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Inspiration, knowledge, networking, awards … even an earthquake at 2018 Alaska Afterschool Conference

The Alaska Afterschool Network, a program of Alaska Children’s Trust, hosted the very successful 2018 Alaska Afterschool Conference in Anchorage on November 28-30, 2018. More than 150 afterschool educators, representing more than 40 Alaska communities, attended the conference themed “Unlocking Potential, Transforming Lives.” Additionally, 63 individuals participated in the preconference institute focused on Trauma Responsive Afterschool Programs.

Professional development workshops, a welcome reception, VIP supporter tours and an awards luncheon topped the agenda on Thursday. The awards luncheon included the opportunity to honor Senator Cathy Giessel and Representative Matt Claman as 2018 Afterschool Champions for their legislative work securing marijuana sales tax revenue to support Alaska afterschool programs. Currently, 25,000 Alaska children are enrolled in afterschool programs, and another 45,000 children would benefit from a program but can’t due to barriers in program capacity, costs and availability in their community.

Afterschool conferenceThe conference schedule was interrupted Friday due to the 7.0 earthquake that occurred in the Anchorage area. The afterschool professionals, already champions in the role they play in children’s lives, worked together seamlessly to ensure all participants were safe, cared for, and able to reach homes and families. Parents helping kids process their thoughts and emotions from the earthquake are invited to view this resource from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

Alaska Afterschool Network thanks everyone who attended the conference and extends a special thanks to our workshop presenters, sponsors, vendors, and the hard-working conference planning committee: Thomas, Jessica, Courtney, Shanette, Karen, Eric, Carrie, Lindsey and Marilyn. Their tireless commitment and efforts made all the difference.

Visit the Alaska Afterschool Network website and Facebook page for more information on the conference, upcoming events and afterschool programs in Alaska.

How bugs beat out video games

The Teen and Youth Center (TYC) in Seward was at a low point. Attendance was declining, and grades were dropping – especially after summer break.

“Kids just wanted to stay home and play video games,” explains Josie McClain, coordinator of TYC, a city-run program offering afterschool programs and summer camp for elementary and middle school students.

When Josie saw an email from the Alaska Afterschool Network (AAN) – a program of Alaska Children’s Trust – about an upcoming Science Action Club training on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), her eyes lit up. “I said, ‘I want to explore this!’”

“Investing in our children safeguards their well-being today and assures the future success of our state and nation,” explains Thomas Azzarella, AAN director. “Research shows that afterschool programs increase student’s attendance, grades, and graduation rates; decrease expulsions; increase self-esteem, causing a reduction in suicide; and builds the protective factors to overcome trauma.”IMG_1102

Josie received a grant from AAN and attended her first STEM training – on bugs – last October. “I don’t even like bugs, but it was so cool,” she says. After completing the training, she brought the curriculum kit back to Seward and launched a pilot program for middle schoolers.

And that’s when the tides began to turn for TYC.

“Before, we didn’t have these kinds of programs in Seward. It helps us reach kids we don’t normally see, and we are seeing more and more of them,” Josie shares. “Kids interests began to change, and we started to see them light up.”

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The STEM afterschool program was so well received that Josie built the entire summer program around STEM. With coaching from AAN, Josie wrote and received a grant from the Seward Community Foundation to help cover summer activities. “We were full for the first time in years,” she says. “We even had a wait list.”

As part of the summer program, kids visited botanical gardens, explored the Imaginarium in Anchorage, and went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Alaska Zoo. “It was the coolest summer, and I have been doing this for a long time,” says Josie, who has been at TYC since 2005.

While increased participation is exciting, it’s the change in the kids that is most powerful. “Kids are having conversations, partnering more and asking good questions. They want to do activities, not just hang out. And they are having a lot of fun – they don’t think it’s work,” Josie shares. “It is really cool to watch the changes.”

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One student in particular stands out to Josie – a middle schooler who has always struggled to fit in with his peers. This summer, as part of another Science Action Club STEM curriculum on birds, the student was put in charge of researching the different kinds of birds that the group saw.

