Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Pause: Cultivate Grace for Yourself and Your Community

By Sam Piha

For many years we have been promoting the effectiveness of mindfulness activities in afterschool- both for adult staff and youth participants. We have posted blogs, offered trainings to schools and created a 16- week mindfulness curriculum for afterschool leaders.

In this COVID-19 world, activities that help adults and young people release stress, be aware of one’s emotions, and stay in the moment have never been more important.
Mindfulness provides immediate feedback to adult staff. Taking a breath while letting the thought pass is indeed helpful when your inner voice is shouting doom and gloom. Interrupting the critical voices in one’s head allows a pathway for creative thinking (which is always necessary for afterschool programs adult staff).”- Allison Haynes, Riverside County Office of Education 

On Thursday, May 7th, 2020 (10:00am-11:00am PST) we invite you to participate in an upcoming webinar entitled, Pause: Cultivate Grace for Yourself and Your Community. Grace is most easily found in the present moment. Journey with Laurie Grossman and Stacey Daraio to learn mindfulness practices that you can share with your community to live in the present. You will leave calmer than when you arrived and with resources to use and share.

Laurie Grossman
Laurie Grossman is the Director of Social Justice & Educational Equity for Inner Explorer. She cofounded Mindful Schools in 2007. With Angelina Alvarez Manriquez and 4th & 5th grade students at Reach Academy in East Oakland, California, she wrote Master of Mindfulness How to Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress and Breath Friends Forever.

Stacey Daraio
Stacey Daraio is Co-Director of Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation. Along with Laurie Grossman, she co-authored the Mindfulness in Afterschool, a 16-week curriculum, and has supported its implementation in schools and afterschool programs throughout California.

To learn more and to register, click here.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Can Youth "Check-in" Remotely? There's an App for That

By Sam Piha
Source: L-, R- HelloYello

One of the most important things about expanded learning programs (ELP) is for youth to have the opportunity to check-in with a trusted, caring adult. This is reinforced by the literature on positive youth development, social emotional learning (SEL) and trauma informed practice. We have written several blogs and articles on the importance of checking-in with youth.

But how can we continue that when our programs are closed due to COVID-19 and our afterschool participants are sheltering in place?

Source: Temescal Associates
Brandon and Ryan Sportel,  brothers and educators, developed an online application to allow young people to check in, called HelloYello. We first learned about HelloYello while researching our paper “Promoting SEL and Character Skills in Expanded Learning Programs.” We will offer a webinar introducing this application and showing afterschool practitioners how to use it. Below we include some responses from an interview we did with Brandon. (Because this was developed for teachers, they use the terms “student” instead of “youth,” and “teacher” instead of “youth program leader”).

Q: Can you briefly describe what the Hello Yello app is for? 

A: The HelloYello App is for strengthening student/staff relationships. It is a web-based app that students use to "check- in" with their teachers to express their thoughts and feelings, and share their daily experiences. Teachers, educators, counselors, and afterschool staff use HelloYello to understand all of their students from a "whole child" perspective, monitor their students' emotional wellness, and sustain trusting relationships.

Q: Can you briefly tell us the origin story about the development of the app? 

A: Our work began with students that struggle with emotions and behaviors.  As Education Specialists, we noticed that students benefited significantly when given opportunities to send us confidential messages about their feelings and experiences. So, we created a platform that validates student voices, and guides educators to be mentors and support staff. To read more about the origin story, click here.
To register and learn more, click here.

Q: During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, do you think this would be a good resource for afterschool programs that are shuttered, but want to maintain contact with their youth participants?

A: Yes, especially because it allows meaningful connections but maintains important social boundaries.

Q: Can you briefly describe how the HelloYello app works?  

A: Students login and are invited to share their feelings (using emoticons), thoughts and/or experiences; program leaders view a feed of student comments, and respond by simply letting the student know they got their message. We invite people to visit our website to learn more.

Source: HelloYello
Q: Is the app easy and safe for children to use?

A: The app is designed to be very easy to use and is completely safe since students can only share information with the leaders/coordinators in their ELP.  HelloYello is also registered with The Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC).

