Author: mikeashcraft

Growing Grit: G = MC3

You may have heard of Albert Einstein’s famous equation on his theory of relativity… E = MC2. Our slightly less-famous equation on our theory of grittiness is… G stands for Grit I first learned about “grit” from John Wayne (True Grit – 1969 Western), but it took educational research rock star Angela Lee Duckworth (author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance) to make “grit” a ...

“Essence” of Leadership

If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to win. — Paul “Bear” Bryant People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou There is something in our organization we call the Essence of Leadership. To us ...

Fun for the Zoo: Engineering Enrichment and Enhancement

Fun for the Zoo: Engineering Enrichment and Enhancement. In our Fun for the Zoo class, student “fungineers” are challenged to invent enrichment items that provide stimulation, challenge, and novelty to enhance the behavioral, physical, social, cognitive, and psychological well being of zoo animals. In the wild, animals must forage or hunt for food, and protect themselves against predat...

My Why: Pleasurable and Meaningful Work

There are those in my family who still don’t “get” what I do and wonder, sometimes audibly, if I will ever get a real job. They ask, “Why form a non-profit organization. Do you want to be poor all your life?” I am someone who didn’t plan to work in this profession. When I was in college, studying biology and chemistry, I knew working with kids would someday make...

F.O.C.U.S.: The Facilitative Feedback Flywheel

Treat your staff like children. Do you disagree with this statement? Is this notion shocking to you? We give children quality supervision and boundaries. We empower them to make decisions, and hold them accountable for their choices. We help them develop their skills. We give them feedback on their performance. We do the same with our staff. It comes from a place of love. Leadership is not about l...

Music and Arts Programs are NOT Frills

Music is a language that kindles the human spirit, sharpens the mind, fuels the body, and fills the heart. – Erik Jensen The arts are far closer to the core of education than are the more exalted subjects. – Abraham Maslow In this era of standards and accountability, arts are increasingly viewed as a frill and removed from school curriculum. Brain research suggests that arts can lay a founda...

7 Specialties of the Afterschool Program Director

The director’s job can be very complex. We’ve come up with a powerful yet simple way to articulate what the job entails, illustrate how to effectively manage your time, and leverage your efforts to maximize your success. We have identified 7 Specialties that help bring simplicity to understanding a challenging and complex job. When directors only specialize in one of these areas (such ...

No Children Left on Their Behinds

One of the powers of play is that it gets us to exercise our bodies as well as our minds. – David Elkind Childhood is becoming increasingly sedentary. Tragically, many afterschool programs are becoming increasingly sedentary as well. Today, childhood is spent mostly indoors, watching television, playing video games and working the Internet. When children do go outside, it tends to be for scheduled...

Storytelling for Success: Promoting Your Program

“A story is a fact wrapped in an emotion that compels us to take an action that transforms our world. Telling them (customers, colleagues, bosses) stories, and listening to theirs, is the best way to promote your services and ideas… Stories are the irreducible core, the fire inside every business.” – Richard Maxwell In my own organization, this year has been the year of sto...

Summer Brings New Community-Building Opportunities

Summertime is upon us. Summer brings many changes for OST programs. Many afterschool programs turn into full-day programs. The mix of children is dramatically altered – new children register for the summer program that did not attend the program during the school year. Some older kids depart and a new batch of kindergartners arrives. The curriculum and routine of the afterschool program tran...

Seven Super Tools to Prevent Misbehavior

Super Spaces When you walk into a gymnasium, you behave differently than when you walk into a library. The environment sends cues to the brain about how you should feel and behave. Provide an environment that encourages desirable behavior. The space should say “Play with me!” in a way that clearly defines HOW to play. The way you arrange your space and what you put in your space tells ...

ABC’s of professional, purposeful, and powerful programming practices

These ABC’s are philosophical foundations. They are new and powerful paradigms. Paradigms are like mental models that we all have about the way things should be done in afterschool programs. These ABC’s might challenge the paradigms or mental models that you might carry in your own mind. We challenge you to consider these shifts and the way you may think about how afterschool programs ...