Friday, January 31, 2014

The Maker Movement

Do you know about the Maker Movement?  It is a movement to put creativity and innovation back into the lives of children.  It covers a wide range of activities that involve STEM and the arts.  The Maker Education Initiative’s “mission is to create more opportunities for young people to develop confidence, creativity, and an interest in science, technology, engineering, math, art, and learning as a whole through making.  Maker Ed is dedicated to the idea that every child is a maker and deserves opportunities to express their creativity.  We want young people to and eventually lead—the growing Maker Movement.” 

More and more Makers are learning how to do the things that interest them.  They plug into a wide variety of “Do-it-Yourself” (DIY) programs on TV and the internet and are willing to try things other than purely academic education.  According to Brit Morin, “Makers will continue to be found in fields ranging from food to crafts to technology. And together, they will push each other forward to invent and build new and innovative things. Many technologies that will drive this growing population are not even built yet.  In effect, the maker movement has only just begun.”

To support this effort, the Maker Corps was formulated as a national commitment towards building the next generation of innovators at the Clinton Global Initiative America Conference in June, 2012.  The Maker Corps works closely with youth to support the creative, collaborative thinking and working required to be successful.  To find out more about the Maker Movement you can check it out online.  If you have a Maker Program at your afterschool program, please send us pictures so we can highlight them on our website.  Contact us at

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Parent Engagement

More and more we are realizing that we must engage the family if we are going to properly support young people throughout their years in school and beyond, into the workplace.  While we’ve long understaood that parents are a child’s “first teacher”, we have not embraced the importance of the parent and the family in providing the support young people need on a day-to-day basis.  It is more than just food, clothing, and a place to live—it is about having high expectations and hopes for the future and then KNOWING what to do to support your child in his/her pursuits.  If our parents understood the “system”, we benefitted from it.  It is essential that we see to it all youth have the same sort of support.  Recently an organization, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools was brought to my attention.  They have an effective system in place for engaging parents.  Below is some information from their website that you can access at

Parent College
The “Parent College” is an initiative led by the Partnership, which provides resources to create school-site based, academically focused activities and workshops that help parents and guardians understand how to support their child’s education.  At Parent Colleges, parents learn about the “Three R’s” - Rights, Roles, and Responsibilities at schools to encourage parent participation.  Themes range in topic from analyzing budget cuts to how to read student report cards. Now in its second year, the “Parent College” has nearly 1,000 members.
Partnership Family University Days
To encourage all families to begin to explore college as an option for their children, the Partnership currently hosts Family University Days, a program that allows families get to spend a day at local colleges and universities where they are able to explore the campus, meet current students, attend informative workshops, and see firsthand what the college environment looks like.

If you like what you’ve read, check them out.  Let us know what you think by communicating with us at

Monday, January 27, 2014

Habits of the Mind—Metacognition

One of the habits of mind that is identified as essential for success in life is metacognition.  While it is similar to the strategy of “thinking aloud”, it is much more.  Jennifer Livingston provided this overview of metacognition. 

"Metacognition" is one of the latest buzz words in educational psychology, but what exactly is metacognition?  The length and abstract nature of the word makes it sound intimidating, yet it’s not as daunting a concept as it might seem. We engage in metacognitive activities every day. Metacognition enables us to be successful learners, and has been associated with intelligence (e.g., Borkowski, Carr, & Pressley, 1987; Sternberg, 1984, 1986a, 1986b). Metacognition refers to higher order thinking which involves active control over the cognitive processes engaged in learning.  Activities such as planning how to approach a given learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating progress toward the completion of a task are metacognitive in nature.  Because metacognition plays a critical role in successful learning, it is important to study metacognitive activity and development to determine how students can be taught to better apply their cognitive resources through metacognitive control.

"Metacognition" is often simply defined as "thinking about thinking."  In actuality, defining metacognition is not that simple.  Although the term has been part of the vocabulary of educational psychologists for the last couple of decades, and the concept for as long as humans have been able to reflect on their cognitive experiences, there is much debate over exactly what metacognition is.  One reason for this confusion is the fact that there are several terms currently used to describe the same basic phenomenon (e.g., self-regulation, executive control), or an aspect of that phenomenon (e.g., meta-memory), and these terms are often used interchangeably in the literature. While there are some distinctions between definitions (see Van Zile-Tamsen, 1994, 1996 for a full discussion), all emphasize the role of executive processes in the overseeing and regulation of cognitive processes.

The term "metacognition" consists of both metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive experiences or regulation.  Metacognitive knowledge refers to acquired knowledge about cognitive processes, knowledge that can be used to control cognitive processes. Flavell, a predominant researcher, further divides metacognitive knowledge into three categories: knowledge of person variables, task variables and strategy variables.

