Known for its diverse wildlife and awe-inspiring mountains and forests, Alaska is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Yet while natural beauty abounds, opportunities for science engagement in the state are limited. Science Action Club, a citizen-science-centric program of the California Academy of Sciences has brought hands-on, interactive science experiences to kids and adults across the country for nearly a decade, and now also to Alaska.

This is a favorite phrase of disbelief we like to use as adults when we come face-to-face with mistakes made by youth. But, when you come to understand the mental and emotional state of adolescence, the question is pretty absurd. Because it takes the better part of the first two decades of our lives to fully understand and make decisions based on consequences. This is the beginning of understanding social emotional learning, the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions and make responsible decisions. So cornering our students and demanding an explanation only makes matters worse. When we corner our kids verbally or physically, they cannot access the logical and executive functions of their brains. They shut down, fight back and run.

University of Pennsylvania senior Aminata Sy founded the African Community Learning Program in October 2017 to inspire academic achievement among 1st to 8th grade students with African backgrounds in Philadelphia. Since then, the afterschool program’s students have toured the Philadelphia NBC 10 station, improved their English-language skills with culturally relevant curriculum, and received visits from Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell. “Many students went from not speaking English to communicating, reading, writing and comprehending the language and our texts as well as presenting to our class,” Sy wrote in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.

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