Monday, August 28, 2023

The Power of Work and Afterschool (Part 1)

Source: Town Kitchen

By Sam Piha

The opportunity to work is a powerful experience. I first learned this in observing the work of my wife, Leslie Gravino, as she used employment as an intervention in the mental health system and community college setting. I have seen the power of work also in afterschool settings. We begin this blog with an interview with Leslie Gravino.

Q: How did you discover the power of work?

Leslie Gravino
A: I first discovered the amazing power of work in a psychiatric halfway house, Conard House, in San Francisco. We started a catering business. As our business grew and we employed more and more clients from the halfway house. With the success of the catering business under our belts, we started a janitorial service and a messenger service, since Conard House was made up of a hallway house and several “single occupancy” hotels. Our premise was to replace any outside contracts Conard House held with residents from our own organization. 

When the catering business grew, we moved to a commercial space in downtown San Francisco. Since the location was central to local businesses, we converted the commercial space into a café and bakery naming it “Expresso Thyself”. We hired professional cooks and bakers and served the financial district with lunch and baked goods for over 5 years. The outcome was a successful business that was able to train and employ many of the Conard House residents, as well as provide vocational counseling to find jobs.

The outcomes from employing adults with psychiatric disabilities revealed themselves every day. The residents gained an income and became more independent. They gained skills that helped them get jobs in the “real world”. When asked about their feelings and thoughts towards working, they often said they felt “normal”, doing what most people do all the time. Feeling included, gaining self-confidence, having a purpose and reaching their highest potential is what I observed as the power of work.

After 18 years in the mental health system, I moved to Las Positas Community College in Livermore, CA where I launched businesses with students and women in the welfare system.  

Q: Can you speak to the benefits that come with work?

A: In my opinion, the benefits of work are invaluable because work not only provides an income but a sense of participating in life. Having established several businesses within the mental health system in San Francisco and Las Positas Community College, I learned that working helped people feel “normal”. Residents felt a reprieve from the symptoms of mental illness when they were engaged in work activities. They not only learned the technical/hard skills of a job, but the ability to communicate and socialize (soft skills) with people in a professional manner.

Q: Much of your work has been with adults. Do you think the power of work applies to older youth? 

A: I most definitely believe that the building of skills and self-esteem that work provides would benefit older youth. To feel that one is part of a community, serving a cause they believe in, or just earning extra income are invaluable assets earned by participating in work. 

According to a report by the Brookings Institution and Child Trends: Pathways to High-Quality Jobs for Young Adults, the report examined employment outcomes for young people of color and those from low-income backgrounds, finding that:

  • work-based learning experiences in high school, including internships and apprenticeships, that incorporate positive relationships with adults really helps;
  • young people of color and those from low-income backgrounds gain higher-quality jobs by age 30; and
  • having a job as a teenager (ages 16 to 18) predicts higher job quality in adulthood and higher wages at age 23.

The report suggests strengthening work-based learning programs in high schools and helping teens and young adults — particularly those without a post-secondary degree — find on-ramps to employment. 


Leslie Gravino, MA, is an Art Therapist and adjunct professor at Las Positas Community College in Livermore, CA. She began her work in the mental health field as a counselor in a residential treatment center for adolescents. She then became a therapist at Conard House in San Francisco, where she started a catering business, a café in downtown San Francisco, that employed adults who had been homeless and were psychiatrically disabled. Ms. Gravino later served as the Work Based Learning Coordinator at Las Positas College, where she launched a computer repair business that trained women receiving welfare to gain skills in technology.  

Below are two briefing papers and three webinar recordings you should check out on the topic of youth workforce development in afterschool. 

[New Briefing Paper]

Restorative Justice Practices in Afterschool Programs
Restorative justice is a values-based practice. It creates a safe environment and builds trusting relationships, which are critical features of quality afterschool programs. These are the foundation on which afterschool programs can integrate restorative justice practices.
This paper is designed to raise understanding and awareness of restorative justice practices and identify ways afterschool leaders can integrate them. We recommend that program leaders share this paper with organizational leaders and program staff and consider the best ways to respond to personal harm and conflicts among youth participants.

To view and download this paper, click here.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Young People and Grief

Source: Experience Camps

By Sam Piha

Experience Camps, founded in 2009 as a 501c3 organization, is a national, no-cost program for grieving children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling or primary caregiver. 