Q: If program leaders are interested in contacting HelloYello, can you provide an email address/ name?
A: Brandon Sportel, CEO

Ryan Sportel is a Dean of Students at Goleta Valley Junior High and Brandon Sportel is an Educational Specialist that runs a Learning Center at Barbara Webster Elementary. Both have combined experience of over 37 years in education. Brandon was the 2014 Milken Educator for CA, 2015 Santa Barbara County Teacher of the Year, and 2014 Carpinteria Teacher of the Year. Ryan was the Principal at Deveruex of Santa Barbara, a non-public school that served students at all grade levels. Both are highly regarded as pioneers in the social emotional learning space, and have had significant success in leading professional development training for districts on how to work with students that need mental health and behavior support.
Click here to review a recent article entitled, "There's An App for That- School Counseling and SEL Go Online."

Monday, April 20, 2020

Afterschool Program Changes Due to COVID-19

By Sam Piha

Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation developed a survey to learn how afterschool programs were adapting to new COVID-19 developments. The survey was issued on March 25, 2020 and was closed on April 9, 2020. We received 304 responses and below offer an executive summary of the findings. In the parenthesis, we cite the percentages or the actual count of responses. You can find a link to the survey executive summary and the full report with detailed chart and listings of the responses.


STAFFING EFFECTS: Most program staffing has been negatively effected due to COVID-19. Effects include: staff working from home (66%), lay- offs (20%), re-assignment of duties (17%), furloughed (20%), reduced staff/ hours or no work (9%) and other (9%).

  • My three full-time workers including myself work from home my other 30+ workers are not getting paid right now.
  • Staff have been offered the opportunity to work from our main office in separate spaces for the 8 sites maintaining safe social distancing.
  • Clubs have reduced staff but are still providing virtual learning to youth. 

If staff received re-assignment, they were re-assigned to work from home (15%), or to provide emergency services (8%). Other responses included re-assignment to youth group homes and crisis centers, distributing youth activity packages, and creating virtual or online materials. Respondents were asked by what percentage their staff was reduced. Their responses were 0-25% (27%), 26-50% (13%), 51-75% (11%) and 76-100% (48%).

We asked respondents how long they could survive while retaining staff. Their responses were: less than a month (17%), 1- 3 months (50%), 4- 6 months (8%), through the end of the school year (19%) and 6 months or more (6%).


PROGRAMS THAT PROVIDE SICK LEAVE BENEFITS: 66%. The length of sick leave varied: 24 hours (12%), 1-5 days (12%), 6-13 days (25%), 2 weeks (13%), more than 2 weeks (9%) and hours accrued (29%).


TO MAINTAIN STAFF COHESION: Respondents cited communicate through email, text messages, phone calls (30%); communicate thought social media, Zoom conferencing and work emails (33%); engaging with webinars, online meetings, PD and other apps (26%); and daily/ weekly staff check-ins (12%).

  • We will begin Zoom meetings this week. We are in constant communication by email and text. My staff have weekly assignment to do.
  • We have video conferences to start and end the day. We are also logged into a group chat via Google Hangouts, so we can ask questions/ help one another during the day.

TO CONTINUE STAFF DEVELOPMENT: Respondents cited using online training/ webinars (54%); increased meetings, email and check-ins (6%); engaging in Zoom meetings (13%) and other (15%).

  • After School Coordinators are creating weekly professional development (PD) and provide the PD through either zoom or google hangouts. One on One training depending on staff needs.  
  • We are using this time for long term planning that we otherwise don't take the time to do.
  • We are very fortunate to be an SEL grant site. Our staff will have online virtual training and Zoom sessions that will focus on self- care and they will receive stipend dollars for participating. It will not make up for lost hourly wages, but it will help and we already know the quality and usefulness of these trainings are invaluable.   

TO MAINTAIN CONTACT WITH YOUTH PARTICIPANTS: Most programs are seeking to maintain virtual contact with their youth. Strategies being used include: emails and text messages (17%); engaging on an online platform (19%); engaging with phone calls, social media (Facebook) (28%); sending out mail or activity packets (4%); engaging in Zoom meetings or calls (16%) and other (10%).

  • Most of our districts have moved to instructional packets. We have given electronic copies of these to all of our staff. Each program is creating an online platform via Google Classroom and will be hosting live virtual homework help, and we are also working on virtual programming to be offered regularly throughout the week (e.g., interactive fitness classes, pre-recorded fitness challenges, interactive clubs).
  • We have been using Parent Square, sending Robo Calls and updating our social media pages.
  • Group texts and creating a youth targeted Instagram page. Only program participant youth are allowed to register.    

TO MAINTAIN CONTACT/ SUPPORT WITH PARTICIPANTS’ FAMILIES: Strategies include: engaging on social media, Zoom conferencing, through other websites or updated web pages (26%); phone calls, texts or emails (42%); through food distributing or delivered activity packets (6%) and other (17%).

