March 28, 2017
Update: Expanded learning opportunities in Washington

Recently Raikes Foundation Program Officer Juliet Taylor updated the Washington House Early Learning and Human Services Committee on the importance of quality expanded learning opportunities for the state’s kids. She also briefed lawmakers on the newly launched Sparkwind Movement, an initiative of School’s Out Washington aimed at ensuring that all young people in the state have access to high-quality out of school programs.

You can watch her whole presentation above, or check out a few key points below.

On why we must ensure equitable access to quality expanded learning programs:

“[Expanded learning opportunities] are a critical piece of closing the achievement gap. By sixth grade there are thousands of hours of difference between what low income young people are able to experience and [what] their middle-class peers experience in terms of hours of enrichment. And that… really is a cumulative impact. It is hard to catch up when you have thousands and thousands of hours less of experiences that your same age peers.”

On the importance of prioritizing adolescents:

“This is the time when kids really want to figure out who they are and have opportunities for leadership and for voice and choice. And expanded learning opportunity programs offer the ability to provide those leadership opportunities for these kids.”

“Those same developments that happen in the brain that lead adolescents to seek new and novel and interesting things, which happen sometimes to be things that [have] negative consequences, are also the period of time when amazing things can happen -- where they can be motivated by topics, get deeply involved in things that build on their hearts desire and motivations.”

“Expanded learning opportunity programs offer choices around content areas, so whether you’re a recreation program or a STEM program or an arts program, it offers the ability for students to try things out. It complements the school day, but they also get some time in a flexible environment to kind of figure out ‘who I am in the world?’ and ‘what do I want to explore further?’”

Juliet’s update also included the voices of young people participating in Tacoma Community Boat Builders, an expanded learning program that works with at-risk youth to develop woodworking and craftsman skills.

Expanded learning opportunities are a critical component of students’ academic success, as well as invaluable spaces for them to grow, create, and learn. We’re excited to be able to update the legislature on this exciting and growing field, and we’re looking forward to continuing to work with our partners and the state to improve program quality and access through our state.