“We know that over 250,000 children are grieving the death of a primary caregiver due to Covid and that 6 million children will have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary care giver by age 18.” - Liza Buck, Experience Camps

Because of the prevalent issue of childhood grief for afterschool participants, we interviewed Liza Buck, the Regional Program Manager for Experience Camps. Below are her responses to our questions.

Q: Can you briefly describe your program, Experience Camps?

A: Experience Camps provide no-cost, one-week sleep away camp programs to kids who have experienced the death of someone significant in their lives. We believe that every child deserves to live a life full of possibility and have seen camp "return" certain elements of childhood to them that may have been consumed by their grief.

Source: Experience Camps

Q: What ages of youth do you serve and how are staff prepared and trained?

A: Our camps welcome kids who will be entering grade 4 through grade 12 - approximately ages 9-18. These campers spend the week with other kids who "get it," who get what it's like to be the only one in class who is grieving someone's death, and who understand that they feel an array of emotions, not always sadness. The bunk counselors who volunteer to staff our camps know how important it is to create that safe space that doesn't always exist outside of camp, and receive training in the months leading up to camp as well as an in-person orientation before the campers arrive. Trainings cover the history of Experience Camps, grief, inclusion, risk management, mandated reporting, and understanding developmental stages. 

Source: Experience Camps

Q: Have you seen an increase in the number of youth who are experiencing grief due to COVID? 

A: Yes, we know that over 250,000 children are grieving the death of a primary caregiver due to Covid and that 6 million children will have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, or primary care giver by age 18. This means that 1 in 5 kids will grieve the death of someone by 18. Most of our campers are grieving the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver.

Q: You are utilizing an online program called ExperienceCraft, a world in Minecraft built with and for grieving kids. Can you say more about this? 

A: As far as we know, we have the first Minecraft server of its kind. It's a safe server which means that kids are unable to participate unless the server is open and monitored by staff. We partnered with Connected Camps to invite kids who have experienced grief to our server and Discord channel (also protected) on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays where they get to interact with peers in a virtual environment. There are different "worlds" within ExperienceCraft, including a creative world where kids can create endlessly and add to a memorial garden and not fear anyone destroying their creations since that feature is disabled in the creative world. It's another way for us to try and reach more kids who either do not want to or cannot attend physical camp. Learn more here

Source: Experience Camps

Q: Afterschool programs include a number of youth who are experiencing grief. Can you offer any advice or activities for afterschool workers to address the grief experienced by their youth?

A: Being there for the child can look different depending on the day and the kiddo you're showing up for. Some days it may look like being a physical presence that they know is there, others it may be intently listening to them as they talk about something they're interested in, and the best days will be when you ask about their person. When you do ask about their person, say their name, say the word "died" or "death," and ensure your face is conveying interest and not pity. Kids are extremely perceptive, and if they see us flinch, they're less likely to share. The more you listen (with your eyes and ears) the easier it will be to follow their lead on how much they want to talk. Again, what’s important is that they show up for these kids, and not just once, but consistently. 

Q: I noted on your website that camps are held in venues across the country. If an afterschool worker wanted to refer youth to attend, are there certain requirements needed and how would they proceed? 

A: A lot of campers are referred by teachers and after school staff or coaches! The best thing to do is introduce them to our website, and if they're interested, directing their caregiver to the online application. If they need assistance they can always reach out to us. Kids who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, primary caregiver, or another significant figure in their life are eligible to apply and will complete an intake with us to see if camp is a good fit.

Q: Are there any resources to help the youth with transportation required to attend the camp?

A: Campers arrive at each of our six locations and twelve programs by buses chartered by Experience Camps, and each location has several bus stops to try and accommodate as many families as possible. However, we never want transportation to be a barrier so travel scholarships are also available through an application process.

Source: Experience Camps

Q: Do you have any resources you would recommend to assist afterschool leaders in learning more about this work?

A: We have a list of resources, additional information and answers to any of your questions on our website.  


Liza Buck (she/her) is the Regional Program Manager for Experience Camps. She has been a teacher, CAD counselor, and has been involved with Experience Camps since 2014, beginning as a bunk counselor and most recently operating as the Program Director for CalEx Girls. In addition to her teaching degrees, she is in the process of completing her MSW at the University of Maine. Liza has a passion for kids and mission-driven work which is why Experience Camps feels like “home.” When she’s not doing “the best work ever,” she is most likely outside with her dog or baking a batch of cookies.

