Friday, August 30, 2013

Youth Development Mindset

The Community Network for Youth Development closed its doors after 20 years on April 30, 2013.  This exceptional organization advocated for a youth development approach across the board but especially in the afterschool space.  The organization was based in San Francisco and two of its leaders, Sam Piha and Reba Rose, worked tirelessly to educate afterschool professionals to hone their skills as youth developers and to look at programming through the lens of youth as assets. 
In its announcement that it was closing its doors, CNYD stated “CNYD developed a rich set of training tools and resources that were used to propel our work. These are now available for public use.

 These resources include: The Youth Development Guide, An Introduction to Youth Development Training: Staff Facilitator's Guide, Making it Happen: Relationship Building Staff Training Module, Making it Happen: Youth Participation Staff Training Module, Making it Happen: Skill Building Staff Training Module.”  If you haven’t reviewed these amazing materials I would suggest that you access them by "CNYD"  and following those links. 
Just because CNYD has closed doesn’t mean that we can’t all learn from the amazing work of these outstanding leaders.Let us know what you think after checking out the materials by emailing us at

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Supporting Skill Building

There is a certainly a laundry list of skills that youth need to learn if they are going to be successful in career and college in the 21st century.  The list can include some detailed instructions as well as broad strokes.  The important thing for afterschool programs to do is intentionally select the skills that afterschool is best suited to support.  For example, in English Language Arts youth need to develop skills around reading, writing, listening, and speaking.  While certainly all those skills can and should be practiced in the course of a high-quality afterschool program, focusing on one or two of those areas where afterschool best fits, makes even more sense.  For example, because of the flexibility of time that we have in the program, giving youth plenty of opportunity to practice listening and speaking can be easily done in the afterschool program.  One of the activities that I enjoy doing with youth is a modified version of speed dating.  To do this you form two ildingconcentric circles, one inside the other.  You ask the people on the inside circle to face out and the outside circle to face in, creating a pair to practice both speaking and listening skills.  Rather than having youth randomly talk to one another, get them started with a topic and then help them debrief the process of listening and speaking rather than the content of the conversation.  You can have them rotate partners several times, debriefing the process each time so they can demonstrate the best practices in the next conversation.  Intentionally practicing good listening and speaking skills can only help the development of good communication skills.
Another skill that youth need to develop is the ability to think critically.  You can easily do this by engaging youth in community service or service learning projects in which they must first identify an unmet need, gather information on the topic, make a decision about what they will do, plan it out considering all of the information and constraints, implement the plan, and reflect daily to make necessary corrections or determine to stay the course.  Thinking critically is about collecting and analyzing information, making a decision about what action to take and then reflecting on what happened and how you can strengthen and/or celebrate what you’ve done.
Think about the 21st Century skills that youth need to acquire and then find a place for the ones that naturally find a place in your program.  When you are supporting the development of these 21st century skills you will also help youth to hone skills in reading, math, history/social studies, and science—the four academic cores.

Let us know what you are doing.  Send us information at

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The 4 C’s

Are you aware of just how many things the 4 C’s describes?  I was surprised to find there are the 4 C’s of Diamonds—clarity, color, cut, and carat; the 4 C’s of Credit—character, capacity, collateral, and capital; and the 4 C’s of Leadership—courage, commitment, confidence, and competence.  All make great sense and the notion of the 4C’s is obviously quite compelling. 

However, I must admit that the 4 C’s I was thinking of were communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.  On the Above and Beyond website it says, “In an increasingly complex, demanding and competitive 21st century, students need to learn more than the 3R’s they are tested on in school.  It’s time to help them go “above & beyond”, by embracing the 4Cs – communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.”  The website then goes on to share other thoughts and a delightful video that you can check out by clicking on the "ABOVE & BEYOND 4 C's"

I must admit that all of the four are cleverly included in this animation about two kids who get the same model kit and what they do with those kits. 
There are so many things to focus on in the afterschool space that having these four identified skills might make it easier for everyone on your staff and in your program.  When planning each activity you could include a checklist of sorts and ask yourself “Does this activity require youth to collaborate with one or more people?”  Then move on and ask, “Does this activity require youth to be creative and utilize critical thinking skills?”  Finally, you will want to be sure to ask, “Does this activity provide ample opportunities for youth to communicate both in writing and verbally what they have learned and what questions still remain?”  When we are looking at the activity through the lens of these questions we can identify the gaps and then go back to the drawing board and include that in the planning. 

