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Why School Lunch Will be Better This Year: Real Food for Kids

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I don’t know who’s happier that school’s back in session, me or my kids. Some days it felt like the longest short summer ever. But now, we’re back in the groove and I’m adjusting to the rhythm of having twins in high school. I know — I’ve been warned. Thankfully I’ve always been pretty good with routine, even if it doesn’t always make me very popular at 6:00 AM. The moment I see the opening of one sleepy teenage eye, my first question is “whad’ya want for breakfast?” Imagine how that goes over.

But, I’ll bet those of you like me who have kids are asking that same question and making sure they’ve eaten something before heading off to the bus. Why? Because this is what you know. When kids are fueled up with healthy, delicious foods they are fired up to learn.

Here’s something we at Real Food for Kids know. School meals — when done right — fire up kids to learn.

But here’s something you may not know.

School meals these days are a lot better than you’d expect. And we can take some credit for that.

  • The quality of food in our school lunchrooms — after decades of decline — is improving. Every day we are blown away by the school nutrition professionals we get to work with who care as much as you do about what your kids eat every day. These are their customers and they are demanding. The response has been impressive. It’s just that a lot of us haven’t peeked into the cafeteria recently to see the transformation that’s been happening. If you haven’t, you should.
  • School meals have a solid, balanced nutrient profile. Studies show that the meals kids get at school — in most cases — power them better than lunches sent from home. Think about it. I’m the first to admit that what goes out in my kids — brown bag isn’t always ideal.
  • At the schools where kids regularly, consistently eat school meals, their attendance, concentration, grades, test scores, behavior, and physical activity all improve. The schools actually improve. This is all backed up by valid research, not just stories.
  • When done right, school meals not only increase kids — fruit and vegetable consumption, they increase kids desire to consume more fruits and vegetables because they learn how delicious they are. What parent doesn’t want that?
  • School meals can — and do — impact the choices our kids make outside of school walls. Done right, they can have a lasting impact on their health into adulthood. But there are still so many challenges that keep our kids from having the best school meals experience they can. And those are the challenges Real Food for Kids is working to change.

Our school systems are still grappling to understand that school meals — when done right — are an integral part of learning. When we shift that mindset, our kids can truly begin to make the connection between what they eat and how they learn. As one of our wonderful school nutrition partners likes to say, school food is an “education intervention.”

School lunch continues to be viewed as a support service to the instructional day instead of a critical component to student success (just like recess). The environment in which kids eat is less about nourishment — social, emotional and physical — than it is about hurrying on to the next academic subject. And food services staff — even though they are wonderful and love our kids — are often relegated to the sidelines of our school communities, limiting their interaction with our students to a 10-second transactional relationship.

When the culture of the lunchroom becomes integral to the culture of a school, we create an environment in which healthy relationships are organic and lifelong healthy eating behaviors are inspired and embraced.

Real Food for Kids‘ work in the Metro DC area over the last 8 years has resulted in changes to the quality of school meals served to over 250,000 kids. Now it’s time to change the environment in which they get those meals so they can be fueled up by the food and the experience, ready to learn, ready to thrive.

This fall, our funding will go directly toward work already underway to identify best practices in school meal environments and how to change perceptions so that those practices can be replicated in our schools — in your schools. Your support will go a long way to pushing that tray down the lunch line.

This post was written by Mary Porter, Director of Programs.

A Window and a Mirror: Summer Mentorship at Inspired Teaching

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A Space for Inquiry

It’s 2pm and I’m standing in a classroom in northwest DC holding a yo-yo.

Two brand new Inspired Teaching Fellows (teachers-in-training) are standing next to me, asking me questions.

“Do you, uh, think you can do a trick with the yo-yo called ‘walk the dog?’” one of the teachers asks.

The other one offers: “Could you maybe try, like, throwing it sideways?”

I try to throw the yo-yo sideways and end up dropping it on the floor. I walk away in frustration.

On this particular afternoon, I’ve volunteered to play the role of a student, and the Fellows have been instructed to teach me how to use a yo-yo — but only by asking questions. No statements allowed.

The Fellow pauses and then asks: “What do you think you need to do to be successful with a yo-yo?”

My eyes light up. Unlike her first few questions, she doesn’t know the answer to this one. It’s all on me. She may not realize it yet, but this is the space where the magic of learning happens.