“He was very meticulous. He went beyond what the lesson was – he researched more and then came in and presented to everyone,” Josie recalls. “It gave him the opportunity to be the hero. He still had rough times but to watch him shine in those moments was so special.”

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Josie is looking forward to continued opportunities through AAN, including a Science Action Club training on clouds this winter and the Alaska Afterschool Conference in November.

“I am so grateful to the Alaska Afterschool Network for helping open the door for Seward,” Josie says. “None of this would be possible without organizations like AAN bringing this information to smaller communities.”

The Alaska Children’s Trust 2017 community report is full of inspiring real stories like this one about how our supporters are making a real difference in the lives of Alaska’s children and families. Read more on our website – and if you’d like to help us make a difference, please consider making a gift to ACT. Thank you!

Science Action Club Builds STEM Identity Among Youth

20170227_102025_resizedTwenty youth at Bristol Bay 4-H Club stealthily maneuver in the outdoors, keeping their eyes to the sky – they’re on the lookout for birds. These youth are citizen scientists, actively counting birds and documenting their findings in an online platform where professional scientists and ornithologists use the submitted data for research.

The following week, the youth explore how oil spills can affect birds. Comparing two feathers – one dipped in water, the other dipped in oil – the youth discover that the feather dipped in oil will not dry, and investigate environmental solutions to cleaning oil from feathers.

“My favorite activity was seeing what happens to feathers in oil,” says Jacob Belleque. “I was surprised. I thought the oil would come out of the feathers, but it didn’t.”

This is Science Action Club – a curriculum designed to engage middle school youth in authentic, hands-on science during afterschool.20170228_170918_resized

Programs such as Science Action Club address a real need to engage more youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at a young age. Alaska employers say STEM jobs are going unfulfilled because students are graduating from high school without the requisite skills. And in college, too few entering freshman see themselves as scientists, mathematicians, technical experts and engineers. Many youth, especially girls and other underrepresented groups, see STEM as something “other” people do – not something they can pursue.

Science Action Club is helping to make STEM relevant, important and fun for all youth. And once students engage in hands-on science, they begin to reconfigure their beliefs about themselves and their abilities. The club has helped the youth at Bristol Bay 4-H Club understand that they are part of a larger community – the Citizen Scientist Community. This sense of belonging has led to increased levels of self-confidence and STEM identity among club members.

At the start of Science Action Club, many of the youth stated that they did not consider themselves to be scientists, but that opinion has changed over the course of the club. Youth talk about activities with their peers and influence them to join the club – and the learning doesn’t stop when the club lets out. Youth voluntarily track bird activity at home and seek out and share birding books with each other. Parents have noted that dinner discussions are very animated on club days.

And that’s possibly because Science Action Club doesn’t look like your typical science class.Dillingham SAC 2

Instead, it looks like engineering a device that prevents a raw egg from breaking when dropped from a certain height.

It looks like designing paper airplanes to fly across the room, mimicking the flight styles of owls and falcons.

And it looks like real-life experiments, such as dissecting owl pellets, as well as going on regular birding walks.

“I like Science Action Club because we can identify birds and study them to get to know them better,” says one club member.

STEM education creates critical thinkers and increases science literacy. Science Action Club is only one example of the impact of an engaging STEM curriculum in out-of-school time. And while the Science Action Club curriculum is portable and can easily be taken on the road to different communities, access for many young people is still a problem.

Dillingham SAC 3The Alaska Afterschool Network aims to address these barriers, especially in rural Alaska, by forming partnerships to provide high-quality programming opportunities in the state. The Science Action Club is an example of such a partnership. The Alaska Afterschool Network brought the Science Action Club curriculum to 15 program sites across Alaska in conjunction with the National Girls Collaborative Project and the California Academy of Sciences, with funding support from BP Alaska.

The Science Action Club is only a dent in the surface of creating greater access to high-quality STEM learning in out-of-school time. And even though the research is clear on the benefits of exposing students to STEM activities, both within and outside of school, funding can still be a challenge.

Without continued, intentional support of STEM learning in afterschool, students may not get the chance to discover a future career as an ornithologist, or may not choose to pursue a college degree in physics. Afterschool programs bring STEM alive for youth – and support and active partnerships are crucial to continue bringing opportunities to our youth.