IMMEDIATE: Program leaders cited many different needs. They included: to care for staff safety and health (3%); better online options and greater access to technology (9%); supplies (11%); better guidance, information and planning (13%); funding (29%); increased online activities and resources (2%) and other (18%).

  • We need to know what will happen with funding and how attendance will be tracked/counted during this time. Not knowing leaves my team with a feeling anxiety and uncertainty.
  • Funds to pay staff to develop activities via our virtual platforms. Electronic devices to distribute to students to keep them engaged as 100 % of my students live below poverty.

INTERMEDIATE NEEDS: Program leaders cited many different needs. They included: to care for staff safety and health (5%); more guidance, directions and information (9%); funding (53%); developing greater access to technology (7%); supplies and activity kits (7%); long term plans (6%) and other (7%).

  • Computer Literacy resources for parents who must oversee distant learning and external supports to students who may not have access to adults in home to monitor learning.
  • Finding strategies to keep our students engaged, motivated, and productive through distance learning.  

TRANSITIONING OUT-OF-SCHOOL WORKFORCE TO PROVIDE ESSENTIAL SERVICES: Program leaders suggested several ideas and concerns. Ideas included: providing childcare to essential workers (4%), offering grocery services (27%), offering delivery services (29%), developing activities, care packages and food distribution (27%) and other (11%).

  • Supporting food pantry sites (packing, offloading, meal delivery). Creating activity books/ learning packages for kids to do at home that can be self- guided. 
  • Delivery would be nice. Food service for lunches. Working in collaboration with schools to make relevant, interactive fun videos for Club members.
  • Our employees do not want to put themselves or their families at risk by transitioning to provide essential services.  

OVERALL IMPACTS FROM THE COVID-19 CRISIS: Program leaders report that staff, youth and their families are very stressed and concerned.

  • We are completely shut down and beginning in April we will lose about 170k in monthly revenue if schools remain closed.
  • Unhappy stakeholders, children are uneducated at home, many parent(s) DO NOT spend time reading to their children during this crisis because they are out working trying to make ends meet, put food on the table, pay bills, and trying not to get COVID-19 while doing their duty to provide for their family.
  • The feeling of uncertainty sits with all of us. My team has been working to create a virtual program/ platform for our students and families, but it's uncharted waters and many of them are discouraged. Stakeholders have been understanding and appreciate that we are trying to innovate and maintain a meaningful connection/support system to our students.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Respondents were asked to provide any additional comments/ changes/ developments to their program.

  • Our management team and most of our team members share that they feel we will be stronger and better than ever after this experience. We're committed to our kids and to each other and we'll get through this and be even closer to each other.
  • Please share these results with us. I am interested in what others are thinking. This will be good info for our stakeholders. Thanks for asking these important questions.
  • We want our infrastructure to remain strong and need flexible funding so that we can nimbly respond immediately when called to serve, amid the crisis or once orders are lifted. We are most concerned with the physical and emotional wellbeing of our families and staff, now, as the pandemic worsens and when everyone reintegrates after this collective trauma.  

ROLES: Respondents varied from program staff member working directly with children (26%), manages a single program (33%), oversee 2-10 programs (28%), oversee 11 and up programs (16%), and other (6%).
LOCATION: Most of the respondents were located in California (54%) and Florida (43%). We also received responses from leaders in Texas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, Washington, Virginia, Missouri and Washington DC.
PRIMARY FUNDING SOURCES: CA State ASES (41%), CA State ASSETs/ CCLC (12%), Federal CCLC (19%), private funders (34%), participant fees (12%), city/ local (2%), and other (13%).
NUMBER OF YOUNG PEOPLE SERVED: Respondents represented programs serving 10- 50 (12%), 50- 100 (26%), 100- 200 (21%), 200-1000 (37%), 1000- 5000 (6%), and more than 5000 youth participants (.03%).

FULL REPORT DETAILS: To access a detailed report, including many of the “other- write in” responses, click here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Teens in the Age of COVID-19

By Sam Piha

Many teenagers have been effected by the COVID-19 crisis including the closure of schools and youth programs. But how are they experiencing this crisis and how are they responding? Below are some examples of how teens are coping during this time.

Source: KALW

“tbh” stands for “to be honest “. It is also the name of a podcast on KALW that is made by, about, and for teenagers. And for anybody else who wants to hear what's on their minds.