To learn more about metacognition you can read Jennifer’s full article at

Metacognition: An Overview

Other resources are available to address metacognition in particular disciplines—you need only google the term.  We need to learn more about this key skill and then share it with our young people through intentionally demonstrating the skill.  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Preparing Youth for Career and College

One of the reasons for the education system is to prepare youth for college and career.  However, we’ve learned over time that just preparing youth for college is not enough.  Going to college is the “door opener” not the end game.  We need to prepare youth for both college and career.  Career options require more than just cognitive understanding.  Career success requires young people to have highly developed non-cognitive skills as well technical content knowledge and “know-how”.

These skills include perseverance, work ethic, questioning and problem posing, taking responsible risks, thinking and communicating with clarity and precision, creating, imagining, and innovating, working collaboratively, and of course, remaining open to continuous learning.  Where better than afterschool for youth to practice these skills?  Certainly they can practice during the school day and at home or in the community, but in an afterschool program, this practice can be done with intentionality and focus.  It can also be done in ways that fully engage youth through project-based learning, community service, and service learning—all mainstays of high quality afterschool programs. 

So how and when do we get started?  I say start early by helping our youngest learners realize that the people in their neighborhoods have jobs and careers and what it took for them to get those jobs and begin those careers.  I think we continue to focus on the career clusters and let youth know what jobs are available in the world, and then focus in on individual interests of young people, and ultimately work to find intern and extern opportunities for them in high school.  We share information with parents and caregivers, and help youth to understand how to select a college or training center and how to get student loans, grants, and scholarships.  At the Sacramento STEM Symposium, former astronaut José Hernandez talked about his decision to become an astronaut when he was a young boy.  He shared his dream with his father who explained that you need to be clear about what you want, where you are at the moment you make that decision, and then plot your course to get to where you want to be.  Good advice as we work with youth on setting career goals and determining what sort of training and education will be needed to accomplish those goals.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sci-Gineering—Combining Science and Engineering

Are you looking for support with STEM in your afterschool program?  Do you need something relatively “turnkey” but with enough support so you and your staff can be successful?  Do you need something designed to ultimately prepare your staff to facilitate STEM learning by developing both their competency and capacity?  If the answer to any or all of these questions is “yes” then we invite you to check out C4K’s Sci-Gineering program.  Sci-Gineering focuses on the engineering process—ask (what are the problems and what are the constraints), imagine (brainstorm ideas and chose the best one), plan (draw a diagram and gather needed materials), create (follow the plan and test it out), improve (discuss what can be done to make it better and repeat the steps to make changes).  It incorporates Habits of the Mind with content knowledge and also information about and practice with different questioning strategies.  The experiences for youth are hands on and minds on, and begin with the STEM learning goals.

We believe Sci-Gineering is a useful tool for afterschool programs.  It comes complete with lesson plans and training and optional site materials kits.  To find out more check out Sci-Gineering on our website at

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


The push for high-quality STEM learning in the out-of-school time space is incredible.  Have you ever wondered “why?”  A recent report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce entitled simply STEM, has some answers.  This report talks about the importance of advances in science and innovation and the American economy.  It states, “The economic value of innovation has shifted toward applications customized to meet critical individual and social needs.  American STEM workers are becoming part of an increasingly global innovation system and workforce.”  In economic terms, in world leadership terms, in continuing to expand globally terms, STEM is essential. 
The report identifies five major subgroups in STEM occupations:  computer occupations; mathematical science occupations; architects, surveyors, and technicians; engineers and engineering technicians; and life and physical science occupations.  The report shares that new STEM jobs are being created every day and there will also be significant job openings due to baby-boomer retirements.  It also talks about industry-based certifications that are common in STEM occupations, and in some cases take the place of advanced degrees.  
They quote interesting facts such as “STEM majors make substantially more over their lifetimes than non-STEM majors, and that less-educated STEM workers can also earn more than other non-STEM workers.  It also shares that STEM majors are being lured from STEM occupations because the systematic way STEM majors “think” and their approach to critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making, is made up of an incredibly desirable set of skills. 

So where does afterschool fit into this need for STEM-focused learning?  We are a perfect incubator for project-based learning, giving youth an opportunity for “messy exploration”, and facilitating learning—because typically our afterschool staffs don’t see themselves as instructors—which can get in the way of investigation and inquiry.  So even if you don’t see yourself as a STEM expert, build your skills in asking questions and be open to providing opportunities for youth to learn and you’re on your way.  Learn more about STEM by checking out the California Afterschool Networks website and looking for The Power of Discovery, STEM2.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Transition from Afterschool to Expanded Learning

Have you ever heard someone refer to afterschool as “babysitting”?  Were you as offended as I am when folks say this?  Do you wonder how they could be so uninformed about what you do in your afterschool program?  Granted, in the beginning an afterschool program was seen as a safe place to be at 3:00 between the “school bell and the factory whistle”.  But what we do today is so far beyond this noble pursuit.  Who would argue against keeping kids safe—safe from poor decisions on their part and more importantly from the abusive decisions of adults?  So safety is still a priority in afterschool programs, but so is homework assistance, physical activity, nutrition education, character and leadership development, conflict resolution, STEM education, support for English Language Arts and math, preparation for career and college, the visual and performing arts, hands-on, minds-on project-based learning, community service and service learning.  You get the point, right.  

