Youth Legislatures Create Next Generation of Thinkers

Cal Martin

Cal Martin

By Cal Martin, a Junior at Dayton High School in Dayton, WA. Cal is involved with YMCA Youth Legislature, a program founded in 1947 which provides opportunities for teens to find their voice on issues facing society today, empowering them to address concerns in their communities and practice tolerance, understanding, and leadership.

School’s Out Washington partners with this program and is exploring how to further engage around youth and government. Cal provides his perspective on why getting involved in the legislative process matters and the importance of youth voice.

My name is Cal Martin and I’ve been involved in Youth and Government for four years. I have seen how important this program has been to me and my peers who are involved.

Nowadays, youth are often hesitant to get out of their comfort zones, mostly intimidated by individuals other than their friends and family. However, giving their opinion is one thing that most people are comfortable with. This exchange of ideas is simple government and civics. Not necessarily relations between the government and big corporations, but the small ideas such as “I think there should be a law that makes traffic lights correspond with the colors of our flag.”

Cal, in the back, with other members of the Youth Legislature in Olympia

Cal, in the back, with other members of the Youth Legislature in Olympia

Even these little ideas that pop up in our minds are important because all it takes is one idea in one person’s head and after a couple of years it could become a law. As American citizens we must continue to come up with new and better ideas to make the country better. This is why it is important to have civic involvement, without these little ideas to give birth to bigger and better laws our country will become stagnant, and will be stuck in the world we are in today. Youth and Government teaches high school students to have ideas and follow their ideas through the Legislative process.

Civic involvement is key for a better future, as the world changes around us new problems arise, and new things need to be changed. For example, I introduced a bill into Youth Legislature to change an old law that restricted the freedom of farmers in Eastern Washington.  Though my experience in this program I have learned that laws don’t just sit in a dusty old book, but rather can be changed when any citizen has an idea.

This is why I believe the importance of Youth in Government is greater than most people think. This program teaches youth about the structure of the government, and how it works. Most important of all, these are the people who are going to be coming up with solutions to our nation’s problems in a few short years, and through this program we are learning how to turn these solutions into reality.

Youth in Government is a sound investment converting us into a generation of thinkers and problem solvers, and one in which can turn our nation into a better, more successful one.

Seattle Schools Announces Programs Losing Space & Next Steps

Thank you to everyone who spoke out in support of Seattle before and afterschool care programs. Your voice was heard and actions by Seattle Public Schools are underway to support programs at-risk of closing next year as well as designing new and, hopefully, transparent processes for repurposing school space. Parents and providers wrote emails to school board members, testified at the school board meeting, shared information on social media, and were interviewed by several media outlets. Great job!

Now the work continues. SPS has listed programs at 7 schools that will have to relocate:

  • Adams Elementary (will affect before and after school child care)
  • Daniel Bagley Elementary (will affect before and after school child care)
  • Bryant Elementary (will affect before and after school child care)
  • Coe Elementary (will affect preschool)
  • Hawthorne Elementary (two classrooms; will affect both preschool and before and after school child care)
  • Madrona K-8 (will affect before and after school child care)
  • Maple Elementary (will affect both preschool and before and after school child care)

You can read the full announcement posted on the SPS website.

Next Steps: We Need Your Input

This obviously has very real and concerning impacts for providers, families, and children. SPS, SOWA, and the Youth Development Executives of King County (YDEKC) along with several providers have developed a first version of a child care-school partnership tool to help provide a process to save child care. We would love your feedback on this tool as it will be revised by SPS and stakeholders for use moving forward.

While fewer programs than originally anticipated appear to be at-risk next school year, there are many challenges facing limited space in the years ahead as well as this summer as school construction projects may displace summer programming. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to contact SOWA Policy and Advocacy Director David Beard at

We will continue to work with SPS, providers, and other stakeholders to ensure the decision-making processes regarding space and partnership are greatly improved and ensure vital before and afterschool care is available for Seattle’s children and families.