Let us know how this litmus test works for you.  Contact us at

Friday, August 23, 2013

Thinking Like an Engineer

Thinking like an engineer is really something that you probably already do in your afterschool program.  You maybe just didn’t know that the thinking you do has a name.  The following graphic shows the ways engineers think—the engineering process.  It is a cycle for continuous improvement that begins by asking a question and then following through on the process. Graphic at  "College of Engineering"

Think about how this design process really “proceduralizes” your process for developing a high-quality program.  Think about planning a club, a class, or another type of enrichment.  What if you began with asking the questions—what are the problems or challenges and what the constraints that you must work through?  Move on to imagining—get input from as many people you can be that youth, families, staff, or any other interested party and then have them help you choose the best possibility.   Move on to making your plan, laying out your steps, your class or club, and then gathering the materials you will need.  Sometimes we are not as thorough with this step as we could be, thinking in depth about our plan and really visualizing each step.  Then of course you need to execute on your plan, check it out and see if it is as good as you think.  And finally you are ready to get together and discuss what worked, what didn’t, and start all over again by asking the questions, what are challenges and the constraints (and of course you might also want to think about what are the best practices so you can keep those in practice.

The Engineering Design Process can be applied to all learning situations.  Let us know how it works for you by emailing us at

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Broadening Horizons

Are you familiar with the LIAS (Learning in Afterschool and Summer) principles?  There are five of them and in brief they say that learning in afterschool and summer should be active, collaborative, and meaningful, support skill mastery and broaden horizons.  I couldn’t agree more—learning that meets this litmus test will be embraced by children and youth.

There are a lot of different ways to “broaden horizons” for youth in your afterschool program.  
Here are the Top 5.

Go on a field trip.  Visit an exciting and interesting business, museum, landmark, or other amazing place within the community.  Remember you can go by foot or by bus.
Bring the field trip to your program.  There are a number of assemblies that you can bring into your program.  One of my favorites is the observatory that can be set up inside a multi-purpose room and students enter and then study the stars.
Bring in a guest speaker.  Too often we think a guest speaker has to be famous.  Consider highlighting a local business, the director of the Salvation Army, the head of the Homeless Task Force, or the high school or college coach.
Take a virtual tour.  You can go most anywhere virtually these days.  Visit Washington D.C., check out the National Parks, or visit the ancient pyramids of Egypt.  With Google Maps and You Tube you should be set.
Have a club that requires youth to try something new.  Too often we limit our thinking on clubs.  How about asking the neighborhood cake decorating shop to come in and give cupcake lessons or inviting the local golf pro to come in and work with youth on putting.Think outside the box!  Ask youth what they are curious about.  Check in with your staff about their interests and hobbies.  Plan activities that will intentionally broaden the horizons of your youth.

    Tell us what you are doing.  Share with us at

Monday, August 19, 2013

Common Core—A Mind Set Focused on the Learner

Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and Math are being implemented across the county.  These standards focus on helping youth develop a deep understanding of the skills they will need to think critically and solve problems.  Two web addresses you might want to access for additional information are:
"Common Core State Standards Initiative" --You can find the standards themselves here, resource links, and information about the “why” of the standards.
"Teaching Channel"-- Here you can find You Tube videos of teachers actually implementing common core lessons—which might serve as a jumping off spot for you.

One of the ways that afterschool programs can do to support the mastery of common core standards is helping youth with reading informational text.  When you engage youth in a service project, one of the first things they must do is some research on the topics of interest so they can make a decision about what project they would like to do, what is already being done, some possible ways to address the need and so on.  All of this reference work requires youth to read factual and informational text.  Helping youth to take a look at a variety of points of view is all part of formulating an informed opinion—a key part of the common core.  Youth will also need to be able to ask and answer the question, “What is this author trying to tell me?” and “What is it that this author would like for me to think?”  Helping them answer those questions will also promote the common core.  Reading for a service project is relevant and meaningful to youth.  They can certainly do this reference work collaboratively, it will improve their skills in reading, and it will require them to actively engage in learning.  All essential parts of quality learning experiences.

Common Core is as much an approach as it is a list of identified standards.  Your work with youth is to get them to think and to consider and then make informed decisions and articulate the choices they’ve made.  Plugging into the common core doesn’t mean changing everything you do in program it means putting a different spin on in and really going for deep understanding rather than just a regurgitation of facts.