Experience Camps, founded in 2009 as a 501c3, is a national, no-cost program for grieving children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling or primary caregiver. Their one-week, overnight summer camps, year-round programs, and content help to reframe the experience of grief, and empower kids with the necessary coping skills to move forward with their lives. Through compassion, connection, and play, Experience Camps allows grieving children to embody a life full of hope and possibility.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Restorative Justice is about more than conflict resolution

Source: Oakland Leaf

By Guest Blogger, Melissa Mendez Ochoa, Executive Director, Oakland Leaf (This blog was originally posted on Oakland Leaf's Blog.)

When talking about Oakland Leaf’s approach to youth development, we often use the term restorative justice (RJ). While RJ, as a concept, has become relatively mainstream, most people only have a fuzzy idea of what it is in practice.  In western culture, people tend to think of RJ as a contemporary way of resolving conflict – an alternative to the current punitive justice system. 

At Oakland Leaf, we see RJ as much more than a set of conflict resolution or behavior management tools. We draw from RJ’s roots in indigenous peacemaking practices that provide a holistic framework for not only repairing harm, but also nurturing and sustaining individual relationships and community bonds. Oakland Leaf has RJ Coordinators at all six of our afterschool program sites, and the grounded, loving support they provide our students on a daily basis is some of the most inspiring work I’ve ever observed. 

In conversation with some of our RJ coordinators last week, I was reminded of what a critical resource they have been to our students these past several months. By sharing a few of the interventions they described to me, I hope to shine a spotlight on – and paint a clearer picture of – Oakland Leaf’s restorative justice work: 

An afterschool program class of 20 students was experiencing ongoing challenges related to bullying behavior and conflict between students. The RJ Coordinator organized a circle about anger and healthy ways of managing and expressing it. Students passed around a talking piece and shared why they were personally having a hard time and why they thought the group was struggling. Consistently, this go-round revealed underlying issues such as hurt feelings or conflict from earlier in the school day, fatigue, or students missing their parents, among other challenges. 

Source: High Speed Training

After this, students shared how they tend to express and respond to different emotions and what the outcomes tend to be for various kinds of expression. Next, the RJ Coordinator said “Now we know what is happening. What do we need for ourselves – from another person, from the instructor, or in general –  to be able to move forward in a positive way?” Students shared things like “When I get mad, I need a break and some alone time”, “I need my friends to say something nice to me”, and “I need some one-on-one time with a grownup”. 

The last part of the circle involved everyone making a commitment to what they would do to help the group move forward in a more healthy way. Students made commitments such as “I will ask for space when I need it”, “I will try to be more understanding when someone says or does something I don’t like”, and “I will share my appreciation when others are stepping up in positive ways”. The RJ Coordinator has since regularly checked in with this group and each student, reminding them of their commitments and creating spaces for them to share progress and challenges.

Source: High Speed Training

A 5th grade teacher reached out to one of our RJ Coordinator’s about a student that she suspected was being bullied during the school day. Our RJ Coordinator was able to build a strong relationship of trust with this student through daily check-ins. The student confided in her that he was having a hard time interacting with his peers and making friends, and that he felt isolated and alone. The student’s dread about school began to wane once he had a caring adult he felt comfortable turning to on a daily basis for support and a sense of safety. Through ongoing coaching from the RJ Coordinator, he began to improve his social and communication skills and started making friends. 

Source: Oakland Leaf

One of our afterschool program soccer teams lost their first two games and students began lashing out, blaming each other for the loss. The negative interactions and hostility began to impact the overall morale of the class. The RJ Coordinator designed and facilitated an RJ circle specifically about teamwork and community. Students talked about what teamwork looks like, sounds like, and feels like. They discussed how they can simultaneously be supportive and hold each other accountable, on and off the field. Students also talked about what can be learned from “losing” in competitive sports and how to deal with hard feelings in healthy ways. They left the circle with renewed bonds and new tools to identify and cope with feelings of disappointment and frustration.

I hope these examples of Oakland Leaf’s every day application of restorative justice principles and practices provide you with a bit more insight into the power and potential of this work. 


Melissa Mendez Ochoa is the Executive Director of Oakland Leaf. Melissa grew up in Napa Valley and made the move to the East Bay when she decided to attend the University of California, Berkeley. Melissa earned her Masters in Business Administration from the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. In the of Spring of 2019, Melissa became Oakland Leaf’s Executive Director. In her free time, Melissa is in active alumna of TRENZA UC Berkeley and an avid sports fan of the Golden State Warriors, San Francisco Giants, and San Francisco Niners.

