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On-Site Staff / Partnerships and Building Relationships / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

The Cutting Edge of Youth Learning and Development: Six Things You Should Know and Three Things You Should Do

Four years ago, I wrote a blog post for the BOOST Café titled, Positive Youth Development, an Idea Whose Time Has Come…. Again and Again. The blog highlighted that new research on Grit, Growth Mindset and Social Emotional Learning supported what we in the out-of-school time field have known for a long time. Four years later, the most recent research, once again, supports the importance of a foundation of program quality grounded in Positive Youth Development. A groundbreaking new report recently released by the Aspen Commission on Social Emotional and Academic Learning once again highlights the importance of addressing the whole child and creating learning environments rich with safety, belonging, and meaning.

One thing you should do: Learn more about  the Aspen Commission’s Report and learn from leading researchers, experts, and advocates at the BOOST Town Hall Session on May 1st at 2:45

The new report, From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope highlights the most recent research on brain development and the Science of Learning. The leading researchers and experts are surfacing that a foundation of positive youth development creates the conditions necessary for Social-Emotional and Academic Learning, and overall youth success in life beyond school.

Here are six things you should know, and I’ve included three things you should do throughout the post.

1.     What you do looks very much like what the report recommends

The report includes six recommendations.  Most of the recommendations are very consistent with quality frameworks for out-of-school time programs. Creating safe, supportive learning environments that focus on the whole child are part of the DNA of out-of-school time programs. Out-of-school time programs have always focused on a broader set of skills including social and emotional skills, along with cognitive and academic skills. Our practice has been grounded in research-supported principles of positive youth development. Additionally, after school and summer learning programs partner with schools to support the whole child. We can always do better, especially with stronger partnerships and more support.

Aspen Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development Recommendations:

1) Set a clear vision that broadens the definition of student success to include the whole child,

2) Transform learning settings so they are safe and supportive for all students,

3) Change instruction to teach social, emotional, and cognitive skills; embed these skills into academics and schoolwide practices,

4) Build adult expertise in child development,

5) Align resources and leverage partners in the community to address the whole child, and

6) Forge closer connections between research and practice.

A second thing you should do: Use this information to advocate for stronger partnerships with schools and communities, and increased investment in after-school programs and their professional capacity to support the whole learner.

2.     The Report Recommends Out-of-School Time Programs for All Children

Under recommendation five: Align resources and leverage partners in the community to address the whole child, the report includes a recommendation to provide access to high-quality summer school and after-school programs to each young person.

3.     The Importance of the Whole Child is Making a Comeback

The report highlights that youth will require social, emotional, and cognitive skills to succeed in school and beyond, so we should focus on all of those skills in our programs.

4.     A focus on safe and supportive environments and relationships is key

Out-of-school time program quality is grounded in safe, supportive environments, where youth feel seen and heard, feel like they belong, have positive relationships with adults and peers, and include high expectations. These contexts for learning are highlighted as #howlearninghappens.

5.     You Create the Foundation for Youth Success!

Learning settings consistent with quality out-of-school time programs create the foundation for youth sense of belonging, engagement, ownership, and purpose in their learning. These types of learning environments and student experiences are a foundation for positive academic, civic, workforce, and well-being outcomes.

A third thing you should do: Thank an after school professional for creating the conditions necessary for youth to thrive! April 22nd – 26th is After School Professionals Appreciation Week!

6.     A Sub-report Highlights the importance of Community Youth Development Partnerships Before and After School and During the Summer

The Youth Development Work Group of the Aspen Commission on Social Emotional and Academic Learning released the report, Building Partnerships in Support of When, Where, and How Learning Happens. The report surfaces the importance of positive youth development, the value of community-based youth development partners, and surfaces a call for collaborative partnerships with youth development agencies.

You’ve known it all along because you’ve seen it in action for years. Once again, leading researchers and experts support the importance of the environments and experiences you create for youth.

So thank you, you’re awesome!

For breakfast this morning I had coffee while enjoying a presentation at the Carnegie Summit for Improvement in Education.

Author: @jeffdavis

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