To get involved in supporting important afterschool efforts like the Science Action Club, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Alaska Afterschool Network.

STEM Afterschool Innovation Mini-Grants Provide Youth with Opportunities

By Rachael McKinney, Afterschool STEM Expansion VISTA

The Alaska Afterschool Network, Juneau Economic Development Council, and BP Alaska have awarded $24,000 allocated to 16 programs across the state, with grants ranging from $500 to $2,000. These STEM Afterschool Innovation Mini-Grants are designed to help afterschool programs implement or expand high-quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning.noorvik-bg-club

The Alaska Afterschool Network (a program of Alaska Children’s Trust) is grateful for the opportunity to help bring such a great resource to afterschool programs in Alaska.

The need to support STEM learning in-school and after-school is ever-growing. Students spend less than 20 percent of their waking hours inside a school-day classroom, and a number of studies show that STEM learning during the school day is necessary but may not be sufficient for lifelong STEM literacy. Afterschool provides opportunities to reinforce in-school STEM learning through engaging, hands-on STEM activities that can garner and sustain student-interest in these fields.

Estimates show that 80 percent of future jobs will require STEM literacy, with employment in science and math occupations growing 70 percent faster than the overall growth of occupations. A strong, educated STEM workforce is critical to the continued growth of Alaska’s economy. Alaska must provide a STEM education pipeline for students to become effectively educated with the critical thinking and 21st century technology skills needed to tackle the rapidly changing economic, communication, and physical environments affecting Alaska.

However, many students, especially girls and those from underrepresented minorities, find it difficult to envision themselves in these careers. Participation in afterschool STEM programing has been correlated with reducing STEM inequities and increased likelihood of students selecting science-related college majors and careers.

peak-2STEM Afterschool Innovation Mini-Grants are aimed at fostering this process of sparking youth interest in STEM for a more productive and innovative future workforce. From opening a bakery to creating an automobile engineering summer camp, the grant recipients will help provide Alaska youth with valuable skills to prepare them for success in college, career and life.

The Alaska Afterschool Network thanks all of the grant applicants for their commitment to positive youth development and informal STEM education. In total, 53 grant applications were submitted by a diverse group of applicants, including programs from nonprofits, public schools, and libraries spanning the entire state, with requests adding up to more than $83,000. The Alaska Afterschool Network and our partners are committed to increasing resources and opportunities so all Alaskan youth have the opportunity to engage in STEM learning during out-of-school time.

The 2017 STEM Afterschool Innovation Grant recipients are listed below.

Boys & Girls Club of Alaska – Nome Community Center | Nome, Alaska
The Clubhouse plans to teach youth that we are all changing individuals and how these changes benefit everyone through the exploration of habitats and solar energy. Funding will be used to purchase habitat supplies, microscopes, solar car kits, and wind turbine experiment kits. This will allow the clubhouse to increase the frequency of STEM offerings and to take their STEM programing to the next level.

St. Paul Preschool | St. Paul, Alaska
Funding will be used to purchase a Discover STEM Lab to be used on a rotational basis, exposing students to multiple STEM modalities by promoting innovation and inquiry, developing problem-solving, and encouraging mathematical reasoning skills within their afterschool program.

Boys & Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula – Kasilof Clubhouse | Kasilof, Alaska
The Kasilof Boys & Girls Club Bakery will encourage the use of engineering, science, and mathematical skills among club members. Youth will create a student-run bakery business by constructing a storefront for sales, using data analysis to create and maintain spreadsheets of sale records, and utilizing math and life science skills in baking and nutritional labeling.

Sitka Sound Science Center | Sitka, Alaska
STEM grant funding will be used to create a new one-week summer camp called REVolution Camp, which will focus on automobile engineering, fuel systems, and design and product testing. The camp will expose students to the ideas of automobile mechanics, renewable energy systems, design requirements, and testing engineering.

Cordova School District | Cordova, Alaska
Funding will be used to help purchase a Little Bits Pro Library to provide students with more opportunities to learn and create. The Little Bits Pro Library will enable youth to create a comprehensive makerspace that engages them in hands-on STEM activities.

