Friday, June 28, 2013

Thinking Flexibly

Have you ever played the game TWISTER?  If you have and ended up with right foot green and left hand yellow which can absolutely twist you up (no pun intended) you know a thing or two about flexibility.  However, there is more to learn when you play.  During TWISTER you have to be able to respond to “spinner” after “spinner” in order to win.  It’s not enough that you responded well nine times out of ten, to be the winner you need make it happen ten out of ten.

You might be asking yourself, “What does the game of TWISTER have to do with the Habit of the Mind “think flexibly”?  Thinking flexibly means being able to consider and generate alternatives and options and to realize that there is more than one vantage point from which to look at each challenge or situation.  Thinking flexibly is about looking at things differently.  It might also be about willingly thinking with others who will also add flexibility to your thinking because no two people see things that same way, so when you consider another’s viewpoint you are inviting yourself to consider more flexibility that when thinking alone.  Steven Covey would call this Habit #6 Synergize, which is to combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork so as to achieve the goals no one person could have done alone. 
Thinking flexibly allows you to make connections that you might not be able to make otherwise.  It empowers you to see how two divergent thoughts or pieces of information might fit together to find a new path, a revolutionary product, or the earth-moving idea that will forever change the world.  Several people who were able to think flexibly, the late Sam Walton (Wal Mart), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Meg Whitman (e-Bay) and the late Steve Jobs (Apple) come to mind when thinking about people who recognized what existed and then about things differently.

Let us know your thoughts.  We’re interested in hearing from you.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Value of Feedback

Have you read the story, The Emperor’s New Clothes?  In this classic tale, the emperor is intimidating and no one wants to challenge him.  A conman comes along and says that he is going to weave a magnificent cloth for the emperor’s clothes.  He tells the emperor that the cloth can only be seen by the most elite people, so the emperor and all his court pretend to see the cloth—which of course is non-existent.  At the end of the story the emperor walks through the town (without any clothes on) and only one young boy provides accurate feedback when he asks, “Why isn’t the emperor wearing any clothes?”  Without the appropriate feedback, the emperor was left both without clothes and foolish.
If you were writing a newspaper article about feedback you would need to answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how.  So let’s answer those.

Who needs feedback?  We all rely on feedback and when we don’t get it, we too are the metaphorical emperor. 
What sort of feedback do we need?  We need direct, honest feedback spoken without malice or with an attempt to skew the information.  We need to solicit feedback from a wide array of people so we can get as close to 360̊ of viewpoints as possible. 
When do we need feedback?  We need feedback all of the time.  This is the data we need to make decisions.  Feedback gives us things to consider.
Where should we get feedback?  It is important to set up a designated time for feedback on how well we are doing.  However, you should make space for feedback when it comes to you authentically.
Why do we need feedback?  We need feedback to keep our actions relevant, relational, and rigorous.  Without regular feedback it is easy to get in a rut and think we are making an impact that we aren’t.
How should we respond to feedback?  Too often we think that feedback requires us to do what the person giving us the feedback has mentioned.  That is not the case.  The person giving feedback is sharing with you from his/her vantage point.  We need to stop and consider what they are sharing.  We need to ask ourselves if what they have shared is a change we want to make.  We are not, however, required to take a specific action.  Usually we get feedback from an array of people, and it is in combining all of the feedback, including our own, that will lead us to a strong decision.

