Bringing STEM Education from Niche to Necessary: the Every Hour Counts FUSE 3.0 Institute

This post originally appeared on STEM Next, a national leader in increasing opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics learning for youth across communities both in and out of school.

Editor’s Note: In 2010, ExpandED Schools and Every Hour Counts launched the Frontiers in Urban Science Education project with support from the Noyce Foundation. The project aims to scale access to high-quality STEM learning for kids in out-of-school time programs, building off lessons piloted in New York City by ExpandED Schools. In 2014, the FUSE project published a resource guide of strategies to advance informal science education in after-school, and is now leading six organizations from across the country in connecting out-of-school and in-school STEM learning with the Next Generation Science Standards.

“What variable do you think students were testing during the Rockin’ Rockets Design Challenge?” Jasmine Maldonado, Science Coach Supervisor from the New York Hall of Science, asked FUSE 3.0 Winter Institute participants before testing the rockets in the video above. The question sparked a buzz of conversation around the room as participants explored how the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) can be applied to expanded learning.

The presentation allowed us to step into students’ shoes to experience learning rooted in NGSS firsthand. We used our observation, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork skills to analyze the design variables students tested in the rocket challenge. We quickly realized that we were flexing the same social-emotional skills (SEL) to answer Maldonado’s question that students must use to be successful in the Challenge. The exercise highlighted a key FUSE theme: there are many ways to integrate both content acquisition and youth development in high-quality STEM learning.

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Literacy in the Zone – A Partnership for Sustainability Between Nashville After Zone Alliance and Nashville Public Library

Guest post by Rachel Roseberry

“A critical and sometimes overlooked resource is the public library, which is well-positioned to facilitate collaboration, build partnerships, address gaps, and support a lifetime of improved education outcomes.” – Urban Libraries Council, Winter 2015

Former Mayor Karl Dean created the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA) in 2009 to increase the high-school graduation rate by leveraging after school programs’ capacity for student engagement, a capacity that has been linked to increased school-day attendance, improved behavior, and grades. NAZA is an expanded learning system whose programs provide free, high-quality after school opportunities for middle school students throughout Metro Nashville Public Schools. Its services are organized by geographic zone, in order to ensure students can safely access afterschool resources within their own communities.  With Mayor Dean’s departure due to term limits looming in 2014, NAZA began looking for a permanent home.

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A View of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Every Hour Counts is pleased that Congress and the President reached agreement to move past the era of No Child Left Behind, and approve the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). We are particularly pleased that the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program has remained a focused funding stream for expanded learning programs, and has received a funding increase. This program certainly needs to grow to meet the enormous demand, and this is an important step in the right direction. We are also pleased that the law enhances the role of community partners a provision we long fought for in partnership with many champions in Congress, specifically Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative David Cicilline, of Rhode Island. There are policy implications for expanded-learning programs and summary of important changes to the 21st CCLC program is detailed here by Penn Hill Group.

Read on for our blog post, co-authored with Jennifer Peck of the Partnership for Children and Youth, originally featured on the Huffington Post.  Continue reading

Bringing Expanded Learning Systems from Idea to Action

140 people. 25 communities from around the country… and the world with one team hailing from Brazil! One big goal: to build expanded learning systems that increase students’ access to high-quality learning opportunities and equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive.

In March, we hosted “From Idea to Action: An Institute for Building Expanded-Learning Systems,” a two-day event where community leaders gathered to discuss the essential elements of expanded-learning systems. We kicked off the meeting with city leaders distilling their system-building work into six-word stories:

  • Communicate, coordinate, collaborate for youth. Repeat.
  • Quality is the thread we’re connected by.
  • A plan, need partners, please help.
City teams discuss system-building challenges

City teams discuss system-building challenges

Our Every Hour Counts partners presented workshops focused on the themes of sustainability, and data. Our new Institute Summary shares the system-building strategies, best practices, and challenges that were discussed. Here are a few insights from the report: Continue reading

Public Media and Expanded Learning — Natural Partners in Digital Learning

Seeking to use the latest digital learning tools to boost student engagement in your expanded learning program? Look no further than your local public media station. While public television has long provided high-quality programming for children (who didn’t grow up learning the ABCs with Sesame Street?), public media is entering a new age of providing learning experiences to children at home, on-the-go, and wherever they are. And the resources, games, and apps from public media are a perfect fit for the informal learning that takes place in after-school and summer settings.

