Friday, July 30, 2010

Getting Ready for Fall

Fall is just around the corner. Days will be getting shorter and hopefully cooler. School will begin again and before you know it you will be in full swing. Before you get caught up in the day to day of running program, work with your team and set your goals for the year. What is it that you want to accomplish? At the end of the year, what do you want the results of your year’s work to be? This is the perfect time to make this decision. Here are some thoughts about things you might want to accomplish—ranging from the simple to more complex.
100% Attendance: This is a great goal and one you must be working toward from before day one. You need to get ahead of the goal and then maintain it until the final day of programming. If you will take a look at your average daily attendance each week, you will be able to determine what you need to do to achieve and/or maintain the magic 100% number. The goal should be monitored each week by the ADA, however, your strategies may need to change to ensure that you have achieved the number.
80% of homework assignments are completed daily or weekly: If this is your goal think about how homework comes to the after-school program. If the homework is in a packet, you will need to put some things in place to measure this goal. Weekly you could tally how many students completed the homework on time. It would be written that 18/20 students completed homework on time (which would be 90%), and then collect data week over week to ensure your success. Needless to say, if the numbers start to drop you will have to put some strategies in place to ensure that homework is completed during program.
80% of students will participate in a minimum of 1 community service projects: This sort of goal would mean that you would need to take the lead on working with students at each grade level to go through the planning process for the community service project, and then develop a plan for implementation and debriefing. Perhaps you would focus on one grade level or classroom per month, and work your way through the individual projects with the students. Take some time to debrief not only the project but the learning along the way to the completion of the project and a reflection on how each student was affected by the project.
Take advantage of this “down time” to plan forward. Setting goals before school begins can provides you the time to be thoughtful.

Not so usual celebration…
July 30th is National Cheesecake Day. Twenty years ago, cheesecake was not the most popular of desserts, but now, a week without cheesecake is like a week without sunshine. One restaurant, The Cheesecake Factory, takes pride in offering over 30 different types of cheesecake. These ultimate desserts include fresh strawberry, ultimate red velvet, chocolate, white chocolate-raspberry truffle, Godiva, banana cream, peanut butter cup and fudge ripple, white chocolate caramel and macadamia nuts, lemon raspberry cream cheese, chocolate-coconut cream, tiramisu, to name just a few. Wouldn’t it be great to have a taste test?
Activity for kids…
Actually, the taste test could be implemented in this activity. Have kids create a graph of the results and then have students work cooperatively in teams to “convince” another team during a Cheesecake Debate that their flavor of cheesecake is the best. If there is a Cheesecake Factory near you, request a donation of a sampling of a variety of cheesecakes for the taste test. There are other restaurants who serve cheesecake as well that may be willing to provide the samples. Share the results of the taste test with the donor.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review: The Four Fold Way

Angeles Arriens, author and anthropologist, shared her insight into earth-bound cultures and key principles that are at the center of how they live and interact with one another. The four principles are:
1. Show up and choose to be present
2. Speak to what has heart and meaning
3. Tell the truth without blame or judgment
4. Be open to outcome, not attached to it
Think about how your after-school program staff and students would interact with one another if these four principles were to guide the work. Each of these principles is foundational to living one’s life responsibly and effectively, and ensuring that you are making a contribution to the world.
In her book, Arriens writes about each of these principles and then gives concrete examples of what it would look like, sound like, feel like, if these principles were being practiced as well as tips on how to accomplish acting on these principles. Check out this amazing book—it is an easy-to-read book but holds many insightful truths that can be applied to the world of after-school.

Not so usual celebration…
July 29th is National Lasagna Day. Lasagna is a wonderful layered Italian dish—loaded with pasta, cheese, marinara sauce, and sometimes meat in the sauce. Any way you slice it, lasagna is an amazing dish—unfortunately there are a lot of steps to making it. A month or so ago I was having dinner in my son’s home. His wife had prepared a delightful quasi-lasagna dish that was quick and easy to prepare and best of all—delicious. She had used frozen cheese ravioli, a prepared spaghetti sauce (she did add Morning Star “hamburger” to the sauce), and grated mozzarella cheese. What she did was layer the frozen ravioli with sauce and cheese, and then baked for about 45 minutes. Fantastic! Quick, easy, delicious and for me, a new way of making an old favorite that can take the biggest part of an afternoon to make. Needless to say, lasagna is served more often in our home now.

Activity with kids…
Take the kids on a “food” field trip of Italy and have them research different types of Italian food, and where in Italy this particular food is available. Have them create a menu for an imaginary restaurant, complete with drawings of the Italian flag, map of the country, and the gorgeous country side. Have groups of students share the “recipes” that they highlight on the menu they create with one another.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Recruiting Students for Your Program

To successfully recruit students you need to be clear about two points of view. For younger students, probably Kindergarten through 3rd grade, think about the after-school program from the mind-set of the parent. It is the parent who will have the student show up in your program or somewhere else. For older youth, 4th through 12th grades, think about the after-school program from the mind-set of the youth. These are the students who are CHOOSING to come to your program instead of doing something else.
Here are some things to think about from a parent’s point of view:
• Your after-school space is safe and supervised. Young people who attend the program are within the line of sight of an adult. Let parents know you have a system in place that will notify them if the child does not show up for program. Remind them of the sign-in and sign-out procedures as well as one of the essential agreements that you have with students, Be Safe!
• One of the components of your after-school program is homework assistance. Although you will not guarantee that homework will be done completely and with 100% accuracy, you can assure parents that youth have the support of an adult so that if they make good use of the time, they will have enough time to complete the homework and at the very least, will understand how to work on the homework independently at home.
• Parents will want to know that kids get a snack, have an opportunity to play outdoors, learn new things, and put the academic skills they have learned during the school day to good use in the after-school program.
Here are some things to think about from a student’s point of view:
• After-school is full of opportunities for you to network and work with your friends and classmates. Most every component of the program utilizes at least buddy or small group work. Cooperative work allows you to put two brains or more to work on the challenges that face you. Time is designated each day for building stronger relationships with peers and adults.
• After-school has relevant clubs and other learning opportunities that will help you master school day concepts while exploring areas that you are interested in learning more about. Practice reading by discovering the world of skateboarding; the world of math through cooking and card and dice games; science through hands-on experiments; and community service to support your social studies efforts.
• After-school will help you get your homework done and will inspire rigorous thought about the work you are doing, encouraging you to utilize higher level thinking skills.
These are both the same after-school program, but when you look at your program through different eyes you will see different things. Use this information to market your program to a variety of audiences.

Not so usual celebration…
July 28th is National Chocolate Milk Day. When my grandson was little he was sure that chocolate milk came from brown cows, but now that he is older he understands that it comes from the dairy. Just kidding! What’s not to like about chocolate milk—unless of course you are lactose intolerant in which case no milk product seems “good” to you. When I was a child, chocolate milk was considered a dessert and having it a rare treat. Today, kids often have a daily choice between regular and chocolate milk at lunch time. On some level, chocolate milk has lost its “specialness” by being so readily available, but today, help young people think about what it must have been like, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and chocolate milk was dessert! Just kidding again! Just as a note: you might not like “warm or hot” milk, but think about how great “warm or hot” chocolate milk is. Go figure!

