Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Outdoor Club

One of the intelligences identified by Howard Gardner is that of the naturalist. Multiple intelligences research has been able to identify connections made in the brain based on the reception of certain stimuli. As different parts of the brain are stimulated, they “light up” because of the activity that is happening in that place in the brain. The Naturalist intelligence is defined this way: “Naturalist intelligence enables human beings to recognize, categorize and draw upon certain features of the environment. It 'combines a description of the core ability with a characterization of the role that many cultures value' So what are those experiences that we might want kids to have to either support the development of this intelligence or to “feed” the student who has a high degree of intelligence in this arena already. Simply getting kids outdoors is a first step. Have kids sit outside to read, do homework, or go on a nature walk. On this walk they can identify plants, insects, any small animals that they may come across, and if possible, dissect animal scat (using tools and rubber gloves of course) to determine what the animal has been eating. (Owl scat is particularly interesting). Kids can also watch the clouds in the sky, study the stars in the evening, build a garden, create a rock collection, and engage in any number of other activities that they can do outside.

Club activities can take kids on a simulated camping trip, complete with smores and scary stories, have them work in a community garden (have the local garden club come and help students learn about vegetables and flowers), or have them map the night sky (there are assemblies that will come an “erect” a temporary observatory in your cafeteria. So many of our students live in the city and don’t have a lot of opportunity to get out in the world of nature. In your after-school program, you have the opportunity to open this door for youth.

Gardner, Howard. http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm

Not so usual celebrations…
August 31st is National Trail Mix Day. Trail Mix is a snack that you can carry with you easily—whether exploring the world on foot or in the car. Trail Mix is a combination of sweet and salty that is delicious. If you are making your own trail mix, try to avoid things that are sticky—yuck, it make a huge mess and doesn’t clean up well. Trader Joe’s has a wide variety of Trail Mixes to choose from, but the real fun is when you get the basic ingredients and make your own. This way you are sure that the trail mix is exactly what you like.

Activity for Kids
In order to go outdoors and explore, you may need to keep your strength up by making and eating trail mix. The recipe can be simple or complex. For the simple version, mix pretzels, peanuts, a few M and Ms, cheese crackers, raisins or cranberries, maybe chocolate or other flavored chips, and Cheerios. Mix it altogether and then divide into small bags or paper cups, and have kids enjoy while “hiking” through the neighborhood.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review: The Tipping Point—Malcolm Gladwell

I first read the book Tipping Point when it was published in 2000. It was interesting reading and I applied it to my current situation as an administrator for an after-school program in a school district. The premise is that things need to reach a critical mass, and at that moment, the shift begins. I applied that to continuing to build high-quality programs and discovered that for me, one critical mass was getting more Site Coordinators who understood how to be a leader and coach than those who did not have this vision. When that critical mass was reached, the remainder began to fall in line, or moved on to other jobs, because the critical mass made it uncomfortable for folks to stay on board when it was obvious the pressure it would put on them to step up the effort.

After many years of thinking about and contemplating the possibilities of Consult 4 Kids, a year ago, a critical mass of another kind was reached, and a small group of driven people began to act on the vision, one step at a time, an as we began to move the “bolder up the hill” we reached a tipping point between dream and reality and the momentum increased. I reread the Tipping Point about six months ago. I was reading it through a different lens and what I learned, what resonated with me in this reading, was the importance of networking and the role of the maven (the person with information to share), the connector (the people who have a sphere of influence that they connect others to), and the salesperson or closer (who comes in an makes the deal). Consult 4 Kids is looking for these people—the connectors, the mavens and the salesperson. If you think that you are one of these people, shoot us an email and let’s have a conversation. At any rate, read the book The Tipping Point and learn how Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. I can certainly say it has changed my life.


Not so usual celebrations…

August 30th is Frankenstein Day. WOW! Not quite sure why, but Frankenstein has three days that folks celebrate or honor him. This one, August 30, is the birthday of the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelly, who was born on this day in 1797 (Frankenstein was first published in 1818). The last Friday in October is another Frankenstein day—you have to wonder if this recognition was, in any way, attached to Halloween. Google sets it Frankenstein day as October 29th-giving the patched together monster three special days. So today, perhaps to celebrate the author makes more sense, but it would also be an interesting conversation to discuss why this character still intrigues us nearly 200 years after Shelly created him.

Activity for Kids
Youth will enjoy discussing and participating in projects around Frankenstein in August instead of waiting until October. Have the kids create a Frankenstein mask using a paper plate, paint or pens, and a great deal of imagination. After they have finished the masks (be sure they have holes for eyes) have them model the masks and select a winner or two from the group.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Having A Successful Poetry Club

There are several things that you can do to have a successful poetry club on Fridays or as a club offering in middle or high school. This genre has a variety of different forms and although we sometimes act if poetry is squishy and mushy, we can find some great examples of poetry used in a variety of other ways. The purpose of poetry is to express emotions and feelings by creating clear images with words, sometimes in rhyming patterns, sometimes not, but no matter which pattern, there is a rhythm to the words. Poetry should allow the reader to use his/her imagination to become inspired or more in tune with the world around them.

Lyrics to songs are probably the most common poetry with which young people engage. Take advantage of the songs being sung by the most popular singers. Miley Cyrus, a popular artist has recorded a song entitled, “The Climb”. This song, written by J Alexander and J Mabe, talks about the dreams young people have and the doubts that keep creeping into their heads that tell them this dream will not be achieved. Then the lyrics go on to say that you need to keep on trying, even when you fail, to get to the other side, because the most important thing is the journey and what occurs along the way. Below is a snippet of these lyrics*

“I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there's a voice inside my head saying
"You'll never reach it"

Every step I'm taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There's always gonna be another mountain
I'm always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb”

What a powerful message for young people—and looking at such poetry can be the beginnings of
perhaps, writing their own poetry and expressing their own feelings and struggles. Bring poetry into your program and give young people a chance to explore this genre of writing.


*http://www.elyrics.net/read/m/miley-cyrus-lyrics/the-climb-lyrics.html

Not so usual celebrations…
August 27th is Just Because Day. Why in the world would be celebrate a Just Because Day? The answer is simple, “Because.” This is the day to do things for no apparent rhyme or reason, but simply just because you would like to. This means that you can act on a whim, take a chance (not too risky) and try something new. Here are some ways that you might want to spend, Just Because Day that are suggested by Holiday Insights:^

“Take an unplanned day of vacation
Visit someone you haven't seen in a while
Knock on someone's door and compliment them for their great lawn
Skip, don't walk
Spin a wheel, and bicycle in the opposite direction of where the arrow points.
Buy something you don't need.
Jump in a puddle
Walk backwards “

Enjoy today—Just Because.

