Thoughts Worth Pondering
A recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (http://shar.es/V2QKr) shared commentary of a father who observed his fifth-grade son and then reflected on the power of innovation. According to the author, "I realized that trying to inspire caring and compassionate fifth graders might not be a bad use of time after all. Youth engagement needs to be part of solving any problem that's going to take more than a few years to solve."
Inspired, caring, compassionate, problem solving and the notion of taking more than a few years to solve a problem are concepts reflected daily through Camp Fire's organizational culture. The article is worth reading.
The Case for the New Kindergarten: Challenging and Playful
Kindergarten in the United States is not what it used to be. For one thing, it's longer. In 1998, only about 56 percent of children attended full-day kindergarten. Today, that figure is 80 percent, according to recent research by Education Week.
Kindergarten classrooms are also far more academically oriented. Most kindergarten teachers now think academic instruction should begin in preschool and indicate that it's important for incoming kindergartners to already know their letters and numbers. Today's kindergarten teachers are spending much more time on literacy and expect their students to learn to read before first grade. The implications of these changes are not clear.
Recent accounts of these new norms have been decidedly negative, describing a "crisis in the kindergarten," with anecdotes about experienced kindergarten teachers opting to resign rather than adapt to what they see as highly inappropriate expectations.
Education Week's news coverage of research on the nature and role of academic instruction in early-childhood classrooms has garnered a similar response. The publication heard from parents whose kindergartners are experiencing anxiety around testing, and from kindergarten teachers stretched to capacity trying to meet numerous academic goals and alarmed by the shift away from play.
According to authors Daphna Bassok, Amy Claessens, and Mimi Engel, "We are sympathetic to and share many of the same concerns. In particular, we are troubled by the decline we have documented in the amount of time kindergartners spend on physical education, art, music, science, and social studies. We think these trends suggest that young children are being shortchanged with regard to what most of us believe are key aspects of learning."
At the same time, the vehemence with which many educators, researchers, and parents condemn exposure to academic content in kindergarten is a concern. Academic instruction in early-childhood classrooms is often framed as inherently at odds with "child-centered," "developmentally appropriate," or "play-based" practices. This presumed dichotomy–that preschool and kindergarten must either be geared toward play and socioemotional development or focused on rigorous academic instruction–is false.
Engaging and challenging academic instruction should (and can) be developmentally appropriate, and it does not have to be overwhelming, stressful, or boring. It does not have to supplant play or child-initiated activities. And it certainly does not have to involve worksheets, one-size-fits-all lessons, or an overemphasis on assessment.
Bassok, Claessens, and Engel acknowledged it is troubling that the norm in many kindergarten classrooms today may be rote or shallow academic instruction, and that time on academics may be crowding out time for other critical activities. However, according to the authors, the response to this concern should not center on eliminating literacy and math instruction from children's first years of schooling but, rather, on identifying strategies to foster engaging and rich environments for learning language and numeracy. Kindergarten experiences need to meet all young children where they are, help them build on their inherent curiosity and enthusiasm, and create opportunities for authentic learning.
If, as is argued by some of the nation's top poverty scholars, schools are among the most promising means of leveling the playing field for disadvantaged children, it is important to think carefully about exactly what early schooling should entail, particularly for those children for whom school represents one important pathway out of poverty.
Recent research by Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University shows that average reading and math scores of incoming kindergartners from high-income backgrounds are a full standard deviation higher than those of children from families with low incomes. The size of this gap among 5-year-olds is staggering, and reducing it will require efforts on multiple fronts. Access to instruction that is engaging and challenging and fosters a love of learning is a key ingredient. To suggest that kindergartners should be deprived of the opportunity to engage deeply in learning literacy and numeracy is to sell them short at a crucial moment in their development.
A growing body of research has also explored the critical role of early exposure to language and literacy for children's development. With documented differences in early exposure to language between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers, there is strong support for both early-childhood parental interventions and preschool programs as strategies for narrowing these gaps. It seems only logical, then, that a strong emphasis on language, literacy, and reading during kindergarten would be another key component for reducing inequality of opportunity.
Research shows that children get more out of kindergarten when teachers expose them to new and challenging academic content. It is not necessarily true that most kindergartners need more exposure to academic content. At the same time, exposure to academic content should not be viewed as inherently at odds with young children's healthy development.