Activities for youth
There are some great “direct draw” books and lessons that you can do with youth. Step by step, you let them know exactly what to draw and in the end, the drawing actually resembles what you intended to draw. You can purchase these books, with different drawing themes, on line and at the local teacher-supply store. If this is not appealing to you, go on line at and check out the art lessons there, including one about drawing a cow.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Becoming An Essential Service

When you think about the term, “an essential service”, what comes to your mind? Certainly for me it would be all the things that I use every day without so much as a thought, but would miss like crazy if it was unavailable. Running water (in both hot and cold forms), adequate roads for me to get around on, a grocery store that has a variety of choices, a sewer system that works, electricity straight to my house and appliances, mail delivery, and of course, the Internet. When something occurs and any of these essential services are unavailable, I am at a loss about what to do. In Bakersfield, California snow is very unlikely. One winter night when I was a principal, it snowed. Not only did it snow a little, it snowed for about 5-6 hours and left about 4 inches of snow on the ground. At 1:30 in the morning I received a phone call from one of my teachers who was afraid that I was missing the snow—which I wasn’t as she was the third or fourth call I had received. We were all amazed by this snow. When morning came, even though it was a week day and we were all expecting to be at school or work, the city was virtually shut down—schools, office buildings, even the mall. Fortunately, electricity, water, and the sewer remained operational, but for that one day, all of those other essential services were not available and I really missed them.
To ensure that after-school time will remain high on the priorities of parents, school day stakeholders, tax payers and legislators, we in the business of after-school need to be committed to developing each program to the threshold of ESSENTIAL SERVICE. We need to be so effective at what we do, the support we provide for youth and families, and the results that we get, that the thought of not having an after-school program would be akin to not having running water. As an after-school professional you have it within your power to develop and deliver high-quality after-school programs that will benefit the youth you serve. Each day reflect on what has occurred in the program and ask yourself how this could be done more effectively and more efficiently and then set out to make those changes. Celebrate the great work that you and your staff do and the progress your students make. Let everyone in your town or city know and become aware, day by day, success by success, result by result that your after-school program is, without a doubt, an essential service for youth and their families.

Not so usual celebration…
July 27th is Take Your Pants for a Walk Day. We hear a lot about living healthy and taking good care of ourselves. Probably this is one of those very useful celebrations. Taking your pants for a walk requires that you (or at least someone) is in them and exercising. There is a teen movie about the Traveling Pants, and in this story a pair of “magic” pants is shared by a group of friends and when the girl has the pants, she is going to have good luck and her wishes will come true. So, embrace this idea and take your pants for a walk, not just on July 27th but 3-5 times each week, and you will discover that like the traveling pants, you will have good luck and good health. So, why are you sitting here, get up and move on out and take your pants for a walk.

Activity for kids…
Start a walking club with the kids. Measure out a “track” of sorts and have kids rack up the miles. Have it be your goal to work together collaboratively to walk over 100 miles each month and then bring it down to every two weeks and then every week. Chart the team’s success and celebrate each 100 miles of travel. Of course, you will want to celebrate with fruit or a smoothie if you decide on food, but no matter how you do it, celebrate meeting your walking goals.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Building Fluency

One of the California reading standards focuses on the development of fluency. Fluency is the ability to read smoothly, accurately and with natural expression. In order to read smoothly, the reader needs to have a large sight word vocabulary which will enable them to read with automaticity. Automaticity is the ability to quickly and accurately recognize words. It allows cognitive resources to focus on comprehension rather than decoding. Automaticity is developed through practice. As students get older, usually beginning around 4th grade, the ability to automatically recognize prefixes and suffixes is important as well.
One of the most effective strategies for improving fluency is the implementation of Repeated Reading. Repeated Reading gives youth an opportunity to practice words to automaticity which ultimately helps the youth be fluent. The fluency formula is the number of words read in 1 minute – the number of errors which then = the number of words read per minute. Typical words-per-minute are 60 for 1st graders, 70 for 2nd graders, and 80 for 3rd graders. In typical repeated reading lessons, youth would practice a leveled passage for approximately 10 minutes each day. This practice can be in the form of partner reading, participation in a reader’s theater, or reading along with a passage on tape. During the practice, if a word is mispronounced, then a correction is made and the youth continues practicing. After practicing for four days, youth would again do the 1 minute challenge and see the growth they have made. Consistency and routine in Repeated Reading is what gets results. Talk with the school day teachers to see if they have access to leveled reading passages. If not, you can find them at Reading A-Z for a subscription fee, at

Not so usual celebrations…
July 26th is Aunt and Uncle Day. Your aunts and uncles are the brothers and sisters of your mom and dad. Some of you have a number of aunts and uncles, while others of you may only have 1 or none at all. If you find yourself without an aunt or uncle, adopt one. Aunts and uncles are wonderful. First of all they know the scoop on your mom and dad and if you are lucky, they will share stories with you that your parents wish would remain in the distant past. Aunts and uncles can offer great counsel and advice, can be the place to go when mom and dad are out of town, and will let you sleep over with your cousins (the kids of your aunt and uncle). So, on this special day to honor aunts and uncles, give yours a call and let them know how much you appreciate being in the same family.

Activities for Kids
Have the kids create a special card for a favorite aunt or uncle. Have them create an acrostic poem (use the name of the aunt or uncle to give you the starting letter, and then illustrate the poem. Be sure that youth take time to do an outstanding job.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Youth As Assets

When we talk about “youth as assets”, certainly we are looking at youth through the lens of youth development. We are recognizing that youth are a “value-add” and can do things that help themselves, family, community and of course, the after-school program. One of the value-adds that youth can bring to the program is enthusiasm and a willingness to try. Think about using the computer. If you are older or you know someone who is, you know that older Americans can be timid when it comes to using the computer. When it comes to Face Book or Social Networks, they either avoid altogether or use rather awkwardly. But when a teenager comes to these web forums, they are absolutely fearless. They are intuitive and figure out what to do just by trying things out—no directions needed. So how might you harness this? How about having a club that allows youth to teach senior citizens how to use the web or participate in web chats and so on. Think about how both sides of this equation would win! This is just one very simple way to think about how youth can use the talents and skills they have to be an asset to others. In doing this, youth are then more likely to see themselves as a contributor, an asset. Ultimately, this is the real prize—the feeling of self- worth and the development of self-esteem fully developed in all our youth.

Not so usual celebrations…

July 22nd is Hammock Day. Just thinking about this unusual celebration conjures a vision of a not-to-warm afternoon in the shade of a big tree, gently swinging back and forth until you are napping or nearly napping. In order to fully celebrate this day, it is a requirement that you spend as much time as you can outdoors RELAXING! How’s that for an awesome holiday!

Activities for Kids

Have kids work together in small groups to write a story about the “perfect” summer day. Have them begin the story with getting out of bed and ending as they return to bed in the evening. Have youth think about all of the really terrific things they would like to do—fish, play ball, go to an amusement park, shop at the mall, go to a movie—whatever would be the most fun. Have them think about what they would eat and who they would want to be with. Have students illustrate the day and then share with the entire group.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Greeting Students

When students arrive at you after-school program what can they expect? Can they expect to be greeted with a smile, a knuckle bump, a question about the new kitten, a snack, a warm and friendly Program Leader? When kids first arrive in your program you have an opportunity to set the tone for the next 3 or more hours. When your behavior says that you are glad that they are here you have gone a long way to put them at ease. Think about how you feel when you go somewhere that a group of people have either already gathered or are gathering at that moment. What is it that you would like to have happen? Do you want someone to say “hello” and use your name? Do you want someone to say, “Thanks for coming” or “Glad you came”. Would you like them to follow-up with a comment or compliment that is specific to you, such as “Like your hair cut”, or “Heard you have a new car.”? If these are the kind of things that you would like to hear, then chances are, kids would like to hear similar types of comments. When students arrive, for a brief moment each one needs to know that you are completely focused on them. It doesn’t have to be a long interaction, it just needs to be heartfelt and sincere. Try out different ways to greet students and let them know that you are glad to see them and have them in the program and that you are looking forward to the next 3 hours.

