America After 3pm Survey shows Summer Learning Gains Ground

New research from the 2014 edition of America After 3PM, the most comprehensive household survey of how students in America spend their after school hours, shows that summer learning programs are strongly supported by parents and that participation in summer learning programs is on the rise.

According to the survey of nearly 14,000 families:summer survey

  • Eighty-six percent of parents indicate support for public funding for summer learning programs, a statistically significant increase of 3 percentage points over the already very strong support registered in 2009.
  • One-third of families report at least one child participated in a summer learning program last summer, up from the 25 percent of families reporting at least one child participated when the survey was last conducted in 2009.
  • Demand for summer learning programs for 2014 is high. More than half of families reported a desire to participate in a summer learning program this summer.
  • 13 percent of families reported that summer programs were available to them at no cost in 2013. However, the vast majority of parents paid for programs and the average weekly per-child cost for a summer learning program was $250— high enough to put the programs out of the reach of many children and families.

With increased awareness of the problem of summer learning loss, especially among low-income students, it is encouraging to see data that suggest parents are increasingly recognizing the important role that summer learning programs can play in helping keep kids on track for success. However, the cost data raise concerns about equity and whether or not the very students who might most likely benefit from programs are able to access them. Download the one-pager providing an overview of the findings.

In October, look for the release of the 2014 edition of America After 3PM, which will provide a detailed view of afterschool, including access to STEM learning opportunities, physical activity, and healthy meals and snacks in afterschool. America After 3PM is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Wallace Foundation and the Noyce Foundation, with additional support from the Heinz Endowments, Samueli Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

14 Ways to Write Better Grants

Sapling growing from coinsAt School’s Out Washington, we’ve been on both sides of the grant-writing process. We offer grants such as Feed Your Brain and Let’s Get Cookin’, but like any non-profit we also have to apply for grants.

Here are a 14 tips for writing great grants that we’ve learned both as funders and grant writers.

  1. Make sure that your project aligns with the purpose of the grant or its funding priorities. Determine what the funder is trying to accomplish and if these are your goals as well. If in doubt, most funders are willing to answer questions.
  2. Follow directions! This means attaching all attachments, sending in your application so it arrives before the deadline, and answering all questions completely. Deductions are usually given when you do not follow directions. Deductions can cause proposals to lose many points. Proposals that may otherwise be strong proposals have lost enough points from deductions that they were not funded.
  3. On that same vein, do not exceed the number of allowable pages. Proposals exceeding the page limit are usually disqualified because your proposal can no longer be fairly compared with other applicants. Try to use the exact maximum number of allowable pages so the funder gets a good picture of what you’re proposing.
  4. Explain special curricula, projects, and programs in layman’s terms. If the funder doesn’t understand it, they may not fund it. One way to see if a layman can understand your proposal is to give it to someone who doesn’t know your program very well. Have them read it and the grant guidelines and give you feedback. They can let you know if there are areas they do not understand or areas where you didn’t answer the question to their satisfaction.
  5. Most funders are looking for projects that will have long-term effects. Explain how your project will do that.
  6. Most funders like to see collaboration. Mention your partnerships with other organizations, schools, parents, and your community.
  7. Make sure your demographic numbers and budget numbers add up.
  8. Define what success would mean for your program. What end result would make you consider your program a success?
  9. Look at the points that have been assigned to the different areas. Spend more time on the heavily-weighted areas. Use those points to assess the importance of the different areas.
  10. Don’t exaggerate the impact or the numbers you will impact. Be honest and realistic.
  11. Don’t commit to tasks or outcomes that you cannot produce, do not have the staff or time to produce, or do not want to produce.
  12. Make sure that you provide complete contact information so that the funder can contact you with questions.
  13. Use the community as a resource. Ask how others have written grants.
  14. If your proposal is not funded, you might want to call and ask the funder for feedback. Make sure you call a month or two after funding has been allocated when the funder has more time to discuss this with you. Many funders are willing to share areas of improvement with you and the feedback can make you a better grant writer.

