Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Leveraging Summer Programs: A Downpayment on Long- Term Change

Source: www.afterschoolalliance.org

Some young people are now returning to school, in a face- to- face or hybrid model. This after a full year of isolation. This fall youth are likely returning to school full time. Summer programs will be an important gateway to returning to school and healing from a year of isolation. 

Below we offer excerpts from an article authored by Karen Pittman with the Forum for Youth Investment on the importance of summer programs in 2021. Please note: this is just an excerpt from her article posted from Medium.com. You can read the entire article here.

Almost a full year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we once again find ourselves at a critical juncture. As we head into the spring, schedules are still uncertain. But there is growing confidence schools will reopen in the fall. 

With this anticipation of reopening, there is broad commitment to build back better. There is increased recognition of the role that community partners and families can play and that the impact of the last year on teens and young adults will have lasting ramifications. COVID and the racial reckonings have exposed inefficiencies and inequities. This means we are now face to face with a tangible opportunity to challenge and support school districts and community partners in creating equitable learning and development ecosystems that unleash the potential of all learners, recognize the power of all committed adults, and optimize all learning settings and approaches. 

If we are truly intent on not going back to normal, we must recognize the interdependence of systems and center on young people and their families. To do so, school and community leaders must work collaboratively to reflect and take stock to identify innovations and understand roadblocks, look at the ways school, family, and community leaders worked or did not work together, and hear the lessons learned from students, families, and front-line staff. 

Source: www.medium.com
While we saw pockets of exceptional supports for young people and innovation, for the most part young people went without opportunities to connect in meaningful relationships, without opportunities for engaging learning experiences, and without summer jobs to earn money critical to their future goals. 

Summer 2021 shouldn’t look like 2020. The young people across the nation deserve more. It also shouldn’t look like summers of years past. Summer has traditionally been a time when schools stepped back, families stepped in and community organizations stepped up. This division of labor made sense because the stakes are not only lower in summer (no requirements, no grades, no tests) and the success metrics are different (keep academic skills sharp while having fun, mastering new skills, taking on family responsibilities, having different experiences). If we are intent to Build Forward Together our roles in and focus on summer will have to shift. 

This summer can begin to preview “the new normal” and to make a down payment toward the equitable learning ecosystems we hope to create. Where instead of some stepping back and others stepping in, we see communities working collaboratively. We are confident there are many communities that see value in finding some way to use Summer 2021 to document, design, test, or even scale up some ways to BUILD FORWARD TOGETHER to make a down payment on the idea that by the summer of 2022, every student should have equitable opportunities for learning and development because every young person and their family has the support needed to create learning pathways across the ecosystem that are attractive, accessible, affordable, appropriate, affirming, and assessable. 

The Readiness Projects are challenging local school, government and community leaders to: 
  1. Use summer as a low-stakes testing ground to document, test, and scale different ways to leverage school, family, and community assets in support of accelerated learning and development that can help us build forward together post-COVID. 
  2. Prioritize children and youth most challenged by the pandemic who are also the least likely to have resources for summer programs. 
  3. Place focused attention on teens, especially those whose success trajectories are threatened. 
  4. Ask how you will know how many young people had great summers and why, so you can bring that data into the school year and have a baseline for improvement in 2022. 
After a full year of learning isolation, young people are just now returning to school, in a face- to- face or hybrid model. This Fall youth are likely returning to school full time. 

Summer youth programs will be an important gateway to returning to school and healing from a year of isolation. But how should we be thinking about our gateway summer youth programs? What do youth need from their summer program experiences? How will this year's summer programming differ from past years?

On Friday, May 7, 2021, we are sponsoring a Speaker's Forum/ webinar discussion on this topic. It will be facilitated by Ayala Goldstein (Director of Programs, California School- Age Consortium). She will be joined by Aaron Dworkin (CEO of National Summer Learning Association), Autrilla Gillis (Director of Expanded Learning, ISANA Academies) and other summer program experts and practitioners who will be sharing their thoughts and responding to your questions. To register and learn more, click here.