Not so usual celebrations…

July 21st is National Junk Food Day. Junk Food translates into a lot of really amazing, not so good-for-you, items that you love eating. To be an official holiday would take an Act of Congress, literally, but celebrating your favorite type of junk food just takes a few moments to think about what you would eat if health, calories, and fat were not a concern. Junk Food has been defined by those in the know (dieticians and doctors—sometimes your mom) as food that contains little to no nutritional value. These foods are high in fat, salt, sugar and probably make up the majority of our Top 10 Things I Love to Eat list. So, perhaps National Junk Food Day is a time when you can eat these tasty, yet not so good for you foods with NO GUILT! As a reminder, junk food can certainly be hazardous to your health, so eat it only sparingly.

Activities for Kids

Spend time with youth talking about healthy eating habits and how selecting the healthy foods from the Food Pyramid is the best choice. Have them cut out pictures of food from magazines and categorize them into Pyramid groupings. You can find a copy of the Food Pyramid by Googling images of the Food Pyramid for Kids.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review: The One Minute Manager

Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson wrote the book, The One Minute Manager, in 1982 and it has been one of the most widely read books in the business world. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to. It is an easy read and gives timely advice to all managers through an allegory that helps a new manager or leader, find his way to success. The book contains reminders of the basics—“people who feel good about themselves produce good results; help people reach their full potential, catch them doing something right; the best minute I spend is the one I invest in people; everyone is a potential winner, some people are disguised as losers, don’t let their appearances fool you; we are not just our behavior we are the person managing our behavior; and goals begin behaviors, consequences maintain behaviors.” The understandings that add richness to these reminders are the content of the book. If you have an hour, you work with people on a regular basis, and you have the desire to be an effective manager/leader, then taking the time to read this book will be an amazing investment.

Not so usual celebrations

July 20th is Ugly Truck Day. While “Ugly Truck Day” can not be found in the encyclopedia or in another reference book, this is a day that celebrates the functional, tried-and-true truck that has been through the good times and the bad times and still stands ready to transport you from one place to another. Certainly these is something to be said for a shiny new truck with all of the bells and whistles, but an old truck has character, a story to tell for each dent, scratch, or bang. Actually, an old truck is like a history book and so we should celebrate the ones that can be still find providing service to its owner.

Activities for Kids

Have the youth research the history of the truck, downloading or drawing pictures of the transition of trucks through the past 100 years. For younger students have students look for pictures of trucks that have different purposes (moving vans, transport cattle, refrigerator trucks, and of course ones that carry liquid) and have them dictate sentences or stories about the truck.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Recipe for Building Relationships

Building relationships is one of the most important roles of after-school. As youth get older, especially noticeable beginning in 4th grade, youth become more focused on the world outside of family, and it is important that they understand how to build strong relationships with others, both peer and adult. The recipe for relationships is simple to recite:

time + care + belief = strong relationship

and much more difficult to turn into reality.

Each of these ingredients is equally important and one of surest ways to ensure that you are successful in building relationships with youth and colleagues, is to intentionally follow this recipe.

Time: People, especially young people, seem to intuitively know that what is important to you is what you spend time on or with. Time says, “I value you enough to give you one of my most precious assets, time.” Spending time with people gives you an opportunity to find common ground. Use every minute of your after-school program to get to know, the young people in your program on an authentic level.

Care: Care is making sure that the road blocks are either evident, so the person you are building a relationship with can navigate his/her way around them, or that those road blocks are removed so the way is not impeded. Care is about empowering others to do the best that they can and it is also about gradually releasing the responsibility of new things to a person to ensure success.

Belief: Belief means holding others in unconditional positive regard and believing in the possibility and potential of the person we are building a relationship with. When you think of the youth in your program, as well as the staff and the other adults that surround the youth, it is important to believe that the best day for each of these people is yet to come—that they are continuing to become a full embodiment of their own potential.

Research has found that the most important factor in determining resiliency in young people is a positive relationships with a competent and caring adult. After-school staff is well-positioned to be that person outside of the youth’s family, to fill this role. Promote the development of relationships among staff and students.

Not so usual celebrations…

July 19th is Raspberry Cake Day. Raspberries are available in the summer, fresh and sweet. Here are some Raspberry Facts:
  • There are over 200 types of raspberries in the world grown on five continents.
  • In Greek history, the city of Troy is mentioned often. It is the people of Troy who first noted that they enjoyed eating raspberries.
  • Raspberries grow on brambles (bushes that like colder climate and also are quite protective of the fruit because a bramble is a prickly shrub).
  • Raspberries belong to the rose family.
  • Greeks first discovered raspberries growing on the slopes of Mount Ida in Turkey.
  • In the 4th Century Romans began cultivating raspberries.
  • Raspberries have a hollow center.
  • Raspberries are not really a berry but rather a composite fruit that is a collection of smaller seed fruits called “drupelets”.
  • Raspberries can be made into a delicious jam.
  • Raspberries can be red, gold, purple, black, and white in color.
Activity for Kids

Have a taste test. Purchase a variety of different berries and have youth taste each of them and then make a list of words that describe the taste. Consider strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, ollalieberries, and cranberries.
After the taste test, have young people select their favorite type.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Summer Learning Loss

Summer learning loss has been defined as the loss in academic skills and knowledge over the course of the summer vacation. Although we expect to lose an edge when we don’t practice, summer learning loss is much greater for youth in low-income groups than it is for their middle-class peers. In 1996 a study by Cooper found that on average, students lose approximately 2.6 months in the area of mathematical computation during the summer, increasing the achievement gap. Cooper also found that low-income children lost over 2 months in reading achievement in this same time period. The Summer learning loss is profound enough that this year Michelle Obama is on board supporting a call to service with the theme, “United We Serve: Let’s Read Let’s Move”. The First Lady stated that summer is the perfect time to get kids up and exercising the body while they read and exercise the mind.

In a June 15, 2009 article in the Washington Post, staff writer Valerie Strauss stated that the “summer brain drain” is not felt equally across all children. She quotes experts from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Virginia on what happens during the summer. Here is what the article highlighted:

“Most students—regardless of family income or background—lost 2 to 2 ½ months of the math computational skills that they learned during the school year.

Students from low-income homes lost two to three months in reading skills learned in the previous school year.

Middle-class students make slight gains in reading achievement as measured on standardized test. [1]

So what does this mean for after-school programs? It means that we need to find a way to support and encourage summer learning. We need to look at all options and work closely within a school district to determine how funds may be reallocated to the summer months. Learning in the summer doesn’t need to look like the school day. You could have a lyrics class to promote reading, an engineering class with robots to build to encourage interest and experience in math and science, a poetry class to offer opportunities for youth to write, and so on. You can operate with a great theme such as “Night in the Museum”, “Back to the Future”, or “National Treasure”. It’s important that you check in with the students to see what interests them.

We need to work intentionally to ensure that learning levels are, at a minimum, maintained, and when possible, increased during the summer. We will never close the achievement gap in this country by moving a few months forward only to slide back several months in the summer. Think it through. It is not too early to begin planning for summer, 2011.

Not so usual celebrations…

July 18th is National Ice Cream Day. What a terrific day! What’s not to like about ice cream? Certainly if you’re allergic to dairy, this doesn’t seem like such a great day, but for most of us, ice cream is truly a treat. Actually, for some, July is Ice Cream Month which would give you 31 days of ice cream treats (perhaps this is where 31 flavors—Baskin Robbins got their name.) It was in 1984 that then President Ronal Reagan proclaimed July as National Ice Cream Month and he also established National Ice Cream Day as the third Sunday in July. Another fact about ice cream that you may not know is that the ice cream cone was invented on 1904 on July 23 at the St. Louis World Fair. This is disputed by a patent filed in New York months before the World’s Fair began—either way, 1904 seems to be the year of invention. Either way, those of us who enjoy ice cream cones are delighted to credit either or both of these dates.