^http://www.holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/August/justbecauseday.htm

Activity for Kids
Have kids make a list of things that they would like to do…just because. Have them make a lengthy list and include at least one thing that they could do at school that would be fun but not against the agreements. Have students share their lists with the class. Have them call out the action they would like to take at school. Help them tweak this item on the list if you need to do so. Then give them a minute or two to do what they have identified—just because.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Equity and Access

Equity and access—two words that are often seen together in reading about diversity, but what do these words really mean. Do they mean that everybody has to be treated exactly the same and that square pegs must be driven into round holes? Does it mean that everybody has to do everything, even if they would really prefer to remain on the sidelines? Equity and Access is discussed in the Intellectual Freedom Manual, is an office of the Texas State University, and can be found on a variety of web sites.

The notion of equity of access is evident in the U.S. Constitution. How this plays out from a governmental perspective, is that all Americans need to have access to information and have the opportunity to speak out on how the country is governed. So equity of access means that every citizen must have the opportunity to fully participate, to the range of their abilities and interest, in the American experience. It also means that accommodations and modifications are made to ensure that everyone has this opportunity to access.

In 2000, I was participating in a doctoral program. At the end of the year, those who were completing the coursework required were recognized on stage in an auditorium that had been built long before equity of access had evolved into including the modifications and accommodations necessary to ensure that every person who deserved to be on that stage by virtue of the fact that they had completed 3 years of course work, had access. One of the people in the group was seated in a wheel chair. It became apparent that this person was not going to have access to the stage, and would, therefore, be excluded of participation in a “rite of passage” so to speak. Classmates and staff went to work to resolve this challenge and on the day of recognition, the person joined the class on stage. Then the person spoke to how it felt to have friends and colleagues not only understand on a core level about access and equity, but to take action to ensure that this is exactly what occurred.

Kids, all kids, need to have equity and access to your after-school program. The only viable exclusion is the exclusion that the child makes because he/she is unable to fully participate in the program because of the choices he/she is making regarding the agreements you have established. The exclusion for any other reason is denying youth the fundamental promise of this country—access that is equitable.


Not so usual celebrations…
August 26th is Women’s Equality Day. August 26th, 1971, by an Act of Congress, was established to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote—to have full access and equity to vote on national and state policies and procedures. Women’s Equality Day continues to highlight inequities of pay for the same work and other access that is denied based on gender. So today, celebrate some of the most influential women in your personal life, to include, at a bare minimum, your mother, grandmother, and sisters if you have sisters.

Activity for Kids
Today would be a great day to help kids understand equal. If you have access to a balance, have kids balance a wide variety of materials, determining what it takes to balance or create equality between 8 M and M’s and some number of TRIX, or how to balance 50 pennies with some number of paperclips. After literally working with equal and balance, talk about the importance of simple tools that act as great equalizers to ensure access. Think of something as simple as the variety of tools that allow people with less hand-strength (the young, the elderly, those with arthritis) to open a jar. Personally, I have several tools to make this easier. Have kids think of other things that are visible ways of ensuring equity and access in practical ways.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Successful Program Month 1

Building on a successful day and a successful week, what does it take to have a successful first month. Focusing on building relationships, safety, fun, and establishing agreements, the only thing you need to add to have a successful first month, is establishing a routine in your opening, throughout the rotations, and into the closing. You are building habits around the after-school program which far from becoming boring and predictable, will actually provide you with opportunities to take advantage of those serendipitous moments when learning can be captured in the best circumstances, and then build on those. If the basics are in place—agreements, safety relationship, understanding of what fun really means, and routine without boredom, then the sky is the limit for your program. The first month should be a predictor of the great opportunities that kids will have for the next nine months.

By the end of the month, you should be at 100% attendance with a waiting list of at least 25 students, across all age groups. Youth and Program Leaders are building strong relationships and the respect with which everyone treats others is regularly observable. The tone of the program has been set, and the program is considered the place to be in the hours after-school.
Youth are beginning to step up and into leadership roles. You have had your first parent meeting, created the Advisory Committee of both parents and youth, and the after-school staff is becoming a high-functioning team.

When you have these things in place during the first month of the after-school program, then celebrate the success, and share the accolades with students and staff alike.

Not so usual celebrations…
August 25th is Kiss and Make Up Day. To be sure, we do not literally promote “Kiss and Make Up Day”, because kissing is the last thing we want to have happen during the after-school program. So when looking at this day, let’s look at the intent of the day, the truth behind this idiom. The intent of this day is to end spats and disagreements and find ways that we can get along. It is the day to right wrongs that have unintentionally occurred but that appear to be the “elephant in the room” because they have not been discussed and resolved. So, if you are holding a grudge, release it today and “kiss and make up” in the most figurative way.

Activity for Kids
Have kids think about something that they have done that they are not proud of that they should apologize for. It can be something as simple as not saying “thank you” for a gift or to someone for fixing a favorite dish for dinner. It might be an argument that they had with a sibling over who had control over the TV remote control, who was going to wear a particular sweater or jacket, or whose job it was to do the dishes. We all have those things which didn’t go quite right, and as much as we would like for the other person to “own” it, 100%, chances are we contributed to the challenge. Have young people write down the specific events, and then discuss how they will release the anger or disappointment that they are holding on to.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Champions for After-School


It is important that after-school has champions, people in positions of influence that will insist that they are heard. In January, one of the most influential champions for after-school programs, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, will step down. The election in November will decide if another champion, Barbara Boxer, will be returned to the Senate. Certainly the Afterschool Alliance and the state Networks will continue to champion to work of after-school, but as the landscape changes, is it time for the field, the people who live and breathe after-school on a day-to-day basis, to cultivate local leaders to be the “grassroots” champions who cast ripples of influence that end with State and National leaders?

In California, ASES Funding created by Proposition 49 is a target of those who are trying to balance the budget. On August 20, information from League of California Afterschool Providers Director (LCAP), Steve Amick indicated that once again the funding for after-school is being challenged. Here is the content of that message:

Dear Colleagues,

On August 4, the Budget Conference Committee voted unanimously to give voters the opportunity to repeal Proposition 49. Before this measure can be placed on the ballot, however, it must be approved by both houses of the Legislature and signed by the Governor.

The language will be contained in a "stand alone" trailer bill, which means that it will be voted up or down on its own merits, separate from other elements of the FY 2010/11 Budget Bill. This bill has not yet been assigned a number, but once a budget agreement has been reached, the legislative process will move very quickly.

Now is the time to contact your State Senator and Assembly member and urge them to oppose placing Proposition 49 back on the ballot. Click here to identify your local elected officials. Print and sign this template on your agency letterhead, and fax it to all legislators representing your service area.

