“From the creators of the hugely successful Master of Mindfulness, this charming children’s book for readers ages 4 to 7 tells the story of Nessa and Leo’s friendship, and how mindfulness helps them deal with strong emotions such as fear, shyness, and anger.” -Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley
By Sam Piha
We have been promoting the use of mindfulness techniques in afterschool, for both young people and adult staff self-care, for many years. We are happy to announce that a second book created by young people on this topic was recently released. Below is an interview with Laurie Grossman who organized this effort.
Q: Can you say a word about what this book is about?
A: Breath Friends Forever is a book about two best friends who share the same birthday. One is often calm and the other often frustrated. As a birthday present, Leo teaches mindfulness, the power of using her breath when she gets upset, angry, nervous or sad. Leo teaches readers a few mindfulness techniques that are easy to use, one of which, the Sharkfin was originally created by Temescal Associate’s own Stacey Daraio.
Our world has become, it seems to me, more difficult to navigate for all of us, little ones included. Teaching kids mindfulness to deal with the challenges they face even at very early ages, can help them develop emotional regulation, deal with difficulties with more calm and make their lives happier and healthier.
Q: Can you share some of the back story about how it was developed?
A: In 2014, I was doing lots of volunteer work bringing mindfulness to Reach Academy in Oakland, CA. One day, Mr. Musumeci, a fifth grade teacher, mentioned to me that in selecting superheroes, one of his students thought they should have a mindfulness superhero.
Several weeks later, while practicing mindfulness, it occurred to me that we should write a book. I asked the teacher what he thought and he thought it would be a great learning experience for the kids. I came into the class and asked them if they liked mindfulness. 100% did. I asked them if they thought other kids should know about it. 100% did. Finally I asked them how we could tell other kids about it and eventually someone said we could write a book. Voila, the beginning of the first book, Master of Mindfulness: How To Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress.
That book did well so the publisher, New Harbinger, asked us to do one for older kids. Angelina Manriquez, the book designer, thought it would be more important to begin with the little ones, thus Breath Friends Forever was born.
Chasmin Moses, a fourth grade teacher at Reach was a huge advocate of mindfulness. When I inquired about her interest in participating, she jumped at the chance. This book seemed much harder because we wanted to make it a story book for Pre-K through 1st or 2nd graders. We had no idea what the story would be or if the characters would be animals, zombies or people. It took about three months but we finally got the ball rolling and things started coming into place.
Q: Can you say something about how this book can be used in afterschool programs?
A: All kids love birthdays and all kids need mindfulness. It's a great read a loud. Kids could practice what is taught in the book and kids can also listen to the practices the authors dictated to learn mindfulness.
Older kids could read it to little ones. Kids could act out the story and they could also write their own books about mindfulness. Knowing that kids like them wrote and published a book could inspire them to do the same.
Q: Is this book only for children who have experienced mindfulness practice?
A: No, because Leo teaches Nessa how to practice mindfulness so readers can learn too! Also, the authors' audio practices lead students through a variety of mindfulness practices.
Q: Are there any resources that afterschool leaders could use?
A: There are many resources providing research evidence, case studies of how schools have used mindfulness techniques, and guidance to program practitioners. Many of these can be founds by doing an online search of mindfulness techniques for youth. I have listed a few below:
Laurie Grossman, one of the founders of the mindfulness in education movement, has been an activist since 1975. She believes that mindfulness in schools is the tool most likely to help achieve social justice. Over the last two decades, she started two innovative programs: one that created partnerships between private and public schools, and one that brought mindfulness into schools. In 2007, as part of Park Day School's Community Outreach Program, she and two colleagues launched a pilot program of mindfulness in an Oakland, CA, elementary school that was covered in The New York Times and on NBC. Grossman is cofounder of Mindful Schools, now one of the largest mindfulness-in-education programs in the world. She currently works with Inner Explorer, an organization focused on bringing daily mindfulness practices into schools to improve educational outcomes and the well-being of children and teachers. She is passionate about Inner Explorer because the organization has made mindfulness scalable, providing easy and immediate access to every K-12 classroom, anywhere, anytime.