Oakland Leaf
serves more than 800 students annually through daily afterschool programming at seven high-need East Oakland elementary and middle schools, paid internship programs for high school students, and a summer camp. With an emphasis on social-emotional learning, academic support/literacy, creative expression, movement and sports, connection with nature, STEM, and social justice, we are supporting Oakland youth and families to be lifelong leaders creating positive change in their own lives, their communities, and in the world.

[Upcoming Webinars]

Promoting Financial Literacy for Youth in Afterschool Programs

This webinar will feature afterschool practitioners who have successfully integrated financial literacy in their programs. It will also feature financial literacy experts on why financial literacy is important for youth, available curriculum and materials, and how to get started offering financial literacy in your afterschool program.

To learn more and register, click here.

Restorative Justice Practices in Afterschool Programs

This webinar will feature afterschool practitioners who have successfully integrated restorative justice practices into their programs. It will also feature restorative justice experts on why it is important for youth, available curriculum and materials, and how to get started using restorative justice practices in your afterschool program.

To learn more and register, click here.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Afterschool and Financial Literacy


By Sam Piha 

Financial well-being is a growing problem for today's youth. For instance, today’s youth can amass debt quickly, often in the form of school loans or credit card debt.

We know from research that young people who are financially literate make much better decisions regarding their future finances. However, most young people, especially youth of color, lack access to financial literacy information. This is referred to as America’s financial literacy gap.  

“Access to financial literacy is also an equity issue that is directly reflected through racial wealth gaps. Only 27 percent of California high school students attend schools that offer personal finance classes. Ensuring that all young Californians have exposure to financial literacy is a vital step in closing inequality gaps and providing the skills and resources to improve their lives overall.” - Tony Thurmond, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Every child and adolescent should be exposed to financial literacy education. One would think that schools are the obvious place for this, which would also address the financial literacy gap. However few states require this as part of their requirements for high school graduation. And because of the concern around COVID learning loss, low test scores in math and reading, and other pressures, many schools are not in a position to add financial literacy to their curriculum.

“While financial education is a growing priority for more schools, districts, and states than ever, gaps in guaranteed access still persist along racial, socio-economic, and geographic lines.”Next Gen Personal Finance’s 2023 State of Financial Education Report 

What is financial literacy? 
According to the U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission, financial literacy encompasses the skills, knowledge and tools that people need to take action and make financial decisions that will support their personal goals. 

“Schools teach kids the principles of mathematics but very rarely how to implement those learnings for financial planning. Kids may be good with numbers by the time they graduate, but financial planning has many more concepts such as managing debt, profitable or emergency savings, the time value of money, and efficient budgeting. From counting coins in kindergarten to managing the finances of their own business in the future, the price of money needs to be explained to the young minds being nurtured at present.” – Dr. Nidhi Duggal, Principal

Source: Vermont Afterschool, Inc.

Why Is Financial Literacy Important for Youth? 
Financial literacy is key to helping young people manage money effectively so that they can become financially stable, build assets and achieve their personal goals. The mistakes that youth make can have a great impact in adult life. 

“Research shows that students who have access to high-quality financial education have better financial outcomes as adults that result in less debt and a higher quality of life.” – Tony Thurmond, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction

There are many benefits to being financially literate. According to Financial Coach, Sharath Mascarenhas in Top 5 reasons why financial literacy is important for youth in 2021, they include:

  • “It helps us understand the value of money. When we understand the value of money, we are able to handle our finances in a better way. We will be able to know the importance of budgeting, saving and avoid unnecessary expenditures. 
  • Financial literacy keeps us from being debt slaves. If you are financially literate, you will be able to cut your coat according to your cloth. That means you will only borrow that which you are able to repay. 
  • It empowers us on how to invest and create wealth. Being financially literate generally enlightens us in various ways through which we can invest our money and generate more wealth. 
  • It prevents us from making poor financial decisions. A financially literate person will not be easily lured into Ponzi schemes and gambling. This is because they understand the value of money and how difficult it is to earn it.” 


Afterschool programs are especially well positioned to address the need for financial literacy. They have the kids- nationally, 10.2 million young people participate in afterschool programs.  

Afterschool programs have an infrastructure (kids, space, staff, operating protocols etc.) that is already in place to support financial literacy offerings. These programs are more flexible than schools that must get approval on curriculum at the city and district levels. Afterschool programs are also free from the pressures of standardized test scores. 