News Roundup: Seattle School Board Approves Proposal to Repurpose Child Care Space

Last night, the Seattle School Board voted to approve a proposal to reclaim classroom space from 19 afterschool programs located on-site in Seattle elementary schools.

The board-approved proposal requires that the affected programs are notified that they will be losing their space by Feb. 3.

Only Board Director Scott Pinkham voted against the proposal.

School’s Out Washington records indicate that there are just short of a hundred afterschool programs located within Seattle Public Schools’ buildings.

The Seattle news media has been covering the issue, recognizing both the impact that this will have on working parents and that the need for extra classroom space is real.

  • KUOW reported on the issue before the vote last night. They interviewed one parent, Andrea Dos Santos, who has kids in a program at West Woodland Elementary. She said if that program closes, “… that would be ‘I think I need to quit my job’ kind of impact. And I know I’m not the only one in that situation.”
  • The Seattle Times reported after the vote that 19 additional classrooms is just the tip of the iceberg. Seattle schools could need up to 65 more classrooms to accommodate Seattle’s growing population, and to deal with new class size requirements taking affect in 2017. A maximum of 17 students per teacher for the youngest school-age children will be required, as reported by King 5.

The proposal included an amendment with some positive language as we move forward.  The amendment states that:

  • The District shall create a timeline to engage with the 19 communities affected by the decision and help find creative solutions to preserve child care space on-site or nearby;
  • Superintendent Nyland is directed to bring forward for review by the Board options to engage community in future capacity management decision, such as a committee or task force.

As we anticipate more enrollment growth and K-3 class size reduction implementation, we know this issue is not going away.  We appreciate the intent of the amendment to ensure that families and community members are part of the solution rather than on the receiving end of decisions that negatively impact our day to day lives.

School’s Out Washington and our community partners will be closely engaged with Seattle Public Schools and holding them accountable to their promise to find ways to include community in finding solutions that prevent similar situations as what we’ve faced this past month.  Seattle School Board Directors need to continue hearing concerns about this issue and that even though the proposal passed, we need to find short and long-term solutions to address the immediate impact and plan for future capacity issues.

Visit the Seattle School Board website to find out when your School Director representative will be hosting their next community meeting. This is a great space to share concerns and meet your Director face to face.

Please stay tuned for more information as this process moves forward, and if you have questions or would like to speak further on this issue, contact David Beard, Policy & Advocacy Director.

Quick FAQs on Why Seattle Child Care is At-Risk

Seattle Public Schools is considering a proposal that could force up to 19 child care programs providing before and afterschool care to close down. Even more programs could be at risk in the future. The proposal is a result of an increase in demand for instructional space in our schools.

Child care programs have served for decades as a vital resource for working families and provide learning opportunities and enrichment for thousands of Seattle students. Having programs based at schools allows for accessibility and opportunities to build school-community partnerships to help students achieve academic and social-emotional outcomes.

The following list of FAQs provide more information to help understand this issue and what you can do have your voice heard.

What is going on?

There is a proposal before the Seattle Public School Board to repurpose space in schools throughout the district. Included in this proposal is a plan to repurpose 19 school-age and pre-k child care classrooms this summer into regular classrooms. Without a strong plan to move and transition these programs to other spaces and/or locations, the programs will close and those children will lose services.

Why is this happening?

For two reasons; the first is increasing enrollment. More children and families are moving into the district. Secondly, the state is fulfilling the voter-approved mandate to decrease class size in kindergarten to third grade and has finally provided some funding to do so. In order to fulfil this mandate, the school district must lower class sizes in some schools and more space is needed.

What is Seattle Public Schools doing?

The Facility Operations Unit at SPS has put forward a proposal to repurpose many classrooms including 19 of the child care spaces in the city. SPS has not informed the public on the names and locations of the 19th programs. This proposal is being put forward to a vote by the Seattle Public Schools Board.