Federal Policy Update

While our legislators in Washington State are taking a break from debating and passing laws in Olympia, a flurry of activity is happening in our nation’s capital. Check-out some of the legislation we’re tracking that would impact afterschool, youth development and summer programs.

  • Summer Meals Act, sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Lisa Murkowski (AK), would enhance the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summer Food Service Program. The legislation would help improve nutrition and enhance learning in underserved areas by better integrating summer education and meals programs, making it easier for public-private partner organizations to participate in the summer meals program, and by providing a third meal for children who attend evening enrichment programs. Learn more.
  • Supporting Afterschool STEM Act, introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH), would provide resources to support afterschool STEM programing and strengthen state, local and community partnerships that research has demonstrated is critical in building STEM-relevant skills and interest among students. Learn more.
  • Innovative STEM Networks Act, introduced by Representative Joe Garcia (FL), would provide competitive grant opportunities to states that form network-based partnerships between schools, universities, business, and community groups to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. Learn more.
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate, would reauthorize and update the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and eliminate duplicative programs, improve reporting requirements and develop a set of common performance measures. Learn more.

Be sure to sign-up for our action alerts to stay informed on these and other bills of interest in Congress.

Feed Your Brain Program Highlight: Wahluke Jr. High in Mattawa

Waluke Jr. High Feed Your Brain kids

Beneficiaries of the Feed Your Brain program

Wahluke Jr. High is one of 10 summer programs funded through the Feed Your Brain project providing grants to rural communities to curb learning loss and fight hunger during the summer months. 

In this article, we hear from Michelle McEver, a teacher leading the summer program at Wahluke Jr. High.

As teachers we have created situations in which we read for pleasure in the class. One person leads the lesson as the other literally sits and reads a novel. While slightly awkward, we then have an open dialogue regarding the book and why it is interesting exposing the students to a unique conversation.

Evidence of the approach being successful resulted today on our visit to the public library. A student came up and asked me to help her choose a book because she had read all the books she knew were interesting. I found two books and had her read the back.  She liked both books but chose one saving the other for a future visit to the library.

The students selected another gift book today, from the Page Ahead collection. They are so thankful and excited about the books they receive each week. The students have written two letters in the past week, including one to a fish hatchery that we visited on a field trip.

We also have made a change to our bicycle program based on feedback from a literacy coach. We have two students help take the bicycles outside. The same two return the bicycles to the room. The non- riders use this time to read silently in the shade. The kids are gaining confidence both in reading and bicycle riding. The Grant County police department has arranged to provide a helmet for each of the 30 students.

Our program has grown to the maximum thirty kids! We are reading, writing, playing math games, cycling and going on field trips. It is so much fun and the kids have a great attitude.

Join Us @ Mozilla’s Maker Party 2014

Scene from a Brooklyn Maker Party

Youth building electronics at a Brooklyn Maker Faire

From knit caps to robots to lifehacks to apps, people of all ages are making things, showing what they’ve made, and sharing their processes so others can do the same. It’s called the Maker Movement. It’s about celebrating grassroots innovation, and we hope you join us in this movement this summer!

Afterschool and youth development programs are a great place for kids to Make! The informal education environment allows for the creativity, innovation and experiential learning so integral to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning and the Maker philosophy.

Since 2006, Makers have been getting together at Maker Faires to share ideas and network together. Even President Obama is getting in on the action, hosting the first-ever White House Maker Faire on June 18th. The Afterschool Alliance reported on the Maker Faire describing such creations as a robotic giraffe, cupcake bicycles, a banana piano, homemade 3-D printers and 3-D printed pancakes, fiddles and more which were all on display to inspire makers across the country.

At the Faire, Maker Ed announced a new campaign “to Create and Expand a Nationwide Network of Youth-Oriented Makerspaces.”

School’s out Washington is joining the movement this summer and fall. We will be taking part in Mozilla’s Maker Party 2014—a campaign to teach Web literacy on a global scale through hands-on learning and making. It’s a part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Summer to Make, Play & Connect campaign, keeping inspiration going throughout the summer.

