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Making Afterschool Cool Blog
Looking and Moving ForwardPosted by Dr. Lisa Caruthers on 12/31/2020
This time of year has a way of encouraging reflection. Looking back over the past twelve months, it’s disorienting to think about how much has happened. I and many others have been met with the odd feeling of time moving slowly, speeding up and stalling all at once. For this and so many other reasons, the year 2020 has become synonymous with a lot. These days, saying ‘2020’ is both an explanation and description of situations ranging from slightly humorous to almost unbelievable. It means something different to everyone, much like the actual year we have just experienced.
In looking forward to the upcoming year, I want to acknowledge how much we’ve overcome to get to this point. Some have expressed the urge to “get it over with” as soon as possible and rush into 2021, eager for a fresh start. Of course, we should look forward to next year, but it is also important to take some time to sit with our experiences. It can be difficult to see it, because life has hit people in so many unexpected ways. At points, it was downright hard. Despite that, there is still much to celebrate. We are resilient, we are here, and I am so proud of us all.
Reflections on Embracing A Multicultural Environment, Making Afterschool Cool Podcast Episode 37 - 10/28/2020Posted by HCDE Staff on 11/20/2020
Multiculturalism is one of those terms which defines itself based on the component of the word. Simply put, it means the intersection of multiple lifestyles, backgrounds, and heritage. Likewise, my guest on episode 37 of the Making After School Cool podcast, Roberto Germán, is a person of many cultures. On the surface, he may appear as an African American male. But he is so much more than that. He is a man of Dominican descent, with a Spanish name, hair styled in-locks and a distinct East Coast dialect. While speaking to Roberto about multiculturalism, I soon discovered it was like talking to Webster about the dictionary. This topic is not only something he is versed in but also his passion and a significant part of his life. It’s also evident in his life’s work. Roberto is an educator, consultant, and co-creator of the multicultural classroom.
With the great diversity in our country and state, the need for creating a welcoming learning environment for all has never been greater. This is evident as we face a national call for equality, equity, and social justice. I recognized the need for an episode concerning these sensitive issues and was fortunate to located Roberto Germán. After a brief preliminary conversation with Roberto, I knew he would be the perfect person to discuss creating a multicultural environment in after school programs.
The ability to accept everyone, no matter their background, is essential for anyone working in the out-of-school time field. However, in my experience with afterschool, spanning a career of over 25 years in the Houston area, this topic is seldom discussed. Roberto explained how he schedules ongoing Anti-Bias Anti-Racist (ABAR) meetings to ensure his team has ongoing discussions regarding multicultural issues. He stressed, “everybody has to be committed and buy-in.” The ABAR meetings are a series of training about handling problems that occur in a diverse setting. They are offered in short chunks, so no one is overwhelmed with the topics being discussed. During the ABAR meeting, time is always reserved for staff questions and feedback. German has found this to be an effective method.
The world no longer operates in silos of them and us. It’s we, a group of people with all kinds of differences working together. To truly reach and teach in afterschool, we must create environments that are welcoming to all. Sessions such as ABAR meetings might be the first step in getting us there. Tune in to Episode 37 (Embracing a Multicultural Sensitive Environment) on the Making Afterschool Cool podcast at podbean.com.
Michael Wilson is currently the Outreach Coordinator for Harris County Department of Education, CASE Program and host the Making After School Cool podcast. For over 25 years he has worked extensively to design and implement programs intended to make the educational experience for students and their families a positive one.
Roberto Germán is the cofounder of the Multicultural Classroom an endeavor aimed to address the national issue of effectively teaching in multicultural and multilingual classrooms and communities. He and his wife Lorena are activists, educators, writers, speakers, trainers, and parents. Throughout the years, they have used their creative talents to create and inspire cultural diversity in communities across the State.
Lights on Afterschool 2020 - 10/22/2020Posted by Dr. Lisa Caruthers on 11/18/2020
By Dr. Lisa Caruthers, posted October 22, 2020
No one could have prepared us for what 2020 had in store. On one hand, this year has brought with it a lot of obstacles. On the other hand, the OST community has been presented with opportunities to push forward. Many programs have been faced with the challenges of funding, staff retention and keeping students healthy and safe. At the tail end of the year, it is with a deep sense of pride that the resilience of the CASE for Kids community is highlighted. The educators that serve the youth of Harris County rose to the occasion to keep students engaged and learning during an unprecedented time in our lives.
This Lights On Afterschool season, we are reminded once more of the importance of keeping the lights on. Though service providers are still dealing with the very real implications of the COVID-19 pandemic; through flexibility, determination and creativity students have been able to participate in debate tournaments, dance classes, concerts, musical theatre and much more virtually! Everything may have changed, but the commitment of the OST community to amplifying youth voice and experiences is unwavering.