“I think,” I say, after genuinely thinking about it, “that I need to just be able to do 5 regular swings without stopping.”

Now we have a new lesson plan – and I, the student, am in charge of my own learning.

This is what teacher training looks like in Inspired Teaching’s Summer Institute, a 3-week long jumpstart for teachers who are beginning the Inspired Teaching Residency.

This exercise helps new teachers learn how to provide a space for inquiry instead of a list of directions. And the reason I know this activity so well is because I was a brand new Inspired Teaching Fellow myself, standing in this very classroom, doing this exact activity, 5 summers ago.

This summer, however, I’m returning to play the role of the summer mentor. And while I’m stepping into the first year Fellows’ classroom to help out, my primary responsibility is to advise the second year Fellows.

The second-year Fellows have just completed their residency year. They’ve been learning from, assisting, and eventually taking over for their lead teacher, someone who has modeled great teaching practices. Now, they’re starting from scratch, in their own summer school classrooms, with a fellow cohort member. I’ve been assigned to help two teaching teams, four teachers total.

As the summer begins, I watch my mentees struggle with the fact that, with a brand new class coming in next week, there’s no veteran teacher to set everything up. It’s a bit like learning how to drive a car for an entire year and then finding out that you now need to build your own car out of spare parts. And quickly.

The Gap

Even though summer school is only a month long, it can sometimes feel like an entire school year stuffed into four weeks. It’s not uncommon for teachers in summer practicum to re-connect and disconnect multiple times with their passion for teaching. It’s not uncommon for teachers to discover just how much of a gap exists between the teacher that they are and the teacher that they want to be. And it’s not uncommon for those teachers to work excruciatingly hard to close that gap before the summer ends.

The result of all of this reflection and learning is evident because, by the end of the summer, I notice that the Fellows’ teaching powers that I am mentoring have grown. At the start of the summer, I would take copious notes while observing a mini-lesson. I’d analyze every movement the teacher made, every word that they said. And by the end, it’s hard to even find a place to take notes. Classrooms are bustling with students in every corner, working on interesting projects and directing their own learning.

During our final meeting, I ask one of the Fellows, “So now that it’s almost over, do you feel like you’re the teacher you want to be?”

“No,” she laughs. “That will take a while. But before the summer started, I hadn’t even thought about what kind of teacher I wanted to be. Now, I ask myself that question almost daily. My vision is much more clear.”

Remarkably, she is learning to ask herself questions that don’t have an immediate answer.

A Window and a Mirror

I’ve said before that the role of a teacher is to offer their students a window and a mirror. A window with which to see the world through many different lenses and perspectives, and a mirror to allow students to understand the power of their own perspective and potential.

But as a summer mentor, I came to terms with something else: a teacher must also stand in front of their own mirror. It is there, in the glow of their own reflection, where they will do their most challenging work. They will confront every imperfection. They will think about what they will do differently tomorrow. They will, simultaneously, berate themselves and strive for self-acceptance. They will do all of this for the good of themselves and the good of their students.

And it occurs to me that I, the summer mentor, have very little to do with the mirror. But maybe, I hold the window. If I was able to help these wonderful teachers catch a glimpse of all incredible possibilities that lie ahead, then, mission accomplished.

Written by –Zia Hassan

Threads of Change: Connecting Our Stories

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Story Tapestries invites you to join us on Thursday,?September 27th from 5:30pm – 7:00pm?for an evening of storytelling that will include a film screening featuring Montgomery County community members, a live demo of our digital classroom that contains resources for educators and parents, and some surprises…!

Come be part of a dialogue of stories of hope and interact with artists, educators, business owners, caretakers, and other community members. We hope to see you at the Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union,?12820 Wisteria Drive, Germantown, MD 20874.

To register please go to?https://www.eventbrite.com/e/threads-of-change-connecting-our-stories-tickets-50219746614

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The Grassroot Project: Using Sports to Promote Sexual Health and Positive Youth Development in DC

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Almost ten years ago, 40 student-athletes gathered in the living room of a two-bedroom apartment near Georgetown University. Their goal: fight alarmingly high, increasing rates of HIV transmission in our nation’s capital the best way that they knew how –through sports. Drawing inspiration from his volunteer experience with Grassroot Soccer in South Africa, the group’s leader, Tyler Spencer, wanted to use sports to educate people about HIV and AIDS prevention in a language that they could understand. At the time, 1 in 20 adults in DC were living with HIV, and the rate among teenagers was on the rise.

