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SummerZone: Preventing the Brain Slide

We’ve all heard the staggering statistics: most students who do not engage in educational activities during the summer lose about two months of grade-level math skills. The numbers are even worse among low-income students, who also lose more than two months in reading achievement. These students are also more likely to gain weight at a faster rate during summer break.

AlphaBEST SummerZone summer learning programs are designed to prevent the summer brain slide.Fortunately, summer learning programs have been developed to prevent the loss of academic knowledge over summer break, also known as the summer brain slide. Research has proven that high-quality summer learning programs improve students’ academic achievement and readiness to learn. These programs are designed to excite and motivate students through enriching learning experiences.

AlphaBEST’s summer learning programs expand on the model of our school-year programs. During SummerZone, students receive extra time to investigate the five curriculum zones – technology, fitness, the arts, foreign language and literacy. This summer, students will explore a different U.S. state each week through ‘virtual travel’ including creative and engaging activities designed to build new knowledge, skills and talents. They will play innovative games, collaborate on group-learning projects and engage in fun recreational activities. Our goal is to provide opportunities for students to be inspired, discover and learn over the critical summer months.

To find a SummerZone program in your area, visit http://www.alphabest.org/summer-zone.cfm.

5 Tips for Celebrating National Principals Month

School principals have tough jobs. When you are responsible for hundreds of students and parents, dozens of staff, and countless stakeholders in the community – including those in afterschool programs – maintaining order is a constant challenge. From teacher evaluations to handling serious discipline issues, principals have various responsibilities and are rarely appreciated for their work.

5 tips for celebrating school principals

October is National Principals MonthIt’s an opportunity to say “thank you” to principals everywhere and honor their hard work and dedication. After school professionals should mark this special month to recognize and show appreciation for the support principals provide in helping to assure their programs are aligned with the school’s curricula in order to provide seamless, high-quality learning experiences for children and youth. But how can you acknowledge their work in a way that would be meaningful and memorable for a principal?

Dr. Paul Young, author of Principal Matters and Lead the Way! (and a past president of the National Association of Elementary School Principals) suggests these five strategies:

  1. Plan a celebratory program or assembly. Principals often plan events for others, but rarely does anyone plan one for them. To make it special, allow the kids themselves (with your supervision and guidance) to plan, organize and play key roles in expressing their appreciation for their principal. Effective principals are kid-focused, and seeing and hearing what their students feel about them and their support of the after school program will be certain to touch their hearts. Together with your students, don’t limit your imagination. Good planning and execution will make this program unique, remarkable and unforgettable!
  2. Give them flowers. Anyone can buy flowers from a florist. Instead, allow your students and staff to make their own flowers as a special art project. These will likely receive a more prominent display in the principal’s office and generate more conversation than anything you might purchase. And the special thought will last much longer.
  3. Give them candy. But wait, candy might not fit your program’s healthy eating guidelines. Be creative and make “candy” into a healthy snack or celebratory food that can be made, served and shared with the principal by the students in your program.
  4. Sing their praises. Music touches the soul. What you can’t easily say about your principal in words, do with music. Create your own song, jingle or rap, or cover a recognizable song or tune that the kids can easily perform.
  5. Share the celebration. Encourage students to create special invitations to the program for the principal and invited guests. Encourage kids to make their own awards and certificates of appreciation. Then, don’t fail to capture the special celebratory moments on video to archive and share in a variety of ways through social media and other outlets.

Creating fun and celebratory experiences should be a regular feature of after school programming. They provide opportunities for kids and adults to showcase what is best about after school. Principals relish genuine and heartfelt appreciation. Let them know how your program – and their support of it – is remarkable!

