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April 2012 Archives

Integrated STEM learning - the Lady Gaga of education


Hui-Hui-Wang.jpgDepartments of Education in Minnesota and in many other states have taken the position that learning science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) should be integrated. In other words, science and engineering should be taught together, or math and technology taught together. Now it is up to us as educators to decide how to integrate them.

Surprisingly, how to integrate STEM integration is a topic as controversial as Lady Gaga! Some people adore her as new queen of pop music, but some people think that she belittles the value of music and has a bad influence on people who listen to it.

Arming parents with the tools to gauge program quality


Samantha-Grant.jpgOut-of-school time providers beware! I'm a parent and know a lot about program quality. Last week as my daughter pirouetted her way into her preschool dance class, I found her dance teacher looking at forms instead of greeting the students. As a youth worker myself, I understand the demands of balancing 20 things at once. But I couldn't help thinking about how this non-greeting affects the learning environment.

I get it that I'm not the typical parent -- I'm the one who grills potential daycare providers on their use of developmentally appropriate practice, because I understand what that is. But I am interested to study more about how the average parent can become a better consumer of learning opportunities for their children. I know that my knowledge has impacted the decisions that I make for my children, and I believe the same would hold true for other parents.

Ways to adapt youth programs for the outdoors


Carrie-Ann-Olson.jpgOk, I love incorporating new technology tools into my teaching. I also love nature and being outdoors. For me, what's even better than each of these is finding ways to incorporate technology into the design of an outdoor learning experience. This combination gets me -- and many youth, too -- caught up in the flow of learning. What program activities would you like to take outside?

The Children & Nature Network has designated April as Let's G.O.! (Get Outside) month where people of all ages are encouraged to play, serve and celebrate together in nature. With the spring weather upon us, it is the perfect time to move our learning environments into the outdoors. Regardless of the topic and teaching tools you are utilizing - low or high tech - with a little creative thinking most experiences can be transferred to the outdoor environment.

Margo-Herman.jpgAs key partners of the Next Generation Youth Work Coalition explored the next phase of this organization last week in Dallas, it's a prime time for the broader youth development field to be aware of this important organization. Its purpose is to bring together individuals and organizations dedicated to developing a strong, diverse after-school and youth development workforce that is stable, prepared, supported and committed to the well being and empowerment of children and youth. We want your opinion on our proposed action plan.

Hopes and fears for the use of evidence

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Dale-Blyth.jpgIn March and April my schedule has me in multiple conversations about evidence. What is the evidence for the impact of out of school time programs? How do we generate better evidence? How does one organize evidence to make it useful? How do we invest in creating, gathering, and using evidence? How should evidence guide further investments in our field? To what extent does money flow to where evidence is strong or stop when evidence is weak?

At the recent Mayoral Summit here in Minnesota, mayors and others learned about the evidence that youth opportunities work, to what extent young people are participating, and the nature of the opportunity gap as a supply problem, not a demand problem. Many attendees wanted more evidence about opportunities in their communities, evidence that what mayors can do will matter, and evidence that if we build it, youth will come.

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