In light of the adoption of the Common Core State Standards in kindergarten across the vast majority of states, perhaps it is time to shift the conversation about "appropriate" early-childhood learning.
Rather than focusing on whether academic content has a place in early-childhood classrooms, an alternative would be to focus on how to teach it in a way that is tailored to young learners. It will certainly require effort, support, and flexibility, but it is an attainable goal with the potential for a powerful payoff.
Fire Tenders Update
As of June 30, 2014, Camp Fire National Headquarters will be indefinitely suspending the Camp Fire Fire Tenders program. We assure you that this decision was not made lightly. Our decision to suspend the program gives us time to assess how best to offer innovative programming that embraces Camp Fire's rich history and tradition while meeting the needs of youth and families today and in the future. Camp Fire's program development and refinement efforts represent our commitment to better serve and support Camp Fire youth and their families in communities that currently do not have a Camp Fire council.
Our long-term goal is to ensure youth have access to the best programming we can offer. Our work with the Thrive methodology and youth program quality standards helps us understand how important it is to introduce youth to concepts like goal management and youth voice and choice. This decision will help us reflect on how best to incorporate these principles into every aspect of Camp Fire's work, including any future direction for Fire Tenders.
Camp Fire National Headquarters will assist current participating families in finalizing any beads, emblems, or certificates needed for projects they are currently completing. If you have any questions regarding Fire Tenders, please contact Shawna Rosenzweig at Shawna.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good Links to Helpful Sites on Staying Healthy
Numbers Share a Story Worth Telling
Cathy Tisdale, Camp Fire President and CEO, recently attended two conferences on youth development. Though her notes reflect challenges, they also contain insight and ideas that will further the possibility of organizations such as Camp Fire making meaningful changes in the lives of our youth.
Quotes, Talking Points, and Relevant Sources (proposal writers take note!)
- California educates 20 percent of all low-income kids.
- Ten states educate the majority of Hispanic students and fifteen states, the majority of African Americans.
- Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia have the lowest graduation rate for boys of color in the U.S. (60+ percent)
- Fifty percent of dropouts come from fifteen percent of schools. Cathy's take-away is, "The problem is not widespread. It is narrow and targeted."
Specific to Girls and Women
- The Office of Civil Rights is the primary repository of graduation and educational data.
- A quote from an amazing young Hispanic male was, "Believe in the belief others have in you until you can believe it for yourself."
- Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan spoke of the power of positive peer pressure and that there needs to be more emphasis on addressing this reality.
- Duncan also talked about a "culture of low expectations."
- Math achievement is equal between boys and girls K–12. The difference is girls do not participate as much.
- Studies show that when an inquiry-based learning methodology is used, achievement and participation is equal between boys and girls.
- To learn math, girls need (1) hands-on experience, (2) program-based curriculum, and (3) reality-based curriculum.
- Girls don't like a procedural teaching approach. It can affect their identity development.
- A fixed mindset is a particular issue for high-achieving girls.
- More than one-half of all STEM-related opportunities will focus on I/T careers.
- Girls see leadership as (1) standing up for one's beliefs and (2) bringing people together around a course or issue. For them, it's not about being in charge.
- A great quote from Deborah Tolman, gender researcher at Hunter College:
"Experiments are the gold standard of causality."
Grant Writing Reminder: It's a Grant, Not a Gift
By Kathryn L. Daugherty, M.S., Camp Fire National Grant Writer
The following link, Writing a Successful Grant Proposal, is one of the best articles I have ever read about effective grant writing. In six pages, it summarizes nearly everything you need to keep in mind when you are crafting a proposal. Here's the link:
In case the link won't work for you, the pdf can be found at the Camp Fire Minnesota Council on Foundations website (http://www.mcf.org/). It was written by a woman named Barbara Davis. According to the website, she is a nonprofit consultant. I haven't had the chance to meet her, but I really hope I can one day.
If you've read the articles I have written for the Camp Fire newsletter, some of the information you find in this piece may sound familiar. Not that I copied from Ms. Davis–it's just that years of practical experience have taught the two of us many of the same lessons.
I have a single bit of cautionary advice: At one point in the article, Ms. Davis refers to a "grant" as a "gift." Yeah, sorta. But a grant is not REALLY a gift. It's an investment from an individual or an organization. That organization trusts us to do exactly what we said we were going to do with their money. They'll want reports from us showing that yes, indeed, we really did follow through exactly as promised. We spent their money in the way we said we would, and we got the results that we stated we would get. If we didn't get the results we expected, why not? A reasonable explanation is required.