“There was only one other organization doing school-based HIV prevention work with kids,” said Spencer. “So, there was a huge need in DC, and I felt really excited about taking the Grassroot Soccer model and adapting it to make a difference at home.”

To call this group of Georgetown soccer players, football players, basketball players, field hockey players, rowers, swimmers and golfers a “grassroots” organization would be an understatement. Despite their lack of funding and uncertainty in starting and running a non-profit organization, the 18 to 21-year-olds persisted. Much of the initial program cost fell on Spencer. He took a temp job working with the Association of Schools of Public Health, and with the support of the athletic community, they facilitated their first sexual health program in The School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens in the Spring of 2009.

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Today, The Grassroot Project’s?innovative model continues to employ non-traditional health educators — NCAA student-athletes — to create a fun, friendly and safe environment in which participants learn how to live healthier lifestyles. The peer to peer education method creates an open environment for participants to share their beliefs on sensitive topics such as HIV/AIDS testing and prevention, sexual consent, dating violence, and healthy relationships. The use of sports as a vehicle for social change, and the ability of the student-athlete leaders to connect with the youth and their families are what make this an effective way of learning.

“Being part of the Catalogue has not only helped us to build relationships with philanthropists in DC who care about youth development and health education, but it has also helped us to grow as an organization,” said Spencer. “The first time we applied, we were only reaching 4 schools in DC, and we struggled to manage our programs and partnerships because we had no full-time staff. Since being named part of the?Catalogue…we have operated our programs in more than 60 schools and community centers across the city, and we have reached more than 5,000 DC teenagers with free health education and health services.”

TGP’s?corps of volunteer student-athlete program facilitators has expanded from Georgetown University to now also include student-athletes from The George Washington University, American University, Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia.

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Most recent additions to the organization include Grassroots Connect — an end-of-program graduation celebration and linkage to local health care event — as well as Grassroots Fam — an after-school parent/caregiver program that provides similar interactive learning opportunities including sexual health basics, as well as building a parental support system by practicing proper parent-child communication.

“One of the first things our students learn in each program is how important it is to ‘take action in your community,’ and I think that that phrase sums up the mission of Grassroots perfectly,” said Isabel Rose, senior Leader Team member. “This year, TGP took several huge steps that allowed us to take even more action in our community, and that meant that I could help make a much bigger difference than I had initially thought possible.”

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During the summer of 2018, the organization introduced its first Master Trainer program — a team of exemplary student-athletes who’ve undergone an intensive training on social issues in DC, sexual and reproductive health basics, and behavior management skills in middle schools. The Master Trainers traveled to South Africa this summer to learn from partner organization, Grassroot Soccer, about best practices for training new student-athlete facilitators.

“As a student, as an athlete, as a new resident in DC, it is my ​job​ ​to give back to the community that has been so welcoming to me,” said Callie Fauntleroy, a sophomore volleyball player at The George Washington University. “I have learned more here in my 8 months with TGP than I have in any other experience.”

What started as a true grassroots organization has morphed into a robust network of students, athletes, and alumnae who are educated about living healthier lifestyles in their communities.

“The Catalogue has been and will continue to be helpful in preparing us for to make an even greater impact on our city,” said Spencer.

The Child & Family Network Centers Holds Annual School Supply Drive

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The Child & Family Network Centers (CFNC) is holding its annual School Supply Drive during the summer months before the start of the new school year on September 5, 2018. CFNC is collecting hundreds of school supplies to stock our 8 pre-kindergarten classrooms across the city of Alexandria. These supplies will give 138 disadvantaged children what they need to be successful in school, starting on day one.

Community members can donate new school supplies and classroom materials by dropping them at CFNC’s headquarters — 3700 Wheeler Ave, Alexandria, VA 22304. CFNC is also happy to arrange pick up of supplies. The wish list includes basic school supplies such as paper, glue, and folders, as well as other items that are consumed frequently, such as tissues and paper towels.

