Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Crafting

I hosted a Holiday Party for the CalSERVES staff and AmeriCorps leaders.  We focused the party around creating handmade gifts.  It was a fun and economical way to send everyone home with some of their holiday gifting done!

I always worry about our AmeriCorps members at the holidays.  These wonderful people are serving the community, receiving only a living stipend each month that enables them to just get by.  This was a great way to partially address the challenge that can pose during the holiday.

In addition to good food (thank you Emily!), egg nog and cheer, here are the projects we did:

1. Cookies in a Jar.
I offered 5 recipes for guests to choose from, and in all the recipes, dry cookie mix would be layered into 1 quart mason jars.  I had all the basic ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda/powder, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.) and from there guests could make whatever they liked.  I had tags where they could write the recipe and raffia and ribbon to make it pretty.  We made 20 jars!

2.  Cross Stitch Ornaments
Kathy brought ornament patterns and everything else for us to cross-stitch our own ornament.  What a wonderful project and new skill that many learned.

3.  Peppermint Sugar Scrub.
Megan brought us this fun and fragrant project.  You use sugar, peppermint oil, olive oil and food coloring.  You can get creative with the pattern as you pack it into a smaller mason jar and decorate it with ribbon and card.

4.  Paper Garlands
These fun and colorful garlands can be used to bring a pop of color to any room!  Lauren brought us this project which involved string, colorful paper, and scissors.

Most importantly, I got to spend the day with so many great people...laughing and learning together like we always do!  Thank you my CalSERVES team....you are all such shining examples of what the holiday time truly means to me.

Monday, December 3, 2012

After School Attractions

This was originally published on the Boost Breakfast Blog

I woke up early this morning in Washington DC where I am attending a conference on School Counseling programs.  We are working on a new program to incorporate school counseling into our after school programs in order to provide students the emotional support they need to succeed.

Despite my desire to linger in bed, I know I must get up in order to have time to stand in line for 45 minutes at Market Lunch at the Eastern Market to enjoy Blue Bucks (blueberry pancakes), eggs and biscuits….yum!  Even though I am in DC for work, I am trying on this trip to see some sites as well.  I have looked at many “things to see” lists and read several “top 10 things to do” articles providing advice on the best attractions in the nation’s Capitol.

As I walk to the Metro and get on the train, I began to think about the important things to see and do in After School programs.  There is so much good and important work being done but if I had to boil it down into the key elements of successful after school programs, what would they be?  Inspiration comes as I sit down with a table of kids and their parents to enjoy my Market treats….

Top 5 After School Attractions (worth waiting in line for):

1.     The relationships.  The success of After School programs starts here.  It is the relationships developed between the program staff and students that make it so special.  The most important thing After School does is connect students to caring adults who want to know them and support their social and academic success.  It is seen in the program coordinator who asks child after child to read them their story and provides each her rapt attention…encouraging at every step.  It is witnessed in the classroom leader who spends time with the students finding out how their weekend was, showing her interest in her wide smile and engaged eyes.  It is the AmeriCorps member working diligently with a student on her reading while inviting her to express herself and take a chance.  These relationships are everything and you must see them when you visit.

2.     The creativity.  We have such an opportunity in after school to encourage creativity and expansive thinking in students.  You should come to see these creative moments that happen every day in After School programs.  It is in the little girl’s excitement at making her own Amazonian Headdress.  It is the pride of expression as a boy performs his rap in honor of Dr. King and his ideals.

3.     The play.  Play is a must see in any After School program.  After School has the ability to encourage play and provide opportunities for students to actively engage in physical activities that build social skills, improve health, and create joy! It is the excitement expressed by the boy who won a rousing game of Jenga.  It is in the students learning the essential skills of volleyball, playing and learning together as a team.

4.     The discovery.  After School has the unique opportunity to expose children to new experiences, new ideas, and new places in the community and world.  You have to see it when visiting After School.  It is the fun of learning seen when students use the KidzScience Falling and Flying kit to make parachutes and build rockets.  It is a student’s experience of the wonder of tidepools in a visit to the beach…for the first time.

5.     The growth.  The most special thing to see in After School is the growth of a student.  It is one of the most special sites.  It is seen in the “a-ha” moments during a science lesson on centrifugal force.  It is witnessed in the smile of accomplishment when a student reaches a new reading level.  It is clearly expressed in the boy who once acted out who now has a leadership role in his class.

So, next time you’re visiting an After School program, please note these must see attractions.  Or, if you haven’t been to a program in a while….get out there and see the great work these wonderful professionals and their students are doing each and every day!