In addition to faxing the letter(s), please consider following up with a phone call to emphasize these important facts:
• Placing Proposition 49 on the ballot will not result in any savings for the FY10/11 fiscal year.
• California's pending Race to the Top application places great emphasis on after-school programs as evidence of its commitment to federal priorities like extended learning time. Abandoning that commitment could jeopardize the state's chances to garner up to $700 million in federal funding.
• An initiative to repeal Proposition 49 would likely fail, as did recent attempts to repeal Propositions 10 and 63.
An initiative that makes no impact on the budget, hurts our chances to secure badly needed federal subsidies, and has little chance of being approved by voters is a poor use of the state's thinly stretched resources. For more detailed talking points, click here.

When calling your elected officials, please ask to speak with the legislative aide in charge of K-12 education issues. Let them know that their vote on this trailer bill reflects their position on the value of after-school programs. Only a "nay" vote will demonstrate support for after-school providers and the families they serve.

This is an opportunity for you to be heard—to support the work that you do day in and day out. This is not the responsibility of someone else, it is the responsibility of each of use that believe in the purpose of afterschool.


Monday, August 23, 2010

A Successful Afterschool Program

School is beginning! The first day is in process. What key things need to happen this afternoon to ensure that the after-school program is a success? My advice is to focus on safety, relationship building, and fun. If you can pull this off on day one, your program is off to a great start. Remember that kids don’t have a “routine” established for the after-school program on the first day. You have an opportunity to influence them and let them know that this is the routine. Take a little extra time with opening so kids can experience it to the fullest. Note: It will take several times for them to remember how to respond to an attention getter, so take your time. Set a precedent for involvement and checking in.

Really work to build relationships and learn names. Be very intentional in introducing every student to every other student. Have them participate in activities that insist that they use names repeatedly. Have them interact in team building activities like Group Interview, Friends for Life, or Group Juggle. From day 1, minute 1, you want youth to be looking for common ground, things they experience in much the same way day after day, and ways that they are similar yet different. Youth must practice the understanding that being uniquely you and highly valued, is the way of after-school.

Have a variety of activities that are hands-on and engaging. Young people need to laugh in your program and be happy that they are participating in the program. From the beginning, teach young people that Having Fun is never at the expense of another youth. So laughter needs to be at the situation not at a person. Consider games that get kids on their feet and moving, have a joke telling contest (do it in partners first, then squares, and finally a share out). Find out what kids are interested in to help guide the remainder of the week.

It is important in day 1 that you find a balance between firm and fun. On one hand you are establishing precedence—this is how we are going to do things here, and engaging and appealing activities that let youth know that you value the things they are interested in.

Not so usual celebrations…
August 23rd is Ride the Wind Day. Although this is not a sanctioned holiday, perhaps it should be. This is the day to be carefree, to hang-out, to take advantage of a dwindling summer. Catch a breeze and soar high above. Spend the day relaxing and leave your worries behind you, if just for a small amount of time. Experts recommend that you spend this Ride the Wind Day:
• Trying out parachuting
• Flying in a plane
• Soaring on a hang glider
• Going for a ride on a sailboat or motorcycle and if all else fails
• Kick back and enjoy yourself.

Activity for Kids
Have youth create a collage in the colors of summer—red, yellow, orange, green. They can do this with chalk, picture from the magazine, or colored pencils. The collage can be impressionistic—focusing on color and light, or a snap shot of summer life, or simply an action packed picture of a favorite summer activity.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Review: Outliers, The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers, The Story of Success, is a great read by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell takes a look at successful people and asks the questions of why. One of my favorite chapters is number 2, “10,000 Hours “In Hamburg we had to play for eight hours.” In this chapter Gladwell gives example after example of the overnight success of people who have put in 10,000 hours of practice. Too often people aren’t willing to do what it takes to be successful. They point to someone who seems to have materialized from nowhere and is suddenly successful. Often times, if you review the life of this person, you can see that they have been “practicing” and “preparing” for many more hours or years than you might think. Gladwell looks at the Beetles who flashed onto the music scene in the 60’s but when you look at their rise to fame, they spent many hours playing non-stop in tiny establishments to get to the point of this instant success. They were practicing their craft and learning about the business of singing and writing music. So if you haven’t put in your 10,000 hours yet, take heart—work hard, practice intentionally, strengthen your performance, and be the best that you can be.

In part two of the book, “The Legacy”, Gladwell looks at a young girl who attends a KIPP school. She has made a bargain to participate fully in the KIPP educational experience (early in the morning until late afternoon at school and then hours of homework after the day is done), so she has a chance to recognize her amazing potential. She is, quite literally, putting in her educational hours in a rigorous and intentional way, so that her future will be brighter. Maria has found the bargain frustrating at time, but is sticking to it because she values her opportunity to become.
As in all of Gladwell’s books, he is though provoking and insightful. Access the author’s work though reading or listening to an audio presentation—or both.

Not so usual celebrations…
August 20th is National Radio Day. In this day of IPods and CD changers, it may be challenging for your to understand how the radio could be so important, but for those who precede these inventions, the radio was as important as soda. Listening to the radio is what we did. Today, on occasion, I will listen to the radio in the car instead of a book on tape or my favorite musical CD, and I think, I should do this more often. So today, no CDs, no IPod, just the radio and my favorite talk shows or music.

Activities for Kids
Have kids work in teams to create the perfect 10 minute radio show. Have them include a Public Service Announcement, a contest, and advertisement or two, a favorite song, and some classic radio personnel banter. After the teams have created this perfect 10 minute show, have them share it with one another. Be sure that the kids name the station up front.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Developing Capable Young People—The Skills Needed—The Work of Stephen Glenn

Taking a look at the second part of Glenn’s work, he identifies four skills that youth need to acquire to be successful in life. He identifies these as intrapersonal skills, interpersonal skills, system skills, and judgment skills. The importance of developing intrapersonal skill—liking and respecting yourself and having the ability to strengthen positive self-control and self-discipline and continuing to assess that you are making growth, is essential. In the 21st Century, the ability to work in a team of people and communicate effectively is captured in the content on interpersonal skills. Judgment skills, we would all agree, are critical in youth and adults. Good judgment leads to good decisions, and good decisions lead to positive outcomes. The most interesting set of skills to me are the system skills—the ability to navigate in the world both personally and professionally.

The Developing Capable Young People website lists these skills in this way:
INTRAPERSONAL SKILLS
The tools to respond to feelings effectively—self-assessment, self-control and self-discipline.