All of us at the Expanded Learning 360°/365 Project wish you a peaceful and restful holiday! On our part, we are most grateful to all of you who work hard to support our youth in out of school time.
By Sam Piha
We know that supporting young people in civic engagement and activism helps them to build both character and social emotional skills. In the lead up to the mid-terms and the response of young people to gun violence, we have all become more aware of youth activism and civic engagement. On this election day we were curious about how youth have been involved historically in social movements, and the impact of social media. We interviewed Gordon Alexandre, a historian and activist, about these issues. You can see below some of his responses.
Q: Can you distinguish between social activism and social movements?
A: This is an excellent question. Many confuse social-political activism with participation in a social-political protest movement (SPM). The two are not the same. Being politically active may mean simply voting yourself and getting others to vote. These are important but minimalist and conventional activities well within the bounds of establishment politics.
Voting is designed to support the system and often leads to the absorption of the activists into one or the other established political parties. For example, the student led ‘Never Again’ gun control activities has as its goal the passage of ‘common-sense’ gun control legislation and urging folks to get out and vote for Democrats. Their goals and their urgings seek modest changes in the status-quo and well within the bounds of what is acceptable. ‘Never Again’ is not radical nor does it threaten many of those who are in power. It does not call for repeal of the 2nd amendment, a plan for getting rid of the millions of guns already out there in our society, or in tying the gun control folks in with other social protest movements.
A social protest movement, on the other hand, is an organized movement of ‘outsiders’ designed to pressure those in power to do what they would not otherwise do. The goal is fundamental change and SPMs often use unconventional methods to achieve their goals like acts of civil disobedience. They operate outside the two established political parties.
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s is a good example of this. It challenged the white power structure of the South and forced the South to desegregate and the federal government to pass civil rights laws it did not want to do. They used ‘direct-action’ including sit-ins, marches, Freedom Rides, and directly challenged the regular Democratic Party of Mississippi in 1964 to fundamentally change the policy system.
Q: Can you comment on the youth organized activities in regards to the shootings in Parkland and Chicago and the Black Lives Matter movement?
A: There is no question that young people are becoming more politically active in places like Parkland and Chicago. But how universal is this? Students at Santa Fe High School in Texas, also victims of a mass shooting, did not respond by becoming politically active.
We will also see after the midterm elections whether the push to get young people to vote will be realized. I think that youth activism and the eventual formation of an SPM will not be based on some kind of national ‘wave’, but rather on the specific set of socio-economic, cultural, and political circumstances communities find themselves in.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) started to emerge after the murder of 17-year old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. In the summer of 2014 it became an important force as the number of young unarmed African-American men and boys (Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and others) seemed to be reaching epidemic proportions.
It is a social protest movement made up mainly, but not exclusively, of young African-Americans. The movement seeks to expose the murder of unarmed young black men by the police and bring pressure on local, state, and the federal government to put an end to it. Their goal is not to encourage people to vote for democrats, but much like the Civil Rights and black power movements of the 1960’s they use ‘direct action’ to bring pressure on those in power to do the right thing. I see BLM as a continuation of those two previous movements. Unlike ‘Never Again’, they do not see common-sense reforms and voting as the-be-all-and-end-all.
How BLM evolves in the future is yet to be determined. They may remain outside the two-party system, join with other social protest movements, and build a more broadly based movement or they may decide the best way to foster change is to work within the system or they may fade away.
Q: Are there other contemporary social movements that have attracted the participation of young people?
A: When one looks at political activism right now, young people are not the primary movers. The #MeToo movement has eclipsed all other, for the moment, and it is not primarily youth driven. The labor movement has also had a resurgence lately and it, too, is not youth driven.