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The NAA Top 25 Most Influential People in Afterschool

We would like to congratulate our Executive Vice President and General Manager, Judy Nee, for being honored as one of the top 25 most influential people in afterschool! With more than 20 years of experience in afterschool care and extended learning programs, the National AfterSchool Association (NAA) selected Nee for her positive attention and investment to the afterschool field. Judy Nee of AlphaBEST Education named among top 25 most influential people in afterschool Since joining AlphaBEST Education in 2011, Nee has helped expand afterschool programming to more than 8,000 students in nine different states. Outside of the office, she acts as Chair of the Coalition for Science After School, consultant to the Noyce Foundation and Board Member of the Florida Afterschool Network and the National AfterSchool Association. Nee’s strong leadership and relentless advocacy have played an invaluable role in AlphaBEST’s continued growth and success, and we are truly privileged to have her as part of our team! Judy Nee was recognized in a special edition of AfterSchool Today, alonside the other NAA honorees. Below is a full list of those who were honored:

  • MATTHEW BOULAY | Founder, Chairman of the Board of Directors, National Summer Learning
    Association
  • JIM CLARK | President and CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of America
  • JESSICA DONNER | Director, Every Hour Counts
  • TERRI FERINDE DUNHAM |Partner, Collaborative Communications / Lead, National Network of Statewide Afterschool NetworkNAA top 25 most influential people in afterschool
  • AYEOLA FORTUNE | Director, Education Team, United Way Worldwide
  • LUCY N. FRIEDMAN | Founding President, TASC (The After-School Corporation)
  • ELLEN S. GANNETT, M.ED. | Director, National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST), Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College
  • JODI GRANT | Executive Director, Afterschool Alliance
  • ROBERT HALPERN | Professor and Chair of Research Council, Erikson Institute
  • CLIFF JOHNSON | Executive Director, Institute for Youth, Education and Families, National League of Cities
  • SYLVIA LYLES, PhD | Director, Academic Improvement and Teacher Quality Programs, U.S. Department of Education
  • JIM MURPHY | Senior Manager, Child and Youth Development Program, Council on Accreditation
  • JUDY NEE | Executive Vice President and General Manager, AlphaBEST Education, Inc.
  • NEIL NICOLL | President and CEO, YMCA of the USA
  • GIL NOAM, Ed.D, PhD | Founder and Director, Program in Education, Afterschool and Resiliency, Harvard University
  • BEN PAUL | President and CEO, After-School All-Stars
  • TERRY PETERSON, PhD | Director, Afterschool and Community Learning Network
  • SAM PIHA | Founder and Principal, Director, Temescal Associates, Learning in Afterschool & Summer Project
  • KAREN J. PITTMAN | President and CEO, The Forum for Youth Investment
  • SHANNON RUDISILL | Director, Office of Child Care, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • CARLA SANGER, M.ED. | President and CEO, LA’s BEST After School Enrichment Program
  • JENNIFER SIRANGELO | President and CEO, National 4-H Council
  • CHARLES SMITH, PhD | Executive Director, David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality
  • DEBORAH LOWE VANDELL | Founding Dean, School of Education, University of California Irvine
  • TOM WYATT | Chief Executive Officer, Knowledge Universe-United States

Image Source: http://blog.learninginafterschool.org

Six Resources to Get Students Involved in Community Service

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens

Children of all ages can benefit from volunteering and giving back to the community. By getting involved in community service, children can learn valuable life skills, such as compassion, responsibility and self-confidence.

Many of our programs organize service activities to give back to the community, including fundraisers, donations and clothing/shoe drives. AlphaBEST students at Southwest Elementary School organized a baby shower last December for the Salem Pregnancy Care Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Children and families donated new and gently used baby items and supplies, such as bottles, toys, food products and clothes. During the baby shower, children played games, like Pass the Pacifier, and discussed how spring symbolizes renewal and birth.

AlphaBEST students donated baby items to local community organization.

AlphaBEST students donated baby items to local community organization.

Volunteering is a great way to teach children gratitude and to foster a lifelong commitment to helping others in need. In honor of National Volunteer Week, check out the following resources to get children involved in community service:

National Poetry Month | Poet-to-Poet Project

“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” – Rita Dove

There’s more to poetry than rhyming and crafting “Roses are red, violets are blue” poems. Poetry is a form of written expression, which consists of words arranged in patterns of sound and imagery to evoke an emotional response. There are also positive benefits of teaching poetry to students. In Edutopia’s “Five Reasons Why We Need Poetry in Schools,” the author suggests reading and writing poetry promotes literacy, builds community and fosters emotional intelligence. For National Poetry Month, bring poetry to life by participating in the Poet-to-Poet project by Poets.org.

