terry K. Peterson (November 2019)

Source: Youthtoday.org
William S. White, addressing the 
European Foundation Centre in 2009
William S. White, the Chairman of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation passed away on October 9, 2019.  Bill was a monumental leader in the world of philanthropy. Working with many of you as well as many other foundations and organizations, he and the Mott Foundation have had and are continuing to have a tremendous positive impact on the afterschool and community learning center movement. Read more.

Is Play a “Waste”? (October 2019)
Source: Joel deWaard
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. 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. Read more.

Teacher Strikes and Afterschool (January 2019)

Source: Dania Maxwell
 Los Angeles Times
Teacher strikes are not new, but they are on the increase. In 2018, teacher strikes occurred in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona. They also inspired smaller-scale protests by school staff in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Colorado. In 2019, we have seen strikes in Los Angeles (which appear to be settled), and there are rumblings in Denver, Chicago, and Oakland. Motivations for the strikes include increased wages for teachers and support staff, larger school budgets, and smaller class sizes. Read more.

Afterschool Learning that Supports Mastery (May 2019)

Source: Stacey Daraio,
Temescal Associates
Young people tell us they are most engaged when they are given opportunities to learn new skills. If young people are to learn the importance and joy of mastery, they need the opportunity to learn and practice a full sequence of skills that will allow them to become “really good at something.” Afterschool activities should not promote the gathering of random knowledge and skills. Rather, afterschool learning activities should be explicitly sequenced and designed to promote the layering of skills that allows participants to create a product or demonstrate mastery in a way they couldn’t do before. Read more.

Let Youth Lead

Source: FAB Youth Philly By Guest Blogger, Rebecca Fabiano, Founder & President, FAB Youth Philly (This was originally published on the ...