Where To Start  
Promoting equitable access to financial literacy offerings in afterschool takes work and planning. This means action at the program level and the policy level.  

Program Level

  • Gather ideas and feedback from youth, staff, school personnel and families.
  • Confer with others in the afterschool field: Providers and national organizations can tell you a lot about how other afterschool programs are incorporating financial literacy.
  • Ages served: Some afterschool providers serve both young and older youth. Children benefit from financial literacy and there is plenty of curriculum and course materials designed for young children. Dr. Nidhi Duggal, School Principal, makes the case that it’s never too early to begin financial literacy. Naturally older youth and teens should be engaged in financial literacy offerings. 
  • Family members: Consider offering a financial literacy session(s) for the adult family members of the young people you serve. 
  • Staff leading sessions: Decide if your present staff will lead the financial literacy sessions. Identify organizations that can offer a training for your staff. If you want to bring in financial literacy session leaders, you can identify an organization that provides this service.
  • Identify an organization that has developed curriculum materials and program handouts. 
  • Money Club: The financial literacy offering can be in the form of a “Money Club” where participants can learn about ways to earn money, how to increase their income by investing the savings, the chances of losing the investment money, what to avoid and how to make good investment decisions, credit, and the financial experiences of others and the implications, etc. The Money Club can feature guest speakers from the community, such as bankers, businesspeople, and money savvy members of the neighborhood. 
  • Require financial literacy participation for youth who are employed through the program. Also, you may want to require this of any youth who are engaged in workforce preparation offerings. 

Policy Level 

If we want to see equitable access to financial literacy, we need to convince funders and policy makers to increase funding and support. Afterschool program leaders contact local state and federal policy makers, funders and afterschool networks to make a case for increased financial literacy offerings in afterschool and to ensure that financial literacy is a high school graduation requirement. 



Source: Temescal Associates

  • What is happening in your area and state regarding youth financial literacy?
  • What kinds of things are you doing to support youth financial literacy in your afterschool program? 
  • Would you add any additional resources that would be valuable to afterschool stakeholders?

Email us at

[Upcoming Webinars]

Promoting Financial Literacy for Youth in Afterschool Programs

This webinar will feature afterschool practitioners who have successfully integrated financial literacy in their programs. It will also feature financial literacy experts on why financial literacy is important for youth, available curriculum and materials, and how to get started offering financial literacy in your afterschool program.

To learn more and register, click here.

Restorative Justice Practices in Afterschool Programs

This webinar will feature afterschool practitioners who have successfully integrated restorative justice practices into their programs. It will also feature restorative justice experts on why it is important for youth, available curriculum and materials, and how to get started using restorative justice practices in your afterschool program.

To learn more and register, click here.

Monday, August 7, 2023

The LIAS Learning Principles: Then and Now

By Sam Piha

We launched the Learning in Afterschool & Summer (LIAS) project over ten years ago. The LIAS project was designed to unify the field of afterschool and focus the movement on quality through promoting young people’s learning. The LIAS project promotes five core, evergreen learning principles that should guide the design and implementation of quality afterschool programs. These learning principles are strongly supported by recent research on brain development, education, youth development, and the growing science of learning. The LIAS Learning Principles had a foundational influence on the development of the California Quality Standards for Expanded Learning Programs.

We believe these Learning Principles are still very relevant. Because of the recent turnover of afterschool staff, exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, the LIAS Learning Principles should be foundational to orientation and training of new staff. The Learning Principles are also very relevant to STEM and other trends in afterschool programming. Below we have interviewed several afterschool and educational leaders regarding the relevancy of the LIAS Learning Principles.  

“On June 16, 2010, 20 adult and youth leaders gathered in Oakland to discuss and determine what five principles would be a guide to our community educators as they designed their programs to provide rich learning opportunities. The five principles would communicate to school-day educators how expanded learning was intentionally designed with learning principles that are widely recognized by all educators. At that time, California’s State afterschool funding was $550 million serving about 50 percent of the State’s Local Educational Agencies (LEAs). Now, the State funding is over $4.5 billion, and almost 100 percent of LEAs receive funding.” – Michael Funk, Director of Expanded Learning, California Department of Education

  June 16, 2010, meeting with afterschool leaders to formulate the LIAS Learning Principles. 

At the end of this blog, we review the 5 LIAS Learning Principles. You can learn more about the LIAS Learning Principles by viewing this video. You can also view past LIAS Blogs on this topic here.