Meadow Lakes Elementary | Wasilla, Alaska
The Meadow Lakes Einstein’s Club will use funding to purchase materials and accessories to teach students problem-solving, engineering, and computer programming. Students will engineer things such as index card towers and paper tables; robots will be used to teach youth about coding and programming.

Teeland Middle School | Wasilla, Alaska
Funding will be used toward the purchase of a replacement 3D printer, which will be used to manufacture robot frames and used as a vehicle for teaching computer programming to students.

Discovery Southeast | Juneau, Alaska
Discovery Southeast will incorporate an explicit STEM focus into its Outdoor Explorers Summer Camp. Three weeks of the camp will be dedicated to Ocean, Salmon, and Rocks, during which campers will pose questions, conduct investigations, collect data, and create a project to share the information they have gathered.

Friends of the Zach Gordon Youth Center | Juneau, Alaska
STEM grant funding will assist Body and Mind Afterschool Activities in providing new STEM curriculum focusing on snow science, space, and birds.

Fairbanks North Star Borough School District 21st CCLC | Fairbanks, Alaska
Funding will be used to purchase three OSMOs classrooms sets that will be shared across 21st CCLC programs in Fairbanks using their Afterschool Lending Library. The OSMOs expose students to problem-solving, coding, mathematics, and computational skills.

Trailside Discovery | Anchorage, Alaska
Trailside Discovery will use grant funding to purchase a JASON Rigamajig to be used in Anchorage School District Title I schools that operate 21st CCLC programs. The Rigamajig is a large-scale building kit used for hands-on free play and learning.

The Arc of Anchorage | Anchorage, Alaska
STEM grant funding will purchase a modular Magnetic Levitation (Maglev) race track and corresponding Maglev cars. Participants will be able to building different tracks, and will then break into teams to build the Maglev cars that will be used for racing. Concepts such as aerodynamics will be taught to students to help them continually rebuild and improve their engineering designs.

Anchorage Public Libraries | Anchorage, Alaska
A geocaching program for youth grades 3-5 called “Geocaching – Hi-tech Hide and Seek” will be rotated throughout programs held in Anchorage’s public libraries. Geocaching will increase youth’s early exposure to real-world mathematics, geospatial science, and GPS technology, while also building upon critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and teamwork.

Boys & Girls Club of Alaska – Woodland Park | Anchorage, Alaska
Funding will be used to create a DIY STEM program at the clubhouse. Four units will be introduced: Energy and Electricity, Engineering Design, Food Chemistry, and Intro to Aeronautics. The program will promote interest and awareness of STEM among club members.

Camp Fire Alaska – Tyson Elementary and Fire Lake | Anchorage/Eagle River, Alaska
Staff members of Camp Fire Alaska will receive specialized training in STEM activity facilitation, focused on supporting youth to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Additionally, staff will receive an orientation to the STEM supplement of the Youth Program Quality Assessment tool in preparation for observing and measuring quality of STEM programing. Camp Fire staff will then implement 12, pre-planned activities intended to introduce youth to basic STEM concepts.

From Struggling Student to Straight As: An Afterschool Success Story

Dale Austermuhl’s daughter was struggling academically when she started the afterschool program at her Fairbanks elementary in the second grade. Dale did his best to help, but there’s only so much a single dad working full time on a swing shift can do.

“Taking care of her all by myself while working – that’s difficult even for two parents. It’s challenging to handle this alone. You need a community,” Dale says.

Fast-forward four years, and Dale’s daughter is still enrolled in the program – and bringing home straight As. Perhaps more importantly, though, is the positive changes and growth he has seen in his daughter.

“It’s helping my child become more confident with herself,” he says. “With the support of the program, she’s growing into a responsible, sincere, beautiful person. That’s what I’ve seen as a parent.”

And, of course, you can’t put a price tag on the peace of mind the program offers to parents. “Knowing she is safe and that people are there making sure homework is done and helping her learn new things – I’m not sure what we would do without it,” Dale says.

The program Dale’s daughter is enrolled in is a 21st Century Community Learning Center. These grant-funded afterschool programs strive to improve student academics by providing a safe environment for students to explore interests, develop confidence, and celebrate success, while promoting positive connections between schools, families and the community.

