What If Wednesday: Are we working to make our youth well-rounded?


What If “Soft Skills” Are as Important as STEM Skills?

For the last decade or so, STEM topics have been among the top priorities in education, and for good reason. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) are all subjects students need to understand as we move forward into our increasingly technological future.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor estimated an increase of 1 million jobs in the STEM sector from 2012 to 2022; taking the total number of STEM related jobs to more than 9 million in the very near future. We need to give our afterschool participants opportunities to explore STEM activities on a regular basis and increase their knowledge of what is possible for them in this realm.


What If STEM isn’t the be-all and end-all of education?

Recently, there has been a shift toward increasing social and emotional learning (SEL) in our schools. The guidelines for the newly implemented Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) create an opportunity for schools to teach—and measure—beyond the traditional classroom subjects and reach into areas of SEL. This has the potential to be a real benefit to our students. It also has the potential to create more work for our teachers. This is where the world of afterschool becomes a critical partner for schools, students, and parents.

Afterschool programs have been working in areas of SEL for years. We play games that teach teamwork. We are giving students a voice in our programs and giving them responsibility. We have opportunities to talk about managing emotions and solving problems. We get to know our students in different ways than teachers get to know them and we can create opportunities for teaching and learning empathy towards others. These so-called soft skills have historically been secondary, at best, to the more technical skills that allow individuals to “produce” in their chosen careers. When someone has a strong set of soft skills, we typically don’t think anything about those skills. However, when soft skills are weak or absent, it is sometimes all we can think about when working with that individual.

In our society, it seems that civility toward those who are different from us is on its way out. People react emotionally to cultural hot buttons and lash out. In our professional lives, very few of us work completely on our own, so it is critical that we know how to work as part of a team. If we learn all we can regarding technical skills or STEM topics but we are socially and emotionally incompetent, the academic knowledge benefits no one.

Afterschool programs have the good fortune to be able to teach SEL skills to our students on a regular basis. These skills will serve our kids well at home, in school, in relationships, and in all they do in the future. Alongside the STEM activities, don’t be afraid to focus on increasing the soft skills of the students in your program. The world needs them to have both.

What If we work to give our kids as many tools as possible to help them be successful?



Brad Lademann

Afterschool Resource Coordinator
Missouri AfterSchool Network 

Brad Lademann is a dynamic youth speaker with 16 years of public speaking experience and 12 years of experience working with middle school and high school students. He has worked with teens in many capacities including teacher, youth pastor, coach, mentor, and afterschool program supervisor. He currently works with MASN as our Resource Coordinator and provides technical assistance to SAC and 21CCLC grantees.


Day of Sharing

It’s time to show the world what afterschool can do!


Join the Afterschool Alliance on September 27 for a Day of Sharing to show policymakers what afterschool is all about! We’ve broken the action down into three easy steps. On the 27th,

1. Use your social media platforms to tell your story, share an image, or create a video that portrays the impact of your afterschool program.

2. Tag your members of Congress on Twitter

@McCaskillOffice and @RoyBlunt for all of Missouri or

@RepBlainePress for Luetkemeyer’s office– @USRepLong for Long’s office

@LacyClayMO1 for Clay’s office– @RepSamGraves for Graves’ office

@RepAnnWagner for Wagner’s office– @RepHartzler for Hartzler’s office

@repcleaver for Cleaver’s office– @RepJasonSmith for Smith’s office

3. Add #AfterschoolWorks to your posts so you can take part in a nationwide showcase of everything that afterschool programs are doing to benefit students, families, and schools across the nation.

Will you join us in celebrating afterschool?

For more information, click here.younger_boy_with_race_bib_email

Advocacy Update: A big week for Missouri afterschool!

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Last week was a big week for Missouri afterschool programs on the advocacy front! The week started out with Mayor Karen Best representing Missouri in Washington DC at a Congressional briefing on Tuesday, September 12. Mayor Best talked about the importance of afterschool and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program in supporting youth and families in her community. While in DC, Mayor Best also met with Senator Roy Blunt.