Activities for Kids

Two engaging activities come to mind for National Ice Cream Day. The first would be a taste test to see if kids can taste a difference between Baskin and Robbins, Haagen Dazs, Nestlees, Ben and Jerry’s, the store brand and so on. Have kids take the taste test and proclaim the winner the best ice cream.

A second project could be to make homemade ice cream. Each student can do this in either cans or better yet, two plastic baggies. The larger baggie holds the ice (salted of course so it will be colder), and the internal baggie holds the ice cream mix (you can get a recipe on line that uses milk, sugar, vanilla, and eggs). Once you pour some of the mixture into the smaller Ziploc baggie, you place it inside the larger baggie, filling it with ice. Then the youth acts like an external dasher, rolling the contents of the baggies around and around until the ingredients start to harden into ice cream.

[1] Washington Post. June 15, 2009

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Review: Good to Great

Jim Collins wrote the book, Good to Great, in response to requests from business leaders who had read, Built to Last. Good to Great begins with this opening line: “Good is the enemy of great”. Just this line is enough for us to ponder in the world of after-school. When we are working with students who demonstrate risky behaviors, when we are in a situation where instead of being part of the system we feel like we are the “other” or the “outsider”, we can easily become content with good. We are happy that our program receives good reviews, that attendance is good or at least at 85%, that homework support is helping about 70% of the students, and the list can go on and on. If we decide that good is enough, then chances are, we will never move to great intentionally. It might happen in a single moment, but as far as being sustainable and replicable—probably not. Yet our intent is to always do the very best for the young people we work with, so GREAT must be the bottom line. In the book, the line that follow the first, “And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.” says it all. In the world of after-school we must remain committed to being great.
Collins discusses several topics of interest to those of us in the field of after-school. He talks about the importance of getting “the right people on the bus” and the importance of facing the facts but never losing sight of the end result that you are trying to accomplish. He talks about the importance of developing a culture of discipline and the Hedgehog Concept. The Hedgehog Concept is explained in three overlapping circles. One circle identifies what you are deeply passionate about. A second circle identifies what you can be the best in the world at. The third is about what drives you economic engine. For service organizations or non-profits, this third sphere might be replaced with what drives your resource engine. At the nexus of these circles is greatness.
Read Collin’s book and then reflect on your own program. If you work in a non-profit arena read the monograph which accompanies Good to Great which looks closely at Social Sectors.

Not so usual celebrations…
July 15th is Cow Appreciation Day. This is a very interesting not so usual celebration. At first glance, you may be asking yourself “Why in the world would I want to appreciate a cow?” Well, certainly there are dairy products—cheese, milk, yogurt; and of course meat products such as hamburger, steak and ribs. Restaurants sometimes offer specials on Cow Appreciation Day. One of the most interesting is offered by Chick-fil-A. Of course, they celebrate Cow Appreciation Day on the 9th of July instead of the 15th, but the deal is this: if you come to Chick-fil-A in a cow costume (a full costume which will prove that you are not a chicken) they will give you a free Chick-fil-A meal. You can go onto the Chick-fil-A website and see pictures of winning diners who are dressed like cows. You can even go online and upload a picture of yourself in cow costume in case you don’t really want to go to one of the Chick-fil-A 1,400 stores dressed this way.

Activities for Youth
In honor of black and white cows worldwide, have youth brainstorm all of the things that come in black and white only.
After creating a list, have each group create 3 cards, one with a different black and white item, and a list of clues for each one.
Then have the teams have a riddle contest. One at a time, each team gives a clue and the other teams try to determine what the item is that they are describing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Globalization of the World

In his book, The World Is Flat A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Friedman discusses the notion that we are living in one world that is interdependent. He discusses globalization and how this is changing how business is conducted. He identifies world flatteners including work flow software, supply chaining, open-out- and in-sourcing, and how essential it is for Americans to get on board. When we look at 21st Century Workplace skills, (Daniel Pink is one of the leading experts) we find four identified skill clusters that young people will need in this flattened world:

Digital-age literacy, which includes the various competencies expected in a 21st century workplace.

· Basic literacy

· Scientific literacy

· Technological literacy

· Economic literacy

· Visual literacy

· Information literacy

· Cultural literacy

· Global awareness (an understanding of how nations, individuals, groups, and economies are interconnected and how they relate to each other

Inventive thinking, which includes the ability to think outside the box

· Adaptability and managing complexity

· Self-direction

· Curiosity

· Creativity

· Risk Taking

· Higher-order thinking and sound reasoning

· Adaptability and managing complexity

· Self-direction

Effective communication, which is the ability to clearly communicate with a wide range of audiences

· Teaming and collaboration

· Interpersonal skills

· Personal responsibility

· Social and civic responsibility

· Interactive communication

High productivity, which will be a requirement of success in the 21st Century

· Prioritizing, planning, and managing for results

· Effective use of real-world tools

· Ability to produce relevant, high-quality products[1]

After-school must work with young people to help them develop an understanding of both globalization and 21st Century Workplace skills, and develop the ability to incorporate this understanding and set of skills into a successful future.

Not so usual celebrations…

July 14th is Bastille Day. Bastille Day is a French holiday which commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789. The Bastille, a medieval fortress, was a Paris prison in which political and other prisoners were often times unjustly held. Following the storming of the Bastille by the citizens and the Declaration of the Right of Man, the French Revolution had begun. The storming of the Bastille symbolizes the overthrow of the monarchy and the beginning of the French republic. The Bastille was a symbol of the absolute power of the old regime and when the people stormed this prison and freed the prisoners, it was seen as a victory for liberty.

Bastille Day in France is much like Independence Day in the United States. You could expect that similar emotions can be found in both celebrations. It is interesting that July, beginning with Canada Day on the first, followed by the Independence Day in the United States on the 4th, and then Bastille Day on the 14th, is a month so full of national celebrations of triumph and rebirth.

Activities for Youth

Have young people work in small groups to brainstorm all of the facts that they can think of surrounding Independence Day in the United States. If you have access to the Internet, have them gather facts in this way as well.

Then have young people continue in these small groups and discuss and record the facts they have about Bastille Day. Again, if students have Internet access, this will be even more meaningful.

When facts for each have been gathered, have students create a Venn Diagram. In the right side orb, students should list those facts that only pertain to Bastille Day. In the left side orb, students should list those facts that only pertain to the 4th of July. Where the orbs overlap, students should list those facts that these two days have in common.

Venn Diagram

[1] 21st Century Workplace: Skills for Success.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Developing Self-Worth and Acceptance

The Search Institute has identified 40 Developmental Assets which are building blocks of healthy development. These assets are divided into two categories: external and internal assets. In the process of identifying these assets, the Institute discovered that when these assets are in place young people develop resiliency, and when resiliency is developed the young person is better prepared to “bounce back” when things change rapidly or misfortune occurs. Today, when people are experiencing change everywhere and at a very rapid pace, resiliency is essential.
Four of the internal assets address the importance of Positive Identity and deal with the development of self-worth. Here is how the Search Institute defines these assets:
  • Personal Power | Young person feels he or she has control over "things that happen to me.”
  • Self-Esteem | Young person reports having a high self-esteem (regard, worth, value).
  • Sense of Purpose | Young person reports that "my life has a purpose."
  • Positive View of Personal Future | Young person is optimistic about her or his personal future.”

These developmental assets focus attention on youth as possibilities to be realized rather than people to be fixed. Focusing on youth in this way is embodied in a youth development approach. One of the leading experts on youth development, Karen Pittman, stated in 1999 that youth development is “the ongoing growth process in which all youth are engaged in attempting to (1) meet their basic personal and social needs to be safe, feel cared for, be valued, be useful, and be spiritually grounded, a (2) build skills and competencies that allow them to function and contribute in their daily lives.”
After-school programs are uniquely positioned to take this youth development approach in working with youth and to help them develop essential characteristics of resiliency. Beginning roughly in 4th grade, youth begin to rely more on their peers, the community, and people outside of traditional family supports, for acceptance. Letting youth know that each of them is valued for he/she is, promotes feelings of self-worth. In your after-school program look at everything you do with youth through the lens of youth development.

