Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Defining Dominant Culture in Your Organization: Name it to Tame it

Before we share the guest blog below, we want to acknowledge and stand in solidarity with the Asian and Asian American/ Pacific Islander community given the rise of racist violence and the attacks in Atlanta.

Sangita Kumar is the Principal and Founder of Be the Change Consulting, an organization that provides high quality learning experiences and consulting for organizations to reach their creative potential. I had the pleasure of working alongside Sangita years ago. She is a bold training designer and leader. Recently, Be the Change Consulting developed a four-month virtual training series featuring over 40 learning experiences that examine six areas of organizational practice to de-center white dominant culture and support organizations to build inclusive and equitable outcomes. Below is a guest blog by Sangita Kumar. 

By Guest Blogger, Sangita Kumar

What is Dominant Culture? 

We define dominant culture as the practices and beliefs that form the blueprint for behavior. In an organization, your dominant culture sends explicit and implicit messages to your team about what is important, valued, and rewarded. Creating intentional culture is a great way to ensure equity and inclusion.

Source: Be the Change Consulting

Have you ever heard any of these terms used?

  • “Let’s be Professional.”
  • “That wasn’t Respectful.”
  • “Please be Appropriate.”

What ideas come to our mind with these statements? Who defined the expectations of professionalism, respect, appropriateness? When and where did we agree to these definitions?  

When pushed to unpack what is meant by these terms, expectations often vary greatly from person to person. Our organizations are held together by invisible agreements, that often negatively impact those who hold identities outside the dominant culture. But it’s really hard to define - it’s like trying to describe oxygen - it’s all around us, we interact with it, but it’s so commonplace that it becomes invisible.

Why Dominant Beliefs are Often Invisible

Imagine you are walking down the street, a bus comes barreling down it and hits you. Now imagine you are laying in the street, bleeding and the bus driver comes up to you and says, “What are you doing down there?” You say, “You hit me with your bus!” Then the bus driver says, “No I didn’t, what are you talking about? When? Where? Prove it!” Now the emphasis is on you, the person laying on the ground and bleeding, to both attend to your wounded body, experience a traumatic interaction with the bus driver, and then figure out how to describe your visible trauma to another person who says it is invisible. This is a huge burden on you, to say the least.

This exhausting interaction is what happens when bodies of culture are hit by dominant culture. The bus driver, from their vantage point, can’t see what’s going on down on the street, or maybe never walks anywhere, so doesn’t even know what the dangers to pedestrians are. But the people walking around on the street know all too well the dangers of the bus, and the powerful ignorance of the bus drivers.

If this example is not resonating for you, you might be more like the bus driver in this example than the pedestrian. See what happens if you share this metaphor with three people - perhaps a woman, a Black-identified  professional, or anyone who identifies as neurodiverse, and see what they say.  

A great tool to define the running waters of dominant culture is an article called White Supremacy Culture, produced by Dismantling Racism. This article describes fifteen practices that often plague organizations and stem from a white supremacy belief system. They list practices like Right to Comfort, Worship of the Written Word, Paternalism, and Sense of Urgency. When I read them, right away very concrete examples of where these patterns of behavior live in my own organization spring to mind. -The more I get curious about the experiences of my team, the more examples I discover!

Source: Be the Change Consulting

Why Common Language is Critical for Antiracism Work

Without intentional language for these behaviors, we have busses driving out of control, and bus drivers with no clue of the impact of their actions. For those who are hit by a bus, we know that we will need to then describe what just happened, and establishing some common language before a conflict occurs can help bridge the gap between these divergent experiences. We need a common language because we don’t share common experiences. Giving language to our bus drivers can allow everyone in an organization, regardless of identity or position, explore where these practices show up and hold the labor of naming and taming them together. Wouldn’t that be a relief?

Dealing with the Shame that Springs Forward when we Name Dominant Culture
The work of visibilizing dominant culture in our organizations is bound to bring up an existential crisis for those who enjoy positional or identity-based privilege, because we will rapidly realize many ways that privilege helps us maintain a status quo, even though we can see the disproportionate impact on our teams, society, and the world at large. I personally struggle to take in the evidence of dominant culture in my own organization. It feels gross and embarrassing to get feedback on my own mental blindspots. And the more I am in this work, the more I realize that I can move from the heavy weight of embarrassment or shame into an empowered place. If I’m making it bad, then I can fix it!