C4K has a Module entitled Effective Feedback From Students.  Check it out and let us know what you think.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Supporting Wellness

Nutrition Education is one of those things that we simply do not get around too very often, and when we do, if we have youth prepare food, it’s not exactly inexpensive.  So how we help youth understand that physical wellness is a combination of exercise and physical activity to promote cardio-vascular health AND eating healthy foods.  We seem to understand the importance of exercise and we have a lesson design that includes warm-up, stretching, the activity, and the cool down.  We know that we are looking for an elevated heart rate which will often who up with perspiration and a “red” face.  But what’s the design for nutrition education?  Other than Mean Cuisine Clubs, what else can we do?  Everybody eats and hunger often drives us to select what’s quick, easy, and accessible.  So how can we work on nutrition education in the afterschool space?
First of all there are a number of Free Resources including Harvest of the Month, My Plate, and the Dairy Council of California.  These are all available by going on to the appropriate website and figuring out what you might use.  Also, in California there is a lot being done around healthy living and I would encourage you to check out the materials available through the Healthy California website "Campaign for a Healthy California" 

Secondly, check out places like the 99¢ Store for food items that won’t break the bank. In Sacramento organizations promoting healthy food choices have worked with them to make fresh food more accessible youth and their families.  Of course, if you want ultra-fresh ingredients have a program garden.  If you have land, that’s the best, but if not, what can you grow in pots and flower boxes?  The answer to this question: many vegetables and some fruits. 

Third, realize that while cooking and eating are important it is also important that youth be able to compare product labels so they can make the healthiest choices.  Spend some time learning to read labels and understand how there are trade-offs and which parts of food are more or less healthy.  You can also get a full breakdown on the internet of foods found at fast-food restaurants so youth can compare that McDonald’s hamburger with the nachos you can get at Taco Bell and the pizza available from Dominos.   
So make nutrition education a priority and work closely with the school day to make a difference.

Friday, June 21, 2013

STEM—A New Frontier for Afterschool

Everywhere you look there is a push for afterschool programs to include STEM education in its menu of services.  STEM, science, technology, engineering, and math, is seen by many as foundational for our country’s ultimate economic well-being.  I watched a tape of Ron Ottinger’s speech at the National Afterschool Association’s 2011 Conference.  Ottinger, Executive Director of the Noyce Foundation, supports STEM in afterschool.  Click on this link to hear what Ottinger has to say. 

"NAA 2011 Convention Noyce Foundation"

Ottinger’s points are clear when it comes to STEM education. 
1. The nation is relying on out-of-school time to bring STEM to youth as there is not enough time in the school day for STEM.
2. Out-of-school time staff can do the work that is necessary to help youth have an opportunity to explore STEM subjects.
3. Listen to the youth, they will let you know what they need to learn. 
I couldn’t agree with him more.  So whether you are providing STEM that is in support of the instructional day, are having youth investigate through trial and error questions that you have posed, or you are helping youth work through the scientific process and begin by asking a question, you will be on the right track. 

C4K has several videos about STEM education.  Check them "What Is STEM" by clicking on this link.  Check it out and let us know what you think.  

Parker Urban Fountain Pen Kit (Google Affiliate Ad)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Learning

It’s almost summer!  School will be out for the year but it’s really important that learning isn’t over.  The National Summer Learning Association is leading the way to wake up the public, business, and legislators to the importance of summer learning opportunities and the devastating effects of summer learning loss.  Check out their website to learn more about the facts cited below. "SUMMER LEARNING"
To succeed in school and life, children and young adults need ongoing opportunities to learn and practice essential skills. This is especially true during the summer months.
Many Americans have a wonderful image of summer as a carefree, happy time when "kids can be kids,” and take for granted the prospect of enriching experiences such as summer camps, time with family, and trips to museums, parks, and libraries.
Unfortunately, some youth face anything but idyllic summer months. When the school doors close, many children struggle to access educational opportunities, as well as basic needs such as healthy meals and adequate adult supervision.

Did You Know?
  • All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004).
  • Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains (Cooper, 1996).
  • More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (Alexander et al, 2007).
  • Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer. Most children—particularly children at high risk of obesity—gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break (Von Hippel et al, 2007).
  • Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do (Duffett et al, 2004).