Not so usual celebrations…

July 13th is Embrace Your “Geekness” Day. Certainly this is an interesting day. The cool part about being a geek is that you are highly intelligent (a brainiac or as is identified on the TV show Bones—a squint). Geeks are also technically oriented and enjoy working on computers and computer systems. Although some people think of the word “geek” in a negative way, one would have to wonder if they are doing this because they are envious of this highly intelligent person with great computer skills. I am sure that each of us has a little “geek” in us, so on this special day, copyrighted for fun and profit by Wellcat Holidays, be joyous and CELEBRATE! There is really nothing wrong with such a compliment!

Activities for Youth
  1. Have young people divide into small groups of 5-6. Ask them to come up with a very “geeky” cheer or accolade. Have each group practice and be prepared to demonstrate for the rest of the class.
  2. After the group has seen all of the cheers, have them select the one that they most like.
  3. The winning group then teaches the cheer to the entire group.
  4. Then have young people think about and share a “geeky” moment in their lives—one when they were particularly smart and/or used technology brilliantly. When they finish sharing the “geeky” moment, the rest of the group then gives them the “geeky” cheer.

(1) Search Institute 40 Developmental Assets. (March, 2010)
(2) Center for Youth Development and Policy Research. What is youth development? (March, 2010)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Inclement Weather

Seems like an unusual time to be talking about inclement weather—especially if we think about this in terms of rain and snow. However, summer can have its own share of weather challenges—heat and humidity. If you are running summer program it is important to stay tuned to the “weather channel” so you know whether it is a “bad air” day or not.
The challenge of course, is what do you do with a group of young people who need to expend some energy when you are stuck inside. You can certainly give them a break by playing board games, or group activities like Jeopardy, but that does not always burn the kind of energy you’re needing for them to burn. Two activities that you might find worth considering are Cups Up—Cups Down! and Group Juggle.

Cups Up—Cups Down
  1. Play indoors in a multipurpose room that has the tables, chairs and/or benches put up. With blue painter’s tape create the boundaries of the playing field. You can simply mark the four corners.
  2. Divide class into two equal teams.
  3. Each member of both teams gets 2 cups.
  4. One team is designated as Cups Up (this means that the cup is standing on its bottom), and the other team is designated at Cups Down (this means that the rim of the cup is on the ground).
  5. Before play begins, both teams place the cups either up or down inside the playing field.
  6. The rules are simple:
  7. Using only one hand, and not moving or stacking cups, the Cups Up team tries to turn all cups up. At the same time, the Cups Down team tries to turn all the cups down. Students may move from location to location but they must walk and cannot push or bump into anyone else.
  8. The game is played in four quarters. Each quarter lasts approximately 3 minutes. Teams return to the end line and count the number of cups that are up and the cups that are down. If a cup is neither up or down, it does not count at all.
Group Juggle
  1. Play indoors in a multipurpose room that has the tables, chairs and/or benches put up. Have students make a circle.
  2. One student is designated as the leader.
  3. On the ground beside the leader are 10-12 soft objects. Stuffed animals or soft baby toys that you can pick up at the Dollar Store are perfect
  4. The leader picks up one object, selects another child (who is not right next to him/her) by looking at him/her, SAYS the person’s name, and gently tosses that item to him/her.
  5. Then the person catching the item repeats the process of selection but also can not throw it to the leader until everyone has had a chance to catch and toss.
  6. This process continues in a PATTERN, until the last person has the item and then tosses it back to the leader saying his/her name.
  7. A second round should be played exactly the same, and in exactly the same order.
  8. Once round 2 is played and students understand what is going on, the game progresses.
  9. The leader starts with object #1, repeats the toss pattern. However, this time when the person he/she has originally tossed to has tossed the first item, the leader then tosses a second item, saying the person’s name, simultaneously with the other players tossing and saying names.
  10. Play continues until the leader has had all items returned.
Both of these activities are engaging and will help youth use energy and still be inside where the weather will not have much effect.

Not so usual celebrations…

July 12th is Pecan Pie Day.
Here are some Fun Facts about pecans:
  • Pecans are the only major nut tree that originated in North America.
  • Pecan is an Algonquin Indian word meaning “nuts requiring a stone to crack”.
  • Pecans are easier to shell than other nuts.
  • George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both enjoyed eating pecans.
  • In the 1700s, New Orleans became important in marketing pecans. The French created
Pecan Pie in New Orleans.
  • It would take 11,624 pecans, stacked end to end to reach the top of the Empire State Building.
  • Albany, Georgia has over 600,000 pecan trees.
  • There are over 500 varieties of pecans today.
  • Every pecan pie uses 1/2 lb to 3/4 lb of pecans.
  • Pecan pie is a sweet custard pie made primarily of corn syrup and pecan nuts. It is popularly served at Christmas and Thanksgiving holiday meals.
Pecan Puzzle
  1. Using 8 ½” x 11” cardstock, have students divide the paper into a minimum of 10 puzzle pieces.
  2. In each puzzle piece, students write a Fun Fact about pecans.
  3. On the other side of the paper, students draw a picture of a pecan or pecan pie.
  4. Students cut the puzzle up and give it to another student to put back together, looking at either the picture side or the fact side of the puzzle.

Friday, July 9, 2010

STEM and After-School

You may be asking yourself what does STEM mean. The acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. There is an increased interest in STEM in K-12 education in general and after-school in particular. The Afterschool Alliance Issue Brief #26 is focused entirely on STEM in the afterschool arena. The Brief begins:

As the 20th century fades into history, it takes with it the old industrial economy in which plentiful manufacturing jobs offered millions of people without a college education a ticket to the middle class. The 21st century’s information economy is creating more jobs that require not only a college education but also at least some expertise in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as STEM. In order to stay competitive in the global marketplace and provide our children with the best chance to succeed in life, we must get more students on the STEM path. All across the country, schools and communities are using the hours after school to do just that.*

As an after-school provider, it is important that we embrace the opportunity of providing STEM experiences for our students. We need to be looking for ways to support the good work of the school day. Here are some things that you might consider doing in your program after-school to support STEM education.

Hold a Science Fair highlighting group projects. Display them on a science board and have the group discuss the project and the project findings. This will not only support science, it will also give your class an opportunity to work as a team and practice public speaking.

Feature math in Math Olympics. Have students divided into teams and have them do math problems (grade appropriate of course) in a relay format. The winning teams will earn medals—bronze, silver, and gold.

Have a club that focuses on building or engineering Simple Machines. Students can design or invent a simple machine that would help people work faster, easier, or more efficiently.

Have access to computers? Have youth use the Technology for developing a website or graphic design.

The Alliance Issue Brief ends with this advice:

Afterschool programs alone cannot make up all the lost ground. They can and should, however, be part of a more comprehensive approach to giving more young people a chance to discover an interest in STEM, and an aptitude that could lead many -- especially those from underrepresented populations – to choose degrees and careers in the STEM fields.**

Find out about STEM education in your school. See what you can do in the after-school hours to support this work that is being done.

* Afterschool Alliance. Issue Brief #26.
** Ibid.

Not so usual celebrations

July 9th is National Sugar Cookie Day. It is not known why July 9th has been designated as National Sugar Cookie Day, but what a sweet way to look at this day. Sugar cookies can be found most everywhere, and whether they are soft (seems like grocery store bakery versions of the sugar cookies usually come in the variety with frosting—totally appropriate to the season) or crunchy (many packaged brands tend to move in this direction), they are delicious!

During your program you might want to share “Sugar Facts” with your students. Here are some Fun Facts about sugar.