“This drive allows many less fortunate children in our community to have the supplies they need to start the school year on the right foot,” said CFNC Executive Director Lisa Carter. “Unfortunately many of the families we serve cannot afford or prioritize purchasing school supplies, despite their understanding that they are sorely needed. The school supply drive supports not only the child, but their families and their teachers as well.”

CFNC’s school supply list can be found on their website. All donations of school supplies are tax-deductible.

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About CFNC
The Child & Family Network Centers (CFNC) provides free preschool education for 138 children and families living at or below 250% of the poverty line, who earn too much to qualify for Head Start but not enough to afford their children with a private preschool education. Providing a unique blend of preschool education and family support services including free health services, in-home visits and counseling, CFNC currently operates 8 classrooms in apartment complexes, recreational centers and other locations throughout Alexandria where these families live. Learn more.

A Lifelong Friendship in the Arts and Humanities

DC Arts Collaborative

Every year, DC Collaborative serves thousands of students in the hope that we can encourage them to embrace and pursue the arts and humanities. We were delighted to discover the story of Cameron Gray and Erin Fenzel, two students who have demonstrated exactly that!

At the age of 4, they started school together at Peabody Elementary School. They had attended one of our AHFES field trips, where a picture of them painting together (above) eventually made it onto the cover of the 2007-2008 issue from Catalogue for Philanthropy. Fast forward 14 years later. After going through middle school and high school together, they recently graduated this year from School Without Walls, which is ranked the #1 Top Performing High School in the District and #51 in the country. Their pursuit of education doesn’t end there. This fall, Cameron is headed to Syracuse University in New York to study Film, while Erin will go to Saint Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania to study International Relations.

The DC Collaborative team is so proud of where these two students are going and we wish them the best for their futures. We’d like to give a special thanks to their parents and Catalogue for Philanthropy for sharing this wonderful friendship to us! If you know of any students have participated in our program and where they are now, please reach out to us at info@dccollaborative.org – we’d love to follow up with them.

{Blog post has been reposted with permission from the DC Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative blog.}

Around Town

Copy of Around town template (1)Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Poetry Slam! (night 1) *This event is accepting volunteers
DC SCORES

The DC SCORES Poetry Slam! is the largest youth slam in Washington, DC, and the culminating event of the DC SCORES fall season. The two-night event showcases original works of poetry written by over 2,000 students representing District of Columbia public and public charter schools in seven of the city’s eight wards. In a competitive format, each school takes the stage for five minutes to perform group and individual poems in front of capacity crowds. The DC SCORES Poetry Slam! funnels the energy and creativity of youth into self-expression as a means of improving their literacy rates and raising their self-esteem. The event has been featured in The Washington Post &n Capital Community News, and participants have read their poems on NBC-4.

When: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 (5:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Where: Columbia Heights Education Campus (auditorium), 3101 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20010 map
Volunteer Info: Volunteers are needed for setup, breakdown, ushering special guests, and more.
Contact: Lindsey Sharp, (202) 393-6999 ext 310
For more information: click here

Maryland Solar Info Session
Solar United Neighbors

This info session will cover everything a you need to know if you’re interested in going solar. Solar United Neighbors of Maryland will present on solar technology, financing options, and the basics of solar policy & markets. We will also discuss our solar co-op process, which works like a bulk purchase. Co-ops bring together a group of homeowners to get the best quality installations for the best price, plus free 1-on-1 support from Solar United Neighbors, a neutral nonprofit solar expert.

When: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 (7:00 PM – 8:30 PM)
Where: Rockville City Hall, 111 Maryland Ave, Rockville, MD 20850 map
Contact: Andrea Hylant, (202) 888-3601
For more information: click here

Thursday, November 16, 2017
Poetry Slam! (night 2) *This event is accepting volunteers
DC SCORES

The DC SCORES Poetry Slam! is the largest youth slam in Washington, DC, and the culminating event of the DC SCORES fall season. The two-night event showcases original works of poetry written by over 2,000 students representing District of Columbia public and public charter schools in seven of the city’s eight wards. In a competitive format, each school takes the stage for five minutes to perform group and individual poems in front of capacity crowds. The DC SCORES Poetry Slam! funnels the energy and creativity of youth into self-expression as a means of improving their literacy rates and raising their self-esteem. The event has been featured in The Washington Post & Capital Community News, and participants have read their poems on NBC-4