How Privilege Creates Mental Blindspots

From time to time, we are asked by training participants to explain the rationale for this research. To understand this work will surely require all of us to grapple with the content. Everyone deserves the space to sometimes push back as a way to make better sense of the information. AND, for everyone in an identity that mirrors dominant culture - white people, cis-gendered men, able-bodied, those who speak English as a first language, or identify as part of the gender binary, etcetera… we can add our privileged identities in front of our questions, so that we take responsibility for what we probably aren’t seeing from inside the bus. Because someone from the street is likely doing the labor to explain it to us.

Here is what I mean: What’s different when you hear this question? As a white man, I would love to understand why visibilizing dominant culture is so impactful to antiracism work?

The struggle to understand all of this is a productive struggle. Onward!

Sangita Kumar is the Principal and Founder of Be the Change Consulting. She is a results-based organizational development consultant and facilitator dedicated to the empowerment of individuals and our communities. Sangita’s experience over the past 15 years ranges from coaching, professional development, strategic planning, program design, and curriculum development. Sangita holds a Masters Degree in Organizational Development, is a Certified Life Coach, and completed a two-year certification in Somatics and Trauma.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Exploring Girls' Engagement in STEM Activities

By Guest Blogger Kathryn A. Wheeler, NIOST

(Originally Published by National Institute on Out-of-School Time)

Source: TechBridge Girls

There are at least three reasons why it’s important to encourage youth in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math): (1) we need more young people pursuing STEM careers to meet the workforce demand; (2) whether or not someone chooses a career in STEM, they need to be science literate in today’s society so they can make informed decisions about issues like health care, food, the environment, and technology; and (3) STEM activities are fun and engaging!

But some groups, such as girls, youth of color, and youth from rural areas often find themselves marginalized and underrepresented in STEM learning opportunities and career pathways. GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) is a program designed to counteract these trends.

GEMS was founded by a former teacher when her daughter shied away from advanced math classes because they were “hard.” GEMS is now an international network of hands-on, activity-based, out-of-school time clubs focused on increasing girls’ curiosity, interest, and persistence in STEM. It is designed especially, but not exclusively, for rural girls.

Source: Girls Inc.
The National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) recently completed a research study of two GEMS clubs in the Venango County area of Pennsylvania. GEMS hosts 16 clubs in Venango County through afterschool, library, and summer programs, and serves more than 250 girls in grades 2-12. The study included program observation and analysis. There were three research questions related to STEM engagement that guided club observations:

  • What types of science behaviors did girls engage in most frequently?
  • How actively involved were girls in the STEM activities?
  • What was the affect of girls while doing the STEM activities?

This research was grounded in the Science Learning Activation Framework which posits that youth who have positive early STEM experiences will be more likely to show growth in STEM interest and curiosity, valuing of science as useful, confidence in their ability to do STEM, and desire for more STEM experiences (Dorph, Schunn & Crowley, 2017). 

What We Learned

NIOST director and senior research scientist Georgia Hall, Ph.D., research associate Kathryn A. Wheeler, Ed.D., and student intern Jenn Yu, ‘22, presented their findings virtually to GEMS educators and program providers in December 2020. Researchers found that:

  • GEMS girls were actively involved in STEM projects in a hands-on way.
  • In club activities, girls engaged in a wide range of science behaviors such as exploring, experimenting, observing, discussing, using tools, and asking questions.
  • Girls enjoyed the process of creating, innovating, and solving challenges. They were frequently amazed and joyful about what they were discovering.
  • At no time were girls observed to be feeling frustrated, upset, or distressed when they encountered a challenge.
  • Girls were activated by the challenges they confronted and eager to try to solve them and to connect with each other for help when needed.
  • Girls were persistent in their activities and faced challenges by working together. 

Source: www.apresgroup.com

Implications for Effective Practices

These findings help us to think about strategies for keeping STEM learning strong for rural girls and others during their early experiences in informal STEM learning. Some recommendations: 

  1. Keep girls absorbed in STEM activities by ensuring that the activities are hands-on and truly challenging. If they are too easy, engagement and learnings may decrease.
  2. Engage girls directly in the scientific process of identifying a problem, researching it, hypothesizing, experimenting, collecting data, analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and then trying again. Explicitly name this process as “science.”
  3. Aim to get girls thinking beyond just following set procedures to produce a product or outcome. Try to design activities that encourage creativity so girls can explore, invent, and gain a deeper understanding of science concepts.
  4. Encourage girls to work together. If girls have questions, for example, instruct them to talk to each other to share resources and ideas before asking adults to help. This process will help foster confidence, collaboration, innovation, and persistence.
  5. Pay attention not only to what girls are doing and thinking, but how they are feeling. If girls aren’t showing that they are having fun doing a STEM activity, then it’s time to try a new approach or activity.
  6. Help girls make connections between what they are doing and what professional scientists do in their jobs, so girls start to view themselves as scientists-in-training.
  7. Give girls resources on how they can maintain their interest in STEM after the program has ended, including suggestions for online activities and out-of-school time programs, as well as in-school classes.
  8. Be a STEM role model for girls—one who is visibly intrigued by STEM questions and the scientific process of testing, problem solving, and being persistent. And most important, have fun with STEM yourself while you are working with youth!