Karen J. Pittman
served as the President & CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment (FYI) until February 2021 then transitioned to a senior fellow role to dedicate more of her time and energy to thought leadership. FYI is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan “action tank” that combines thought leadership on youth development, youth policy, cross-system/cross-sector partnerships and developmental youth practice with on-the-ground training, technical assistance and support. Karen is a respected sociologist and leader in youth development. Prior to co-founding the Forum in 1998, she launched adolescent pregnancy prevention initiatives at the Children’s Defense Fund, started the Center for Youth Development and Policy Research, and served as senior vice president at the International Youth Foundation. She was involved in the founding of America’s Promise and directed the President’s Crime Prevention Council during the Clinton administration. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Chess, Youth and Afterschool

By Sam Piha

"The Queen's Gambit"

Chess has been in the news lately due to the well-deserved popularity of Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit”. These headlines remind us of an excellent documentary on chess and afterschool entitled, “Brooklyn Castle.” Several years ago, we hosted a screening of Brooklyn Castle and featured an interview with the Director and Producer, Katie Dellamaggiore on our LIAS Blog

The kids are happy to be at school and to stay at school past 3 p.m. because they know they are going to get to participate in the activity that they've chosen, and that they're starting to build a passion for.”
Katie Dellamaggiore, Director and Producer of Brooklyn Castle. 

Brooklyn Castle is a documentary about Intermediate School 318 – a Title I school where more than 65 percent of students are living below the federal poverty level, that happens to have the best junior high chess team, bar none, in the country. The movie is being re-released March 5, 2021 for viewing in theaters or can be streamed on Showcase Now. We highly recommend that you take a look. 

I guess the most important (LIAS Principle) I witnessed was that learning should expand the horizons of participants.”-Katie Dellamaggiore, Director and Producer of Brooklyn Castle.  

The same afterschool program featured in Brooklyn Castle are well known for increasing the participation of girls. Check out this video: These NYC Girls are Dominating Youth Chess

We also recommend another movie about a child and his love of chess entitled, “Searching for Bobby Fischer”, which can be streamed on Netflix.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Youth and News Literacy

By Sam Piha

Over the past two decades afterschool programs have invested in equity issues around digital access. We have built and expanded computer labs and instruction on how to use the internet, which many young people depend on to get their news. However, many have not trained staff how to help youth become news-literate.

A news-literate student is empowered to be reliably informed. They recognize the differences between news and opinion, identify misinformation, apply fact-checking and logic-checking tools and recognize cognitive biases. They prioritize information from verified sources of news and information to be active and engage in the civic life of their communities.

The News Literacy Project is a nonpartisan national education nonprofit, providing programs and resources for educators and the public to teach, learn and share the abilities needed to be smart, active consumers of news and information and equal and engaged participants in a democracy. John Silva is their Senior Director of Education and Training. Below are some of John's responses to a recent interview. 

Q: What is "News Literacy"?

A: The ability to determine the credibility of news and other content, to identify different types of information, and to use the standards of authoritative, fact-based journalism to determine what to trust, share and act on.

Q: Why is it important now for youth?

A: Our vision is to see news literacy embedded in the American education experience, and people of all ages and backgrounds know how to identify credible news and other information, empowering them to have an equal opportunity to participate in the civic life of their communities and the country.

Q: Do you have a newsletter?

A: We have three actually. You can learn more about them and subscribe at https://newslit.org/subscribe/

Q: Does your organization offer trainings for youth programs?

A: We offer professional learning for educators across subject areas, grade levels and educational environments.

John Silva is the News Literacy Project’s Senior Director of Education and Training. He joined NLP in March 2017 with 13 years of experience as a middle and high school social studies teacher with Chicago Public Schools. He first became involved with news literacy in 2014 when his students engaged in NLP’s original classroom program. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, John spent several years in corporate telecommunications positions before deciding to become a teacher.

Monday, April 5, 2021

A Summer Youth and Community Engagement Model: Play Captains

By Sam Piha

Source: www.playcaptains.com

The Play Captain model is an excellent way to engage older youth over the summer in community service and promote safety for younger kids. This model was developed in Philadelphia by Rebecca Fabiano and her organization, Fab Youth Philly. Below Rebecca responds to a few of our interview questions. If you are interested in learning more or having an exchange with Rebecca, contact us and we will arrange a Zoom discussion. Rebecca is also available for remote or in-person training.

Q: Can you briefly describe the Play Captain’s Initiative?

Source: www.playcaptains.com
Coined after the Block Captain and Jr. Block Captain roles, the Play Captains Initiative is a workforce development and civic-engagement initiative with the mission to empower and train teens in leadership, playful learning and facilitation to make the Playstreets and neighborhoods of Philadelphia more playful. 

There are over 400 Playstreets in Philadelphia every summer, which are part of the Free Summer Meal Program, overseen by Parks & Recreation and serve as a safe place for children to receive two free meals a day during the summer. The Playstreets are closed off to cars between 10am-4pm and a resident on the block applies to be a Playstreet Supervisor; they distribute the meals. Not all of the Play Streets are as ’playful’ as they could be, which is why I created this initiative. I saw the opportunity to tap-in-to two underutilized resources in our City; the Playstreets and teens. 