In addition, much emphasis has been placed on getting young people to vote in the 2018 midterms and neither those getting young people to vote nor young people voting is, in and of itself, a sign of social activism. Voting is an institutional response within the bounds of expected behavior and not an ‘outsiders’ response of social activism. This is not to say that the spotlight won’t return to youth activism. It’s just not there right now.
Q: What do you believe are the pros and cons of technology-driven social movements?
A: I do not believe social media drives social justice movements. Technology can assist social movements - spreading the word, capturing events in real time, encouraging folks to get out and protest, and the like. What drives social movements are causes themselves being fought for and the personal relationships developed between those involved.
Technology is not a substitute for the bonds developed during political struggle and the movement culture that results from that. To do this, people need to be brought together whether it be the union halls of the 1930’s, the black churches of the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and the anti-Vietnam War movement on college campuses in the 1960’s. Also in the 1960’s we saw the importance of gay night clubs of the gay rights movement and women’s consciousness raising groups of the women’s empowerment movement. More recently, we have seen activism around the issues of gun control and “get out the vote” efforts on high school campuses in 2018.
Some would say that today’s social media is the equivalent to yesterday’s black churches or college campuses. It is not. Communicating with someone on social media is ‘virtual’ and you cannot have a ‘virtual’ social movement and movement culture.
Q: Looking back in our history, are there other social movements that have attracted the participation of young people?
A: Let’s define “young people” to include young adults. They have been the main participants in social justice movements since, but not before, the 1960’s. Most of the activists in the civil rights movement were young. MLK was in his mid-twenties when he burst onto the scene in 1955.
The feminist movement and gay empowerment movements were also led by young people. Later on, the environmental movement of the 1970’s and after, the anti-World Trade Organization movement of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, and Occupy Wall Street of 2011 were all youth driven, with varying degrees of success.
Q: What do you believe are the pros and cons of young people participating in social movements? Does it matter what age the young people are?
A: The advantages of youth driven social protest movements are varied and many. Young people have passion, energy, time, and not much to lose. They often possess the idealism and optimism that accompanies youthful inexperience. They can take more risks with fewer consequences.
On the other hand, they often lack the virtue of patience, wisdom, and experience, all of which are necessary for success in the long run. Obviously, the best recipe for a social movement is to combine the advantages of youth with the advantages of those who have engaged in social movements in the past. But this much easier said than done.
Let me be clear: age does matter. Those involved in social movements of the 1960’s were mostly college age, while the Parkland students are of high school age. This doesn’t sound like much of an age difference, but it is. Most college students don’t live at home and by not living at home can develop their own autonomous movement culture. High school students still live at home and under parental supervision, no matter how supportive the parents may be. This mitigates against the development of an independent and autonomous culture. In addition, high-schoolers will be dispersing in a year or so, going off into the larger world, dissolving whatever community they had built in high school.
Finally, I am trying to answer these questions as a social scientist and progressive historian, trying not to project what I wish onto what I actually analyze. I do not want to exaggerate hopeful signs and read too much into events we see. We need to keep fighting, organizing, and resisting, building the kind of movement that can move us past the evil and danger we are now in.
Gordon Alexandre taught U.S. history and political science at Glendale Community College (outside Los Angeles) from 1985 to 2015. His main area of interest was on social reform movements of the Twentieth Century. While at GCC, Gordon was either chief negotiator or president of their American Federation of Teachers chapter for twenty years. Prior to his teaching, Gordon was a labor organizer and activist. Since retiring in 2015, Gordon has delivered several lectures to graduate students at Antioch University on “Trumpism: A Historical Perspective” and “Student Protest Movements: 1968 to 2018".
By Sam Piha
Deborah Lowe Vandell has been a leading researcher on expanded learning programs since 1985. Dr. Vandell agreed to respond to our interview questions regarding her research on the field of afterschool. Below are some of her responses.
Dr. Vandell appeared in our video on the Learning in Afterschool & Summer learning principles and our documentary on the History of Afterschool in America. She will also be sharing her thoughts in a plenary presentation, and a workshop alongside fellow researcher, Milbrey McLaughlin at the upcoming How Kids Learn VIII conference on December 6th, 2018 in Oakland, CA.