INTERPERSONAL SKILLS
The tools to communicate, cooperate, negotiate, share, empathize, resolve conflicts, and listen effectively when dealing with people.

SYSTEMIC SKILLS
The tools of responsibility, adaptability, and flexibility necessary to deal with the environmental family, social, legal, and other systems in which we live.

JUDGMENT SKILLS
The tools to set goals and/or make decisions, judgments, and choices
So again, check it out. Personally, I found participating in this workshop over ten years ago, life-changing.

Not so usual celebrations…
August 19th is Aviation Day. Up, Up, and Away! If you’ve been following the “Not So Usual Celebrations”, you may have discovered that it is difficult to tell a “sanctioned” holiday from an “unsanctioned” holiday. Official holiday have been created by an Act of Congress, so you may wonder—which are real and which are not. Well, Aviation Day is for real. President Franklin Roosevelt declared August 19th as Aviation Day through a Presidential Proclamation issued in 1939 to honor the birthday of Orville Wright, who was born in 1871, along with his brother Frank, is considered the father of aviation in this country. Whether you fly often or not, the world certainly appears to be a smaller place as the access to other places becomes easier with flight.

Activities for Youth
Have kids create paper air planes and participate in a “Fly Off”. Have students fly a plane, measure the number of feet the plane flew, record it and then proclaim a winner. You can find directions for making paper airplanes on the web at http://www.10paperairplanes.com/. Simple, illustrated directions to make the project easy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Developing Capable Young People—The Three Perceptions—Work of Stephen Glenn

H. Stephen Glenn’s course, Developing Capable Young People, can be found on the website, http://www.capabilitiesinc.com/ , and when I look at the drawings of kids across the top, I so remember those childlike pictures. The lead on the website reads, “This powerful training program developed by H. Stephen Glenn prepares adults who work with young people at developing the three perceptions and four skills which determine how effectively they’ll [young people] deal with life. Young people who gain strength in these assets normally increase in character, resiliency, and other human intelligences essential for living. They meet lifes’ challenges of learning, relationships, and the work world – successfully.” For around $100 you can purchase the DVDs, a participant workbook, and the book, Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World.

The Course focuses on the Significant 7—3 perceptions and 4 skills that young people need to develop in order to be successful. Today I am blogging about the 3 perceptions (tomorrow I will share the 4 skills). The perceptions take a look at how young people perceive themselves. Self-perception is the definer of what we accomplish. In the story of the Little Engine That Could, children learn the important of “I think I can”. Unfortunately, much of what we do with and to youth does not support the simple notion of positive perception. Glenn looks at the perceptions of “capabilities”, the ability of young people to be resilient and work through problems and challenges and coming through these trying times stronger and wiser than they went into the situation. The second perception looks at how youth see the significance of the contribution that his/her life can make to the world, believing that they are a value-add. The third perception focuses on understanding that the choices you make, the behaviors you demonstrate have a direct effect on what happens. On the website, these perceptions are outlined in this way:

“PERCEPTIONS OF CAPABILITIES
“I am capable of facing problems and challenges and gaining strength and wisdom through experience.”

PERCEPTIONS OF SIGNIFICANCE
“My life has meaning and purpose—who I am and what
I have to offer is of value in the scheme of things.”

PERCEPTIONS OF INFLUENCE
“My actions and choices influence what happens.”
If these ideas resonate with you, check them out.



Not so usual celebrations…

August 18th is Bad Poetry Day. The thing of it is, what some people consider bad poetry, others may think is meaningful and to the point. That is why poetry can touch your soul, or turn you off. It tries to capture the essence of what the author is experiencing into words which seldom capture the experience completely. There are many types of poetry, each of which has guidelines and “rules” around how it is written. Kids may balk at the thought of poetry, saying, “Yuck! Who wants to read poems.” The fact of the matter is this—every song, every rap, no matter what the content—is a poem of some sort. So go on line and capture some great lyrics, and share them with students. Let the kids critique them and tell you what they think. Be prepared that your point of view about bad and good may not be shared by students.

Activities for Youth
Have students create a poem of their own. Two formats that you might want to use are the Acrostic Poem or Haiku. An acrostic poem does not rhyme (sometimes that makes it easier to write), but instead take the letters within a word and writes something for each letter:

My Mom
M munchy, crunchy cookies freshly baked
O observes me through loving eyes
M many wonderful memories
MOM

Haiku on the other hand is a poem written in a pattern. The pattern is this: three lines, line one has 5 syllables line 2 has 7 syllables, and line 3 reverts to 5 syllables. Haiku is a very disciplined poetry form from Japan. It too does not rhyme. Often the themes come from nature, feelings or experiences that someone has had. Have kids try it out—nothing ventured, nothing gained.

My Grandson
Sunlight in his hair
Sweet child’s face gaining wisdom
Watching him grow up.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Developing Capable Young People—The Work of Stephen Glenn

It’s been over ten years ago that I had the opportunity to participate in a life-changing workshop entitled Developing Capable Young People. I read the description of the course in County Office of Education pamphlet and thought it sounded exactly like training that I needed as we started out after-school program. I was interested for several reasons: content of the class, format of the class, and the credentials of the author.

H. Stephen Glenn, Ph.D. was an author, speaker, educator, had worked extensively in the field of mental health and family psychology. He had a long list of “credits” including speaking at the White House and being honored for his work on promoting self-esteem, community development and family life. He was a professor of Child and Family Studies, believed in programs that focused on prevention, and had developed Lions Quest Skills for Adolescence program that we used in our school district. He looked at young people who exhibit risky behaviors and saw possibilities instead of kids to be fixed, which for me, was incredibly important.

Glenn had co-authored several books by this time, but the one that got my attention was 7 Strategies for Developing Capable Students with Michael Beck. After reading the book, I knew that this was a course for me. He was talking about how to do what I believed in. So I signed up for the course. The format was also interesting. For several days a group would gather, Glenn would instruct on the curriculum and then we worked on learning the material and then presenting ourselves. I had been so used to classes in which the instructor stood and simply talked to you and then you read some information and then you were on your own to go and practice, without support and coaching. This class was totally different. As a participant you actually worked and wrestled with the content as a practitioner not a passive listener. Glenn had also developed a kit of videos that showed him presenting the material (which I purchased) and this was a tool that you could use to support your presentations.

The first day of the class/seminar was better than the brochure by far. The learning was fast paced without too much pressure. It was interactive. It was laced with stories and metaphors that I remember and share today. The topic was so relevant to the work that we were beginning in the after-school program. And, the class was fun! We laughed often, and if I didn’t know the importance of humor before, I certainly knew it after the course. After this first year, I enrolled others that worked in our after-school program, and it changed them as well.

