About AOSN

My Experience

I am from Lake Village, AR where I attended school at Lakeside High School. I graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with a degree in biology. While at Lakeside I was a part of a summer program in which they provided students a safe environment to grow and learn while school was out for the summer. My ultimate goal is to secure to my MD/PhD in Biomedical Sciences but I would also like to establish a program to help youth and adults become successful in their lives and in their community. I am proud to be serving as a Arkansas Afterschool Program Sustainability VISTA with the Arkansas Out of School Network (AOSN) because this opportunity is providing me with a foundation of helping young people thrive. As a VISTA I am responsible for sustaining 21st CCLC-funded afterschool programs beyond their initial grant. I will help programs establish a community support system which includes strong participation from school, community organizations, businesses, local residents, families and others.
 
My experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Arkansas Out of School Network (AOSN) has been a great educational experience so far. I have experienced and learned so much about the afterschool sector in my home state. During my first week as a VISTA I attended a policy café sponsored by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families with my supervisor. I did not know what to expect but I quickly discovered that the individuals participating in the afterschool discussion were deeply concerned about improving education in their schools. I realized that Out-of-School Time (OST) programs are valued and needed. I realized that we need more access to OST programs across the state.  After policy café, I became even more committed to my project because there are 190,000 children and youth in Arkansas (grades K-12) who do not have access to an afterschool program in their community and that is a big issue for working parents in Arkansas. Through my project, I hope to make a positive difference by helping OST program leaders identify ways to sustain their afterschool programs.
 
I have been fortunate to have already had site visits with a couple of great afterschool programs. The leaders of these two programs have several things in common. They both are passionate about the children and about making an impact on youth. Most of all, they are both want to make a positive difference in their community by starting with the youth in their programs.
 
I made my first site visit on a beautiful fall day in late September. The 21st Century Community Learning Center program in Augusta, AR was a great program to kick-off my VISTA service journey. Mrs. Margie Mosby is the leader of this program and we discussed many ways that her program has been successful and things that she would like to improve. Before the children arrived I got a chance to tour the facility; which was very nice and as a child I would have loved to be there every day!  All of the classrooms were filled with a SMART board and a SMART table which is used to teach interactive lessons with the youth. The kindergarteners and first graders have an interactive program on the computers, which helps them learn their spelling words and other lessons. On this particular day, a local bank representative had visited the day before so the children were working on balancing a checking book and getting the real world experience of learning about money. I really enjoyed seeing this because they were preparing the students for real life and the children will be able to use these valuable skills for the rest of their lives. I also got to see the program’s garden which will be one of the projects that we will to find funding for. The children were growing mums and poinsettias to sell to the community during their Lights On!  Afterschool event.
 
My visit to the Life Skills for Youth (LSY) program just happened to coincide with their planning for their Lights On! Afterschool event scheduled for October 22nd. Mr. Larry Clark, Sr. started the LSY program to give youth a positive place so youth could build life skills to help them become successful adults. Located in a church in southwest Little Rock, the program serves the surrounding neighborhoods and works with the surrounding schools. There is always a waiting list. The program provides meals for all of the students and provides tutoring and enrichment activities that are all led by the amazing staff at LSY. I had the pleasure of meeting a parent of a child that attends the LSY program. The parent is also an educator and she said the program has had a good impact on her son who happens to be a straight “A” student at a local elementary school.  
 
There is much work to be done and as I start my project I am excited about the journey and about helping the OST programs around the state.

Nurturing the Wonder of STEM: The Summer STEM Institute

Nurturing the Wonder of STEM: The Summer STEM Institute
 
The Arkansas Out of School Network and the Arkansas Department of Education 21st CCLC joined this summer with the Arkansas Discovery Network, a partnership of Arkansas’ science museums dedicated to spreading STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), to host the first of two three-day institutes in Springdale, Arkansas.  Around 25 in-school and out-of-school-time (OST) educators from mostly Northwest Arkansas attended the workshop to learn various interactive ways they could engage students in STEM.  These workshops promote a hands-on and inquiry-based approach to learning.  Instructors encouraged students to ask the questions and experiment by themselves.  As participants, we explored the physical, earth, and life sciences and discussed issues like environmentalism and conservation.
 
One topic we discussed in particular was the gender gap in STEM.  According to a May U.S. Bureau of Labor report, women represent only about a quarter of professionals in STEM.  One educator at my table suggested that girls are not interested in science and math because of the way we socialize them.  Society tells girls that being a “geek” or “nerd” will not get her very far—not with Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga as the most visible female role models.  The problem, however, is not limited to girls.  Children of color and other minority groups are often at a disadvantage when it comes to succeeding in STEM.  A recent ACT report finds that less than half of Hispanic students and less than a quarter of African American students who expressed interest in STEM achieved math and science benchmarks compared to over 60 percent of white students and almost 80 percent of Asian students.  Renowned African-American physicist Neil DeGrass Tyson understands and has remarked on the challenges and barriers people in minority groups face in the STEM world.  

The Summer STEM Institute seeks to cross these boundaries by presenting STEM as enjoyable and exciting fields for all students.  As a participant, I can attest that the interactive approach to learning can be extremely fun.  Rather than just hearing about static electricity and air pressure, we rubbed balloons together and played with blow dryers.  The inquiry process is not only better for retaining knowledge but also helps foster student’s curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking skills.  After all, science exists because somebody asks a question and wonders why something works.