Q: You have been studying and researching afterschool programs for many years. Can you cite/list what you think are the most important lessons?
A: For me, the most important lesson is that the quality of children’s daily experiences at programs is critically important. Research, my own and the research of others, has demonstrated repeatedly the central role of caring, supportive relationships with adult staff for children’s well-being as well as their academic and social competencies over time.
Lesson 1 is that the quality of staff-child relationships is front and center. Research also has shown that these supportive staff-child relationships typically occur in the context of activities that are engaging to young people and that build on the interests of the young people, a second important lesson. A third lesson, I think, is that we need to be doing more to support adult staff in their work. Staff training is critical as is planning time. Developing and retaining staff who have caring, supportive, and respectful relationships with young people is central as is staff who can provide rich opportunities for learning and engagement. Staff turnover is a big problem.
Q: Civic engagement and youth activism is an increasing part of afterschool youth programs. Can you comment on this trend as a part of positive youth development?
A: I just returned from a meeting that convened 250 researchers and practitioners who focused on this very issue. A recurrent theme across many presentations (by both researchers and practitioners) was the ways in which afterschool programs can foster civic engagement and youth activism. The connections between positive youth development, social-emotional learning (SEL), and character development were another recurrent theme. It is exciting for me to see connections being made across areas that are too often in separate silos.
Q: Over the years, there has been much discussion on the indicators we should use to assess the effectiveness of afterschool programs. What are your thoughts on this?
A: This is a BIG question. A critical first step is we have to specify effectiveness with respect to what end - effectiveness with respect to:
Q: Can you share what you are or will be studying in regards to afterschool?
A: I am in the midst of three afterschool projects right now:
I have been studying effects of afterschool programs and organized activities (their quality, duration, type) on adolescent outcomes at age 15 and the end of high school. My colleagues and I have now extended that work to ask if after school activities are linked to adult outcomes at age 26, including educational attainment, employment, civic engagement, physical and mental health, as well as positive social relationships. Results at age 15 and end-of-high-school are pointing to links between sustained participation and positive academic and social outcomes. Analyses of the age 26 data on 815 participants are underway.
My second project is a series of research syntheses. This project is a collaboration with Professor Sandra Simpkins at UC Irvine and a wonderful team of graduate students. One of the papers that we are working on examines conceptualizations of program quality and links between different aspects of program quality and youth outcomes. A second paper focuses on the challenges and opportunities of programs that serve Latino and African-American children and youth. In preparing the data base for these syntheses, we scanned more than 2000 papers and are focusing our analyses on 200 papers published since 2007.
The third project, is also in collaboration with Professor Simpkins. In this study, we are conducting secondary data analyses of two large data sets, the National Institute of Child Health and Youth Development (NICHD), Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD), and the Study of Promising Afterschool Programs with a focus on character development during childhood and adolescence. In this work, we are examining individual aspects of character such as persistence and work habits as well as inter-personal aspects of character such as prosocial behaviors and helping others.
Q: Any thoughts on what the future of afterschool will hold, either in regards to policy or practice?
A: I am of two minds about the future of afterschool. The good news is that there is now widespread recognition of the role that afterschool programs (and out-of-school time more broadly) play in children’s development and well-being. Many parents, educators, researchers, and policy makers now endorse investments in afterschool as necessary and important. This is very different than when I did my first study of afterschool programs in 1985!
The bad news is that there are still serious inequities in children’s access to high quality afterschool activities. Children from low-income families have less access than their more affluent classmates, and this lack of access is undermining their life opportunities. Relatedly, I worry that the funding for programs that serve low-income children remain precarious.
Deborah Lowe Vandell, Ph.D., is the Founding Dean of the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine, where she is a Professor of Education and of Psychology and Social Behavior. The author of more than one hundred fifty articles and three books, Dr. Vandell studies the effects of afterschool and summer programs on children's academic, social, and behavioral development.
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.