• Sugar gives the body energy.
• Your body changes sugars into glucose.
• Carbohydrates are complex sugars such as whole grain products.
• Simple sugars (candy, soda) can give you a sugar high that is quickly gone.
• Words that end in “ose” indicate that this is another word for sugar. (glucose, fructose, sucrose, galactose, and lactose.
• Sugar has a variety of names including corn syrup, dextrose, and granulated sugar.
• Sugars can come from corn, beets, grapes, or sugar cane
• Sugar can occur in foods naturally or be added.

Sugar Cookie Activities

Purchase a box or package of sugar cookies. Have youth decorate them with frosting.
Purchase a package of sugar cookies. Have youth smash them into crumbs. Add a small amount of butter or margarine (just enough to hold the crumbs together) and pat the mixture into a pizza pan. Mix together 1 package of cream cheese, ½ c. sugar, and a touch of vanilla. Spread over the cookie crust. Add fresh fruit on top—strawberries, blueberries, bananas, kiwis, peaches, or other seasonal fruit. Refrigerate for an hour. Cut into slices and enjoy.

If you don’t have access to real cookies, have youth create a sugar cookie drawing with the perfect topping.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mean, Lean, or Teen Cuisine

We have all heard and read about the challenge of childhood obesity that this country is facing. It appears that after-school might be a good place to address two of the underlying causes of this “epidemic”. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Although there are some genetic and hormonal causes of childhood obesity, most of the time it's caused by kids eating too much and exercising too little.” This is not a surprise to any of us, but what might we do to change this?
Let’s take a look at the first half of the equation—eating. How can after-school support better food choices? What resources are available for after-school programs? If you wonder if education can make a difference, look at the efforts to recycle. Thirty years ago, recycling was something other people did. Today, recycling efforts are everywhere. If you don’t recycle at home and at work, you feel guilty. This is the result of steady and consistent education. The same thing can happen with educating people about the food choices they make. The effects are already building.
Instead of focusing on all of the food choices that youth make, let’s just focus on one—eating 5 fruits or vegetables each day. How can we support this simple change? First, you might want to take a look at the snacks served in your program. How many times each week or month do you find fruit or vegetable in that snack? If not often, who might you talk with and have a discussion with about different snack choices? Remember, that if you are talking with a food services person, they are in the business of feeding youth and they are as interested in nutrition as you are.
Secondly, what programs and resources are available for you to utilize in your program that would allow you to focus on 5 fruits or vegetables a day? One of the best, in my opinion, is Harvest of the Month. Harvest of the Month is supported by the Network for a Healthy California/Champions for Change program. The premise is simple: educate Californians about the fruits and vegetables grown in the state and feature these products, one per month, during the harvest cycle. The objectives of this program focus on access to fruits and vegetables, helping young people develop a preference for fruits and vegetables, increasing knowledge about California-grown fruits and vegetables, and then of course, they encourage increased physical activity. To promote this they have four, easy to access on the web, monthly elements: Educator Newsletters, Family Newsletters (translated already), Menu Slicks, and Press Release Templates.
The Educator Newsletter gives you information about the highlighted fruit or vegetable and a number of things that you can do to help young people learn about the produce. Highlights for kids include the Taste Test, Cooking in Class, and the Fun Facts about the produce. The Family Newsletters will provide information for the families about what you are studying and encourage them to support the effort. This newsletter is available in both English and Spanish. The Menu Slick resembles the place mat that you will find in restaurants, and features activities and information to engage the youth. The website also connects to the California State Standards. To ensure that you do not repeat year after year, you have a choice of A or B tracks so you can alter the fruits and vegetables you are featuring. If you are at a school that features Harvest of the Month, talk with classroom teachers and determine if it would be best to reinforce what they are doing in class, or if you should take the alternate track in the after-school program.
You can find more information about Harvest of the Month at their website: or by contacting them at:
California Department of Public Health,
Cancer Prevention and Nutrition Section
P.O. Box 997413, MS 7204
Sacramento, CA 95899-7413

One more thing, for older youth, turn this into a club activity. They will be eager to show up for any club that gives them the opportunity to eat (learning and preparation are often a secondary motivation).

Not so usual celebrations…
While July 7th is National Strawberry Sundae Day, it just seems like today is a perfect one for featuring the strawberry. So, since there is no Congressional record of the National Day being the 7th, I’ve taken the liberty of sharing it with you on the day after. (Maybe I was affected by I Forgot day earlier this month!) Strawberry Sundae Day--what a great way to highlight the strawberry and get kids to eat one of those 5 fruits or vegetables needed each day. This will give kids an opportunity to eat one of America’s favorite fruits. During this time of year, strawberries are readily available in stores and you may even have a Strawberry Festival in your program to add to the interest. (Communities have Strawberry Festivals—especially along the coast and in Southern California). To highlight this day, have kids learn a few Strawberry Facts.
“Strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside of their skin, about 200 on each berry.
Strawberries are members of the large, diverse rose family (Rosaceae) which also includes blackberries and raspberries.
In some parts of Europe, people once believed elves could control how much milk cows produced and that the elves loved strawberries. Farmers tied baskets of strawberries to their cows' horns as an offering to them.
"The largest strawberry in history weighed 8.17 ounces and was the size of a big apple.”*
Strawberry Sundaes:
Have youth prepare the strawberries—wash, remove the stem, slice or smash. This time of year there is little need to add sugar.
Have kids take a scoop of ice cream (vanilla is recommended but not the only choice) and then ladle on the strawberries—YUM! If you would like to top off the sundae with whipped cream, the kids will love it.

* Wonder Time

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Clubs and After-school [July 7, 2010]

In the world of after-school there are 3 Rs—relationships, relevance, and rigor, which stand as a litmus test in selecting the activities that we do with youth. If the activity can meet the test posed in these three words, then chances are, it will be a winner with young people. Clubs are one of the most effective ways to do this. There are several key elements in the nature of a club that make it a perfect fit for after-school.
In order to have successful clubs, the first thing you must do is get input from the students and from the staff. From students, find out what they are interested in learning about and/or doing. From the staff, determine what they already are skilled at doing and where the interest lies for them as well. For example, you may have a group of youth who are very interested in cooking (or at least eating). If you have a staff member who has been taking culinary cuisine classes in college, you may have a match made in heaven. If you take the time to get input in the beginning you will have a better opportunity to build this input into involvement, buy-in and finally ownership—the ultimate tell of a strong club.
The second important thing about clubs is that they offer young people choice. Choice is incredibly important for young people. So often, young people are either put in the position of making a forced choice—select a or b it’s the only option, or make no choice at all about how they spend “free” time. If you offer 4-6 different types of clubs, as a youth I am truly having an opportunity to choose. Once I’ve made a choice I am much more likely to be supportive of the choice I’ve made.
Third, clubs provide a terrific opportunity for young people to explore interests. How in the world can a young person know if he is an actor if he never acts; a scientist if she has not had the opportunity to participate in a science fair; an artist if he has never been given the opportunity to explore the talent. Clubs give young people an opportunity to explore an interest, and then because they only last 4-6 weeks, if a student decided he is not interested in the club any more, he also knows that in a matter of a few days he will be able to make another choice.
Fourth, clubs provide an opportunity for young people to work together with others who have the same interests. Learning to work together as a team is an important skill—but working as a team with others who have similar skills sets, who have, perhaps, thought more deeply about the topic than you have, can only serve to support growth and development. It is a great deal like playing a sport. If you want to get better at tennis, then you need to play tennis with opponents that are slightly better than you are so you can improve.
Clubs provide the perfect opportunity for implementing project based learning that take young people through a series of lessons and activities and culminate in a final event or showcase.
If you do not have clubs in your after-school program, give them a try. You may discover that clubs are just what you need to strengthen your program.