Reflections of Service from an AmeriCorps VISTAPosted by HCDE Staff on 11/18/2020
My year as an AmeriCorps VISTA for CASE for Kids was wonderful. I truly have felt that in my short time with CASE Debates that I have made a positive difference for the 300 students that we serve. I have learned so much about community engagement, leveraging resources, and more about how school districts within Harris County operate. It was rewarding to organize tournaments and help oversee the administrative aspects of this incredible debate program. As a former high school debater, it made me smile to see students questioning the world around them. I’m happy to have had part in their education and keeping them safe.
CASE Debates provides the skills for students to live more fulfilling lives and the education to rise above poverty. Despite the challenges, COVID-19, the living stipend, and others I would do this year all over again, exactly the same way.
Summer Learning: Time to Relax without Learning LossPosted by HCDE Staff on 11/17/2020
Summertime is synonymous with the end of school and three months to unwind. As school day academics come to a close, summer programs keep the doors open for the learning to continue. For out-of-school time (OST) professionals around the country, summertime is a continuation of the variety of enrichment opportunities for youth offered in afterschool spaces.
Enrichment is proven to have a positive impact on academic outcomes with research stating: “The breadth, quality, intensity, and duration of expanded learning programs make a difference in both short-term and enduring effects on student academic, social, and behavioral outcomes,” (Mahoney, Vandell, Simpkins, & Zarrett, 2009; Vandell, 2012). These outcomes are especially important during the summer months when students have more time to learn in the unique OST environment.
According to National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), without summer learning opportunities “the cumulative effect is a crisis in the making: by the fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave low-income students two-and-a-half to three years behind their peers.” It is up to OST professionals to create space for youth to grow academically, regardless of the season. National initiatives like Summer Learning Week (July 8-13) empower programs to explore new subjects with the youth they serve.
At CASE for Kids, it is a foundational belief that students should have access to experiences that are as diverse as they are. As we enter the season of summer programming, focus on the types of activities that will nurture students’ natural creativity and openness to new experiences, but above all else have fun!
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is for EveryonePosted by HCDE Staff on 11/16/2020
Recently, CASE for Kids staff convened for a lunch-and-learn with an educational webinar from the National Afterschool Association. The webinar, SEL For Kids Starts with Adults, highlighted best practices of social emotional learning (SEL) within afterschool programs. CASE for Kids staff were eager to discuss how they could practice SEL within the office and quickly made those connections to the programs that they work with every day.
This discussion produced a valid conclusion: Students can only learn and practice SEL if they see it demonstrated around them. In many instances, SEL starts with the adults that work with students every day. Youth can only see the value of SEL if it is modeled between program staff, not solely with their peers. Challenges with things like acknowledging others and using empathy during conflict will naturally arise within the workplace. However, the benefits of observing trusted adults practicing what they encourage brings student buy-in.
Improving program quality is an ongoing process. Implementing SEL from the top down is the best way to ensure students are learning from modeled behaviors. When adults practice SEL, it creates a supportive culture for students to do the same, (Newman & Warner 2019).
Gender Specific ServicesPosted by HCDE Staff on 11/15/2020
Each gender faces challenges from many directions as they grow up. It’s easy for girls and boys to feel alone as they try to find identity in a society that has strict gender norms. Ashanti Branch and Lynn Johnson have recognized the need for a safe space for students and have created gender-specific services for afterschool.
Branch grew up in the inner city of Oakland and decided to start a teaching career to give back to his community. In his math class, he noticed that many boys weren’t performing to the best of their ability. To help these boys, he founded an afterschool program called Ever Forward in 2004. It encourages young men to take off the mask they wear so that they can express their emotions in a healthy way. Hawley and Reichert have “discovered that boys want good relationships with their teachers,” (2014) but are afraid that doing so will ruin their social status in school and compromise their masculinity.
Meanwhile, Lynn Johnson first recognized girls’ need for a safe space by running a summer camp in Oakland, California. She discovered that girls need support from female peers and mentors to become successful leaders. In fact, the KPMG Women’s Leadership study revealed that, “ … 67% percent of women reported that they’d learned the most important lessons about leadership from other women,” (Doughtie & Veihmeyer 2015). In 2008, “GoGirls!” was born. It runs in afterschool programs and girls create girl-powered media that increases their self-confidence.
CASE for Kids afterschool programs integrate these SEL practices to reach each gender of students so that they feel comfortable with their peers and secure in their abilities. A variety of activities are offered that not only teach literacy and numeracy skills, but also cater to different interests.