Read more from Mayor Best and her thoughts on the importance of afterschool, particularly for city leaders, on the National League of Cities blog here.

The week continued with some action on funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers in Congress. On Wednesday night, the House voted on an amendment to restore $100 million in funding for the program that was cut in the initial appropriations bill. Through bipartisan support, the amendment passed! There are still many hurdles in the process, as the House and Senate will work over the next few months to reconcile their appropriations bills into the final FY2018 budget. The strong bipartisan support, however, indicates that there are champions in Congress willing to fight to ensure afterschool programs remain a priority.

Click here to read more details on the Afterschool Alliance’s Afterschool Snack blog.

Also, make sure to thank the 3 Missouri Congressman who voted in favor of the 21CCLC funding amendment! We send our sincerest thanks to Congressmen Lacy Clay (District 1), Blaine Luetkemeyer (District 3), and Emanuel Cleaver (District 5).

Take 3 minutes to call their offices at the numbers below to thank them for their support of afterschool!

Representative William Lacy Clay, Jr. (D – 01) 202-225-2406
Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (R – 03) 202-225-2956
Representative Emanuel Cleaver, II (D – 05) 202-225-4535

Finally, our great week of advocacy ended with our first policymaker roundtable discussion and site visit hosted by the Eldon Learning Enriched Afterschool Program (LEAP) in Eldon, Missouri. The idea behind the event was to bring together local, state, and federal policymakers and staff to learn more about the importance of afterschool and what policies currently support programs and professionals, and to see programming in action to gain a deeper understanding of what our field means to the youth and families we serve.

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The event was kicked off by our Afterschool Champion Representative David Wood (District 58), who talked about the need for afterschool programs in a time where kids and teachers simply can’t squeeze all that they need into the typical classroom or typical school day.

Terri Foulkes, Director, and Casey Hanson, Policy and Communications Coordinator, from the Missouri AfterSchool Network shared a bit about the Network and what current policies are supporting afterschool programs in Missouri, including the 21CCLC Program, the various programs funded through the Child Care Development fund, including child care subsidies, the School Age Community grant program, and the Out of School Time Partnerships, and various local efforts that help to support and sustain programs throughout the state.

Eldon Superintendent Matt Davis shared what afterschool means to the Eldon community, specifically talking about the notable academic improvements seen in the school district since starting an afterschool program in 2008. Mr. Davis also talked about a unique partnership between the school and Adient, a major local employer. Not only does the afterschool program support a large number of parents in the community who work at Adient, but the program also provides participants with an introduction to robotics, which is a need for Adient’s future workforce.

Chuck Miller, an afterschool parent, and his son Ethan, who participates in the program, shared how much the program has meant to their family. After moving into the community a few years ago, the Millers did not necessarily have the strong support base that they had in their previous community. LEAP helped support the Millers through the transition, by serving as an outlet for Ethan to meet friends and to support their working-parent household.

Finally, Colleen Abbott, LEAP director, shared with the group all of the innovative practices their professionals are implementing into their program every day, which was illustrated by the site walkthrough and tour. Policymakers were able to see youth working on building life skills through their gardening program and cooking club; preparing to be the workforce of the future through their Robotics projects; and working on social emotional control and focus while engaging in a bit of exercise through their Archery program. Much of Eldon’s success is dependent on their partnerships, which was exhibited in the Nike volunteers assisting youth with their garden projects, and the Missouri Department of Conservation partnership with the Archery program.

The event was attended by the Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Dr. Margie Vandeven, area state representatives, including Mike Bernskoetter, Rocky Miller, and Sara Walsh, representatives from Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, representatives from US Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, and several area superintendents interested in starting afterschool programs or enhancing their existing programs.

MASN will also host roundtable events this fall in St. Louis and the Sedalia area. For more information, contact Casey Hanson at hansoncb@missouri.edu.

Afterschool WORKS in September


 Click here to download a PDF version of this blog.

September brings the beginning of the school year and the end of the 2017 fiscal year. As we celebrate Labor Day this month, it is important to reflect on the positive effects afterschool has on the economy. Increased parent work productivity, time for students to explore their potential and unique, innovative curriculum are some of the many ways Afterschool Works for Missouri.