During the workshop, we held a boat design competition; assembled wind vanes; and built motors out of batteries, magnets and stripped wires.  We examined the extraordinary strength of Bess Beetles (one can carry over 20 times its body weight) and created our own worm farms.  We asked questions and wondered why.  The message was clear: when we left the workshop, we were to spread this feeling of wonder in the sciences to all our children.  STEM is an essential part of future development, and educators can and should make STEM fun for everyone. 

The task to integrate STEM into our children’s education may be a challenge.  With all the requirements teachers now face, educators may have less time for STEM in the classroom.  However, OST programs provide wonderful opportunities for educators to supplement students’ STEM education.  STEM is just as important as other subjects, and afterschool and summer programs can be great settings to conduct these more interactive activities. 

In the end, all children deserve to revel in the wonder of STEM.  If we adults can have fun playing like little kids in the name of STEM, imagine how actual kids would react.
 

Student Safety and the Rise of Cyber Bullying

Student Safety and the Rise of Cyberbullying
 
This July, the University of Arkansas’s Criminal Justice Institute (CJI) partnered with the Arkansas Department of Education, the Arkansas Safe Schools Association, the Attorney General’s Office and the Arkansas Department of Human Services to host the 10th Annual Safe Schools Conference.  The Arkansas Out of School Network was an exhibitor at the event and provided booklets on bullying and suicide along with other afterschool resources.  Close to 300 educators and law enforcement officers assembled at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock to discuss issues related to student safety including drug trends, bullying, suicide prevention, and LGBTQ awareness.  Though presenters spoke about various aspects of safety, one recurring theme was student use of social media. 

In light of today’s technology-driven world, social media and online safety have become increasing concerns for both educators and law enforcement officers.  The National Center for Education Statistics reports that, while face-to-face confrontation is still the most common form of bullying, cyberbullying is on the rise.  According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, nearly one in four students surveyed said that they had been victims of cyberbullying at some point in their lives.  About 15 percent said that they had committed cyberbullying.  These growing numbers are worrisome especially since studies show that being bullied and bullying are closely connected with suicide, one of the leading causes of adolescent death.

As we begin this school year, let us be mindful of the different types of bullying that can occur both in and out of school.  For more information on bullying and how to prevent it, please visit Stopbullying.gov.  Let us all work to make this school year safe for all our students.
June 2014 Blog
Magdalena Sudibjo
 
My first week as an AmeriCorps VISTA with AOSN has been a wonderful introduction to my year of service.  Though my supervisor had warned me the week would be busy, I had not quite expected to be traveling all around the state to help set up for several special events. In anticipation of Summer Learning Day which was June 20th, a number of presentations were being held to raise awareness for out-of-school time needs.  While my first few days have been busy, they have also been exciting and insightful. 
 
On my first day, I had an opportunity to tour PBS’s AETN station in Conway where they were hosting a week-long Production Camp for children ages 12-16.  The students in the program were learning how to shoot, produce, and edit ten-minute documentaries which they would later show in a big red-carpet celebration.  I had the chance later on that week to shadow the students for a day.  The whole environment was brimming with fun, creativity and a prolific array of Clifford the Big Red Dog memorabilia.  I recognized that the camp was a wonderful example of a successful out-of-school time program.  The program allowed the children not only to develop practical and teambuilding skills but also exposed them to creative careers. 
 
On Thursday and Friday, I attended events in the Jonesboro Public Library and the Family Life Center with Life Skills for Youth in Southwest Little Rock which promoted out-of-school time programs like AETN’s Production Camp.  Our office and partners handed out free books and book-bags to the children with the pledge that they would keep reading throughout the summer. 
 
While my position does allow me to interact with children, my real task is to work with adults to help develop and sustain out-of-school time programs in our state. 
 
On my second day, my supervisor and I attended an open-discussion event in Springdale.  Several policy makers, educators, and advocates attended the meeting to discuss the issues they faced in expanding out-of school time programs.  Transportation and lack of funding were only a few of the issues mentioned.  I quickly gathered that we, as a community, face several, complex challenges in our vision of providing a safe and educational out-of-school time environment for our youth.
 
I have learned plenty of things during my first week at AOSN, not least of all the purpose and direction of the office and its numerous partners.  Throughout the week’s events, I was impressed by the dedication and passion of all the people I met who wanted to support the future of our children.  I look forward to helping achieve this important goal in my year of service.

Click here to see Pics from our Summer Learning Events
 

Arkansas Standards for Out of School Time Program Quality

The Arkansas Out of School Network (AOSN) is a sponsored initiative of Arkansas State University Childhood Services and is a network of Out-of-School Time (OST) programs and youth development professionals from across the state. The mission of AOSN is to ensure that children and youth ages 5-19 have safe, healthy and enriching learning experiences during the out-of-school time hours. AOSN seeks to provide opportunities and supports to program leaders and policy makers as they work to strengthen and expand the OST field. AOSN recognizes that building and sustaining an infrastructure of quality programs is essential to providing access to high quality, age-appropriate OST opportunities.

Formulating an operational definition of OST Program Quality is also essential to strengthening programs at the point-of-service (POS).  Current research suggests that quality programs develop and implement intentional strategies for providing comprehensive educational and developmental learning opportunities (Peterson, T. K. 2013).   According to the Afterschool Alliance’s 2012 publication entitled Principles of Effective Expanded Learning Programs: A Vision Built on the Afterschool Approach, those intentional strategies and practices include: School-Community Partnerships, Engaged Learning, Family Engagement, Intentional Programming, Diverse and Prepared Staff, Participation and Access, Safety, Health, & Wellness, and Ongoing Assessment & Evaluation.

We would love to hear your feedback concerning the standards after you click here to download them and share your thoughts....