To learn more about our efforts both with the Maker Party and STEM, contact Krista Galloway at (206) 336-6923.

Summer Learning in the News

President Obama supporting the Reach Higher Initiative

The First Lady is supporting the Reach Higher Initiative to encourage young people to go to and complete college

Summer learning continues to gain momentum and interest as families, communities and policymakers recognize the value in providing opportunity for all children and youth to engage in enriching learning experiences during the summer months.

Here in Washington, State Senator Andy Billig from Spokane and Pierce County Councilmember Connie Ladenburg recently spoke out on the importance of summer learning in keeping kids healthy and academically on track in local media.

In the other Washington, First Lady Michelle Obama joined the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) to tour student demonstrations and deliver remarks at the National Summer Learning Day Fair in Washington, DC as part of her Reach Higher initiative.

The National Summer Learning Day Fair, co-hosted by the U.S Department of Education and NSLA, marked National Summer Learning Day on June 20th by bringing together high school students and education leaders from across the country to highlight the critical role summer learning plays in preparing young people for successful college entry and completion.

While National Summer Learning Day was officially celebrate on June 20th, you can plan an event at any time during the summer. It’s not too late to register your event on the National Summer Learning Day Interactive Map.

You can check-out our recently-updated Summer Learning Policy Brief for more data and information to make the case for increasing resources and support for summer learning in our state.

Bridge Conference Summer Special

Register Now for a Chance to Win A Night’s Stay at Hotel & Dinner in Seattle

We are busy finalizing the line-up for the Bridge Conference on October 27 & 28 at the HUB on the University of Washington campus. We want to see you there, so we’re offering a free night at a University District hotel plus dinner to one lucky person who registers between now and August 31.

While we are completing final touches on the conference workshop schedule, we are very excited about our keynotes joining us at the 2014 Bridge Conference including:

  • Dennis Littky, co-founder and co-director of Big Picture Learning and the Met Center, nationally known for his non-traditional approach to education.
  • Robin DiAngelo and Darlene Flynn who will discuss racial equity and privilege and how educators can create a supportive environment for all youth to thrive.
  • Baratunde Thurston, former Director of Digital of the satirical news source The Onion, who will inspire and entertain us with his stories about his own learning journey.

Learn more about the 2014 Bridge Conference.

Celebrate Summer Learning Day Today!

Today, we celebrate the importance of summer learning opportunities in keeping kids learning, engaged, healthy and supported during the summer months.  Governor Inslee officially is proclaiming this day Washington Summer Learning Day – read the full proclamation

We are joined by hundreds of communities across the country taking part in this day of acknowledging and celebrating summer learning.  Visit the National Summer Learning Association’s interactive map for a listing of events happening today and throughout the summer.

Check out these great news stories highlighting summer learning in our state, including an OpEd from Pierce County Councilmember Connie Ladenburg:

Fighting Summer “Brain Drain”, One Child at a Time. Washington News Service (available in Spanish)

Kids can learn and stay healthy during their summer break. OpEd by Connie Ladenburg. Published in The News Tribune and The Bellingham Herald.

Leave no book behind: How to Fight Summer learning loss. By John Higgins. Seattle Times Education Lab Blog.

Tacoma AYD programs unite to support summer learning

Summer Learning TacomaIn this article, we hear about a collaborative effort to increase access to summer learning opportunities in Tacoma.  The Tacoma News Tribune highlighted this effort in a recent news article, Summer Learning List has Activities for Youth.

By Carmetrus Parker, Coordinator, Tacoma Summer Learning Collaborative

The Tacoma Summer Learning Collaborative is a network of program providers and organizations focused on serving local youth. Membership includes larger organizations such as YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs and Metro Parks, as well as some smaller, locally based organizations like Hilltop Artists, Computer Clubhouse, and Peace Community Center. Tacoma Public School District is a regular participant and active partner as well.