After several years and several groups of people through the Developing Capable Young People course, H. Stephen Glenn passed away quite unexpectantly. What a loss! How fortunate that he was captured on video (now DVD) so he can continue to influence those of us who work with kids who are looking for practical ways to work with youth and a mind set—a paradigm that makes a fundamental difference in your point of view.
[1] H. Stephen Glenn. Developing Capable Young People. http://www.capabilitiesinc.com/

Not so usual celebrations…
August 17th is “Tell A Joke Day”—of course the joke is that the real Tell A Joke Day is August 16th! So what is the value of telling a joke? The laughter that you share, the “truth” about human nature that the joke exposes, or maybe just getting the “punch line” right. So today, tell a joke (if you are telling jokes to kids be sure they are “G” rated), laugh, encourage the increase of your natural endorphins, and simply don’t take everything so seriously.

Activities for Youth
Have your young people work in small groups and write down as many jokes that they can remember hearing. After they have written them down, have the circle the punch line (sometimes students aren’t exactly sure of this line). Have the small groups select two jokes and share them with the rest of the class. Then have students create a joke book. Each group should create a minimum of two jokes—complete with text and illustrations. Assemble the pages into a book and then put the book in the student library for everyone to enjoy!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Calendaring


You may be wondering how calendaring is different that scheduling. C4K would suggest that a schedule identifies time slots during the program day over a period of 1-3 weeks that gives staff a road map for planning specific activities and learning opportunities for youth. A calendar, on the other hand, is an overall look at the program and includes reminders of deadlines, the theme or focus of the month, and highlights or special events that may require the schedule to be altered. For example, if Back-To-School Night is scheduled in September, it is included on the calendar which then triggers a reminder to alter the schedule for this special event. The calendar would include deadlines for reporting hours worked, pay days, reports due, and standing meetings with school day administration and/or staff. A calendar would also include the theme for the month—Fall Harvest, Winter Activities, Celebrating Heroes, and so on. Field Trips will be calendared as will an assembly to honor kids in the after-school program with perfect attendance or “caught being good” certificates. The calendar will show the sports game schedule, dances, talent shows, and other special events.

While the schedule will remain virtually the same all year long, the calendar changes month to month. The calendar is an overview of the entire year in bite-sized chunks —including training and preparation without students present. To run an effective program you need both a schedule and a calendar that is published for all to see.
Not so usual celebrations…
August 16th is Elvis Presley Remembrance Day. Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977. Headlines the following day read, “The King Is Dead”, and few in America were confused by what this headline meant. Although he had not been ill, the reference to “The King” could only mean one person—Elvis. He was an icon. Much like the death of Michael Jackson in 2009, people were shocked and saddened in 1977. A truly unique performer had passed. Elvis’ music has lived on for the past 33 years and you can view his performances on You Tube, old movies, and footage from concert tours. Today, play your favorite Elvis Presley song. Without him, rock ‘n roll would have been much different.

Activities for kids…. Make copies of a variety of Elvis Presley lyrics and have students read through them, working in small groups to select one set of lyrics to read as a Reader’s Theater—complete with individual and group parts. Have students practice their presentation and then share with the other students. Note: You can get lyrics by Googling the lyrics you want.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Schedules

One of the most important things you can do when planning for your after-school program is to create a balanced schedule. This can be tricky because there are so many things that you would like to include in the program. Make a list of all of the things that you would like to offer students. Categorize the list. Consider several different views of the items to place on the list. For example, some things need to be done daily, others 2 times per week, others one time a week, and finally things that can be done once a month. Another way to categorize the list would be in “buckets” identified as academic, enrichment, visual and performing arts, healthy living, team building, clubs, electives, and so on. You may have other ways to categorize the different things you offer in your program. Looking at these categories will help you begin to develop a balanced schedule.

Too often we get locked into scheduling a day or a week. While this is great if you want a contained space of time, it is not always the best way to look at a program that needs to be in harmonic balance rather than perfect balance. In after-school, having an opportunity to cook 2 times in a month is awesome, while time for homework needs to occur at least 4 days each week (sometimes kids get a break on Friday). Try scheduling in two or three week blocks so you have enough time to include the wide range of interesting activities that kids desire.

Another thing to consider when scheduling is the attention span of the students in particular age-groups and the length of time needed to accomplish the task. To schedule an hour of homework time for a 1st grader is probably overkill, while scheduling 30 minutes for a middle school student can certainly be a “drop in the bucket”. For younger students, activities need to be clustered together to ensure that student interest is maintained. Middle school students will need more time to spend in the Robotics Lab to complete a project. When working out a schedule, you need to consider these things.

Once you have scheduled your program it is important to know that you can alter the schedule for a special event. You want a schedule that is balanced but flexible. If you discover that you need to truly change the schedule, give yourself some lead time and include your team in making the changes.


Not so usual celebration…
August 13th is Blame Someone Else Day. This is one of those days that ought to have plenty of traction. Actually, if we could limit this activity to August 13th that would be totally awesome! Too often we “blame someone else” when there is really no one to blame at all. Things happen. Actually, this is a rotating “not so usual celebration”. The technical designation is the first Friday the 13th of the year. On this day, blaming someone or something else for your performance is acceptable. The down side of this day, of course is while you are busy blaming someone else, they can be returning the favor and blaming you. Also, if you blame someone on this day, it may come back to you tomorrow as the “blamee” pushes the responsibility right back at you.

Activities for kids…
Have students work in groups research symbols that indicate “good luck” and symbols that indicate “bad luck”. For example, Friday the 13th is considered an omen for “bad luck” while March 17th is a day to access the “luck of the Irish”. After students have developed a list for both, have the groups share with the class. Have students pick the symbol of “good luck” that resonates with them and then develop a story around the “luck” that this symbol brings to the main character. Have students share the stories with each other.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Parent Meetings

At the beginning of each year it is strongly recommended that you have a Parent Meeting to share with parents what they can expect from the after-school program and what the after-school program expects from them. This is the time you can let parents know what your program offers, how time is scheduled, your policy around homework, how much time students must spend in the program (this varies widely across age groups), what the expectation is around behavior, how you will communicate with the parent, and an overview of the calendar for the year. If you are working with elementary and middle school students in California, there are legislative guidelines around balanced programming, early release and mandated program components. Share those with the parent.

This Parent Meeting will set the tone for the year. You are working in partnership not only with the school day but with the parents to support the success of each young person in your program. Having an informational meeting will help everyone be on the same page. If you have a Parent Handbook for your program, the Parent Meeting is the time to pass it out. Some programs make attendance at the parent meeting one of the criteria for acceptance into the program. Have this Parent Meeting several times to ensure that all parents have a chance to attend. Schedule an evening, morning, and early afternoon meeting and give parents plenty of advanced notice.