After you check it out, let us know what you think.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Girl Rising

Have you had an opportunity to view the film Girl Rising?  It is a documentary that allows you to meet nine remarkable girls from nine countries around the world.  You get to hear their voices, reflect on their remarkable lives, and understand their dreams.  This feature film is really about the human spirit and more importantly the power of education to change the world.  Whether you are hearing the profile of the Cambodian orphan Sokha, or the Nepalese composer Suma, or the nomadic Indian Ruksana, you are getting a profile of a real young woman who is striving to become educated and change not only the trajectory of her own life but her family as well.  One young girl who is particularly compelling is Wadley from Port au Prince, Haiti whose school was destroyed by Hurricane.  She discovers that a school has reopened, but when she tries to attend she is told that she must pay for the privilege.  Wadley has no money but she does have courage and determination and she returns to the school day after day proclaiming that she’s not going away, she is going to school.  Each of the girls in the film has a compelling story to tell of “how a single girl with drive and determination can become the catalyst for positive change on a global scale. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

“The stories of these girls are narrated by esteemed actors including Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Liam Neeson, Kerry Washington, Cate Blanchett, Priyanka Chopra, Salma Hayek, ChloĆ« Grace Moretz, Selena Gomez, Freida Pinto and Alicia Keys.  It is produced by the award-winning Documentary Group and Vulcan Productions, with strategic partner Intel Corporation and distribution partner CNN Films.”
Find out how to sponsor a showing of this film by going to the website "GIRL RISING" If you are not interested in sponsoring the film find out where you might find a showing.  It’s worth the effort.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Reading A-Z—A Support for Your Program

Reading A-Z is an amazing website that has thousands of leveled readers that you can download if you have a reasonably priced yearly subscription.  These books are printable and can provide youth with an opportunity to practice reading and strengthen proficiency and can also serve as source materials for clubs and themes that you want to explore in your program.  As an additional perk there are new books highlighted on the website each month adding to an ever-growing library.  If you haven’t checked out Reading A-Z we encourage you to do so at     "Reading A-Z"  Here are three ways you can use the materials you find there in your afterschool program.

Use the leveled readers to reinforce reading skills.  Whether the youth is a beginning reader or a more advanced reader, you can find what you need on the website.  Part of promoting literacy is giving youth the opportunity to read a variety of books and A-Z has series, individual fiction, and informational text as well. 

Use the Leveled Reading Passages to promote fluency.  If you decide to utilize the strategy of repeated reading, these passages are perfect.  Repeated reading gives youth a passage to read, reread, and reread again.  This practice gives youth the opportunity to practice all of those “commonly used words” in context.  It is more relevant than simply practicing flash cards and can support mastery of sight words as well.

Use the books as source material for planning an event or theme.  For example, A-Z has a number of wonderful biographies including books about Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King, Junior.  Using these books as source material you can plan events that will celebrate the lives of these leaders.  Or you could use the books on the Lewis and Clark expedition to carry out your Westward Movement theme.  You could print a book for each of your staff and a few copies as appropriate for youth, and you will be certain that you are all on the same page.

Check out Reading A-Z and see what you think.  Then let us know.  We’d love to hear from you.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bullying Is Everyone’s Problem

One source defines bullying as “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.”  Another, describing bullying in a school setting says, Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.”  This article goes on to say, “In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:
An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”  [There are 3 types of bullying—verbal, social, and physical described below.]
·         Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
§  Teasing
§  Name-calling
§  Inappropriate sexual comments
§  Taunting
§  Threatening to cause harm
·         Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:
§  Leaving someone out on purpose
§  Telling other children not to be friends with someone
§  Spreading rumors about someone
§  Embarrassing someone in public
·         Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes:
§  Hitting/kicking/pinching
§  Spitting
§  Tripping/pushing
§  Taking or breaking someone’s things
§  Making mean or rude hand gestures
For more information check out this at "BULLYING"

Friday, June 7, 2013

Taking Responsible Risks

What is a responsible risk?  According to the information on this Habit of the Mind, it means being adventuresome and trying new things constantly.  In other words stretching yourself, yet fully understanding your own level of competence so you are not reckless.  So, if you are new at climbing mountains you probably don’t want to start with Mt. Everest, you want to work your way toward that goal. 