Kathryn A. Wheeler, Ed.D. (Katie) is a Research Associate at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST). Her area of expertise is in assessing the quality of out-of-school-time programs, and she has a special interest in programs designed to empower girls.

As schools prepare to re-open, afterschool program staff need to consider the experiences of youth who have been away from school and their friends due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know these vary greatly depending on family income and racial/ ethnic background. What are young people's needs? What should we, as afterschool staff, do to help youth thrive when they return to afterschool programs post COVID? How might we build back school and program culture and a sense of "family" spirit and connection in our afterschool programs? Join Stu Semigran and a panel of afterschool program experts to learn how best to help youth thrive as they return to school and afterschool. To get more information and to register for our next Speaker's Forum, click here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Evergreen Learning Principles for Afterschool Programs

Source: Learning in Afterschool & Summer
By Sam Piha

We launched the Learning in Afterschool & Summer (LIAS) project ten years ago. At the time, there was a great debate as to whether afterschool programs should be focused on academic or youth development outcomes. The LIAS project was designed to unify the field of afterschool and focus the movement on promoting young people’s learning. This is especially important as youth return to afterschool programs after a year of isolation.  

We believe that if afterschool programs are to achieve their full potential, they must be known as important places of learning that excite young people in the building of new skills, the discovery of new interests, and opportunities to achieve a sense of mastery. The LIAS Learning Principles became a foundational part of the California Quality Standards for Expanded Learning Programs.

"We spend so much time focused on 'achievement' and so little time focused on how to motivate students to learn.  The principles advocated by LIAS strikes the right balance and make sense… The principles contained in LIAS promote such an approach, and if applied with fidelity, could lead to real improvements in educational outcomes for kids."
- Pedro Noguera
Dean, USC Rossier School of Education

The LIAS project promotes five core, evergreen learning principles that should guide the design and implementation of afterschool programs. These learning principles are strongly supported by recent research on brain development, education, youth development, and the growing science of learning. They are also well aligned with the 21st century learning skills and workforce skills that young people will need to succeed in the years ahead, as well as efforts to increase young people’s interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Each of the learning principles cited below support each other and together provide an important framework for afterschool programming.

"All five principles are critical. They collectively provide the relevance so desperately needed for students to become engaged and for learning to become alive for them. They also provide the deeper understanding and the discovery of learning that is critical for success in school and life."
- Dr. Willard Daggett
Founder and Chairman
Int'l Center for Leadership in Education

Below are the LIAS Learning Principles.

1. Effective Learning is Active: 
Learning and memory recall of new knowledge is strengthened through different exposures – seeing, hearing, touching, and doing. Afterschool learning should be the result of activities that involve young people in “doing” – activities that allow them to be physically active, stimulate their innate curiosity, and that are hands-on and project-based. Hands-on learning involves the child in a total learning experience, which enhances the child’s ability to think critically.

"Either we work to replicate limiting, and even oppressive, conditions for learners or we create experiences that empower them to fully realize their potential as individuals and to engage in transformative action that promotes justice and equity. I think that the LIAS principles are essential to guaranteeing an education for freedom and for fully realizing the promise of all students and that of our great nation of immigrants."
- Pilar O’ Cadiz
Education Director, TANMS Engineering Research Center at UCLA

2. Effective Learning is Collaborative:
Knowledge should be socially centered, as collaborative learning provides the best means to explore new information. Afterschool programs are well positioned to build skills that allow young people to learn as a team. This includes listening to others, supporting group learning goals, resolving differences and conflicts, and making room for each member to contribute his or her individual talents. Collaborative learning happens when learners engage in a common task where each individual depends on and is accountable to each other.
  • 1st degree conn

Source: Club Timberwolf

3. Effective Learning is Meaningful: 
Young people are intrinsically motivated when they find their learning meaningful. This means having ownership over the learning topic and the means to assess their own progress. Motivation is increased when the learning is relevant to their own interests, experiences, and the real world in which they live. Community and cultural relevance is especially important to new immigrant youth and those from minority cultures.

Rather than learning that is focused on academic subjects, young people in afterschool can apply their academic skills to their areas of interest and real world problems. Also, when learning involves responsibility, leadership, and service to others, it is experienced as more meaningful.

