Month: March 2019

Stopping a teen bully seems like it should not be complicated. In the movies, all it takes is a single act. Another teen just has to step up and say, “Hey, that’s not okay.” But in real life, it is often not so simple to embrace our inner heroes. Friends may suddenly decide not to help. They may even worry about becoming the next victim. What makes a teen more likely to intervene when they witness bullying? A supportive school with trusted teachers and clear guidance from a kid’s family both help. That is the finding of a new study.

Michael Matera’s grade 6 history class is an ongoing role-playing game called Realm of Nobles, where students join guilds, earn achievements, make trades and wage the occasional epic battle in an imaginary medieval kingdom. Matera has played the game for years, and maintains that the fusion of history, fantasy, narrative and role-play is an effective formula to engage students in learning. “The excitement and the pride in their accomplishments are all through the roof. I love seeing kids gaining real-world skills, taking risks and learning from defeat in this gamified class,” said Matera, who wrote Explore Like a Pirate: Gamification and Game-Inspired Course Design to Engage, Enrich and Elevate Your Learners, a manual for teachers who aspire to design their classes as games.

In selecting NAA’s Next Generation of Afterschool Leaders 2019, the National AfterSchool Association sought to highlight emerging young leaders who are active in the afterschool community—with a proven passion for professional development, influence beyond their program in an effort to elevate the field, and persistence in their work to grow as a leader. Among the honorees were Samira Ford, grants and fellowships consultant, Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania, and Rebecca Schedl, specialist in art and outreach coordinator for Afterschool Partnership Programming, Parent Infant Center After School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

STEM projects are continuing to make the top ten as a category on teacher funding site DonorsChoose. According to the organization, over the past four years, computer science and coding projects grew two and a half times faster than other project types. DonorsChoose is a nonprofit that encourages teachers to post their classroom project funding needs on the site and solicit donations from the public. During the latest year, the site has raised $87 million for a total funding of 163,323 projects. Applied sciences-related requests made up more than nine percent of all projects funded for the 2018-19 school year — the highest it has been for the last five academic years. Math projects made up another six percent, but that share is only half of what it was for the previous year.

Technology students showcased their STEM skills at the Technology Student Association Regional Conference on Saturday. More than 400 students from Lancaster and Lebanon counties competed at Conestoga Valley Middle School in more than 60 events. Some of those events included subjects like animatronics, architecture and engineering. The Technology Student Association is the nation’s only student organization devoted to the needs of students interested in technology. Students were thrilled to be at the event and watch younger students get involved with STEM. Winners from Saturday’s conference will qualify for the TSA state conference in April.

The two national teachers unions and a leading gun safety group called on federal and state lawmakers to pass a variety of gun laws to prevent future school shootings as part of a school safety report released Monday. The school safety report stands in stark contrast to the one published by the White House’s Federal Commission on School Safety in December, which recommended the Department of Education scrap Obama-era guidance aimed at reducing the number of students of color who are disciplined – a move that ignited a firestorm among civil rights groups. The White House report also called for schools to consider arming school personnel – an idea that President Donald Trump floated in the immediate aftermath of the Parkland shooting, but one that major education groups oppose. “This idea of putting guns in the hands of educators,” said Becky Pringle, vice president of the National Education Association. “Just no. Just no.”

Skateboarding was a huge part of Jason McKoy’s youth, giving him a needed outlet. Two years ago, Jason was asked to join the Two-Way Street Fest board of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation. The board was tasked with organizing a block party and family day. ”I pitched the idea for a pop-up skate park where we teach kids how to skate, and they were all in,” Jason says. Looking for sponsors to help obtain the skateboard gear, he pitched the idea to Nick Miller at Black Forge Coffee House. Nick liked the idea, but instead of the one-day event, he wanted to create a full-on nonprofit that collects new and used skateboard gear, fixes them up, and teaches kids to skate to engage their interest and keep them active. From there, Trash to Thrash, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit operating under New Sun Rising, was born. Their refurbished equipment and skateboard training are directed at kids in under-served and low-income neighborhoods. Jason and Nick now stage pop-up Skate Jam events throughout the area to connect kids with skateboarding.

With the partial government shutdown on hold at least until February 15, it is a good time to look at the new 116th Congress: what are the priorities; what might get accomplished, and what are the challenges and opportunities ahead from the afterschool advocate’s perspective. For afterschool advocates, key opportunities to promote and support afterschool and summer learning priorities for the 116th Congress include:

  • Protecting and increasing funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative
  • Maintaining or increasing federal funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant
  • Supporting funding for other key education programs including the Youth Mentoring Initiative, Title IV Part A of ESSA the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG), Titles I and Titles II of ESSA and funding for AmeriCorps and VISTA.
  • In reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, working to protect and expand the commitment that federal work-study supports afterschool programs; supporting teacher pipeline programs and other policies that build on the strong partnership between colleges and universities and afterschool programs.
  • Within the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act we support policies that reduce the paperwork burdens and improve access to nutritious summer an afterschool meals for low-income students.
  • Promoting afterschool and summer learning programs as critical partners in preventing substance abuse among students and providing protective factors that support social, emotional and physical health and wellness for young people.

Not knowing what tasks will be automated or what future jobs will look like, how should schools prepare students now? Schools are not going to be able to keep up with every tech development — companies cannot always keep up — so a lot of the learning will have to take place on the job. Internships are a great way for companies to offer students a chance to get both a taste of a career and pick up new skills. Older workers will also need employers to step in and help them train on new tools.

Building on his commitment to prepare students to use computers and technology in their careers, Governor Tom Wolf announced $8.7 million in targeted grants to expand computer science classes and teacher training at 765 schools across the commonwealth. The targeted grants represent the next phase of the governor’s new and innovative PAsmart initiative, which will provide $20 million to bring high-quality computer science and STEM education in elementary, middle and high schools, and professional development for teachers. With this commitment, Pennsylvania now ranks second in the country for investments in K-12 STEM and computer science.

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