What can be done?

Unfortunately, SPS did not do a proper planning process that included schools, child care programs, or parents and families when assembling the current proposal. In order for programs to stay open, there are workable solutions that can help programs move to new spaces, provide transportation to those programs, and keep programs affordable for families. However, this process takes careful time and planning.

It’s not too late! There is still time to meet the mandate and ensure programs stay open, but the School Board needs to slow down and open up the planning process in order to allow enough time for thoughtful planning.

What can I do?

There are several things you can do. One is to write a letter to Seattle School Board Directors which you can do here. Second, is to come to show support for the child care programs at the Seattle School Board Meeting on January 20th beginning at 4:15pm located at 2445 3rd Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98134. Third, you can contact your principal and Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland and let them know of your opposition to the proposal and ask for a new planning process to ensure these child care programs do not close.

Want more information?

Feel free to contact School’s Out Washington’s Education Policy and Advocacy Director David Beard at

Want to do something about it?

You can send a message to the Seattle School Board here to tell them what you think about this proposal. You can use our draft letter or compose your own.

Explaining Extremism and Addressing Islamophobia: Practical Strategies and Resources for Educators

Guest Post by Kimberly Keiserman, MA Ed., Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding

Tanenbaum is a secular, non-sectarian nonprofit that promotes mutual respect with practical programs that bridge religious difference and combat prejudice, hatred and violence in schools, workplaces, health care settings and in areas of armed conflict across the globe.

In the last few weeks, the world has been shocked by a series of high-profile terrorist attacks in Beirut, Paris, Mali, Colorado Springs and San Bernardino, California. These atrocities took place in different parts of the world, but each was committed in the name of religion. All but one—the Colorado Springs massacre—were carried out by violent extremists who claim the mantle of Islam.

In our country, coverage of these events has dominated the media landscape, while the political response has reshaped the 2016 presidential campaign. In a series of recent polls, Americans have expressed increasing feelings of vulnerability and insecurity; a New York Times/CBS News poll released on December 10th found that fears of terrorism have spiked to highs not seen since the immediate aftermath of 9/11. This heightened anxiety has fueled a surge in anti-Muslim rhetoric. It’s no surprise that Muslim leaders report a sharp escalation in violent attacks against mosques–and people.

In the age of the 24-hour news cycle and saturation media coverage, there is no way to keep children from hearing the grim news about extremist ideologies and terrorist attacks, nor is it possible to keep them from being exposed to the Islamophobic sentiments that are now so pervasive in our culture. As the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has documented, rates of bullying against Muslim students have been high since 9/11. Even before the Paris attacks, the California chapter of CAIR released survey results showing that more than half of California’s Muslim students endure bullying based on their religion —including being called terrorists and ragheads, asked if they are members of ISIS or the Taliban, and told to go back to their countries. Sikh groups see similar trends—not because Sikhs are Muslims, but because they are often mistaken for Muslims. In its 2014 report, Go Home, Terrorist, the Sikh Coalition found that more than 50 percent of Sikh children are bullied in school, a figure that rises to 67 percent for turbaned Sikh boys.

In the current climate, the problem of religious-based bullying is all but certain to get worse—as anecdotal reporting already indicates. For the young people who are targeted—and for those who live in fear of being targeted–this backlash will likely have devastating consequences, producing lasting feelings of exclusion, marginalization, shame, and low self-esteem. That’s where educators come in. They can help prevent this from happening in their learning communities.