Angeles Arrien in her book The Four Fold Way describes this as the way of the teacher.  In her essay on Four Ways of Wisdom she states, “The task of the teacher is to be open, rather than attached, to outcomes. Openness and non-attachment helps us recover the human resources of wisdom and objectivity. The teacher's way is to access wisdom by learning how to trust and be comfortable with states of not knowing. Trust is the container out of which the qualities of wisdom grow clarity, objectivity, discernment and detachment.  The opposite of trust is control.

 [When you are] presented with surprises and the unexpected [it tends to wake you out of your] routines and shocking [you] into seeing [your] attachments.

Denis Waitly, a well-known motivational speaker, says it this way, “Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.”   He goes on and talks about what happens to ships who remain in the harbor, planes that are grounded, homes that are unlived in, and ultimately people who stay “safe” by living in the same routine.

If we were to review the LIAS (Learning in Afterschool and Summer) Principles we would find this notion there as well.  It is principle number 5, “Learning that Expands Horizons”  In its descriptor we find this, “Afterschool and summer program should provide learning opportunities that take youth beyond their current experience and expand their horizons.  They should go beyond the walls of their facilities to increase young people’s knowledge of their surround neighborhood and the larger global community.” 

How are you helping youth to step out of their comfort zone?  How are filling the role of the teacher?  How are you helping youth to “leave the harbor”?  Share this information with us.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Managing Impulsivity

One of the Habits of the Mind is Managing Impulsivity.  I think this means two things.  First it means to take your time and of course think before you act.  It means to be deliberative and intentional, thinking things through and remaining calm.  To learn how to manage impulsivity it is important to help youth to learn to step back and take a look at whatever is before them from a different vantage point.  It means helping them to understand the importance of “go slow to go fast.”  Too often youth react rather than respond.  When you manage your impulsivity you become intentional, weigh your options, and then make a choice.  You control the circumstances rather than vice versa.

Second I think Managing Impulsivity means to be willing to postpone something that you want right now because you know that in the long run, it will be better.  We can all remember Veruca Salt in Charley and the Chocolate Factory who demanded that she have something NOW!  She had no clue how to manage impulsivity.  She could not delay her gratification, even for a minute.  As a result, she had no chance to win the Chocolate Factory.  Veruca, like so many youth, learned that everything should be instant.  If you think about it, college is the ultimate managing impulsivity.  There is a huge lure to go to work after high school and earn some money.  College and/or training for a career postpone independence.  So even when the evidence is there—statistics tell us that you more than double your income if you go to college or get job training—if you can’t manage impulsivity, you can’t wait for a better long term solution. 

So the question is, does this really matter?  You may have heard of a study that Stanford University psychology researcher Michael Mischel conducted with preschoolers.  He offered hungry 4-year-olds a marshmallow and then told them they could have two marshmallows if they could wait 15-20 minutes.  The results were about 1/3 of the preschoolers ate the marshmallow right away, another 1/3 waited a little longer, and 1/3 were able to wait for the 20 minutes.  But here are the most startling results, “Years later when the children graduated from high school, the differences between the two groups were dramatic: the resisters were more positive, self-motivating, persistent in the face of difficulties, and able to delay gratification in pursuit of their goals. They had the habits of successful people which resulted in more successful marriages, higher incomes, greater career satisfaction, better health, and more fulfilling lives than most of the population.  Those having grabbed the marshmallow were more troubled, stubborn and indecisive, mistrustful, less self-confident, and still could not put off gratification. They had trouble subordinating immediate impulses to achieve long-range goals. When it was time to study for the big test, they tended to get distracted into doing activities that brought instant gratification This impulse followed them throughout their lives and resulted in unsuccessful marriages, low job satisfaction and income, bad health, and frustrating lives. 

This is something to consider when you work with youth.  If you have ways to help young people develop the ability to Manage Impulsivity let us know by sharing the information with us and our readers.