Not so usual celebrations…
July 7th is Chocolate Day. WOW! What an opportunity to eat chocolate and not feel a bit guilty. Chocolate is one of America’s favorite flavors. Chocolate in candy, cookies, cakes, drinks, ice cream and cereal—Yum! And of course, what’s not to like about an Oreo. You can eat Oreos plain, dipped in milk, crunched up into a pie crust, chunked into an ice cream treat, and of course, fried. If you have never tried a fried Oreo, you don’t know what you’re missing! You can find many great recipes on line.
Then there are peanut M and Ms. These tasty treats wrap protein rich peanuts in delicious chocolate with a candy shell. If you want them to be healthy, change the name from M and Ms to peanut wraps. However, not sure that you knew this (I certainly didn’t) chocolate is officially a vegetable as it comes from the cacao tree in the Amazon. I think that this may mean that you and I could swap 5 candy bars (provided they are chocolate) for 5 fruits and vegetables each day. Not a bad trade at all.
Chocolate Trading Cards
To share information about chocolate with students, have them create Chocolate Trading Cards. Have the students do some research about chocolate, where it comes from, the many ways it is used, and a collection of other fun facts. Have students work in “research teams”. After each team has collected information on chocolate, have each small group share the information with the class, recording the facts on the board or chart paper. Then have each student create a Trading Card using 3”x5” index cards. On one side the student draws a picture of chocolate and on the back, the student lists the fun facts that intrigue him most. Once the individual cards are made, have the groups brainstorm questions that can be answered from the cards they created. Play a game of Jeopardy with students. You might want to use the items from the group memory chart to create the answers for the game. Of course, if you were to offer “chocolate prizes” it would make the day complete.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Take Time To Celebrate [July 6, 2010]

Do you have a lot that you are trying to accomplish? Are there many steps to each of the projects that you are working on? Does it seem like you will never get to the end of the road? When you feel this way it is time for you to stop, turn around, and see how far you’ve come. When you look back you will identify milestones, small victories that have gotten you as far as you are. The question is this: Did you celebrate these successes, these small triumphs? Chances are the answer is, “No”.
So take time out now to celebrate the benchmarks. Celebration doesn’t need to be fireworks. It could be something as simple as an extra 20 minutes on the treadmill, watching a favorite program rerun, listening to your favorite song, or spending 30 minutes doing something that helps you to relax. Share your celebration with others. Let them know you have made progress and you have accomplished some critically important steps along the way to project completion.
In the future, take the time to celebrate along the way. It will be helpful to you and keep your spirits high. If you are working with a team, celebrate with the team as well—even if it is to simply sit around a “tell war stories”. Make a plan to celebrate in advance. Then, stick to it!

Not so usual celebrations:
July 6th is National Fried Chicken Day. Fried chicken is a favorite traditional American meal. Although we love fried chicken, we are beginning to eat more baked, broiled and grilled chicken than ever before. Sometimes it seems that we have forgotten Colonel Sanders finger lickin’ good chicken and settle instead, for the grilled chicken breast sandwich. But if you have a chance today, check out one of those wonderful fried chicken places—Chick Fil A, Kentucky Fried, Popeye’s and of course any restaurant that advertises both waffles and chicken in its name. If you can’t eat the chicken, at least be happy that you are not buying a chicken pumped full of salt water and instead can find wonderful Foster’s Farm chicken in most any store.
Celebrate the day with a chicken dance. Better yet, go on a picnic and have fried chicken be the main course. However you celebrate July 6th, remember that a fried chicken has given its all so you can enjoy that great taste.
As a project, divide students into groups of 4 and have them choreograph a chicken dance that they can share with the class. Give students approximately 20 minutes to prepare and then have the group reconvene to share with another and cheer each other on.

Take a look at Covey’s 8th Habit [July 5, 2010]

If you haven’t had an opportunity to read Covey’s 8th Habit, take time to consider doing that this summer. To be sure, the 8th habit is not the forgotten or undiscovered 8th that attached to the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It is, in fact a stand alone. The 8th habit is “to find your voice and help others to find theirs.” A person will find his/her voice at the nexus of body, heart, mind and spirit and it resides in the unique contribution that each person can make in the world. The 8th Habit certainly build on the private and public victories identified in the 7 Habits, but it goes beyond to talk about the leadership challenge found in helping others to find their voice.
Chapter 7 focuses on the importance of being a trim tab. If you do not understand this nautical reference, a trim tab is found in a large rudder, and its purpose is to help turn the rudder so the ship can turn. Often times in the organizations we work in we discover that we are a small part of a much larger ship. Turning that ship can certainly prove daunting. If you follow the lesson of the trim tab, however, you can see how focusing on the things that you can influence allows you to make a huge contribution to the work at hand.
The 8th Habit also discusses the important of aligning goals and systems to achieve results, releasing the passion and talent in ourselves and others, finding the voice and the speed of trust, and Covey’s belief that this 8th habit is preparing us to move from the knowledge-worker age to an age of wisdom.
I would strongly encourage you to give this book a read or a listen. You can find this book in both abridged and unabridged audio as well as the complete text. You will find it worth the effort, and the insight you gain will be well worth it.

Not so usual celebrations:
July 5th is Workaholics Day. So for all of you who did not bother to relax and chill on this 4th of July extended weekend, you might want to consider that this day is for you. In case you haven’t had a chance to check it out (and of course if you are a workaholic you would not have had a chance) there is a website devoted to workaholics. Check it out at The call themselves the Workaholic’s International Network, because the initials spell out WIN and we all know that workaholics are winners, at least in the work department. Perhaps, and this is only a suggestions, they suffer from an inability to find a harmonic balance in life, but you can certainly count on them to get the job done.
On the website you will find several suggestions for a survival kit, including a coffee mug, a clock with no hands, and a picture frame so that folks who love the workaholic can stay connected. In fact, it is this picture frame that we are going to encourage you to make with students.
If you have never tried making a picture frame, using craft foam can be the perfect place to start. To make this picture frame you will need the following supplies:
• craft foam (2 different colors)
• a photo to frame
• a hole punch
• scissors
• Tacky or white clue
• 5-7” of narrow ribbon
• items to decorate the frame with (foam cutouts, pain, sequins, buttons, yarn, etc.)

• Choose a photo to frame and decide on a shape for the frame and cut the shape out of the foam (both pieces). Remember that all types of shapes will make a great frame.
• Cut a display hole in one of the pieces of foam, this is the piece that will be in the front.
• Glue the picture to the back of the frame.
• Glue front of the frame to the back, centering the picture inside the frame
• Decorate with foam cut-outs, yarn, buttons, or other items
• Punch a hole in the top and string with the ribbon.

Celebrating the 4th [July 4, 2010]

The 4th of July is all about saying “Happy Birthday, America!” We do this by getting together with family and friends, sharing a meal, enjoying the day off and end by watching fireworks. If you tune into something on the TV you can watch the Boston Pops or the show from the Capitol. So what does “Happy Birthday America” really mean? If you had an opportunity to watch the movie, The American President with Michael Douglas and Annette Benning, you had the opportunity to see a “comedy” of sorts in which the President is single and falls for a lobbyist. Toward the end of the movie, the President decides to stand up to his critic, a character played by Richard Dreyfus who would like to be President himself. There are two lines in this portion of the movie that continue to resonate with be. Although this is not a direct quote, here they are. The first goes something like this—to be an American is advanced citizenship. The second—I have been so busy trying to keep my job I forgot to do my job.
Being an American is advanced citizenship. It’s not easy to be informed, to talk with others to be sure that you have a 360° point of view, to not get hung up listening to the people who spin the news interpreting what you just heard with your own two ears. Being a citizen of this great country means understanding that every single American needs to have the opportunity to express his or her point of view and to be heard. But more than just the opportunity to speak, there must be equity and access to the American promise of liberty and freedom, a renewal of the social contract. C4K firmly believes in this concept and believes that the road to achieving social justice (this whole notion of equity and access for everyone) can be accomplished through social change; and we believe that after-school is an instrument of the very social change we need as a country to ensure justice for all of our citizens. We are committed to working with after-school programs and school day programs to make space for this change. The focus of the C4K website is to provide staff development and training to ensure that the army of people working in after-school arena are uniquely positioned to do exactly this.
The second quote about keeping and doing the job reminds me how important it is to not only to work daily to ensure that after-school staff is well trained and prepared, but to keep in touch with the higher calling of this work, the importance of providing equity and access to every child that lives within our borders.
So, on this July 4th I echo the words of the Lee Greenwood song, Proud to Be An American—
I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA”

Happy Birthday, America!