Source: KALW

Many schools are shut down which leaves tens of thousands of students at home, finding ways to learn, to cope, and to find joy. The teenagers who make “tbh" put together a special edition dedicated to life during the coronavirus crisis.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.


Common Sense Media conducted a poll of teenagers, age 13-17, to gather their experiences of the Coronavirus restrictions. Below we offer the key findings and you can read more here.

  1. Teens are worried about how the coronavirus will affect their families. (61%) Hispanic/Latino teenagers are especially worried about the financial effects: Nearly nine in 10 Hispanic/Latino teens say they're worried about the impact on their family's ability to make a living.
  2. The coronavirus pandemic is making many teens feel lonely. (42%) Girls are more likely than boys to say they feel more lonely than usual (49% vs. 36%).
  3. Texting and social media are providing social outlets for teens
  4. But texting and social media with friends may not be enough. (48%) 
  5. The outbreak is bringing many families together. (40%)
  6. Teens are connecting to others through a variety of means—even phone calls! The top ways to stay connected to people they can no longer see in person are texting (83%), phone calls (72%), social media (66%), and video chats (66%).
  7. The spread of the coronavirus has upended school for teens, with 95% of 13- to 17-year-olds in the U.S. reporting the cancellation of in-person classes at their schools. Black and Hispanic/Latino teens are significantly more likely than White teens to be worried about keeping up with schoolwork. Girls are more likely than boys to say they're worried about keeping up with both schoolwork and extracurriculars.
  8. Many teens aren't connecting with their teachers. 
  9. Finding space to do schoolwork is a challenge for many teens. (28%)
  10. Compared to pre-pandemic times, teens are looking to news organizations for information. (47%)

“Teenagers of color are more likely to say they're worried that they or someone in their family will be exposed to the virus and about the potential economic effect on their family. Hispanic/Latino teenagers are especially worried about the financial effects: Nearly nine in 10 Hispanic/Latino teens say they're worried about the impact on their family's ability to make a living.” - Common Sense Media

(Text by KTVU)

Source: BoredBreadHeads on Instagram
Talia is usually a busy teenager in Oakland, Calif. She plays soccer, studies hard and hangs out with friends. Or at least she used to. Her life looked very different before the coronavirus stay-at-home order was issued three weeks ago, upending her life, along with most of the rest of the country. So she and countless others across the country are turning to one of the few hobbies that hasn't been banned: Baking bread.

"I find it so satisfying," the Oakland Technical High senior said. "I have so much time, and I can wait for the dough to rise."

Locked in her home for much of the day, the 18-year-old's kitchen and culinary feats look extremely professional. She said she watches YouTube videos to help her hone her newfound craft. And she's not alone. She and her friends created a BoredBreadHeads Instagram account, where they are sharing photos of their finished products. So far, they've made bagels, cinnamon buns, focaccia, babka and donuts. Their bio reads: "Sum bored teens during q-time."

Source: BoredBreadHeads on Instagram

Clyde, 18, also of Oakland, was baking long before coronavirus shook his world. But now, he's making his own sourdough starter, pretty much out of necessity. "We didn't have any bread in the house and my parents are really resistant to go to the grocery store," he said. "So, if I wanted to make a sandwich, I had to bake my own bread."

Clyde said he has always loved the scientific wonders of turning a bacteria in the air into something that could be nourishing. But now that process is even more significant. "It just shows that not everything out there in the air is dangerous or contagious," he said.


The Town Kitchen, a catering company located in Oakland, Ca provides youth with culinary training and employment. During this time, they are offering home catering and food delivery. Check them out here.

Source: The Town Kitchen

"We're excited to share some new resources that have been added to our Virtual Resources for Teens document.  Each week, we are going to add additional resources that are teen-specific. This week we added three new topics and resources on VOTING, HISTORY and COLLEGE READINESS. For some teens, this is a good time for them to learn a new skill. There's also resources for mindfulness and mental health, because we know that this is a stressful and unusual time for everyone."

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Dr. Dale Blyth on Afterschool 2020 and Beyond

By Sam Piha
(Note: The COVID-19 pandemic has been very disruptive to afterschool providers and we will cover this topic ongoing. However, as afterschool leaders plan for Summer and next Fall, we will also offer posts that advances thinking for the afterschool movement.)

Dr. Dale Blyth has been a leader in the fields of youth development and afterschool for many years, and has many accomplishments. In late 2019, we asked Dr. Blyth a few questions and to look ahead as we enter a new decade of the afterschool movement. Below are some of his responses.