National Poetry Month - Teaching Poetry to Students

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Poet-to-Poet is a multimedia project that encourages children and youth in grades 3-12 to write poems in response to those shared by award-winning poets, such as Pulitzer Prize-nominee Ron Padgett and Poet Laureate of California Juan Felipe Herrera. If chosen, student poems may be published on Poets.org in May 2014.

To participate in the project, students must:

  • Watch the videos of the poets reading and discussing their poem.
  • Write their own poem in response.
  • Email their poem to poet2poet@poets.org by April 30, 2014, and include their name and the name of the poet who inspired their poem.

Poets.org also provided a series of Common Core aligned activities for educators to incorporate poetry into the classroom or afterschool program. To join the project, visit http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/639.

How do you plan to celebrate National Poetry Month in your classroom or afterschool program? Share with us below!

Foreign Language Learning in Afterschool

foreign language learning for kids

Source: Edutopia.com

Foreign language learning has been a topic of debate recently in the education sphere. Many people believe it’s unimportant, and foreign language programs are usually the first on the chopping block when schools in the U.S. face poor performance evaluations and budget cuts.

Learning a second language, however, yields positive results for 21st century students. Research shows that foreign language learning improves cognitive skills and enhances mental development, leading to overall improvement in school performance. During the Language Zone at  AlphaBEST, students are introduced to Spanish with our 18-week Spanish curriculum, VIVA AlphaBEST. Zone Leaders employ cooperative learning techniques to help students learn Spanish vocabulary and discover Latin American traditions and holidays. Throughout the year, students will also have the opportunity to explore American Sign Language and the Chinese language and culture.

We are Teachers and Middlebury Interactive Languages teamed up to create a poster to further explain the benefits of learning a second language and to remind students why language learning rocks!

(click to enlarge)

Why Learn Another Language infographic from Middlebury and WeAreTeachers

Download Poster

Five Ways to Incorporate Engineering in Afterschool

Engineering puts the “E” in STEM, an acronym used to describe the study of science, technology, engineering and math. STEM careers are rapidly growing, and engineering represents a majority of these STEM jobs.  (To learn more, read Computing and Engineering in Afterschool). In order to prepare our students for a STEM-driven economy, educators must provide activities that spark students’ interest in STEM. Afterschool is a great catalyst for students to explore engineering though hands-on, student-centered activities.

Five ways to incorporate engineering in afterschool

 

Here are five ways to incorporate engineering in afterschool:

  • Educate. Many students do not know much about engineering or what an engineer does. Once they discover engineering, students may develop an interest in the topic.  Check out this video by NASA to introduce students to engineering.
  • TryEngineering. This organization offers 114 lesson plans designed to get students interested in engineering. Lessons can be selected based on students’ age range and by an engineering topic, like robotics or motion and forces.
  • Use Lego Robotics to introduce students to engineering in afterschoolRobotics. Programs like LEGO Robotics pair computing and engineering to tap into students’ problem solving skills. At AlphaBEST, students build and program robots according to step-by-step instructions. With robotics, students explore the basics of engineering by focusing on what makes the robot work.
  • Mentor. Leverage community resources to put a face to engineering. Invite parents and other community members to further explain engineering and to discuss their careers with students. There are also programs, such as Engineering for Kids®, that will bring fun, hands-on engineering projects to your program.
  • Discover Engineering. This website provides hands-on activities, videos, games, field trip ideas and other resources to discover engineering in your afterschool program. Activities are tailored for educators, parents, volunteers and students, and many of their activities can be translated into other languages.

Educators should build a year-long commitment to spark students’ interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.  Check out this Pinterest board for 50+ activities to incorporate STEM in afterschool.

Presidents’ Day: Educational Quotes By U.S. Presidents

A great leader is most known for his ability to inspire action through well-crafted words. Throughout history, U.S. leaders have delivered powerful speeches that have sparked change within the nation. With education a top priority, they have made powerful statements about learning and education.