Keep our promises and we'll continue to receive funding–from that organization, and probably others, as well. Funders talk to each other; they know who keeps their word and who doesn't. If we break our promises, the money will dry up faster than a Missouri mudhole in mid-August.
Good News on Graduation
A recent study from GradNation includes graduation data and provides new insights on the state of graduates in our country today. Visit www.gradnation.org/gradreport to read a more complete summary, download the report, and find your local graduation information by using the gradnation.org interactive maps and tables.
A glimpse at some of the highlights:
- The number of students enrolled in schools known as "dropout factories" is down 47 percent in the last decade.
- Students of color have led the way in both increasing their graduation rates and leaving dropout factory high schools.
- Graduation rates have continued to increase even as standards to graduate have gotten tougher.
- It is possible to raise expectations and standards and still achieve higher graduation rates.
- The link between low income and low academic performance is strong, but solvable.
- There is no correlation between states with high levels of poverty and states with low graduation rates.
Talking Points for Talking About the Outdoor Experience
Following are a number of websites that not only confirm the value of Camp Fire's outdoor and environmental programming but also provide language for proposals around the impact of the outdoor experience on children.
America's Promise Prepares for Attendance Awareness Month 2014
Earlier this month, America's Promise Alliance and their campaign partners officially launched the second year of a nationwide attendance awareness campaign. Attendance Awareness Month (celebrated in September 2014) is a nationwide event recognizing the connection between school attendance and academic achievement. The goal is to mobilize schools and communities not only to promote the value of good attendance but also to take concrete steps toward reducing chronic absence. More than 40 national organizations are working in partnership on the event. During the April 8th launch, America's Promise also unveiled the latest version of theÂ Count Us In! Toolkit. The toolkit is packed with resources for making a splash in your community. Take a look. Start formulating your plans for September. And begin making a difference in keeping kids in school!
Cathy Tisdale, Camp Fire President and CEO, is an America's Promise Alliance trustee. Trustees are national leaders from all sectors who shape Alliance strategies, champion its initiatives, and advise the Board of Directors.
Go to http://awareness.attendanceworks.org/ for more information.
A Passive Voice
By Kathy Daugherty, Camp Fire National Grant Writer
When we polish up a document by using Spellcheck, the Readability Statistics indicate how many "passive voice" sentences we've used in the piece. Passive (or "inactive") voice sentences are not always a bad thing, but if we really want to let a potential funder know how good a job we'll do with the money they give us, we'll step up our game a bit.
For example, instead of writing:
"The Teens in Action program is designed to engage youth in a service-learning environment."
Consider using something along these lines:
"Teens in Action engages young people in service-learning by having them design and implement every step of the activity."
What's the difference? In the first example, we bring to mind a bunch of people sitting around thinking about how they're going to do something. The second evokes an image of young people actually doing something . . . they designed it, assigned tasks, and did exactly what they set out to do. Which scenario are YOU willing to donate money to? Exactly. Any person, company, or organization feels just the same way. Create a picture of people in motion and we are more likely to move people to give to us and our organization.
Another way to keep a positive picture in the funder's mind is to boldly state what you will do. Rather than saying, "Camp Fire will try to help 200 children learn about Wise Kids," you can state this:
"Using our Wise Kids curricula, Camp Fire will teach 200 children to eat and enjoy healthy food and be physically active."
We're not going to merely TRY—we are going to do it. Let's not leave anyone in doubt about our ability to succeed, keep our promises, and make positive changes in the lives of young people and their families.
When we appeal to a funder—whether it's in a conversation in their office or through a written proposal—we want to inspire them to action. Let's not just have them reaching for their checkbooks. Let's craft a proposal that will have them telling their friends to reach for their checkbooks, as well!
Independent Sector Announces Latest Figures
Independent Sector, a leadership network for nonprofits, foundations, and corporations committed to advancing the common good, recently announced that the 2013 estimate for the value of a volunteer hour is $22.55—a 41-cent increase from 2012, up 1.9 percent from the previous year.