Consult 4 Kids welcomes knowing about your work with the common core standards.  Share your progress with us at

Friday, August 16, 2013

Getting Ready for the Year

One or two things are probably happening for you right now.  You are wrapping up your summer program and/or you are getting ready for the fall.  It’s not that these two functions are mutually exclusive.  Just like we get ready for summer during the program year, we can certainly get ready for the school year during summer programming.  I suppose there is a third thing that you could be doing as well—you could be taking a much needed vacation.  No matter what you’re doing, the school year is looming and you will have another opportunity to provide a phenomenal program for youth.

This year when you are planning, when you set your goals, share them with everyone.  Be open to receiving both input and feedback and crafting those goals to capture what you most want to accomplish during the 2013-2014 school year.  Remember setting 1-3 goals is plenty.  Usually when we set too many goals we are either setting our program up for failure, or we are confusing goals with a one-time project or item on a task list.  Goals should be broad enough to work on all year (sometimes even more than one year) and have clear benchmarks and signposts so you know you are on your way.

Also as you plan for the year, consider all of the logistics of your program and be sure that any revisions that were identified last year when you reviewed forms and procedures with your staff to determine what was working and what wasn’t, have been made and are in place.  It will be easier to implement changes at the beginning of the year and doing so will let your staff know that you paid attention to their recommendations.
Another thing you might want to do while planning is to think of at least one thing that you can do in program this year that is unique or different from what you did last year.  If you are fortunate enough to have a lot of youth who are returning to your program you know that you have some components that are appealing to them, but one or two new activities can keep them interested and excited as well. 
Let us know what you are planning for next year.  We would love to highlight it on the C4k website under Frontline Staff.  Send us your thoughts–

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Afterschool Under Siege From The Obama Administration

This article by Jodi Grant, Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance at 

Jodi encourages you to contact your Representative in Washington and let them know how you feel.  I agree with Jodi, afterschool programs provide youth with learning opportunities that cannt be replicated in the instructional day and diverting money intended for afterschool programs is not an answer.
The Obama administration has for some time been supporting the expansion of learning time in school — which sounds useful but often isn’t — by diverting money intended for afterschool programs, many of which are high quality and offer different venues for kids to learn.
By Jodi Grant
For several years now, the Obama administration has been quietly trying to divert funding intended for afterschool programs to pay for adding time to the school day or year, instead of using new funds to pilot test this concept.  If this happens, families will lose the afterschool programming they rely on to keep kids safe while parents are at work, and students will lose access to fun, enriching, hands-on learning activities as well as meals, mentors, and opportunities for parental engagement.
The extended learning time (ELT) initiative first appeared in President Obama’s 2010 Blueprint for Education Reform.  Since then, the administration has taken a number of steps to use funds from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative—which was designed to support afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs—to pay for extended learning time.
The Department of Education earlier this month issued a document that sows more confusion about the use of 21st CCLC funds and will result in afterschool programs closing doors or reducing services.  The document contains a series of questions and answers, known as FAQs, regarding implementation of the Department’s No Child Left Behind waiver, a process that permits approved states to redirect scarce and badly needed 21st CCLC afterschool funds to pay for a longer school day.
The FAQs have the effect of rewriting law and bypassing the will of Congress.  Yet they were written without any guidance or input from Congress, the public, or those served by 21st CCLC grants.
By law, 21st CCLC funds are to be granted to local communities to provide safe, supportive, and engaging activities for kids during the sometimes perilous afternoon hours.  While the FAQ restates the 21st CCLC program’s original (and still badly needed) goals, it then invites states to use 21st CCLC funds in ways that are inconsistent with those goals.  By the Department’s new interpretation in the FAQ, afterschool money could be diverted to pay for ‘additional time for teacher collaboration and common planning,’ or ‘redesigning the whole school day to use time more strategically.’
While the document does say extended learning time must add ?significantly: more time to the school day, and that state educational agencies have a responsibility to ensure that local grantees use 21st CCLC funds properly, examples included expanding the school day by as little as 50 minutes.  That would not satisfy the daily needs of working families, who would still need an afterschool program in addition to this longer day to keep their children safe and learning till 5 or 6 pm.
If this all sounds very technical, it is – but what is at stake is straightforward and tangible: whether more than a million children and working families will have the afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs they need.
Moreover, the department has yet to come to grips with the economics of its own proposal. The 21st CCLC funding stream is much too small to support the Administration’s extended learning time ambitions. Dollar for dollar, afterschool programs provide significantly more hours of quality programming to students and families than extending the school day in the manner the Administration envisions.  Based on the Massachusetts model of extended learning time, the cost of extending the school day by 90 minutes in one school is the same cost as running seven comprehensive afterschool programs for a full year.  In the end, the administration’s approach would serve fewer communities, and the program would have considerably less impact.
The Afterschool Alliance is urging Congress to take a close look at this document and at the Administration’s plans for 21st CCLC, and to act to protect the afterschool programs America’s kids and families need and deserve. Investments in expanded learning time pilots should come from funding streams that are better aligned with school redesign such as School Improvement Grants, Race to the Top funds, Title I and Innovation Grants—not by quietly diverting 21st CCLC funding.
A huge body of research shows that 21st CCLC-funded afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs improve students’ social, behavioral and academic performance.  Shoehorning the 21st CCLC program into the regular school day would be a terrible mistake. Readers who agree should
let their representatives in Congress know that they oppose efforts to divert afterschool funding.  Unless we speak out, afterschool programs could be the first of many programs severely damaged by an overzealous Department of Education which is overriding laws through a process that requires no input, no oversight and no opportunities for review.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Collaboration Is Key