Presidents' Day: Educational Quotes by U.S. Presidents

This Presidents’ Day, we celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present by sharing 10 educational quotes made by U.S. presidents:

  • If we want to invest in the prosperity of our nation, we must invest in the education of our children so that their talents may be fully employed. | Bill Clinton, 42nd President
  • If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. | Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President
  • Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation. | John F. Kennedy, 35th President
  • Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak and write. | John Adams, 2nd President
  • The future belongs to young people with an education and the imagination to create. | Barack Obama, 44th President
  • The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music. | Gerald Ford, 38th President
  • You see, we’ll never be able to compete in the 21st century unless we have an education system that doesn’t quit on children, an education system that raises standards, an education that makes sure there’s excellence in every classroom. | George W. Bush,  43rd President
  • Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. | John F. Kennedy, 35th President
  • The best means of forming a manly, virtuous, and happy people will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail. | George Washington, 1st President
  • Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which enough men, it is hoped, will learn to want what is worth having. | Ronald Reagan, 40th President

 

Sources:

BrainyQuote // DoSomething.org // 4tests.com // learningtogive.org // Huffington Post

Digital Learning in Afterschool

In recent years, digital technology has emerged as a fundamental tool in education, transforming the way students learn and gather information. It supports educators, improves learning and prepares students for future success. Sandy Holt, a 12-year technology teacher and Technology Arts Instructor at AlphaBEST Education, tells us why digital literacy is important for students today and how technology is used in afterschool.

Digital Learning Day: Digital Technology in Afterschool

How has technology transformed education?

AlphaBEST Technology Arts Instructor discusses digital learning(SH): Students are digital natives. They begin to manipulate digital devices at the age of two. By using technology in the classroom, we are turning their knowledge into learning by honing in on their fluency as digital learners. Digital technology is also hands-on, which enhances the curriculum and keeps students engaged.

How important is digital literacy for today’s students?

(SH): Digital learning fosters the four C’s of 21st century learning: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. As technology instructors, we want children to learn how to manipulate apps and programs, demonstrate how to operate those tools to create projects and communicate with others—in the classroom and globally. These skills are preparing students for college and future careers.

How does AlphaBEST use technology to advance learning?

Digital Learning in Afterschool

(SH): At AlphaBEST, we enhance learning with digital arts programs that encourage students to work collaboratively, as well as independently. When working with these programs, such as SAM Animation and LEGO Robotics, teachers are the facilitators and students become leaders. As they complete projects, students become digital creators and learn to solve problems and share solutions with their peers.

What do students enjoy most about using digital tools to learn?

(SH): Students enjoy seeing the final product after working through each step of a project. For example, when using SAM Animation, students narrate a storyboard, create figures to use as props and operate technology to develop the animated movie. Every student has a role, and they realize that their individual work collectively leads to the completion of the project. They are excited and beam with delight when it is time to share their creations with other students!

Digital Learning in Afterschool

Digital learning is a great way to foster 21st century skills in students. Join thousands of educators as they celebrate the innovative use of digital technology!

For more information about Digital Learning Day, visit digitallearningday.org.

To learn more about AlphaBEST Education, visit www.alphabest.org.

[Infographic] Technology Meets Language Learning

In prehistoric times, second languages were taught with worksheets, a tape recorder and headphones. Fast forward to the 21st century, and students are learning foreign languages with technology at their fingertips! Learning a foreign language offers an array of benefits, including improved academic performance, increased cognitive abilities and a larger selection of career choices. The integration of technology makes language learning more interactive and engaging for every student.

Language Learning Goes Digital

WeAreTeachers.com and Middlebury Interactive Languages recently released an infographic, “Language Learning Goes Digital” which focuses on how technology is used to improve second language instruction. The infographic reveals that more students are using laptops, tablets and other technological devices and software to learn a foreign language. The benefits include access to more resources and “authentic learning experiences,” the ability to be creative throughout the learning process and motivation to learn using the latest technology.

To learn more, view Language Learning Goes Digital.

Image Source//drkateroberts.com