“The program is not just about homework – it’s also activities like knitting, cooking and gardening,” Dale explains. “Afterschool programs offer a safe environment where the kids are learning and becoming confident with themselves. The people involved in the afterschool program are helping make sure these kids become successful adults. Positive influences create a better person.”

Dale praises the program teachers and coordinators, as well as elected officials and organizations like Alaska Children’s Trust that support program funding.

“These programs need to be funded,” he says. “These children are our future. They will be taking care of us in the future. I’m very passionate about this.”

“This afterschool program has had a phenomenal impact on our family. It’s indescribable.”

Celebrating a Summer of Learning

By Thomas Azzarella, Alaska Afterschool Network Director

This summer thousands of kids checked out books at libraries, learned to fly fish, built robots, volunteered in their communities, got connected to their culture, and explored Alaska’s wilderness while participating in summer programs across Alaska. Not only did these summer programs give kids a fun and safe summer vacation, they inspired learning, strengthened resiliency, and supported working families.AK Map

Youth programs promoted summer learning by engaging children in a variety of exciting activities in order to prevent the summer learning loss. Summer learning loss occurs when youth do not actively participate in learning opportunities, such as reading, the arts and recreational activities.

Kids who are not engaged in enrichment activities throughout the summer are more likely to start the school year behind their classmates. By offering opportunities for youth to develop new skills, work cooperatively with their peers, and get connected to caring adults in their communities, these programs help build resiliency. In addition, working parents were able to stay focused at work while knowing their kids were in a safe and nurturing environment.

We at the Alaska Afterschool Network, a program of Alaska Children’s Trust, celebrate and commend all that our kids have achieved this summer by taking a look at these six outstanding summer programs from across Alaska.

21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) E.A.S.T.

Fairbanks star.jpegFairbanks, Alaska

21st century.jpegThe 21st CCLC E.A.S.T. offered summer adventures to students by integrating the subjects of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). The program was offered free of charge for students attending Denali, Hunter and Joy Elementary 21st CCLC Programs within the Fairbanks North Star Borough School district.

Every morning during the summer program, students worked on inquiry-driven projects in their chosen field of study. Afternoons at the academy featured a variety of choices in shorter STEAM exploration classes, ranging from GPS scavenger hunts and physics experiments, to virtual reality photography and more.

The goal of the academy was to engage students in exciting, hands-on STEAM projects to build literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), while also mitigating summer learning loss.

For more information:

www.k12northstar.org/domain/1093

Courtney.havrilek@k12northstar

(907) 590-3782

Echo Ranch Bible Camp

Juneau star.jpegJuneau, Alaska

Echo Ranch Bible Camp offered summer camp programs for kids and youth ages 7 to 18. The programs were nine weeks of camps – weeks full of activities, games, great conversations, and time for kids to think about life and where they’re headed.EchoRanch

Echo Ranch summer camps offer fun, exciting, healthy environments for kids, positive role models, activities specifically designed for their age group, time to hang out with friends, and the opportunity to learn about a God who loves them.

Zip lining, archery and horseback riding are just a few of the positive activities that the youth engage in during the summer. Many kids find their week at Echo Ranch to be a positive experience they look back on for years to come.

For more information:

www.EchoRanch.org

www.facebook.com/echoranchbiblecamp/?fref=nf

(907) 789-3777

Bristol Bay Borough Parks and Recreation Department

BB star.jpegNaknek, Alaska

The Bristol Bay Borough Parks and Recreation Department’s summer program engaged kids with art project days, team-building sessions and science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) activities.Bristol Bay Park and Rec

The program included various outdoor enrichment activities to help keep the youth active. One of their most memorable outdoor adventures was during a beach walk, when they spotted more than a dozen beluga whales.

For their big field trip, the group was able to fly out to Brooks Camps in Katmai National Park for a day of adventure. This was the first time that many of them had been out to the falls.

In addition, the group volunteered their time and picked up trash around the community, visited the elders’ home, sent letters and goodies to deployed soldiers, and even visited their local fire and EMS department. All of the activities that the youth engaged in were geared to improve their summer learning.