The announcement also included a state-level breakdown for the value of volunteer time in 2013, ranging from a low of $18.93 in Arkansas up to $38.69 per hour in the District of Columbia. To access state-by-state values and learn more about the national figure, visit www.independentsector.org/volunteer_time.
The latest data from Urban Institute show that nonprofits employ approximately 13.7 million workers—about 10 percent of the American workforce—and account for about 5.5 percent of gross domestic product. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 62.6 million Americans, or 25.4 percent of the adult population, volunteered a median of 50 hours in 2013. Religious organizations were cited as the type of organization that volunteers worked in the most (33%), followed by educational or youth service (25.6%), and social or community service organizations (14.7%).
Great Resource With Valuable Data
A website that helps you research, track, and monitor your local schools is a treasure trove of information. By plugging in a school, district, city, or state, you can explore top-rated schools, find local information, and talk "school" with local parents. Information in the database includes private, public, and parochial schools at all levels.
The site is Great Schools. You can access it at http://www.greatschools.org/
You'll get demographics for any school you look up, what percentage of kids qualify for free or reduced-fee meals, how the school is rated/ranked, what kind of programs it provides, and school districts that neighbor yours. You'll also find "Hot Topics"—such as the academic gender gap, worksheets, and activities—and discussion of parenting dilemmas—such as teaching character, learning issues, health, and behaviors. It's a smart, one-stop, multifaceted site, perfect for all the data you'll need for marketing or fund development.
AIKD Thoughts & Perspective
Though Camp Fire's annual Absolutely Incredible Kid Day® (AIKD) celebrations have been tucked away for another year, Camp Fire President and CEO Cathy Tisdale's PowerPoint presentation and comments at Camp Fire Heart of Iowa's AIKD breakfast event was a succinct reminder of who we are, and what we do for the youth we serve. Take a look. Cathy's words are clear, concise, and compelling.
Gamma Phi Beta Helps Kids Get to Camp
Once again, Gamma Phi Beta, an international women's sorority, is providing Camp Fire with funds for camperships (camp scholarships) to send girls to Camp Fire resident camps, day camps, and other summer programs. Through this national collaboration, girls who otherwise would not be able to attend will have opportunities to spend time in nature, experience new activities, and form lasting friendships.
To apply, contact Audrey Gralton, at email@example.com or  285-2032, for the required 2014 campership documents, including the Application Packet, Request Form, and Report Form. These documents may also be found in the Camp Fire Compass Resource Library section under the Gamma Phi Beta/Camp Fire Campership subcategory of the National Projects category. Also available is information to help strengthen local chapter and council relationships, thus increasing the effectiveness of this collaboration.
A completed and signed Request Form for each applicant is due May 16, 2014. The Campership Report must be filled out for each camper and received at Camp Fire National Headquarters by September 5, 2014. Filing late reports may affect a council's eligibility for next year's campership awards.
Springtime at Camp Sealth Means Environmental Education Programs Set to Begin
Since 2000, when Camp Fire Central Puget Sound's Camp Sealth first began offering environmental education, schools and groups from around the Pacific Northwest area have started arriving for outdoor and experiential education at the first sign of spring.
According to Elyse Dull, the council's Environmental Education & Retreats Program Manager, "We have two primary goals for our programs. The first is that kids walk away having learned more about nature and stewardship. The second is that they relate more to different communities."
Elyse shared that the council programs include overnight camping, eating, and being together. "It makes a meaningful difference in their experience," said Elyse, "When kids spend longer stretches of time together, they learn what it takes to compromise, cooperate, and become a community that supports each other."
Camp Sealth's thriving Environmental Education & Retreats program utilizes 400 acres of forests, wetlands, and beach front. Groups can expect an experience that is tailored to their individual needs with a blend of camp activities and curriculum-based classes. Camp Sealth staff go through an extensive staff training, and most have been working at Sealth for several seasons. Staff strive to provide quality programming that contains a mix of hands-on activities and interpretive hiking.Â Environmental education lesson plans align with most Washington State Standards for Learning and Instruction. Camp can also host retreats for any school or organization that is not-for-profit.
- Wetlands Ecology
- Marine Ecology
- Wildlife Ecology
- Astronomy and Night Awareness
- Challenge and Team Building
- Renewable Energy
- Forest Ecology
- Outdoor Life Skills
- Coming soon...Living with the Land & Ornithology
- Arts & Crafts
- Group Games
- All-Camp Evening Programs
In addition to providing education experiences, Camp Sealth is an early adopter of Next Generation Science Standards. In fact, after going through the process, Elyse shared she is more than willing to help other councils understand how to read and relate to the new expectations. For more information, contact Elyse Dull at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 463-3174, ext. 34.