Q: Do you provide training for the Play Captains? 

A: We do provide training for the Play Captains. Play Captains are teens ages 15-19 and they receive about a week (35 hours) of pre-employment training where they learn about concepts like playful learning and effective facilitation. They spend a lot of time playing games and learning how to modify them for a number of conditions and situations they may face on the Playstreet. They ALSO receive weekly professional development (PD) on Fridays on a variety of topics. They are paid ($9/ hr) for their time in training and for PD.

Q: How do you work with the community?

A: We work all year round with the community to build relationships with both individuals and other organizations. We attend community meetings both to learn about the happenings in the neighborhood and to promote the program. We also work with the Police Department and the Community Relations Officers (CROs) and created a “how to work with our Play Captains” guide for the CROs to encourage positive interactions.

Q: How are youth selected and assigned? 

A: Youth complete an application and typically participate in a group interview. For most teens (over 85%) this is their first job and so we want them to have a positive experience that really reflects what it takes to get a job. If we don’t hire a teen, we provide them with resources where they can keep looking for jobs. 

Source: www.playcaptains.com

The Play Captains work on a team of 5 teens, supported by 1 adult Group Leader. The Group Leaders are youth work professionals that we hire and train. We are often able to hire youth work professionals that are from the neighborhoods where we are playing/on the Playstreets, which helps in a number of ways. They are often known to others, so that helps bridge a connection between our organization and the community and, then after the program is over, they are able to maintain connections to the teens. We prioritize placing teens on Playstreets in the neighborhoods where they live. Then, day to day, they follow a schedule where they rotate to a number of Playstreets throughout the day, for a total of 4 days per week (Mon-Thur) for 5 weeks. They go to the same streets over the course of their employment in order to build consistency and relationships with the children that play on the Playstreets.

Q: How are you amending the model in response to the COVID pandemic? 

A: We ran the program last summer in the height of the Pandemic and put several safety measures into place, which we plan to put into place again this summer. For example: everyone wore masks indoors and outside; we did a deep clean of our indoor space 3x per day; we deep cleaned all of the supplies (balls, jump ropes, etc.) at the end of each day; and we created special socially distance arm signals to help the children on the play streets keep a distance. For example: Airplane arms (arms out to the side) when we wanted to have them stand in a circle or near each other, Frankenstein arms for when we needed them to line up and maintain some distance and Hands on Hips, once they are in their socially distance position.  

Q: What do you believe are the benefits to the youth participants? 

A: One of the biggest benefits is that this opportunity provides teens with a first job experience. About a quarter of our teens go on to get afterschool jobs the fall after they are a Play Captain. Other benefits that the teens often report include: feeling valued by their community and feeling like they can make a difference in the lives of younger children; and many teens that self-define as shy say that they had a chance to meet new people and “come out of their shell.”

Q: What do you believe are the benefits to the community? 

A: I’ve been told by residents how much they appreciate seeing the teen Play Captains engaged in something positive and that they feel it is good for the community that the teens have something meaningful to do. 

Q: How do you assess the impact of the program? 

A: For the past three years we’ve worked with a Playful Learning Landscape Action Network (PLANN) who developed a data collection tool and who train data collectors to collect data on the Playstreets to see if the activities the Play Captains facilitate help foster the Six Cs of Playful learning (collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence). We also pre/post survey our teens to understand what they learn during training, and what they retain over the course of their employment. We conduct exit interviews with staff and engage in post programming focus groups with residents, Street Supervisors and other stakeholders. We use the data to revise training and to improve the selection of the activities that the teens facilitate on Playstreets, as some examples of how we strive to be a data-driven project. 

Q: If there is interest, would you be able to assist others in replicating this initiative?  

Source: www.playcaptains.com
A: Absolutely! We’ve built a program based on best practices in youth development, workforce development and community engagement, yet it is adaptable and flexible. I would encourage people to check out our website: www.playcaptains.com and watch our videos on YouTube to see the Play Captains in action. 

Rebecca Fabiano (She/Her/Hers) is the President and Founder of Fab Youth Philly and The Play Captain Initiative. For nearly 25 years, Rebecca has worked in various capacities across nonprofit and youth-serving organizations, served on boards and helped to build solid youth programs that engage, encourage, and create spaces for positive development. As a program leader, she has successfully raised funds and managed program budgets; hired and supervised staff; developed and sustained strong community partnerships and designed award-winning programming.​

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