But this is a challenge. Whether educators have to answer a difficult question or respond to an act of bullying, many will find themselves with the daunting task of explaining extremism and addressing Islamophobia. Here are five strategies for addressing these difficult issues in classrooms and afterschool programs:

  1. Expand students’ knowledge about Islam and other religions. Anti-Muslim bullying stems from prejudice and stereotyping, which in turn stem from ignorance. A 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center revealed that many Americans lack basic religious literacy. Like adults, most kids know very little about the beliefs and practices of the major world religions, including Islam, Sikhism, Judaism and other minority faiths. If all they know about Muslims is what they see in the media, kids can jump to the conclusion that all Muslims are terrorists – and that all terrorists are Muslims. With a greater understanding of Islam, students will gain the context they need to differentiate between the mainstream followers of the religion and its extremists—and to debunk the stereotypes they see portrayed in the media.
  1. Go beyond textbook descriptions of Islam and other religions. Allow students to gain insights into the lived experiences of real Muslims by allowing them to read personal narratives and short stories, interact in person or electronically with guest speakers and interview community members. This will not only make the lessons more meaningful, it will enable students to see the diversity that exists within Islam and other religious communities. Students who recognize the diversity within a religious group will be less likely to accept sweeping generalizations about its members.
  1. Demonstrate that extremists represent a very small minority within Islam. Students need to know that 1.6 billion people around the world practice Islam, and only a small minority of them support extremist organizations or terrorist acts. A 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center found that Muslims around the world reject violence in the name of Islam, with clear majorities in seven of the 11 countries surveyed saying that “suicide bombings or other acts of violence that target civilians are never justified. More recent Pew data shows that “people in countries with large Muslim populations are as concerned as Western nations about the threat of Islamic extremism, and have become increasingly concerned in recent years.” In recent weeks, ordinary Muslims across the world have taken to social media, using the hashtags #NotInMyName and #YouAintNoMuslimBruv to condemn religious extremism and violence.
  1. Make it clear that extremism is not unique to Islam or any religion. Examples of violent extremism can be found in all religions, from Christian Identity groups in the U.S. to Buddhist supremacist groups in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Emphasize that extremism is a complex phenomenon, and religious extremists often distort religious texts and teachings to mask political and economic goals. Acts of terrorism can never be explained by the terrorists’ religious affiliation alone.
  1. Teach students to recognize Islamophobia and understand its consequences for their Muslim classmates and neighbors. Help students identify Islamophobia and recognize it for what it is—a form of bigotry that does great harm to individuals and communities. Expose students to stories of people who have been hurt by Islamophobia, whether in the form of discrimination, bullying or hate crimes. By encouraging students to reflect on the real-life experiences of Islamophobia, educators promote important socio-emotional goals including the development of empathy and moral reasoning. They help students see Muslims as individuals rather than solely as members of a group–a crucial step in preventing and overcoming prejudice.

In a time of rising fear and xenophobia, it’s crucial that educators rise to the challenge of explaining extremism and addressing Islamophobia. Use these strategies to promote knowledge and understanding rather than suspicion and prejudice.



The Five Pillars of Islam, PBS. Lesson plan exploring the basic beliefs of Islam.

Debunking Stereotypes about Muslims and Islam, Teaching Tolerance.

World Religions Fact Sheet, Tanenbaum Center.

Religious Diversity in the Classroom: Fostering a Culture of Respect, Tanenbaum and Teaching Tolerance, webinar about how to create safe learning environments for students of all backgrounds.

Campaign Against Extremism, Tanenbaum Center. A range of resources that can be used to educate and engage high school and college students about the complex issues related to extremism, terrorism and the pursuit of peace and justice. This is an ongoing project to which new resources are added each month.

The Tanenbaum Center also has curricula at all grade levels promoting religious literacy and respect for differences.

Funding Opportunity for Outdoor Education Programs

Are you an educator? Do you run a community, afterschool and/or summer program? Are you working with youth in a nonprofit, tribal, or other organization? Would you like to help children be healthier, happier, and more successful—both in school and in life?

Grant applications are being accepted now for the No Child Left Inside program. This program provides money for outdoor environmental, ecological, agricultural, or other natural resource-based education and recreation programs serving youth.

