"How could we know as much as we do, spend as much as we do, care as much as we say we do and accomplish so little for so many kids over so long a period of time?"
That is one powerful statement by Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. For anyone interested in the achievement gap, I encourage you to listen to his speech during this year's Ready by 21 National meeting. You will ride the wave of deep sadness to hope all in this 30-minute presentation. He had me at the first line, but the whole speech is thought provoking.
Will you try an unidentified "healthy" food item because someone tells you it's good for you? Most likely not. The same is true for young people. But if you involve youth in preparing a menu item using some not-so-familiar "healthy" food ingredients, they'll probably taste it. They may even learn to like it!
Engaging youth in cooking can get them interested in trying healthy foods they might otherwise disdain, according to Susan Moores, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (Magee, 2014).
What does children's mental health (CMH) have to do with social and emotional learning (SEL)? How can we draw connections between these two areas of work so that children learn better and are healthier?
Viewing children's mental health as a public health issue brings common ground to this conversation. Public health encourages us to look beyond a child and a specific diagnosis toward dynamic, ecological systems in which both CMH and SEL are influenced.
The more I research and study the facets of teaching, the more I am aware that we as educators don't always apply the same methods of reflection on ourselves as we do to the youth we serve. Do we study to be scholarly teachers? Do we understand the scholarship of teaching as it pertains to our professional development and promotion? Do we take the time to dive deep into reflection to become experts in our teaching?
John Barell, in his book Developing More Curious Minds, tells stories of how the adults in his life nurtured curiosity: his mother, who at the close of a day always asked him not "What did you learn at school today?" but rather: "Did you ask a good question today?" His grandfather often began a sentence with the words: "Johnny, have you ever wondered..."
Rather than delivering a separate SEL curriculum, a recent issue of Social Policy Report proposes that schools integrate the teaching and reinforcement of social and emotional learning (SEL) skills into educators' daily interactions and practices.
Using a food metaphor, the authors describe this as a shift "from a focus on packaged, branded product (curriculum) to the essential ingredients like vitamins and minerals (essential and beneficial strategies)." I think a strategies approach is more in sync with how SEL ought to be framed in out-of-school settings as well.
This summer, we are very excited to have 16 teams of young people from across the state competing in our engineering design challenge, "Build a Rube Goldberg Machine." These third to eighth graders work together and learn the principles of physics to build a working machine that they can take to their county fairs.
When planning this challenge, I really wanted to know, "What role can an out-of-school, project-based contest play in building and transferring STEM knowledge and skills?
On the one hand, there's data. On the other hand, there's your gut. As I branch out and begin to truly understand the programs I work for and grasp their impact and begin to plant some of my own programmatic seeds, I am thinking about youth development program design. In a recent experience, I had a positive outcome that sparked me to ask this question: Is what we do an art or a science?
My answer? I think there's a healthy tension between the two that goes unnoticed. I am finding tools for program design that bring out both sides.
Grants can offer new resources and opportunities to youth programs and the communities in which they take place. The Minnesota Sustainable Community Project (MN SCP), funded by the USDA from 2008 to 2013, helped us to create eight new youth programs throughout the state. In these programs, youth developed leadership skills, gained new mastery and expertise in a subject area and made plans to meet their long-term goals in education.
We knew the benefits to these communities could not be fleeting. To sustain them beyond the life of the grant, we worked within a research-backed conceptual framework.
What lessons do you take from a story about two best friends graduating from Stillwater High School this week -- one of them an artist with autism who seldom speaks, the other headed for a local community college? Their steady and unwavering lifelong friendship across their differences bridged them through childhood to their walk across the graduation stage this month.
This story by Mary Divine of the Saint Paul Pioneer Press centers on two young men who formed a bond that has seen them through the years and over many successful "outcomes".