Like expanded learning systems, public media seeks to provide exceptional learning Summer Adventureexperiences to children in low-income families to prepare them for school and beyond. In order to boost the math and literacy skills of children in low-income families, the CPB-PBS KIDS Ready To Learn initiative has created new shows (Odd Squad and Peg+Cat), and designed educational apps and games that incorporate popular PBS KIDS characters. This strategy—called transmedia—tells a single story across multiple platforms. For a young learner used to watching Curious George on their television at home, playing a game with George on a tablet in an after-school program makes learning more comfortable, fun, and engaging. Children also gain early, interactive exposure to the tools of the digital age. Research has found that this approach can have a powerful impact on learning for young students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Continue reading

The Building Blocks for Youth Success: A Q&A with the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research

Foundations for Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework, a new report funded by The Wallace Foundation, brings together decades of research from many fields to show that children need more than academic knowledge alone to succeed in life. In this Q&A we asked the report’s authors—Jenny Nagaoka, Camille Farrington, Stacy Ehrlich, and Ryan Heath of the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research—about their findings and the implications for the world of expanded learning

Every Hour Counts: From your research, what does true success look like for young adults?

UChicago CCSR: Success means that young people can fulfill individual goals and have the agency and competencies to influence the world around them. It means that young people have developed an awareness of themselves and of the wide range of options before them, the competencies to pursue those options, and the ability to make good future choices for their lives as engaged citizens in the world. This larger focus is inseparable from goals related to college and career.

Every Hour Counts: What can adults do to support youth on the path to becoming successful adults?

UChicago CCSR: Adults can provide opportunities for young people to have developmental experiences. Developmental experiences are those which expose young people to new ideas, people, and perspectives; provide opportunities to engage in hands-on learning; include demonstrations of expert performance and models of high-quality work to emulate; offer extended time to practice and develop competencies; and ultimately allow young people to contribute their unique gifts to the world. Developmental experiences also offer opportunities to reflect upon one’s learning, to “name the world,” evaluate ideas, and to make connections between one’s actions and other things one cares about. Finally, wallace coverdevelopmental experiences support young people in integrating disparate occurrences into a larger sense of themselves in a way that propels them forward, and eventually, acting with agency in the larger world.

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Make Summer a Season of Learning

Guest post by Sarah Pitcock.

Today is National Summer Learning Day, an advocacy day led by the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA), to elevate the importance of keeping kids learning, healthy, and safe every summer.

This year, we’re not only celebrating summer learning today, on June 19th, we’re making summer a season of learning. We hope that if you haven’t already, you will visit to take the pledge to keep kids learning and place your program or event on the map to help families locate you.

NSLA continues to advocate for summer as a key part of the expanded learning strategy to close achievement and opportunities gaps in communities across the country, ensuring that all youth have a path to success in education, and ultimately in life.

Providence students interact with local marine life at the Biomes Marine Biology Center.

Providence students interact
with local marine life at the Biomes Marine Biology Center.

Research shows that summers without quality learning opportunities put our nation’s youth at risk for falling behind – year after year – in core subjects like math and reading. These losses over the summer are cumulative and contribute significantly to the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income kids. Continue reading

Beyond the Paycheck: The Power of a Summer Job

For teens in Chicago, a summer job can mean a lot more than a paycheck. It’s an opportunity to develop skills, grow personally, and test out the working world to find their passions. Through an apprenticeship program spearheaded by After School Matters (ASM), teens learn marketable skills from professionals in a range of industries – from the culinary arts, sports, music, fashion design, and more – in a summer apprenticeship. This summer, over 9,000 teen in Chicago will participate – double the number from just four years ago.

ASM apprentices practice teaching softball skills to young students.

Working with young students, ASM apprentices find that encouragement is key.

Recently, Every Hour Counts toured an ASM apprenticeship program in action and heard from students what it meant to them. We visited Curie Metropolitan High School where ASM’s Sports37 program offers an apprenticeship for students to learn about athletics and prepare to become a youth sports instructor. In the spring semester, Sports37 participants attend an after-school program where they learn sports skills as well as the skills to develop lesson plans and manage a group of young children. On our visit, we saw teens working with kindergarteners on the mechanics of throwing a ball and hitting a ball off a tee. Balls were flying, the kindergarteners were having a blast, and the teens got to practice their coaching skills one-on-one. By the summer, these teens will be ready to secure paid jobs within the Chicago Parks Department as youth coaches. In a tough job market for teens, After School Matters participants have the skills and the hands-on experience to land a great summer job.

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Engaging Youth as Researchers to Improve Systems

Guest post by Jorge Rivas. This is the third post in a series on the Every Hour Counts System-Building Institute.

So, you’re the expert. Tell us, what does “youth” mean? Is it someone younger than 18? Younger than 30? Is youth just a state of mind? How about “success”? What do the experts have to say about that? What has helped you to build success in your life?

These tasks—of defining terms and acknowledging people’s expertise—are at the heart of Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR). And in the approach of YPAR, it is young people who are the experts; they are the ones defining the terms, directing the research and making the recommendations for action—side-by-side with adults.

At the Every Hour Counts System-Building Institute in Oakland, California this March, the Youthprise Research & Design team shared our approach to YPAR with an audience of education and expanded learning leaders. Continue reading