Research shows that getting kids outdoors can vastly improve their lives. Researchers have concluded that less contact with nature results in more childhood stress, obesity, and disengagement. Outdoor education programs involving interaction with nature counteract this condition, enhancing children’s self-esteem, health, academic performance, personal responsibility, and community involvement.

The No Child Left Inside grant program is intended to empower local communities to engage students in outdoor education and recreation experiences and focuses on serving students with the greatest needs. Students work to improve their overall academic performance, self-esteem, personal responsibility, community involvement, personal health, and understanding of nature.

The Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) is accepting applications now until February 16, 2016. See this year’s schedule.

If you are considering applying for a grant, you will want to:

  • Review the Manual: Details about the grant program, including eligible programs, project types, and evaluation requirements are in RCO Manual 23, No Child Left Inside. Please review this document before starting your application.
  • Start Application in PRISM: You must submit a complete application using RCO’s online database PRISM. This means all documents must be completed and in PRISM by the application deadline. Request a PRISM User Account. Allow enough time. This might take several business days.
  • Download Application Materials: A volunteer advisory committee evaluates and scores your application based on your written answers to evaluation questions and your PRISM application. The evaluation template and the budget worksheet can be found online. The template and worksheet must be completed and attached to your project in PRISM by the deadline.

Helpful Links and Tutorials

More Information

If you have any questions, contact Sarah Thirtyacre/(360) 902-0243.

Financial Literacy Program Expanding Puget Sound Offerings

Clinton Taylor, Financial Beginnings

Guest post by Financial Beginning’s Seattle-Based Program Manager, Clinton Taylor

Financial Beginnings, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides free financial education programs, has expanded its operations over the last year opening a second office in Seattle to better serve youth in the Puget Sound area. We hope to bring new energy and enthusiasm to Washington schools, encouraging students to see finances as a tool to realize their dreams, rather than a barrier. We believe that the sooner young people evaluate their financial health, the more likely they are to achieve their life goals.

Financial Beginnings seeks to address specific needs within Washington’s low-income, Spanish speaking, rural and tribal communities, with a special emphasis on helping youth to achieve post-secondary success. Over the last six months, our Washington team has identified the unique needs of the region and developed strategies to reach and empower its most underserved communities.

On the heels of recent legislation passed by the State of Washington to strengthen financial education standards, our expansion hopes to utilize this climate of political change to get schools excited about personal finance programs. In early 2015, the State of Washington passed Senate Bill 5202 requiring school districts to adopt the Jump$tart Coalition National Standards as the essential academic learning requirements for K-12 financial education.

In addition to public forums and annual skill-building events for teachers, Financial Beginnings’ core programming educates youth and young adults on the basics of personal finance through visits to schools and community groups. These programs incorporate all aspects of money management – from budgeting, to saving, to investing – to provide individuals the foundation they need to make informed financial decisions. Each year, we teach over 25,000 youth and adults how to effectively manage their money. We strive to make our programs as accessible as possible, providing volunteer instructors and student guides at no cost to schools, community groups, or participants. We have curriculum for grades K-12 and beyond. We also offer our programs in both English and Spanish. Our model is simple – choose the right program for you, register online, and we will take care of the rest.

Through our partnership with School’s Out Washington, we hope to reach organizations throughout the region supporting youth in afterschool and summer programs. We know that the informal education environment is just as important as the K-12 system when it comes to reaching youth and providing the skills needed to succeed in life.

If you are interested in working with Financial Beginnings as a volunteer or signing up for classes at your school or organization please visit our website at or contact Washington Program Manager Clinton Taylor at or 800.406.1876 x 2. Be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming training offered in partnership with School’s Out Washington in early 2016!

Recommended Resources for STEM Programs


Image by Xkcd

STEM is a natural fit for afterschool and summer programs. We can allow students the time and space to explore ideas and experiment, a luxury our colleagues working 9 to 3 don’t have.

But STEM is such a huge thing to work with. Even the name is an acronym of four huge, separate things: science, technology, engineering, and math. Where to begin? What to do?