When: Thursday, November 16, 2017 (5:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Where: H.D. Woodson High School, 540 55th St. NE, Washington, DC 20019 map
Volunteer Info: Volunteers are needed for setup, breakdown, ushering special guests, and more.
Contact: Lindsey Sharp, (202) 393-6999 ext 310
For more information: click here

Reach’s Book Release Party *This event is accepting volunteers
Reach Incorporated

Each summer, selected Reach teens author children’s books as part of our Summer Leadership Academy. On November 16th, we will celebrate these teen authors at our annual Book Release Party. The event will take place at Pepco Edison Place Gallery, near Chinatown, and will provide an opportunity to honor our young people, celebrate their new books, and raise funds to support our continued work.

When: Thursday, November 16, 2017 (5:00 PM – 8:00 PM)
Where: Pepco Edison Place Gallery, 702 8th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001 map
Fee: Tickets start at $50. Volunteers are free.
Volunteer Info: We are seeking volunteers to run our registration table and assist with book sales.
Contact: William Ross, (202) 827-3795
For more information: click here

Saturday, November 18, 2017

What’s Going On

Dance Place

Returning home after a sold-out nationwide tour, What’s Going On is Dance Place’s critically acclaimed producing debut that offers the sweetest solace possible: people coming together. (The Washington Post). Artistic Director Vincent E. Thomas looks through the lens of Marvin Gaye’s transcendent music and finds a reflection of the world today. Taking inspiration from 1971′s inimitable What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye’s insights into life, love and social justice are given fresh perspectives with choreography by Vincent E. Thomas, Ralph Glenmore and Sylvia Soumah.

This evening-length work features Modern, Jazz and West African dance. What’s Going On seeks to provoke thoughtfulness and spark conversations to ignite change in each community it touches.

When: Saturday, November 18, 2017 (8:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE, Washington, DC 20017 map
Fee: $15 -$30
Contact: Amanda Blythe, (202) 269-1601
For more information: click here

Sunday, November 19, 2017
Girls on the Run – DC Fall 2017 5K presented by PepsiCo *This event is accepting volunteers
Girls on the Run – DC

Join us for the fall 5K on Sunday, November 19th, at Anacostia Park. Girls on the Run – DC brings the community together to support and celebrate girls across the city. The race is open to the community and there are many ways to get involved — from being a buddy runner for a girl who doesn’t have an adult to run with, a community participant or a volunteer who makes the day memorable for a girl.

When: Sunday, November 19, 2017 (10:00 AM – 11:30 AM)
Where: Anacostia Park, 1101 Howard Rd, SE, Washington, DC 20020 map
Fee: $35 race entry
Volunteer Info: Various 5K volunteer opportunities include: course safety marshal, information team, general volunteer, parking metro guide, photographer, and race packet pick-up.
Contact: Kelly Makimaa, (202) 607-2288
For more information: click here

What’s Going On
Dance Place

Returning home after a sold-out nationwide tour, What’s Going On is Dance Place’s critically acclaimed producing debut that offers the sweetest solace possible: people coming together. (The Washington Post). Artistic Director Vincent E. Thomas looks through the lens of Marvin Gaye’s transcendent music and finds a reflection of the world today. Taking inspiration from 1971′s inimitable What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye’s insights into life, love and social justice are given fresh perspectives with choreography by Vincent E. Thomas, Ralph Glenmore and Sylvia Soumah.

This evening-length work features Modern, Jazz and West African dance. What’s Going On seeks to provoke thoughtfulness and spark conversations to ignite change in each community it touches.

When: Sunday, November 19, 2017 (4:00 PM)
Where: Dance Place, 3225 8th St NE, Washington, DC 20017 map
Fee: $15 -$30
Contact: Amanda Blythe, (202) 269-1601
For more information: click here

Thursday, November 23, 2017
13th Annual Turkey Trot This event is accepting volunteers
Laurel Advocacy & Referral Services

This Thanksgiving Morning, over 800 runners, walkers, and spectators will flock to Laurel’s Historic District for the 13th Annual 5K Turkey Trot to Benefit Laurel Advocacy & Referral Services, Inc. (LARS). This event has gained a loyal following and continues to grow each year, raising crucial funds for LARS, a non-profit organization helping homeless and low-income families and individuals achieve stability and self-sufficiency. This event is LARS’ biggest fundraiser, raising over $50,000 last year to help us provide food, financial help, and housing to Laurel residents in crisis.