Online Proposal Development Resources You Can Use That Will Cost You Little or No Money!
By Kathy Daugherty, National Grant writer
Some of these resources I have mentioned before, others you may not have heard of. They are all worth noting for future research reference! Most funders want you to back up your claims with data and may ask you to cite the source. (You should do that whether they ask you to or not!)
Foundation Directory Online (FDO) has a free version that allows you to search for grantmakers in your area and get a list of who's out there. Here's the link for the free version:
Grantspace is a free online community sponsored by FDO where you can find connections to information on potential funders and get advice from your peers on how to get funding. Here's the link:
Grantspace also has sites that will help with specific subjects. For example, this link will take you to the Health topic area:
Guidestar has a free version that will allow you to research potential funders. For instance, if you have used free FDO and found a list of potential funders, you can go to the Guidestar free version and find PDF copies of each grantmaker's 990. The 990 is the tax form that charities have to file. If you go almost to the end of the 990, you will find a listing of the organizations it funded in that tax year. This gives you a good idea of what sort of organizations get funding and the amount of funding they receive. This is important information to have any time you're trying to diversify resources. Here's the link:
Chronicle of Philanthropy has a free newsletter that goes out a few times a week. There are links to who's funding what and a list of grants that have been posted that day. Sign up here:
Charity Navigator also has a free newsletter; sign up here:
The Boost Collaborative (Best of Out-of-School Time) has a good listing of funding opportunities that are available; it's updated fairly often:
Harvester.gov will find copies of audits that foundations have submitted, so you can see how much they have invested in other organizations:
To provide compelling data for your potential investor, pick out the resource(s) that seem the most likely to support your request and track down the specific information that you need. You can pick and choose which data you put forward, but always make sure you are presenting accurate information. Some reliable resources are listed below. Do make sure, when you are writing a proposal, that you cite your source.
County Health Rankings has some great data on how counties across the nation fare in specific health areas:
Kids Count has abundant information on children and youth by county, state and nationally:
The government also has free information that goes out on a regular basis. If you access grants.gov, you can sign up for a newsletter that will let you know what government grants are becoming available that day:
The government also has some excellent research sites that you can use to bolster proposals that you are preparing for a funder. Here are some of those:
USAcounties.gov will take you to Census data for any county in any state:
The US Department of Agriculture has data on food deserts, on a county-by-county basis, across the United States of America:
Childstats.gov also has a wealth of information available to you:
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a plethora of information available on much more than housing:
Sign up for free e-newsletters sent out by national, regional and local foundations. There may be an organization in your area that offers online resources similar to what Foundation Directory Online has, only with a local emphasis. In the Kansas City area, for example, we have Nonprofit Connect (http://www.npconnect.org), which has a good regional research site. They also offer periodic no- or low-cost training, which provides an opportunity to network with others in your area who are doing the good work. Take advantage of those opportunities. The NonProfit Times has a free e-newsletter, as does Nonprofit Quarterly (http://www.nonprofitquarterly.org). Read your local newspaper and business publication(s) to see who's new in town and what they're doing. You may get the same info twice, but that's far better than not getting it at all!
Camp Fire Program Quality Highlight: Youth Worker Webinar
On Monday, March 10, over 30 staff members from Camp Fire councils across the country came together via webinar to share best practices on building structure and establishing clear limits in Camp Fire programs. One highlight of the webinar was the opportunity to discuss strategies for promoting structure and clear limits through staff training. These included:
Tips for Staff Training
- Incorporating structure by posting schedules.
- Incorporate the reasons for needing structure.
- Provide a list of program component ideas of daily activities.
- Provide visual examples of program schedules.
- Highlight specific ways your program accomplishes clear structure; give site specific information.
- Highlight specific transition techniques.
- Incorporating clear limits through guidelines.
- Incorporate the reasons for needing guidelines for participation in the space.
- Provide examples of program rules/guidelines and ways to guide the conversation.
- Highlight a schedule for updating program rules.
- Provide behavior management techniques to be used if program guidelines are not being followed.