“I think that the Learning Principles in the Learning in Afterschool and Summer Project really get at the core of learning for students starting in early childhood going through the university.” – Dr. Deborah Vandell, former Dean of the School of Education, UC Irvine, and leading afterschool researcher

Michael Funk, Director of Expanded Learning, California Department of Education

Q: These principles were developed before the California Expanded Learning Standards. How did they influence the California Standards?

A: In 2014, the California Department of Education worked with the California Afterschool Network and a statewide workgroup of diverse stakeholders to create California’s Quality Standards for Expanded Learning. As the work commenced, I directed this workgroup to use the LIAS Principals and the Youth Development Framework as the foundation for the new Quality Standards.

Q: Why do you believe these learning principles are important?

A: The LIAS principles must be elevated to guide our community and school-day educators as they develop any high-quality Expanded Learning Opportunities Program. When I came to the California Department of Education nearly 12 years ago, hardly anyone understood what a high-quality afterschool program looked like. Furthermore, for summer programs, people only pictured traditional summer school. I set up meetings with other Division Directors, and I presented the LIAS postcard as the vehicle to explain what makes an expanded learning program high-quality. As they reviewed the card, within the first minute I heard, “This is what high-quality teaching looks like during the school day!” The LIAS principles were developed to provide youth workers (community educators) a succinct approach to communicate that afterschool and summer programs were places of learning.

The LIAS principles are more relevant now than ever. With the massive expansion of Expanded Learning in California, there are hundreds of school districts and charter schools that still believe Expanded Learning is “after-care.” The LIAS principles, combined with the quality standards, are necessary to help leaders understand how every student and family should have access to and in fact deserve high-quality Expanded Learning opportunities. 

Dr. Carol Tang, Executive Director at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco and Former Director of the Coalition for Science After School

Q: Can you briefly speak to the value of the LIAS Learning Principles to the Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) movement?

A: By coupling STEM with LIAS principles, we elevate the discussion about science in afterschool--rather than debate which topics to cover, we can instead focus on the characteristics evident in high quality science programming. If youth workers embrace LIAS, they will understand the fundamental elements which will make STEM successful in their programs. In this way, we not only increase the quality of afterschool science, but we can also foster an environment where science activities are sustainable in the long-term.

Q: Can you speak a bit more about the need you have experienced for training on Learning Principles to guide the development of quality STEM activities? 

A: There is a misconception that STEM is about imparting a set of facts or concepts. Thus, training staff on effective learning principles in general is a way to guide the selection, development, and implementation of high-quality STEM activities. If youth workers can recognize the factors which promote active engagement and learning, then they can select science activities which engage youth and foster scientific skills--such as asking good questions, sharing ideas and testing hypotheses.

“LIAS principles outline the program characteristics most likely to foster scientific inquiry and sense-making in youth and help them recognize the relevance of science and technology to their future. LIAS principles help clarify what high-quality science in out-of-school settings should look like and makes STEM accessible to youth development and afterschool staff. What I like best about LIAS is that it allows OST professionals to view STEM as a way to achieve their youth outcomes using existing best practices in youth development--science afterschool is seen as part of good youth development, rather than an added burden on afterschool program staff.” - Dr. Carol Tang, former Director of Coalition for Science After School

Bill Fennessy, Program Specialist for Workforce Initiatives, Equity and Quality at the California Afterschool Network (CAN) 

Q: Can you speak to the value of the LIAS Learning Principles for afterschool programs?

A: The LIAS principles speak directly to the components required to create a quality instructional delivery framework. When implemented, programs can truly engage the youth of today. While many successful afterschool and summer programs already embody and demonstrate the LIAS principles, these principles now being clearly identified, defined, and articulated, will provide for an understandable and intentional approach to attain successful quality programming across the field. In addition, the LIAS principles provide a common language for the field of afterschool that has been up until now, missing and desperately needed.   

I have personally seen the LIAS principles easily taught to line staff, which might not have been intuitive to them previously. I have witnessed the empowering affect it has had on them, resulting in improved program quality. The LIAS principles have also given them the ability to understand for themselves, and communicate with others, their vital role and the value of afterschool and summer programming.  

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.” 

5. Effective Learning Expands Horizons: Young people 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.

Reed Larson’s Research on Youth Development

Source: Reed Larson, The Youth Development Experience Kate Walker By Guest Blogger Kate Walker, Extension Specialist, Youth Development, Uni...