We’ve compiled a list of our favorite websites and resources to help you decide, as well as on how to make your STEM-focused afterschool program one of the best.


About STEM in Afterschool

Afterschool Alliance STEM Division: The Afterschool Alliance is a national non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of afterschool and advocating for support on the national level. The Alliance has a STEM division, and there are resources on the website including advocacy materials, reports, program spotlights, and webinars.

Change the Equation: STEM education website, with a focus on equity.

Edutopia STEM Section: Edutopia writes about a lot of topics, but their STEM coverage is especially useful!

NGSS in Washington State: OSPI’s website with information about the rollout of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in Washington.



NASA Afterschool Universe: NASA has many resources for educators. This particular website is a middle-school astronomy curriculum specifically designed for afterschool programs.

Exploratorium Science Snacks: Lots of science experiments and activities for afterschool programs. Descriptions, photos, templates, and lists of materials.

4-H Science Programs: Learn about 4-H STEM projects happening around the country, and shop for curriculum guides.


Curriculum Reviews

Great Science for Girls: This resource promotes gender equity in STEM. Tools for selecting curricula, as well as advice around offering activities for all.

Science Afterschool Consumer Guide: Descriptions of several science curricula for afterschool programs, including expert and peer reviews.


Online Professional Development

Click2Science: Click2Science is free, online professional development specifically designed for afterschool educators. There are training resources, including videos and agendas for workshops, staff meetings, and coaches.

Growth Mindset Workshop: These online resources represent an introduction to the idea of a growth mindset.

Y for Youth STEM Section: A website designed to support 21st Century Community Learning Centers, but useful for a variety of afterschool and youth development programs, including STEM programs. Includes free online training materials.


Get Mentors

Fab Fems: The National Girls Collaborative Project maintains this database of women in STEM fields who have volunteered to mentor girls. Mentors can connect with mentees online as well as in person.

Habits of Mind Institute: habits of mind are what people do when they behave intelligently, the soft skills needed to succeed in the 21st Century. The Habits of Mind Institute offers lots of trainings and workshops on this topic.

Tech Bridge: A non-profit organization supporting girls in STEM. The website includes a number of publications that can help programs connect girls with role-models. Among their resources is a guide for training new mentors.


Maker Movement

Maker Education Initiative: The non-profit, education focused arm of the Maker Movement, whose mission is “to create more opportunities for all young people to develop confidence, creativity, and interest in science, technology, engineering, math, arts, and learning as a whole through making.” Resources at the website include a guide to setting up a maker space for kids.

Invent to Learn: A comprehensive guide to making and tinkering with kids, but you don’t have to buy the book to connect with the resources at the website. Lots of links here to help you think about and start making with kids, from project ideas to research and articles.


The Connectory

The Connectory is a nationwide directory of STEM programs that allows parents to easily find a program near them that fits their child’s interests. We strongly recommend that any program offering STEM learning as a part of its regular programming create an account and list their program on the connectory.

“SAS” is Spreading. Have You Caught It?

This video is by the awesome people at ReelGrrls and features students from the Boys and Girls Club in Lakewood and Skate Like A Girl.

Join the Gates Foundation to Learn About Innovative Student Pathways to Graduation

Join our partners at the Gates Foundation for a free evening event exploring issues and possible solutions to college completion and the challenges many students face in succeeding beyond high school.

A special display will be on view that highlights the achievement gap in post-secondary education and outlines goals to overcome the gap. A panel discussion featuring Gates Foundation staff and partners will share insights and answer your questions related to this integral step towards giving every person the chance to live a healthy, productive life.

Space is limited. Follow the registration link below.

When: Thursday, November 19, 2015
Time:  5 – 7 pm
Location: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Visitor Center
440 5th Ave N Seattle, WA 98109
Please note that the Gates Foundation Visitor Center does not offer parking

Register here:

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