This article was published first on July 16, 2013 at the following link.   
"Collaboration is Key ForQuality After-School Programs, Report SaysTake the time to read and respond to this most recent study. 
July 16th, 2013

A new report shares lessons from national experts on how to best expand access to high-quality after-school programs, and emphasizes the important role of cities in providing these programs, particularly in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Committed leadership, data-sharing and citywide collaboration between program providers are the keys to more and better programs for youth, according to Better Together: Building Local Systems to Improve Afterschool. The report, released on Tuesday and funded by The Wallace Foundation, is based on best practices shared at a conference that took place in Baltimore in February. Representatives from more than 50 communities, including Contra Costa County, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco, participated in the conference.

Good after-school programs have both strong academic offerings plus enriching experiences such as drama, debate, dance, robotics and chess, said Robert Balfanz, principal research scientist at Johns Hopkins University. They are particularly important for students in high-poverty communities, he said, because they offer those youth a chance to move quickly through a cycle of effort, performance and feedback.

The real power of after-school programs is giving students “lived experiences that effort leads to success, because in a high-poverty environment what life teaches you is that life is capricious,” Balfanz said. “It doesn’t tell you that if you work really hard, good things always happen.”

The conference was put together by five organizations: the American Youth Policy Forum, the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems, The Forum for Youth Investment, the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth and Education & Families. The Wallace Foundation funded the event.

Monday, August 5, 2013

No Child Left Behind

Even though the nation’s elementary and secondary education law expired in 2007 and efforts to revise it have fallen short, new energies to find a compromise position are being discussed in Washington as I write this.  Of course there are opposing views.  The Republican-controlled House wants to “eliminate more than 70 federal education programs while allowing states to come up with their own accountability systems.  It eliminates requirements that poorly performing schools use one of four models for change.  It also repeals a requirement that schools hire “highly qualified” teachers, meaning those who have bachelor’s degrees and teaching credentials.”  On the other hand, Democrats who “are unlikely to vote for the Republican bill, would like to give states more flexibility to hold schools accountable and improve them. However, Democrats do retain the idea that poorly performing schools should be required to improve.” 
For me the question is this, “what does history tell us about how school districts work when they are not being held accountable to specific requirements?”  To my way of thinking, holistically, educators have been more focused on the adults and working conditions than on the learner and closing the achievement gap.  Today, as a result of federal insistence on “information about individual student achievement, including information broken out for various groups such as Latinos, African Americans and low-income students” improvements have been made in student performance.  Even in the face of budget cuts in California standardized test scores have improved and it appears that the achievement gap is being closed, albeit slowly.  With the advent of No Child Left Behind, school districts have paid attention to the academic performance of all youth in ways that they had not done in the past.  States, “in exchange for federal funds, have held schools accountable for improvement” or required that failing schools close.  I do not believe that we would have made these gains in achievement without these accountability measures. 
That being said, I certainly do not think that the current standardized test scores measure what youth need to know in order to be successful in life in the 21st Century.  I would welcome a lively debate about that rather than the No Child Left Behind discussion which will be a political hot potato.  Let’s take a look at what really matters—individual learning and preparation for the future.

I welcome your response and thoughts on this topic.  Please share them with us at