For more information:

www.bristolbayboroughak.us/adminstration/park_and_recreation/index.html

dwood@bbbak.us

(907) 246-7665

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula

kenai star.jpegKenai, Alaska

Club members had an exciting summer at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula summer programs. On any given day, nearly 300 youth walked through the Club doors during the summer months.

Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion

Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion

Five of the Clubs in the Kenai area operated through the summer months. Kenai, Soldotna and Nikiski served youth Monday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m, and the teen programs operated during the afternoon and evening hours.

These programs fed kids through the state of Alaska summer federal meals programs, which ensured healthy meals were available to all kids under 18 who live in Kenai Peninsula communities.

Clubs provided high yield activities and targeted programs, which actively encouraged young people to attend more frequently, and also employed Five Key Elements for Positive Youth Development. These elements include a safe, positive environment; fun; supportive relationships; opportunities and expectations; and recognition.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Kenai Peninsula summer program is vital to the Kenai Peninsula community, providing youth access to high-quality summer learning experiences.

Through all of their programs, it was their goal to  ensure that every youth who walked through their doors was on track to graduate from high school on time with a plan for their future demonstrating good character and citizenship and living a healthy lifestyle.

For more information:

www.bgckp.com

www.facebook.com/bgckp/

info@positiveplaceforkids.com

(907) 283-2682

Northeast Muldoon Boys & Girls Club

muldoon star.jpegAnchorage, Alaska

The Northeast Muldoon Boys and Girls Club kept their participants active throughout the entire summer with educational activities. B&G Club NE Muldoon 1.jpgTo promote such activity, the club went on field trips four out of five days of the week. On the non-field trip day, the club focused on academics to deter summer learning loss. The field trips ranged from visiting the park to fishing on the Kenai River.

The Boys and Girls Club enjoyed partnering with other organizations in order to optimize summer learning. Most recent partners included U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Soul River Inc.

Katrina Mueller from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduced and educated youth about fishing in hopes to get them excited about fish and wildlife. By getting youth enthusiastic about fishing, the service strived to inspire conservation of fish and wildlife, along with the lands and waters that support them.

NE Muldoon Fish.jpegIn addition, Soul River Inc. focused on the youth and fishing. The program connected inner city youth and U.S. military veterans to the outdoors through stimulating outdoor educational experiences such as fishing. These youth ultimately became leaders through the mentoring provided by the U.S. veterans. By having the Soul River youth work with the Boys and Girls Club members, they were able to reflect the mentoring that they received from the veterans and to develop as individuals.

Through all of these experiences, the Northeast Muldoon Boys and Girls Club promoted summer learning and provided opportunities for both the youth and community to benefit from.

For more information:

www.bgcalaska.org

www.facebook.com/Northeast-Muldoon-Boys-Girls-Club-126628350752324/

(907) 333-2582

The PEAK Program

sitka star.jpegSitka, Alaska

This summer, The PEAK Program (Playing. Enrichment. Art. Kids.) utilized project-based learning opportunities to help teach children how to use science, technology, engineering art and mathematics (STEAM) in real life.PEAK

This summer the youth who attended The PEAK Program had a variety of STEAM-focused activities to choose from. Programs included Outdoor Club, Star Wars Club, Scooby Doo, Harry Potter Magic Week, and Investigations and Spy Week. During the investigations week, youth engaged in investigating a staged crime scene that they were in charge of solving.

In addition to the weekly learning units, the students participated in different activities such as sewing, origami, obstacle courses, cooking, tool use, games and other various activities throughout Sitka. Through the instructive activities, The Peak Program was able to help children develop thinking skills, while also building friendships as well as a sense of community.

For more information:

www.seerschoolsitka.org/peak.html

www.facebook.com/The-PEAK-Program-in-Sitka-Alaska-931480073581910/home

peakprogramsitka@gmail.com

(907) 747-6224

Thomas Azzarella is the director of the Alaska Afterschool Network, a program of Alaska Children’s Trust. The network is the only statewide organization dedicated to increasing afterschool and expanded learning opportunities for school-age children, youth, and families in Alaska.