This collaborative partnership is a movement of Graduate Tacoma! and is a focused effort to promote student success from cradle to college and career. Efforts include a targeted promotional campaign aimed at driving traffic to the recently launched website This website serves as hub for parents to search hundreds of local summer youth programs. There are multiple search categories that allow users to sort results based on interest. Scholarship and other financial assistance is clearly marked and users are able to click and connect directly to provider sites from

Community visibility is a key priority and outreach efforts include an interview with TV Tacoma, printed advertisements posted throughout the community as posters in coffee shops, organizations and schools. Yard signs can be seen on the grounds of schools, at local businesses and in residential neighborhoods. Electronic billboards carry the message to riders and promote the website as well. Parents of Tacoma Public School students have received automated calls in both English and Spanish and several rounds of flyers have been sent home.

The purpose of blanketing the community with the message that summer learning is FUN is really an effort to reinforce Graduate Tacoma!’s goal of increasing the graduation rate for Tacoma students. We know that students participating in summer programs return to school in the fall having retained more of the skills previously taught and are more prepared to build upon them and ultimately succeed academically.

This collaborative effort works towards achieving Tacoma’s shared community goal of increasing by 50% both the graduation rate of Tacoma Public School students and those who complete a college degree or technical certificate by the year 2020. With collaborative efforts such as these and strategic partnerships committed to shared goals and visioning, I fully expect us to reach our goal.

New Grant Program Focuses on Engaging Kids in Cooking and Healthy Eating During the Summer Months

The Let’s Get Cookin’ Project in Seattle will expose children from low-income backgrounds to the skills and knowledge needed to prepare healthy meals and make healthy lifestyle choices.

Seattle, WA – This summer, children and youth in six summer programs will have the opportunity to participate in the Let’s Get Cookin’ project. The summer programs will incorporate the cooking component as a way to not only develop cooking skills and increase access to healthy, local foods, but also to create and support environments of well-being and decrease health disparities.

Data from the Public Health – Seattle & King County Seattle Public School Health Profile shows alarming information around the health disparities that exist in our community. Twenty-three percent of low-income children in Seattle are overweight or obese as compared to 19% of all children in the city and only 25% of low-income children eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day as compared to 30% of all children.

These numbers show health issues facing all children our community, and how it is hitting our low-income populations even harder. The Let’s Get Cookin’ project serves primarily low-income children and aims to address these health trends that are negatively impacting our young people and creating unhealthy lifestyle habits for the future.

School’s Out Washington (SOWA), in partnership with the City of Seattle Human Services Department Youth and Family Empowerment Division, Public Health – Seattle & King County, and Seattle Tilth Association, are supporting Let’s Get Cookin’ and have selected the following summer programs to participate:

  • YMCA of Greater Seattle – Concord Site
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of King County – Joel Smilow Club House & Rainier Vista Teen Center
  • Urban Impact
  • YMCA of Great Seattle – Bailey Gatzert Site
  • Causeys Learning Center
  • Horn of Africa

“In many of our low-income communities, children and families do not have access to as many affordable, healthy food options,” explains Janet Schmidt, Chief Program & Policy Officer at School’s Out Washington. “Through the Let’s Get Cookin’ project, we aim to help children better understand healthy eating, so they can make informed decisions and create lasting impact through education and knowledge of how to prepare healthy meals and maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

We know that engaging summer learning programs ensure that kids are provided with healthy meals and stay physically active. Let’s Get Cookin’ will take it one step farther to provide education and activities around meal preparation and healthy lifestyles.

Some examples of how the Let’s Get Cookin’ grant funds will be used include: Utilizing an on-site garden to use fresh vegetables and herbs grown by kids attending the program in their cooking projects; Culturally appropriate menu planning and food preparation to appeal to the kids served in the program; family engagement around cooking and healthy lifestyle choices; and incorporating educational games into the cooking activities that promote academic skills such as measurement, literacy etc.

More information at our Website.

Please contact Danielle Baer, Communications Manager at or (206) 351-6141 to set-up an interview with any of the funded summer programs.

Download and print this press release

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