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August 2018 Issue

From the Executive Director:
PKF Strategy Update


Beyond School Bells


Nonprofit Association of the Midlands


Seventy-Five North

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Beyond School Bells Rockets Learning to a New Level with Innovative Approach

Raising the Bar | Youth Pathways to Success | August 2018

In December 2016, the foundation awarded Nebraska Children and Families Foundation a three-year $300,000 grant to provide support for the Beyond School Bells (BSB) program.

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation aims to create positive change for Nebraska children through community engagement. The organization’s BSB after school and summer programing initiatives are active in about 20 communities across the state, serving thousands of Nebraska youth.

“These are typically communities that have existing after school programs and we provide additional support that allows them to build local partnerships, do local outreach and engagement and participate in state-wide activities that help build the capacity for after school and summer programming across Nebraska.”
-Jeff Cole, Network Lead for BSB.

“Our focus is really on high quality school-based, community powered after school and summer programming (what we call Expanded Learning Opportunity (ELO) programs),” Cole says. BSB is utilizing Think Make Create (TMC) Labs and Career Education curriculum to further enhance learning and engage students with hands-on experiences that allow for and encourage local support and interaction.

The TMC Labs were designed to address three challenges that rural ELO programs face: storage space for supplies, lack of local recognition and long-term sustainability, and materials and programming to support hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) tinkering and activities. BSB transforms seven- by twelve-foot trailers into custom-designed mobile STEM learning platforms and gifts them to rural communities to use as fully equipped pop-up classrooms in a way that supports their programming.

“In just the last year-and-a-half, our fleet has grown from two to 13 across the state,” Cole says. BSB provides a graphics package and support to attract local sponsorships, to replenish supplies as needed, engage community participation and ensure long-term sustainability. “The TMC itself is a mobile billboard for advertising community partnerships,” he adds.

Similarly, BSB’s “So You Want To Be A…” Career Education curriculum answers the growing interest across the state to take advantage of fourth through eighth grade ELO programming as an early onramp to get kids thinking about career possibilities.

“Kids who get excited about a career early on, will hopefully continue in their education when they see the practical relevance of their chemistry class or physics class because they’ve had contact with a professional that’s using that skill in the real world,” Cole says.

Recently, BSB facilitated a collaborative application to the Nebraska Department of Education for a grant to launch Nebraska’s ELO Design Challenge, a coalition of five communities that did not have existing programs. “We used a design thinking model to help them come up with after school programing that meets local needs while utilizing local assets,” Coles says. “It was a new foray for us as we previously had only worked with communities with existing programs.” Each community launched their new ELO initiatives with TMC labs.

Four UNL undergraduate students (ELO Innovation Fellows) were selected by BSB to help design curriculum for the TMC Labs that encourages problem-solving, creativity, and exploration.

“All learning time matters; and afterschool and summer shouldn’t be afterthoughts,” Cole says. “If we can pull together community resources to be that second shift of educators to come in and help youth get excited about and engaged in learning, Nebraska really can be a leader in the nation.”