4. Effective Learning Supports Mastery: 
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. Programs often achieve this by designing activities that lead to a culminating event or product that can be viewed and celebrated by peers and family members. For older youth, many programs are depending on apprenticeship models to assist youth in achieving a sense of mastery.

5. Effective Learning Expands Horizons: 
Young people, especially those from low-income families and neighborhoods, benefit by learning opportunities that take them beyond their current experience and expand their horizons. Learning about new things and new places promotes a greater sense of potential of what they can achieve and brings a sense of excitement and discovery to the learning environment. Afterschool programs have the flexibility to go beyond the walls of their facilities. They can use the surrounding community as a classroom and bring in individuals and businesses that young people may not otherwise come into contact with. Expanding young people’s horizons also includes helping them to develop a global awareness. This includes increasing their knowledge of other cultures and places and their understanding of the issues and problems we have in common across cultural and political divides.

"The five LIAS principles are perfectly aligned with a 21st century learning approach – active, meaningful, collaborative learning projects that provide opportunities to expand one’s horizons and master important knowledge and skills – this is the heart of 21st century learning."
- Bernie Trilling
Founder & CEO,
21st Century Learning Advisors

We have developed a number of resources to guide the design and implementation of afterschool programs. These resources include videos, reports on exemplary practices, educational materials and program guides. These all can be found on our LIAS website.

As schools prepare to re-open, afterschool program staff need to consider the experiences of youth who have been away from school and their friends due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know these vary greatly depending on family income and racial/ ethnic background. What are young people's needs? What should we, as afterschool staff, do to help youth thrive when they return to afterschool programs post COVID? How might we build back school and program culture and a sense of "family" spirit and connection in our afterschool programs? Join Stu Semigran and a panel of afterschool program experts to learn how best to help youth thrive as they return to school and afterschool. To get more information and to register for our next Speaker's Forum, click here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Impact of COVID-19 on Families

By Sam Piha

Many of the young people we serve in afterschool come from low-income communities, in both urban and rural settings. Many of these are communities of color. These communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Afterschool and summer learning programs were a lifeline for underserved communities before the pandemic and now they are more important than ever as families with limited resources struggle to adapt to newly designed school days and years. 

Source: www.hrw.org

Expanded learning opportunities that complement the school day will be key to helping all young people and their families through this crisis. In preparing for young people to return to our programs, it is important that we have a snapshot of how our children and families have been impacted by the pandemic.
One of the certainties as we navigate through this pandemic is that all children will benefit from being well known, well cared for, and well prepared. Afterschool programs have a long history of designing programs based on what young people need in order to help them be healthier and more ready to learn. Together schools and community organizations can co-design the future of learning in ways that interrupt historic inequities and help all young people emerge from this crisis strong, resilient and hopeful.” 
- Tony Smith, former Illinois State Superintendent and Oakland Unified School District Superintendent 

“The Impact of Coronavirus”, a five-part poll conducted by NPR, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, offers a national look at the problems emerging from the pandemic relating to household finances, jobs, health care, housing, transportation, caregiving, and well-being. Below are some of their key findings and you can learn more here.

Source: Getty Images

Key Findings 
  • At least half of households in the four largest U.S. cities—New York City (53%), Los Angeles (56%), Chicago (50%), and Houston (63%)—report serious financial problems including depleted savings, and trouble paying bills or affording medical care. 
  • Many of these experiences are concentrated among Black and Latino households; households with annual incomes below $100,000; and households experiencing job or wage losses since the start of the outbreak. 
  • At least four in ten Latino, Black, and Native American households report using up all or most of their household savings during this time. 
  • One in five households in the United States (20%) report household members unable to get medical care for serious problems. A majority unable to get care when needed (57%) report negative health consequences as a result. 
Source: www.nationalnews.com
  • More than 1 in 3 households that include anyone with a disability report facing serious financial problems, many experiencing difficulty affording utilities and food. 
  • More than one in three (36%) households with children face serious problems keeping their children’s education going, and among working households, nearly one in five (18%) report serious problems getting childcare when adults need to work. 
  • About one in three households with children (34%) either do not have a high-speed internet connection at home or report serious problems with their connection while doing schoolwork or their jobs during the pandemic. 
  • 43 percent of rural households report adult household members have lost their jobs, been furloughed, or had wages or hours reduced since the start of the outbreak, with two- thirds of these households (66%) reporting serious financial problems. 
The next step is considering what we need to do in afterschool to address the stresses related to these findings. To this end, we are sponsoring a webinar on Monday, March 29, 2021 entitled, “Helping Youth Thrive When They Return to Afterschool Programs Post COVID.” This webinar will be facilitated by Stu Semigran (EduCare Foundation) and features panelists Dr. Gil Noam (Harvard), Gloria Halley (Butte County Office of Education), Jose Luis Navarro IV (Principal and former California Teacher of the Year), and Autrilla Gillis (Director of Expanded Learning, ISANA Academies). You can click here to learn more about the webinar. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

How Do I Use Kidpower If I am Distance Learning?