A very usual celebration…
So what can youth do to celebrate America’s birthday. Short of a “Traditional 4th” with sack races, watermelon, and hot dogs, why not have kids make a Happy Birthday wind sock. If you being with a piece of white construction paper, 12” x 18” and some colored pencils our marking pens, they only other things you will need are a piece of yarn, some crepe paper streamers, and a stapler. Begin by having the students divide the 12” x 18” paper into a patchwork. In each of the squares in the patchwork, have young people capture something of America (fireworks, flags, Washington Monument, the Capitol Dome, the Statue of Liberty, a family, a picnic—including ants, a ballot box, and so on). When the patchwork is complete, have student add the crepe paper streamers (use stapler or glue) and then create the windsock and top off with the piece of yarn to hang the sock from.

Building Self-Esteem [July 3, 2010]

Self-esteem is the opinion that you have of yourself. It is how you feel about yourself. Do you consider yourself a person of value? Are you proud of the work you do, the things you’ve accomplished, the person that you are? One would think that self-esteem should be relatively easy to come by. But this is not the case. What you think of yourself is highly influenced by the “messages” you hear from any number of people that speak to your worth and value. Of course, you, and every other individual, is truly priceless. You have a unique contribution to make to the world. No one else can make it in the exact same way that you can—but remembering that is not always easy.
Good self-esteem allows you to take a chance on you—to try new things, respect yourself even when you make mistakes, and hold your head high and feel proud of your accomplishments. When you feel good about yourself you are more likely to make good choice. You will be less likely to follow the lead of others when you believe that this action does not line up with how you see yourself. You will make decisions based on what is best for you, holistically—body, heart, mind, and spirit—and say no to those things which are not in your best interest.
It is important to hear about what you have done right. Too often we focus on the behavior to correct, the decision that needs to be reversed, and less on those things that we do correctly. Taking time to celebrate success makes examining the mistakes easier. Encouraging words from others—peers and adults—helps to build good self-esteem.
Building self-esteem in youth is not about giving them opportunities to “brag” and share a false picture. It needs to be thoughtful recognition for a job well done as well as progress made along the way. Be especially attentive to “events” that can alter a child’s self-esteem—moving to a new neighborhood, family struggles such as divorce or illness, physical changes (puberty, weight gain or loss, skin breakouts) and any number of things that indicate to kids that they are just not “okay”. Nothing builds self-esteem like success. Create an environment where young people are set up to be successful and then celebrate those successes. Intentionally tie the success to two things—what was done and the capabilities of the youth which allowed them to accomplish the result. Remember that praise just for accomplishments can lead us to be “blue ribbon” addicted. The value in self-esteem is personal worth—certainly what you do, but more importantly, who you are.

Not so usual celebrations:
July 3rd is Compliment Your Mirror Day. How perfect this day is to fit with the development of self-esteem! It would be amazing to look into the mirror and say, “Congratulations! You are loved and valued!” Too often when we look in the mirror we are looking for imperfections. Today, put that use of the mirror aside and instead, put a big smile on your face and acknowledge the value of you!
So what can you do with youth to celebrate this day? Have young people make a list of the things they do well. Ask them to think about themselves doing one of those things on the list. Then ask them to think of someone that they would like to tell them, “You are amazing! This is wonderful!” You get the idea, the person they would most like to have praise them. On a 4” by 6” card, have the youth write down the words they would like to have this person say to them. Check them out to be sure that these words are positive and supportive.
When all of the youth have a completed card, have them get up and take the card with them. Put on the music and have youth move around to the music. When the music stops, they should find a partner. The partners then exchange cards. The partner then reads the card aloud to the person who wrote the card. The process is then reversed. Repeat the activity several times. Debrief the experience. Ask youth how it felt to hear someone say the words of praise.

Being A Change Agent [July 2, 2010]

In the world of after-school you have an opportunity every day to change the life of a young person. You can do that while applying the 3 R’s of after-school: Relationships, Relevance, and Rigor. You can do this in a variety of ways—all of which sound easy but require that you are thoughtful and intentional.
Lead by example: Youth are watching you and everything you do, you say, you wear, you model in any way will serve as justification for the behavior each of them demonstrates. Pay attention to what you do and say, the subtleties of your body language and facial expressions will share more information than your words. Play back the “movie in your mind” at the end of the day and ask yourself if you would be pleased to have youth act like you.
Provide learning experiences: After-school programs are not expected to create learning experiences in the same way as the instructional day. Your program is a place for hands-on, cooperative group, relevant and rigorous learning opportunities. There is no need to simply read about how the stomach works, you can make them out of plastic zipper bags. Create a “stomach” by adding water and food into a plastic baggie. Simulate digestion by massaging the “stomach” as it churns on the food you have placed inside. Demonstrate the value of stomach acid, try adding vinegar to the water and food inside the bag and see what happens. This hands-on opportunity to see the stomach in action will be more relevant (and more memorable) than simply reading about the digestion system. When deciding on what learning experiences to provide, line up with school day instruction. Additional experience and learning in the after-school program will provide students with the background knowledge needed to participate more fully in school day classes.
Stretch the thinking of youth: Operate on the core value of Current Best Thinking (CBT). This value allows you to learn new things and willingly change your mind as you gather more information. Stretch young people to examine CBT through discussions with one another. One way to do this is to ask young people to make a list of things they are interested in—not so much things like skateboarding, cooking, and soccer, but things like immigration, what is happening to jobs, or gangs. Find an article or other piece of information, ask the youth to read the source material, and then engage them in a discussion about what they think. This won’t be easy the first time, but the rigor of this type of activity will promote thinking, examination of opinions, and quite possibly, new CBT which will lead to change.
As an after-school professional, you are uniquely positions to make a difference. Take advantage of the opportunity.

Not so usual celebrations:
July 2 is officially, “I Forgot” Day. Now you may wonder why this is a day to celebrate. I would be happy to share the top 10 reasons for this, but unfortunately, “I forgot”. Some people look at this day as an opportunity to make amends for the things that they “forgot”. Others appreciate it because when they do forget they have an excuse—“Of course I forgot, this is I Forgot Day.” You could also use this day as a reminder to yourself to “not forget” in the future. To help this cause, you might want to establish the idea of making both a Task List and a To Do List. The difference, quite simply, is …. I forget. No seriously, the difference is that a To Do List is a listing of specific tasks that you are going to accomplish in an identified time frame. A Task List, on the other hand, will include items that are less specific and will also include anything that you have delegated to another so you can follow-up and follow-through.
So, what might you do to “celebrate” I Forgot Day? How about making a giant list of everything you can remember that you forgot? (Is this an oxymoron?) The list could include birthdays, anniversaries, setting the table, cleaning up your room, cleaning up after the dog…you get the idea. Then have students make a card or postcard that indicates what they forgot and how they are going to make it right. This of course will require a commitment or otherwise, the excuse, “I forgot” will become a mantra to dismiss being responsible for your commitments.