When: Thursday, November 23, 2017 (8:00 AM – 10:00 AM)
Where: McCullough Field, 7th & Montgomery St, Laurel, MD 20707 map
Fee: $35 through end of October; $40 Nov 1-Race Day
Volunteer Info: Registration, course marshaling, set up/clean up, cheer on race participants
Contact: Laura Wellford, (301) 776-0442 ext 27
For more information: click here

Unwavering Belief in the Potential of Youth with BUILD MetroDC

by Bryce Jacobs, Executive Director, BUILD Metro DC

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BUILD was created with the audacious notion that students at the highest risk of dropping out of high school have the power to become self-starters who can change the trajectory of their lives. BUILD has seen that holistic academic support, combined with business training, leads to long-term success both in the classroom and beyond high school. We like to say that, “entrepreneurship is the hook; college is the goal.”

Through the process of developing and managing their own businesses, BUILD students experience first-hand how their academics are not only relevant, but also crucial, to life beyond the classroom. The result is a vital sense of ownership over their education and careers. As the applicability of school to “real life” becomes clear, and as students gain important skills, the BUILD program stimulates their motivation, challenges them to set high expectations for themselves, and empowers them to succeed.
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BUILD holds an unwavering belief in the potential of youth. Unlike many other youth programs, BUILD Metro DC targets students who are not are not on-track academically and might not consider college an option. Furthermore, many BUILD students are at a socio-economic disadvantage, and will be the first generation in their family to earn a college degree.

For this school year, BUILD is serving nearly 350 students at six schools in the Metro DC area: Columbia Heights Education Campus, Eastern Senior High School, Friendship Collegiate Academy, Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy, Roosevelt Senior High School, and The SEED School of Washington, D.C. And, for the first time ever, BUILD is also working with the entire 8th grade class at Friendship Technology Preparatory Academy Middle School.

In Washington, DC, only 69% of high school students graduate high school on time compared to the national average of 78%. Of those who do graduate on time, only 50% enroll in college. With such low graduation rates in DC, the dropout crisis does not just impact individual lives, it cripples our local economy and sets our city’s competitiveness behind. BUILD Metro DC launched in 2008 to stem the tide of high school dropouts and prepare students for college.

Our nation’s education system itself is woefully outdated. Students are not being taught the skills they need to thrive in the 21st Century, particularly in under-resourced communities in urban environments. BUILD aims to change that. With a focus on skills like creative problem solving, effective communication, self-management, collaborating effectively with others, grit and determination – what we describe as the “entrepreneurial mindset”. BUILD uses entrepreneurship to prepare young people for the Innovation Era and to get them engaged in their education.

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While I’m passionate about BUILD’s curriculum and how it engages our students with a very hands-on, experiential learning model, what truly inspires me are our students. There’s Jada and Imani, and Daniel, to name a few. They came to BUILD uncertain of the possibilities and opportunities available in their future, and exceeded their own expectations.

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For us, our outcomes speak for themselves. The impact of BUILD’s program on the achievement of low-income students is notable even after only one year: in the lowest performing schools in which BUILD serves students, BUILDers with just one year of BUILD graduate at a rate up to 56% higher than their peers. In higher-performing schools, BUILDers graduation attainment is 12-15% above the average for their low-income school peers.

The results of BUILD’s program speak to the impact of our model on student achievement and success. Since BUILD Metro DC’s first class of students became high school seniors in 2012, 95% of seniors have graduated from high school on time and 95% have been accepted to a college or university. In the 2016-17 school year, BUILD Metro DC’s accomplishments included a 100% on-time graduation rate for seniors and a 100% rate of acceptance to at least one college. Collectively, BUILD seniors were accepted to 100 colleges and won $1.4m in scholarships.

Further, BUILD students persist in college at a higher average than their peers. Research conducted by BUILD demonstrated that BUILD’s 2013 graduates enrolled in more four-year colleges, compared to two-year colleges, than their peers at the national level. For BUILD’s target demographic of low income, 100% minority, urban high school students, 75% of BUILD students in 2013 enrolled in a four-year college compared to 57% nationally. Moreover, BUILD students are on track to have higher college graduation rates within six years than the national average for both the target demographic of low-income minority students, and overall nationally.