By Guest Blogger Annika Prager, Go Girls!

Annika Prager, GoGirls!

Thank you to Kidpower Teenpower Fullpower International for permission to use portions of their exceptional safety and empowerment programs in this post and in GoGirls programs. Kidpower is the global nonprofit leader in ‘People Safety’ education – an international movement of leaders reaching millions of people of all ages, abilities, genders, identities, and walks of life with effective, culturally-competent interpersonal and social safety skills. To learn more, visit https://kidpower.org

Here are some tips on how to use all the Kidpower safety powers that we've taught this summer at Go Girls! at Home to help with the Back-To-School transition. 


This Fall you may be meeting with youth participants on Zoom or Google Classroom or maybe the program is engaged in hybrid learning (a mix of online and in-person). No matter what your Back-To-School plans look like these tips will help youth stay safe and have more fun this fall!

Calm and Confident Bodies: Paying attention to Zoom or Google Classroom can be so challenging. Doing school and afterschool from home is not as easy as it may sound. If your youth are anything like me, they probably find themselves getting distracted by every little thing. This is a time when they can use Calm and Confident Bodies. Calm and Confident Bodies means sitting upright with a straight back and head held high. It also means taking a deep breath when they need it. Invite your participants to try to return to their Calm and Confident Body when needed.

Source: Kidpower

Awareness Power: Awareness Power means being “aware” of your feelings! It can mean being aware of how your body, mind, and spirit are feeling. During online learning, you can invite your youth to use this power to help them notice what their body needs. Maybe they need a break? Maybe they need to stand up and stretch? Maybe they need help from a grown-up because their Zoom screen froze? Only they know what they need. At GoGirls Camp, we teach our participants that they have the power to ask for help when they need it.

Mouth Closed Power: When we are in-person, or sometimes even over video, Mouth Closed Power is a reminder to press your top lip against your bottom lip. This power can help youth remember to only speak when it is their turn. It can also help them pause and not say mean words that will make a problem bigger. Mouth Closed Power can even help them remember to take a breath and return to their Calm and Confident Bodies. But what does all this have to do with Back-To-School in a pandemic? Easy! Mouth Closed Power is that little button on the bottom of the screen that says “Mute/Unmute.” They can use this Zoom or Google Classroom feature in all the same ways they would use Mouth Closed Power in-person!

STOP! Power: We always have the power to say “Stop.” From wherever they are, youth can practice building a fence with their hands and saying stop. Beautiful! STOP! Power is perhaps the most powerful of all powers! Instructing your youth to use a loud and proud voice will ensure that others know to bother them less and believe them more. Just because they may be social distancing or distance learning does not mean that their powers are weaker. In fact, they are more important than ever. You can remind your youth participants they have the power to say “STOP,” they have the power to say “Please stop I don’t like that,” and they have the power to say “Stop or I will ask for adult help!”

Source: GoGirls Camp!

Walk Away Power: Last but not least, your youth can still use their Walk Away Power even when distance learning. Walk Away Power means getting the space they need when a safety problem arises. It can mean literally moving out of reach or it can mean turning off their camera or the chat feature to distance themselves from a safety problem. Remind youth they always have the power to ask help from an adult. 

As schools prepare to re-open, afterschool program staff need to consider the experiences of youth who have been away from school and their friends due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know these vary greatly depending on family income and racial/ ethnic background. What are young people's needs? What should we, as afterschool staff, do to help youth thrive when they return to afterschool programs post COVID? How might we build back school and program culture and a sense of "family" spirit and connection in our afterschool programs? Join Stu Semigran and a panel of afterschool program experts to learn how best to help youth thrive as they return to school and afterschool. To get more information and to register for our next Speaker's Forum, click here.

Annika Prager (they/them) has been with GoGirls Camp! for four Summers. Annika is currently studying Theatre and Women & Gender Studies at Hunter College. When they aren’t teaching at GoGirls Camp, Annika is directing, designing, writing, and acting in plays. 

Testing AI’s Pluses and Minuses in Afterschool Programming

Source: www.unsplash.com By Guest Blogger Brian Rinker, Youth Today. This blog was originally published on the Youth Today website. Angel T...