Current Events

AlphaBEST in the News: Shawnta Jones Joins a Panel Discussion at the Center for American Progress

Our very own Shawnta Jones was invited to join Senator Hillary Clinton and other political leaders yesterday for a roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C.  In June, Shawnta was invited to the 2014 White House Summit on Working Families to discuss 21st century workplaces for today’s working families, alongside President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

AlphaBEST at Center for American Progress for Progress for Women

As a group, they discussed the challenge many women face of making ends meet and caring for their families. More and more women are now breadwinners, with nearly 6 out of 10 women as the primary, sole or co-provider for their family. Shawnta, who is currently an AlphaBEST site manager in Charles County, MD, had the opportunity to share how she was able to provide for her family, go to college and be a great role model for her children thanks to AlphaBEST Education Early Childhood Program and government subsidies. Just as important, her three children have significantly benefited from their start at AlphaBEST and are flourishing as honor roll students!

We are extremely proud that Shawnta was able to share her story on a public platform, and helped shed light on an issue that many women face today. It also emphasizes the impact we all make in the lives of the families in our programs.

AlphaBEST selfie with Hillary Clinton at the Center for American Progress

You can view the discussion below. Fast-forward to 34:00 to hear Shawnta’s story. FYI: She’s sitting beside Senator Clinton!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJkjt9CSX-I?rel=0]

 

Image sources: www.twitter.com

 

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.

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

Source

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!

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.

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.

Teach Kids About the Life & Legacy of Nelson Mandela

On December 5, we mourned the loss of world-famous politician and civil rights hero Nelson Mandela, who died at the age of 95. Mandela, South Africa’s founding father, was a symbol of compassion, courage and commitment.  He spent 27 years in prison because of his work to end racial segregation in his home country. Mandela was a great example of the change we can make with unwavering strength, faith and wisdom, and today’s youth could learn many things from his life and legacy.

Ways to teach kids about the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela

source: forbes.com

Here is a list of 10 great resources to teach kids about Nelson Mandela:

  • Nelson Mandela Foundation | nelsonmadela.org: A great resource for preparing lessons on Nelson Mandela.
  • Remembering Nelson Mandela – Nelson Mandela biographies | Scholastic Parents: grades 1-2; grades 3-5; grades 6-8
  • Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013 | TIME for Kids:  Read the Nelson Mandela biography and view a slideshow of his life.
  • Mandela – History app | iTunes: Discover the story of Nelson Mandela through fun educational games.
  • Teaching Nelson Mandela | Education Week Teacher: See a compiled list of resources for bringing Mandela into the classroom.
  • Nelson Mandela | BBC – Primary History: Learn more about Mandela through biographies, photos, videos, activities, quizzes, and more.
  • Apartheid | BrainPOP Educators: Watch a movie on apartheid to discover Mandela’s fight to end racial segregation in South Africa.
  • Nelson Mandela | Picture Book Biography by Kadir Nelson: The life of Nelson Mandela is illuminated and celebrated through words and paintings.
  • Nelson Mandela quotes | BrainyQuote: Visualize Mandela’s life and legacy through inspirational quotes and sayings.
  • Tribute to Nelson Mandela | ABC News: Kids from around the world say what Mandela means to them over John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Would you like to add any resources to the list? Share below!