Not so usual celebrations… August 12th is Middle Child’s Day. Of course, if you are an only child or have only one brother or sister, this day is meaningless to you, but if you happen to be the “child in the middle” you will appreciate a special day at least once a year. Much has been written about the middle child and the challenges that they face. Unlike the oldest child who is the first and receives much fan fare beginning at birth, and the youngest child who has a contingency of older siblings to look out for them, the middle child (I suppose in a family of 7 children there are technically 5 middle children, and 1 really middle child) is caught in the middle between the oldest (the more responsible driven child) and the youngest (the child with more advantages simply based on location in the family order). So, if you are a middle child, or you know one, celebrate the day. You might want to consider watching reruns of the TV program who honors this child—Malcolm in the Middle.

Activities for kids… Have students make a list of things that can be found in the middle—lunch meat or other sandwich filling, Wednesday, 1/2 time in many games, 30 minutes after an hour begins, the creamy filling inside a donut or Twinkie, the Equator or the International Date Line or the Prime Meridian, and so on. After brainstorming a giant list and recording on a group memory, have students create questions or clues for each “middle”, and then play Jeopardy or Password.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Meeting With Principals

Building a strong and positive relationship with the principal of the school your after-school program serves, is essential. Remember that when you work on a campus, that campus is figuratively the “principal’s house”, and you need to be considered a welcome guest. Although you may informally greet the principal in the hallway, it is important to set up a routine time to meet and get feedback from the school day perspective about how the program is perceived. Do teachers think that the students in after-school are more likely to get homework completed? Are they happy with how shared space is being left at the end of the program? Does the custodian believe that you are doing all you can to make his busy job as easy as possible? Meeting with the principal will help you to understand how the after-school program can support the work that is being done in the school day.

After you have learned how to be a good partner with the school day, then share with the principal what the program needs from the instructional day. Usually this will have to do with space, snack, and opportunities to communicate with the classroom teachers. A principal who supports the day to day operation of the after-school program is an invaluable asset. It is the principal who will help you find the space you need to run an effective program. Usually this space will include teachers’ classrooms, the multipurpose room, the school library, and if available, unused classrooms. All of these spaces have another person attached to them, and it is the principal who will help this sharing of space be a smooth situation. It is also the principal who can invite you to a staff meeting and suggest that grade level meetings invite you to attend. Participating in these Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings can keep you in tune with what is happening in the classroom and give you an opportunity to plan lessons and activities which will support what the students are learning in class. Communication among the stakeholders is the best way to ensure that students will be successful.

If the principal is too busy to meet with you, ask her to identify a designee that can regularly meet with you. Also, determine if the principal would like to receive weekly updates via email, memo, or face-to-face. Ask the principal how he would like you to communicate about any challenges that occur during the after-school program so that he can be fully informed by the beginning of the following school day. Some may ask you to call, others will ask you to email them or leave a note. Planning this sort of communication in advance will give you a protocol to follow.

Spend time working with the principal. You are looking for a champion for your program. If the principal is your number one fan, then you are well on your way to success.

Not so usual celebrations…

August 11th is Presidential Joke Day! Now these words can conjure a wide variety of responses, so it is essential that you have an understanding of exactly what is behind such a day. This day has its origins in the Reagan Administration, when on August 11, 1984, President Reagan was preparing to go on the radio for his weekly address. Thinking he was off microphone, he made the joke that Russia was going to be outlawed forever because of recent legislation. And then he delivered the punch line, “Let the bombing begin”. Needless to say, the comment may have had some political fall-out, but for Americans listening, there was definitely a chuckle. President’s have a sense of humor, and this day allows us to think about the current and former President in a different light—a lighter light so to speak. Of course, this humor will not necessarily come out on August 11, but rather throughout the year when the forum is appropriate. If you would like to see “pretend” political figures delivering these jokes, there are any number of TV programs you can tune into—including of course, Saturday Night Live.

Activities for kids…

Have the kids brainstorm a list of jokes that they have heard—nothing with any questionable nuance of course. Be sure that they can remember the “punch line” (sometimes they will forget this part). Have students work in small groups to make a joke book, complete with illustrations. Talk with students about the layout of the book (should the “punch line” be on a separate page, in different print?) so they can create an effective book to share with the class.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Math Facts to Automaticity


Automaticity is most often associated with sight words, but the concept can also be applied to the memorization of math facts. Whether we are discussing addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division facts, knowing these to automaticity, without thinking, is a necessary part of being effective in mathematics. Kids can learn math facts in much the same way as the learned the alphabet, how to spell certain words, and the steps to tying shoes. The way that all these things were learned is through practice. The key difference between math facts and tying your shoe is that kids understand the relevance of tying shoes. Part of what you want to do in your after-school program is to make learning the math facts relevant. Have contests, check students out often, reward them randomly for knowing a particular math fact, identify key math facts as the challenge of the week. Be intentional in asking students to memorize math facts and help them to see why it is to their advantage.

As you become intentional about math facts you might need some support. There is a terrific website, the Math Fact Café, at http://www.mathfactcafe.com/ , that can be a wonderful resource for you. This web site has worksheets and games that you can select that will reinforce math facts. The Café also has activities and games that will help students understand money and fraction equivalents.

Not so usual celebrations…
August 10th is officially a Lazy Day. It’s been rumored that the creators of this day were going to get congress to declare August 10th officially as Lazy Day. However, before they got it done, they went into relaxation mode so the day is an undocumented celebration. Actually, you will notice that it is Lazy Day, not Lazy People Day. This is because by this time of each year, summer heat has settled in, and if you live near water or on the east coast, you also have a great deal of humidity that makes the day seem even lazier. So, enjoy this lazy day. Swing in a hammock, read a book, sit by the pool or on the beach—in other words, take a time out and r-e-l-a-x—this is not the day to do something, it is, in fact, a lazy day.

Activity for kids… Have the kids brainstorm all of the things they would like to do on a Lazy Day. Create a group list and then have the students work in small groups to weave all of the items into one, 24 hour Lazy Day. When the groups are finished, have them share with the remainder of the class.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Attendance on the First Day


It is important to have a plan around attendance before program ever starts. If you didn’t do this at the end of last year, let this serve as a reminder that one of the best times to recruit students for your program is at the end of the school year. You can then spend the two weeks before program calling to confirm attendance rather than wondering if you will make your ADA number.

Ask the office to give applications for the after-school program to parents who are registering students for the first time. Have an application, a brochure and contact information together for easy distribution. If the school is sending a letter to families, ask to include a flyer. If the school is using a student contact by phone system, ask if you can have a sentence or two in the message.