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Because the nature of our work is so collaborative, a great day at BUILD is when everyone – program staff, BUILD teachers, mentors, and students – are in sync. In practice, that means teachers, staff and mentors are creating a safe and inclusive space for learning, collaboration and creativity. It means students are not just dreaming about but acting on their desire to start a business, tour prospective colleges and experience potential careers with professionals who host them throughout the city. It means that we are working relentlessly to reduce the opportunity gap for our students and work together to collectively impact our student’s success.

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BUILD could not do our work without the involvement of committed volunteers. Mentors play a critical role by working with students on a weekly basis to support their businesses and academics. Annually, BUILD recruits and trains 100 mentors who fulfill their mentor requirements of working with students (10th – 12th graders) on a weekly basis, starting in the 6th week of the school year, for 1.5 hours per week, to support their business and academic pursuits. Mentors are college-educated professionals who expose students to different career options while serving as reliable, caring adults.

BUILD also offers one-time volunteer opportunities where professionals from the community serve as judges at Business Pitch Competitions or serve on college and career panels.

Individuals interested in volunteering and supporting BUILD should contact us at builddcinfo@build.org.

Preparing Students for a Complex and Changing World With Center for Inspired Teaching

By Rebecca Bauer, Project Manager, Inspired Teaching
BlogPhoto1Only weeks after beginning my job at Inspired Teaching, I had the opportunity to participate in the Summer Intensive component of the organization’s signature program, the Inspired Teaching Institute. At the Institute, educators participate in hands-on, improvisation-based activities to align themselves around best-practices for engagement-based instruction.

When I arrived on Day 1, I didn’t know exactly what that meant or what I should expect, but I’d been told the Institute is something I had to experience to truly understand. Less than two weeks later, I’d bonded with a cohort of amazing teachers, danced and sang, lesson planned and discussed ways to address students’ needs.

I’d used yo-yos to learn about inquiry-based education. I’d honed my ability to think creatively by overcoming obstacles while climbing imaginary mountains. Now, I was beginning to truly understand: when colleagues had told me that Inspired Teaching leads transformative teacher trainings, they really meant transformative.

A particularly impactful activity challenged teachers to examine their understanding of discipline and what that word means and looks like. Gathered around two sheets of chart paper, the facilitator sternly said, “This school needs more discipline,” and asked the group to share what words come to mind when they think of “discipline.” Teachers began shouting out words. Punishment. Consequences. Control. They had no trouble brainstorming a vast list. Suspension. No Recess. Phone call home. After the sheet of chart paper was covered in words that gave many flashbacks to their own days of being sent to the principal’s office, the facilitator told us to close our eyes. “Imagine you are a skilled artist,” she said. We sat focusing on this idea for a moment, envisioning our crafts, the skills that we’d honed. “Now open your eyes. Tell me what words come to mind when I say discipline.” An entirely new list began to form. Dedication. Focus. Self-control. Sacrifice. Passion. We examined the two lists, noting the stark differences, pointing out that the lists had very few words in common. The activity left participants thinking about how schools need to shift from enforcing a rigid set of rules to preparing students to be good citizens of our complex and rapidly changing world.

FILE2369Through thought provoking activities like this one, as well as many others that required more flexibility (physically, emotionally, and mentally), the Institute demonstrated that – for both teachers and students – creativity and rigor are not mutually exclusive, but rather go hand in hand.

In addition to being a fun, joyful and refreshing program, it was inspiring to witness the teachers engage in serious reflection on their practices, learning about themselves and discovering new ways to reach their students. One teacher commented, “Institute has helped me look at the types of ways I can elevate my teaching practices emotionally, psychologically, and physically.” Another shared, “Institute has fine-tuned my metacognition and skills of perception.” Most importantly, while teachers celebrated the growth that took place at the intensive, they also acknowledged that there is always more work to be done – which is why the Institute includes seminars and ongoing support throughout the year.

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The Inspired Teaching Institute, comprised of the summer Intensive and seminars throughout the school year, is only one of Inspired Teaching’s many programs that serve teachers and students in the DC area. From the Residency program that prepares pre-service teachers for successful, sustainable careers to Real World History, a hands-on course that provides students an internship experience where they cultivate the skills of an historian, all of our programs authentically engage participants to become changemakers in their schools, districts, and communities.

