How Out of School Time Organizations can manage through COVID-19

The following article is provided by Afterschool Alliance

The outbreak of COVID-19 raises questions and concerns for all of us. We’re gathering examples of effective guidance for programs, and issues you might want to consider. Please send any guidance you have received, questions you have, suggestions, best practices, questions you are struggling with and we will share them here.

Follow and share guidance from the CDC on practices such as hand washing, social distancing, and limiting contact. Providers also should review and follow CDC’s guidelines for child-care and youth-serving organizations.

Remind families that if children or parents have symptoms, they should not attend the program.Step up your cleaning and disinfecting, and communicate your actions to families.

Check local guidance. Make sure you know local guidance and processes, such as who to contact if you have a scenario involving quarantines, possible infection among parents, staff, or children. Check with:

Emergency Contact Information: Take time to review and update emergency contact information for each child, and staff member, enrolled in your program(s).

Think ahead: Make sure you and your staff know what to do if a parent, child, or staff member is diagnosed or quarantined, and contingency plans should your program need to close. Keep an open dialogue with staff.

Address anxiety and stress through staying calm and focusing on prevention and preparedness (from the Maryland Out-of-School Time Network):

Remote Learning: As school districts close and students are asked to stay home, there are ways to continue to engage your youth through virtual lessons. The American Federation of Teachers has a wealth of resources to help with learning at home. Want to talk through ideas? They also have an online discussion community where you can share ideas, lesson plans, and resources.

Big ThoughtHow Out of School Time Organizations can manage through COVID-19

A Day in the Life of SEL Dallas

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SEL Dallas LogoWhen Dallas was selected by the Wallace Foundation in 2017 as one of the 6 cities for a nationwide social and emotional learning initiative, we knew it would be a long journey through uncharted territory. Together with Dallas ISD, Dallas Afterschool and Dallas Park and Recreation, we created the SEL Dallas coalition. Together, we work collaboratively to develop truly innovative and integrated best practices for social and emotional learning.

While social and emotional learning (SEL) is far from a new concept, our charge empowered us take a unique approach – review the various academic and theoretical concepts about SEL and then develop and implement a plan to implement a comprehensive learning strategy during the class day and in the after school program environment. Our goal was to have SEL be truly embedded in the learning experience so that it becomes the “how” of learning rather than the the “what”.

For the past several years, teachers, counselors, after school instructors and administrators from the SEL Dallas coalition have worked hand in hand to take theory into practice. Here’s insider’s view of how SEL shows up during the Thriving Minds after school program at Daniel Webster Elementary, one of the Dallas ISD campuses that is currently part of the SEL Dallas initiative.

Using music and motion

Youth learn how to read the emotions of others by understanding how to read body language. Youth also learn how to use ballet, yoga and movement techniques to calm their own emotions.

Youth learn to express their feelings through poetry and storytelling, and then to convert those to music. Feeling happy? The students can make the song faster or add a tambourine. Feeling frustrated? Youth can add a loud drum or make the vocals louder. All in all, youth learn how to express themselves and appreciate the expressions of their peers.

Intentional Curriculum

After school program staff align their weekly plans to an SEL Pacing Guide, which compliments the SEL curriculum being utilized during the school day. In these pictures, students read the book Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, and then discuss the ingredients to make a better pie – a Friendship Pie!

Other pictures show after school instructors and students becoming SEL Superheroes. Learners were engaged in breathing exercises by while drawing circles and counting their heart beats. Learners also practiced mindfulness with an Extreme Silent Game. They even had the opportunity to pair their chemistry skills with self care strategies by creating lotion with organic ingredients and essential oils in relaxing fragrances.

Engaging the Whole Family

We embrace that parents and family are the primary educators and influencers in an young child’s life, and we create opportunities to engage families in the child’s daily school and after school experiences. Sometimes it’s an opportunity for the youth to showcase new skills or completion of a large project, and other times it’s simply a family game night. Regardless of the activity, we build in opportunities for the entire family to talk and share openly.

Big ThoughtA Day in the Life of SEL Dallas

Community Engagement with SEL

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During April students from Martin Weiss Elementarylearned the importance of community giving. As a part of Afterschool Quality Assessment standards, SEL Site Coordinators and their afterschool students are required to complete a community event. This was a youth-led service project, and students chose a food drive. To kick off spring, the idea was to give gift baskets filled with collected can goods. Following the service project, the staff developed a two-week lesson plan to teach the importance of giving back with healthy food options, and eating healthy regularly.

To help the student’s understand the importance of community giving, the students were read “Uncle Willie and The Soup Kitchen,” by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. This was a great way to introduce the subject of helping poverty and homelessness to children, and encourage them to give back in their communities. In the story, Uncle Willie works part-time at the Soup Kitchen because he believes that sometimes people need a little extra help. The boy in the story becomes sympathetic toward people having a hard time making ends meet, he then finds a sense of pride in his uncle. By sympathizing with the boy in the story, it uplifted the class work as team making the food drive a big success. 

After reading the book, the students were asked reflection questions. They were separated into two groups with age-appropriate questions for each age group. Group A was kindergarten through third grade and group B was fourth and fifth grade. The questions included:

1. Why it’s important to volunteer? Why is it important to volunteer at food pantries?

2. When might a person need to visit a soup kitchen or food pantry? What experiences might they be going through?

3. Could you relate or identify with someone in the community center from the book?

4. Why is it important to give back to others?

5. What are some ways other than money that you can give back?

6. If you could give back somewhere, where would it be? Why?

To further engage the students, Weiss school counselor, Tiffany Daniels, started a food pantry initiative partnering the students with the North Texas Food Bank. As an incentive, the staff offered the students a pizza party, which motivated them even more. The students were very excited and continued to share how they wanted to help their own communities. The students ended up collecting more than 200 can goods! Half of the collected can goods were shared with the North Texas Food Bank, while the other half were used in gift baskets created by students.

SEL Coordinator Deborah Carey stated the only challenge was getting a speaker from North Texas Food Bank to talk about the food pantry to the students.

From learning to cook and promoting the food drive to visiting the food pantry, the youth demonstrated their commitment and perseverance throughout the project. The staff realized that the community service initiative was a success when they could see the enthusiasm and commitment of the youth for the project — and the smiles on the student’s faces. 

Big ThoughtCommunity Engagement with SEL

Muffins with Mom at Cowart Elementary

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Our mothers are our first teachers, and we teach others the same lessons we learn from them.” – Caroline Kennedy

Families at Cowart Elementary School celebrated Mother’s Day with a special “Muffins with Mom” event. Big Thought teaching artist Jennifer Kindert led an art activity for moms and their students. Together, they painted a beautiful bouquet of tulips and enjoyed a delicious breakfast before school started.

Click here to view more pictures from the Cowart Elementary “Muffins with Mom” event.

Big ThoughtMuffins with Mom at Cowart Elementary