Just like the school day, schedule students into particular classrooms with identified Program Leaders. This is great for students and for staff. Staff can spend the time getting ready for a particular age group of students. Parents will appreciate hearing from the Program Leader who welcomes the youth into the after-school program. Be sure to let parents know that the program begins on the first day of school and you are planning a variety of fun activities for that day to help youth feel at home.

When it comes to the attendance race, you want to get out in front and lead the entire year. Recruiting students should go on until you have a waiting list for each age group of students. Sometimes students move with little or no notice, so having others ready to go, is important. Check in with parents of students on the waiting list to ensure that the student is still interested in attending the program.

Not so usual celebrations…
August 9th is Book Lover’s Day. Personally, I love books. I have hundreds of them in my home. I enjoy reading them, listening to them in unabridged audio formats, and revisiting key points from time to time. Putting books in the hands of young people is one of the tasks of the after-school program. Have a library for students to select books from (work to get access to the school library if possible). Check out Reading A-Z which has hundreds of leveled books that you can download and make available to students. For reluctant readers, one of the best ways to engage them is a serial, such as the Harry Potter books, which continue with the character until the story has evolved to an ending.

Activity for kids…
Have a dress up day so kids can come dressed as a favorite character from a book. Students should prepare a “speech” to give to anyone who asks who they are that will inform the asker of the essential aspects of the character. Have students share their character with the larger group as well.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Why Field Trips?


Field Trips with students can be a lot of work, but for most kids in after-school programs, these field trips are a highlight of the program. Kids enjoy getting out of the classroom and learning more about the world around them. There are several key values of Field Trips, beginning with hands-on experiential learning. For many students, field trips give them the opportunity to see things that they would not get to see without the field trip. Although students can absolutely learn from text books, the internet, and other activities that can be done inside the school day and the after-school program, a field trip moves studying to a new level. Field trips give students an opportunity to see and experience things first hand.

Field trips also give students an opportunity to interact with classmates and others that they meet during the field trip, and will as a result, help the students develop social skills. Students learn what others expect when they are on a field trip and learn to behave accordingly. Students will learn more about the curriculum as well on a field trip. Curriculum that is grounded in simulations and reading can be fleshed out on a field trip. Seeing pictures of Niagara Falls can not measure up to actually seeing the falls and hearing the roar of the water as it falls over the cliff. Once you are there, it makes sense when someone says, “If the faces on Mt. Rushmore were proportionately real people, they would act as a dam to the river preventing Niagara Falls altogether.

More than anything else, Field Trips are fun. The Trip is truly one of those opportunities that the child will never have without us.

Not so usual celebrations…
August 6th is Wiggle Your Toes Day. Although tracking down the creator of this special celebration has been futile, the thought of wiggling your toes, outside of shoes, is pretty terrific. If you remember when you were a child, you can probably remember the game with your toes that begins—“This little piggy…” Now that you’re all grown up, giving your piggies some exercise is probably not even in your mind. Toes, like the rest of your feet, do not even enter your mind unless they are hurt or tired. Think about it—you are wearing closed toed shoes because we all know that these are the safest to wear in an after-school program. Your toes are cramped inside those sneakers all day long, sweating and ultimately stinking. So, at the end of the day, you free those toes and let them wiggle and enjoy the fresh air. And if the air is not your first choice, try wiggling them in the swimming pool as you cool off altogether? Toes like fingers are different on all people. Some are long, some short, some fat, some thin, and the list could go on and on. So take time today to celebrate your toes and set them free—being careful not to stub them on the door jamb.


Activity for kids…
Get out a large sheet of butcher paper. If kids are wearing long pants, have them roll up the bottom of the pant legs so they can step into a pie tin of paint and then walk on the paper, creating a great design of footprints. Have a selection of colors for students to choose from. At the end, have them step in a bucket of water and clean the paint from their toes. At the end, have students write a story entitled—These Feet Are Made For Walking! Have students share the story with classmates.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Messy Art Projects


As school has become more focused on academic achievement and test scores, the opportunity for kids to experience art has decreased in many of our schools. After-school is the perfect place for kids to experience art. Now, you can certainly do this in a cerebral, art appreciation way, reviewing the works of great and not-so-great artists, but at the core of the art experience is creation—and creation can be messy.

Most would agree that paint is one of the messiest of art mediums. Paint can end up getting on everything and everyone. So how can you give kids the opportunity while minimizing the negative aspects of messy paint project?

1. Have kids wear a shirt or apron to help keep clothes clean.
2. If possible, have students keep one hand clean so they can open a door, scratch their nose, and turn the water on.
3. Have clean up materials readily available—including water and paper towels, as well as paper that can be picked up acting after it has acted as a protector for tables and floors.
4. If it makes sense, do the art project outside to help clean-up be as easy as possible. Be wary of a messy art project on carpet.

If you need some ideas about what you might do for age-appropriate messy art, check out one of these two websites, http://hubpages.com/hub/Kids-and-Messy-Art-Projects which currently offers up four different activities to do with paint, and http://www.artismessy.org/ which has a wide variety of activities to do with students.
Figure out how to contain the mess, but don’t shy away from messy art activities. The act of creation is seldom neat and tidy.

Not so usual celebrations…

August 5th is Work Like a Dog Day. This day is set aside to recognize those among us who work the hardest. Unlike the Work-aholic who works all of the time, the person who works like a dog works really hard to accomplish a task, but will then take time off to rest and relax. At first, a person who works hard might be offended with the thought of working like a dog, especially if they only think of dogs as the pet who greet you at the end of a long day and awaits your petting, playing, and feeding, and then goes to sleep on the floor. Yet, dogs are one of the most hard-working of the domesticated animals.

Some dogs are service dogs. These canines can turn off lights, open doors, retrieve something for the owner, and in some cases even dial 911 in case of emergency. Some dogs are therapy dogs and work in hospitals or convalescent homes providing companionship for the residents—always willing to listen and stay close. Some dogs help the blind while others help out those who are deaf. Then of course, there are police dogs that help arrest criminals, locate drugs, and cadavers. Other dogs herd sheep, pull sleds, or work in the circus. All of these dogs work hard and will stick with it until the job is done. So, maybe to say that you are working like a dog is a huge compliment rather than a questionable statement.

Activities for kids…

Have students work in small groups to research dogs that do different jobs for people. When the research is complete, students should be prepared to share the information with other students.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Homework Support 3

All homework is not equal. Some students will have homework that will take the full period to complete, while other students will be able to complete the assignment in minutes. It is important that you have ways to accommodate this difference by having meaningful activities for students to do when they have completed homework assignments.