Given that students report feeling bored during 70% of their time in school and stressed for 80% of it, we need changemakers now more than ever. If you’re questioning whether Inspired Teaching’s professional development can really impact these bleak statistics, if you’re skeptical that we can create meaningful changes to our education system, one teacher at a time, I hear you. Two weeks ago, I was skeptical, too, but I’ll tell you what my colleagues told me: You have to experience it to truly understand.

Knowing that seeing is believing, we host visits to our programs each month. If you’d like to see Inspired Teaching in action, sign up for our newsletter for the latest updates!

Sorting Fact From Fiction in the Digital Age With the News Literacy Project

by Alan C. Miller, Founder/CEO, News Literacy Project

30971125946_fc15feb0f7_z The News Literacy Project is a national education nonprofit, founded in 2008 and located in Bethesda, Maryland, that works with educators and journalists to teach secondary school students how to sort fact from fiction in the digital age and to give those students the tools to become informed and engaged citizens in a democracy. We are teaching literacy for the 21st century.

In our first eight years, our classroom, after-school and digital programs reached more than 25,000 students in diverse middle schools and high school students in the Washington, D.C., region (including the Maryland and Virginia suburbs), New York City, Chicago, and Houston. We have formed partnerships with 33 news organizations and enrolled more over 400 journalist fellows in our online directory; our volunteer journalists have delivered more than 750 lessons, both in person and virtually.

In May 2016, we launched the checkology® virtual classroom, the culmination of all our work to date and our primary path to national and international scale. In just over one year, 7,000 educators in every state in the U.S. and in 61 other countries, with a potential reach of more than 1 million students, have registered to use this platform.

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While these numbers are gratifying, we know that there is more to do. In the United States alone, there are 26 million public school students in grades 6-12, as well as the millions in private and parochial schools and in after-school, home-school and library programs — not to mention those students in schools and other programs outside the U.S. We look forward to dramatically expanding the reach of the checkology® virtual classroom among these students.

Even as we improve and expand the current platform, we’re preparing for its next iteration, along with international and Spanish-language versions. We have plans to reach beyond the classroom with a mobile-friendly app, which will likely be a news literacy game. Finally, we are working with Facebook on a public service advertising campaign to encourage millions of the platform’s engaged users to critically evaluate the news and information they share and to share only what is credible.

A healthy democracy depends on engaged citizens who can sort through vast amounts of information, separate fact from fiction, and know what to trust. Today, misinformation, rumor and spin can overwhelm real news, and the News Literacy Project provides the tools to meet this challenge. We’re working to give facts a fighting chance and to create an appetite for quality journalism. You could say that we were the antidote to “fake news” long before the term gained its recent currency.

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We are inspired by these challenges, by the tremendous opportunity to make a meaningful difference and by an urgent sense of responsibility to move as quickly as possible to meet the growing demand for our services. Since the emergence of the field of news literacy a decade ago (a field that we helped to create), we have gone from being a voice in the wilderness to an answer to prayer for many.

We’re particularly inspired by the educators and journalists who partner with us to deliver our curriculum and by the students who find it transformative. Those students include Christian Armstrong, who said of his experience with NLP as a student at Leo Catholic High School in Chicago: “This class has definitely changed my life. We prioritize news literacy over all else. The newspaper is considered to be our Holy Grail.” And Jenari Mitchell, a recent graduate of KIPP DC College Preparatory in Washington, who wrote in an essay about her NLP experience: “Learning how to distinguish between false and factual information allows us to control the news we consume, instead of allowing the news we consume to control us.”

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The News Literacy Project aspires to see news literacy embedded in the American educational experience, inside the classroom and outside of it. We want to teach many millions of young people how to know what news and information to believe, share and act on as students, consumers and citizens. We also hope to begin to change the culture so that people will take personal responsibility to stand up for facts and for quality journalism.

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Our website is www.thenewsliteracyproject.org. Anyone who wants more information or has questions can email us at info@thenewsliteracyproject.org. We welcome volunteers, including journalist fellows who can play various roles with us. People can engage with us through social media, as educators and journalist fellows, and as financial supporters. Please let us know your interest and we will respond. Finally, educators can register for the virtual classroom at www.checkology.org.