Q: In looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, what do you see as the important emerging trends in expanded learning programs?

DALE: Three emerging trends are on my radar screen. First, the growing international work on creating a field of youth work and youth development. We have much to learn from other countries and how they support young people and how the workforce working with young people are prepared and supported. It has great implications for our field.

Q: How might international work be collected and disseminated to practitioners?

Dr. Dale Blyth
DALE: There are at least three ways we can increase our knowledge of what is happening internationally in our field: (1) consider joining the new World Education Research Association’s Extended Learning International Research Network.

While more research focused, it does provide a connection to what is happening in other places; (2) consider traveling, particularly to Europe, and explore their rich history in youth work. This can be done through the National Afterschool Association’s International Learning Exchange which travels to a country every June. This year we are going to Berlin, Germany – and also meeting the leads of the Extended Learning group noted above.

This is a great way to make connections and meet new colleagues that can become a great source of international information. The web site also includes information from previous visits; (3) the journals, magazines, and meetings in our field need to seek out and publish more news from abroad in ways that provide insights and ideas for practice. This can happen by inviting international practice leaders and researchers to our conferences as well as devoting space to regular international perspectives or doing a special issue.

Q: What is the second trend you would like to share?

DALE: As schools discover / rediscover the importance of the social and emotional dimensions of learning and development and as more and more national groups bring attention to the science of learning and development, it offers new opportunities for our field.

Our field can shine a light on what we do and build on the capacities we have in these critical areas and help avoid an overly content and school-centric approach to developing these skills. This will help schools and communities find a new and more balanced partnership. Some are calling for new forms of practice research partnerships that are less driven by a research study and more about engaging together to better understand and advance practice.

Q: How might practitioners get involved with researchers to form these partnerships?

DALE: Searching out the right research partner can be difficult but rewarding. Start by identifying what you want to learn and looking at who is doing work in this area in bridging journals such as the Journal of Youth Development. Contact these folks to find out who else might be doing work in this area close to home.  Check with colleges and universities in your area as well as research and evaluation organizations. Look for people interested in applied research and/or evaluation. Also contact your state afterschool network and/or associations for possible leads and perhaps consider joining a learning cohort or professional learning community that is looking at practice issues through many lenses – including research. Like all good partnerships, you need to develop a relationship with the researchers and affirm your mutual commitment to the project which can be time intensive but enormously valuable.

Q: What is the third trend you would like to share? 

DALE: The role of data to both inform, shape and even inspire practice is at a turning point in our field where we need to move from just evaluating what we do to be accountable to others to the point where we are using data to complement our deep and rich understanding of youth and the ways we work with them.

Q: Can you give an example of what this might look like?

Dr. Gil Noam
DALE: The work of Gil Noam and colleagues at the PEAR (Partnerships for Education and Resilience) Institute at Harvard is a good example of how getting data on STEM and social emotional learning can both inform and change practice. Seeing the youth in your program through data that you can sort by topic and look at individuals can reshape how you approach practice. Another good set of examples comes from the work on social and emotional learning that was part of the SEL Challenge created by the Susan Crown Exchange and captured in Preparing Youth to Thrive.

Q: Looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, what do you see as the most significant challenge facing the field of expanded learning? 

DALE: The major challenge I see is the very fragmented nature of the field's people working with youth and the lack of a clear taxonomy that addresses our commonalities as well as unique contributions as professionals and as programs and activities of different types. This includes the lack of a coherent identity for youth workers.  Understanding the workforce - from paid to volunteers - and the settings and purposes of their work with young people requires our attention.

If we are to be a force in the future and mobilize the types of resources needed to both open education and support high quality youth work, we need to better understand, promote and improve the workforce delivering opportunities to young people.

Q: We know that improving the afterschool work force is challenging because of the lack of program funding (due to the reduced number of funders interested in youth development and the increase in minimum wage), the lack of time, and staff turnover. Do you have any thoughts on how these challenges can be overcome?

DALE: While the challenges are real and difficult to meet one program at a time, I am inspired by the work of intermediaries, local systems, networks, and associations to create meaningful opportunities.  Also some of the national youth serving programs offer training that others can sometimes tap – for example, 4-H and related university extension services and the YMCA Character Development Learning Institute. I would start by making sure my organization was connected to these networks and local leaders to best discover what I need.
For a full bio on Dr. Dale Blyth, click 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...