1. If the school you are in uses the Accelerated Reader Program, and if they will give you computer access for students to complete the reading checks built into the program, having students read when homework is complete can accomplish two goals—keeping the student busy and giving the student meaningful “work” to do when homework is finished.

2. After teaching a game for math or reading, include the game as an activity to do when homework is complete. If you have a math game with dice, be sure that you have a quiet way for students to roll the dice so others won’t be bothered. It is important that you do not put a game in the after homework is complete group until you are sure that students can play independently. If they can not play on their own, these students will draw your attention from the homework to this alternate activity.

3. Having an opportunity for youth to write when homework is complete is a meaningful activity. Instead of focusing on writing a story or a paragraph, have sentence type cards for students to draw and then work to write a particular type of sentence—simple (simple of 7, 10, 21 words), compound, and complex. This will make the writing practice more targeted and focused.

Not so usual celebration…

August 4th is U.S. Coastguard Day. The Coastguard of the United States was organized in 1790 and is the longest, continuously serving seagoing agency. There are just over 34,000 Coastguards to accomplish the Coastguard Mission which includes ensuring the safety of ports, waterways, and coastal areas, aiding other seagoing vessels with navigation, marine safety, search and rescue, defense and readiness, and ice operations. The Coastguard has 250 Cutters (65 feet or longer), 1,784 boats (less than 65 feet) and 198 aircraft. The Coastguard motto, Semper Paratus, means Always Ready. Although the Coastguard is not as large as the Army, Navy, or Air Force, the members of this service save lives every day and keep our coastal waters safe.

Activity for kids…

Draw a boat (60 feet by 20 feet) with outdoor chalk on the blacktop. Have the kids take chairs out and place inside the “boat”. Note: Be sure to have plenty of drinking water for each student. Have students report to the boat, and except for going ashore to use the bathroom, have them spend the after-school program on the boat, seeing what it would be like to be in such close quarters with other. Debrief the experience having students share insights and thoughts about the experience.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Homework Support 2


Another strategy to utilize during the homework assistance time to ensure that more homework is completed on time is to determine how you will organize students to support one another.
1. Have the classroom set up for students to do homework in a way that is “best” for them. Some students need to work alone, others need to be able to work with a partner, others work best in a small group; some need to be at a desk while others would do best in a bean bag on the floor; and some need quiet while others seem to thrive on noise. Talk about preferences with students and although you will not be able to meet every students every need, you can find ways to accommodate a comfort level for students. Of course, it goes without saying, students need to produce homework results to be given these opportunities.
2. For students who prefer to work with others, have them sit with classmates—students who are in the same classroom (even if it is only for one period) to work on homework together. Working in a cooperative group can help young people because collectively they are more likely to have the full process down. Encourage them to ask questions of one another rather than simply relying on each other to give answers.
3. When at all possible, have either cross-age tutors or peer tutors supporting the task of homework completion. This “tutor” needs to be a student who already knows how to do the assignment and is willing to help others. This “guide” can be incredibly helpful to other students by asking questions and checking out how other students think about the questions or problems on the homework assignment.

So, put one or more of these grouping strategies in place to help make homework support more effective.

Not so usual celebrations…
August 3rd is National Watermelon Day. Perfect timing as the harvest of watermelons is certainly in full swing in early August. Here are some Fun Facts about watermelon.
• It is believed that watermelon originated in the Kalahari Desert of Africa.
• The first known harvest of watermelon was in Egypt around 5,000 years ago.
• Watermelons were used like canteens for early explorers.
• Watermelons are appropriately named—nearly 92% water.
• 96 countries grow over 1,000 kinds of watermelon.
• One recipe tells you how to make watermelon rind pickles.
• The largest watermelon (according to the Guinness Book of Records) weighed in at 262 pounds.
Share these Fun Facts with students. See if they have some facts of their own.
Activities for kid…

This activity has two parts. Have students eat a slice of watermelon and save all of the seeds that they find in the watermelon (be sure that you don’t get seedless melons). After the students have eaten the melon, have a “seed spitting” contest. Give students three chances to “spit” the seeds, measuring the distance the seeds travel. I would suggest that you have paper or paper towels stretched out with markings for each inch. Give each student the number of inches that the seed they “spit” traveled. Have the students create a group graph to determine the winner.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Homework Support 1

Homework is one aspect of after-school programming that is of interest to almost all stakeholders. Kids, teachers and parents all would like to have homework completed on time. For the next three days, this blog is going to look at some things that you can do to run a successful homework support class.

In order to help young people with homework, you must know what all of the the homework assignments are. To ensure that you are in the know, consider one of the following three options:
1. Talk with the principal, grade level teacher-leaders, or each of the teachers, and ask them to give you a packet of homework or a list of homework assignments for the week. Let them know that you are eager to support the completion of homework by each student. If the teacher assigns homework based on incomplete work, ask if they can share that information with you daily via a note or email.
2. Designate one student from each classroom to write the assignments for his/her classroom or class, under the teacher’s name so everyone will know exactly what the assignments are. If kids have a packet, determine how many pages must be done each day and include those pages on the list.
3. If students have a planner or an agenda, check them each day. Set up a buddy system so kids can check one another’s planner—both at the beginning of the homework period as well as a few minutes prior to the ending of the homework session.
Paying attention to ensure that you know exactly what homework has been assigned is a great first step toward getting more homework assignments completed correctly and on time.


Not So Usual Celebration…

August 2nd is Sister’s Day. If you have a sister then you know why this is such an important day. Sister’s can be your very best friend, a champion in your corner, and someone who will bail you out when you are in over your head. Of course, a sister is also someone who can personally be angry or aggravated with you (to the exclusion of everyone else) and will take your favorite blouse exactly when they know you want to wear it. There are quite a few famous sisters—Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Jessica and Ashley Simpson, Beyonce and Solange Knowles, Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears, Haylie and Hilary Duff, and of course Kim, Kourtney, and Khloe Kardashian. These sisters have a great deal in common, but can also see the world as totally different places—probably in exactly the same way as some not so famous pairs.


Activities for Kids…

Have kids brainstorm a list of “famous” sister pairs to add to the list above. Be sure that you have at least one sister for each of the students in your class. For example, if you have 21 kids, you could have the Kardashians + 9 other pairs of sisters. Write them name of each sister on a 5” x 8” card. Sight unseen, have each student come up and get a name of a sister on their back. When time is called, member of the class begins looking for the matching sister. They can walk around and ask questions (with the exception of who am I) until they know which sister they are, and then the student should look for the matching sister. When all have found their partners, have them share the clues they gave to discover the identity of the name on the back.