We are no longer simply an afterschool program, and extended day adventure, or a place for extra-curricular activities.  To be sure, all that still matters but most importantly the time between 3:00 (or the close of the school day) and the factory whistle is one that is a vital learning space.  If you offer a 3 hour program each day afterschool you are giving youth another 540 hours of opportunities to learn!  And we don’t just replicate the school day.  We provide those learning experiences “afterschool style”, with the central focus being the learner.

So as we start 2014 let’s agree to transition our language from “afterschool” to “expanded learning opportunity” and insist that we are seen as an informal learning space rather than a holding tank between the two learning spaces of school day and home. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

New Beginnings

One of the best ways to have a new beginning is to think about what transpired in the year before.  Laura Manske modeled one way to take a look back and a look forward.  This is what she had to say: 
“With the new year on our horizon, we pause to look back, cherishing what was good, and then pause to look forward, cheerleading what we hope will be great.  When flipping my calendar, I focus most on gratefulness.  I am thankful for experiences that fill my heart and thrill my mind and opportunities to gracefully touch others’ lives—particularly when traveling.”  She then goes on to post amazing quotes, pictures and vignettes of 2013.  It’s absolutely worth looking at—click on the link below:  

Once you’ve viewed Laura’s work, consider how you might begin this year by preparing for what you will do 365 days from now.  The Brad Paisley quote:  “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” might act as your muse.  What is the 2014 year you want to write?  Think it through and get started today.

C4K would love to hear from you month over month as you write this story.  We would also like to help you with your staff development needs, lesson plans to ensure quality learning opportunities, or listening as you troubleshoot next steps.  Contact us at .

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Reflecting on the Year

Welcome to the New Year.  2014 promises to be a wonderful year but before we launch, let’s take a look at what was learned in 2013.  We have youth debrief every lesson and activity, so it’s time for us to debrief an entire year. 
Insights from 2013
January:  Attending the Ted-Talk style Learning in Afterschool and Summer:  How Kids Learn II seminar on the 9th set the year up to focus on what is really important—youth!
February:  There is definitely a new vibe in the Afterschool Division.  The opportunity for the field to participate in Strategic Planning is a first and more than welcome opportunity.  And this input is not a one-and-done but rather an opportunity for ongoing input.  Yahoo!
March:  Promoting “wellness” in afterschool can go a long way to change the lives of youth and their families.  School gardens—even if they are in pots—are well worth the time they take to tend and nurture. 
April:  BOOST really is the Best Out Of School Time Conference.  The joy of connecting with friends and colleagues is so wonderful.  This Conference gives you a chance to catch up and learn more.
May:  Kids are not looking forward to having the summer off from afterschool programs.  There just aren’t enough investments to bring summer learning to every youth who would like to attend a summer learning program.  Turning away youth is NOT a good thing!
June:  Summer Learning Loss can counteract the success of the school year.  By the end of 5th grade, kids without summer opportunities can end up 2-3 years behind those youth who did participate.  Summers can’t be wasted—each youth deserve a chance to move forward!
July:  Summer Learning Programs are not traditional remedial summer school programs.  They are focused on submerging youth with a total learning experience that is active, collaborative, meaningful, supporting of mastery, and broadening horizons.
August:  Starting an effective program each year requires a great deal of work and love.  Millions of kids across the country rely on afterschool professionals to “get it right” and they do!  Let’s celebrate this good work!
September:  Sharing with afterschool program staff at the Mission Possible: Defining Success and Inspiring Action, 2013 21st Century Community Learning Centers Multi-State Conference in Indiana was a reminder of the amazing people who work with youth in out-of-school time programs across the country. 
October:  Lights ON! Afterschool is a wonderful event to bring focus to the great work that is done in afterschool programs around the United States.  Sharing that information effectively with decision makers and legislators is essential to expand funding for this critical learning space.
November:  The STEM Symposium in Sacramento provided real insight into the importance of STEM in both the school day and afterschool spaces.  Key speakers enlightened and inspired.
December:  Showcasing the accomplishments of youth in afterschool programs not only benefits the youth and puts “money in the bank” with their families, it highlights the amazing experiences that afterschool programs provide youth.

Wishing you a wonderful 2014!