Worlds Debate - CASE DebatePosted by HCDE Staff on 11/14/2020
World Schools Debate is a relatively new type of debate. Introduced in 1988, it is a combination of international debate formats. Worlds is practiced in the U.S., although debate programs that use it are still quite rare. This is what sets CASE Debates apart from any other debate league in the country. When CASE for Kids was developing CASE Debates in 2017, they decided that the World Schools format would be offered as well as the more common, Policy format. In fact, CASE Debates has hosted one of the largest World Schools Debate Tournaments this season. Students are excited to learn and implement this cutting-edge type of debate. Worlds gains their interest because it is based on real-world and applicable situations that has real global effects.
As a result, Worlds requires that debaters focus on their delivery of the argument instead of only presenting research that was compiled beforehand. To be a successful Worlds Debater, participants must consider the practical consequences of the motions that they propose. Brainstorming these types of situations builds critical thinking skills which includes an expanded worldview while also giving the students valuable public speaking experience. Alumni of CASE Debates have found this essential in their career and college journeys.
College-readiness is a key goal of CASE Debates, and the ability to pursue valuable research and present it to an audience is a critical skill needed for university work. Results from a ten-year long study of high school debaters in Chicago also prove that, “high school students who debate have higher 12th grade [GPAs], are more likely to graduate high school, and are more likely to be college-ready…” (Mezuck, 2009; Mezuck, Bondarenko, Smith, & Tucker, 2011). By contesting a researched point, students learn how to listen to their peers and absorb more about the world around them.
The BUDL Effect: Examining Academic Achievement and Engagement Outcomes of Preadolescent Baltimore Urban Debate League Participants
by Daniel Shackelford
OST Symposium - Mindful LeadershipPosted by HCDE Staff on 11/13/2020
CASE for Kids hosted an Out-of-School-Time (OST) Symposium on Nov. 8. A variety of workshops were offered for OST professionals such as afterschool providers, teachers and managers of nonprofit organizations. Many workshops were offered in a variety of topics related to leadership development. The mindful leadership session was presented by Mitzi Henderson. She owns the only African American owned registered yoga school in Houston and is the owner of Namitzi Yoga; The Namitzi Yoga Institute of Health and Spirituality; and the Mindful Lotus.
Mitzi opened Namitzi Yoga in 2009 as one of the first visual and mobile yoga studios in Houston, yet that was only the beginning. Later, she integrated yoga as a daily practice at Hilliard Elementary School, emphasizing the calming benefits of yoga in the classroom environment. She noted how a peaceful, focused mind helps a teacher work more effectively with their students. To connect with the community around Hilliard, she taught free weekly public yoga classes. She is an example of how leaders such as teachers and managers must remain calm during conflict; the way they handle the situation can greatly affect its outcome.
Leaders that practice mindfulness are more in-tune with their emotions and can recognize if someone is reacting based on an immediate emotional response. Mindful leaders understand that to make the best decision, they need to analyze the problem from the point of view of those involved. This strategy applies to the classroom since “mindfulness promotes positive social connections in the workplace through… empathy and response flexibility” (Glomb et. al, 2012). By fostering a mindful environment, youth become more aware of how their emotions affect decision-making. They realize that empathizing with another person can change their beliefs and will understand the value of active listening to others and their experiences.
Glomb, T. M., Duffy, M. K., Bono, J. E., & Yang, T. (2012). Mindfulness at work. Research in Personnel and Human Resource Management
Community Circle SELPosted by HCDE Staff on 11/12/2020
At Mahanay Elementary School, an afterschool class of 10 students gathered to make a circle, sitting crisscross for their weekly community circle. As their teacher called everyone to silence, one of the students read the guidelines that were written on a sheet of paper. These guidelines emphasized the values of honesty, listening skills and silence while the person with the talking piece spoke.
The teacher put together a list of questions that increased in difficulty each round. A colorful stuffed monkey (the talking piece) was gently passed when it was someone else’s turn to speak. The first question was simple: “What is your favorite holiday food?” Answers varied, but most students preferred sweets. Next, “Who are you thankful for during the holiday season?” Most students were thankful for their parents supporting them financially. Then came the final question: “How do you show someone you care for them?” It took the students awhile to come up with an answer, so the teacher gave them more time to think about it. Then the group brainstormed together about how they could show their care for someone by hugging them or telling them “thank you” often for the thoughtful things they do.
The community circle at Mahanay Elementary is a prime example of how relationships are built among students in an afterschool program. As a SEL-based activity, “… participants develop and practice skills in communication, relationship-building, empathy, democratic decision-making, conflict resolution, and problem-solving” according to the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility. Due to the positive outcomes of SEL education, CASE for Kids focuses on the child development of emotional intelligence by training afterschool staff on how to use it with their students. There are many elements to SEL. Leading a community circle is one way to introduce SEL into the afterschool curriculum.