 Advocacy in September

The end ofthe current fiscal year is October 1st, meaning Congress will have to pass a budget before then to maintain smooth government operations. In mid-March, President Trump proposed a plan which eliminates more than a billion dollars in funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. In May, he released a more detailed version of the plan, but maintained the federal cuts to afterschool programs.

We have received some positive signs from Congress since, in their increasing spending for afterschool in the FY 2017 plan, but now, as a new budget moves through the House, we are once again looking at substantial cuts—to the tune of $191 million.

As the budget makes its way through Congress, it is vital that we continue reaching out to our representatives in Congress to ensure funds for 21st CCLC and afterschool programs are maintained. Afterschool Alliance has created a letter for concerned citizens send to Congress. To send an email to your congressman, follow this link.

Attending town hall meetings and constituent events is a great way to speak personally about the benefits of afterschool for you and your family. You can also connect with your representatives through phone calls, emails and letters is the best way for them to understand the benefits of afterschool.

For more information about Trump’s budget and its impact on afterschool, click here.

Local Advocacy in September

To support our advocacy efforts, we are encouraging afterschool leaders to share how your program fosters academic involvement and leads to brighter futures. If your program provides a safe environment for kids to explore learning, access to STEM related education, or time to build soft skills, share your stories with us!

We would be happy to help set up a meeting with your local representative! It is a great way to discuss the benefits of afterschool for your community and make personal connections with the program.

Share your afterschool story here!

Activities for Youth and Parents

Banned Books Week is an event that annually falls on the last week in September, this year beginning the 24th and ending the 30th. Celebrate the power of reading and the value of free and open access to information by looking back at the list of most frequently opposed books and teaching your kids about the value of reading in society.


Staying Connected via Social Media

Share how your program is preparing youth for the workforce this month using the #AfterschoolWorks hashtag.

Don’t forget to follow us @MO_Afterschool on Twitter and look for the Missouri AfterSchool Network on Facebook!

Dates to Remember this Month:

9/4/17- Labor Day

9/21/17- Next Quarterly Meeting in Columbia

Save the Date:

10/26/17- Lights On Afterschool

Guest Blog: Turning the Lights On Your Program

REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN for 2017 Lights On Afterschool. If you’re like me when you saw this your heart skipped a beat because you are just settling in from a busy August and now being asked to think about October.   No need to fret, take a deep breath, look ahead in your calendar, pick your day in October (the official date is October 26, 2017), and let’s start brainstorming.

A Lights On Afterschool event can be as a little or big as you want to make it. The goal is to show off the value of your program in the community and the importance of out of school time programs for our youth.  With that goal in mind ask yourself:  “What shows off my program?” Is it a celebration, a family community night, an open house event during hours…? The options are endless.  Once you decide on a theme, have your staff help come up with the ideas for the event, so you can focus on the guest list.

Let’s be honest—your program is the best and your kids and staff know it, but do your program parents, school faculty and administrators, community partners, funders, and the big one—our legislators—know it, too?  These are all people you want to see your amazing program and the power that an out of school time program has in its community to gain their support. This is why it is not too early to start your planning.  A simple “Save the Date” sent to the right people could be all that it takes to get your program noticed and get the guests you want in your door.

The Afterschool Alliance has some great free tools for you to use once you are registered, from simple forms, posters, templates, to more advanced ways to inform local media.   Make sure to get invitations out early and plan to follow up with reminders and phone calls to secure those VIP guest, and do not be afraid to ask these guest to speak, take pictures or present at your event.

Last year, my program Kid Zone in Clayton, MO hosted our biggest event yet.  Our theme was “Monster Mash” and it was an all out costume themed party. We provided pizza for dinner and had everything from a costume contest to a dance party and photobooth.  We planned this as a family event so with staff freed up from supervision they were able to do game and art stations.  When planning the event I sent save the dates, invitations, and date reminders to all of my close legislators and with some luck was able to bring out a staff member of Senator Blunt’s office.  Making connections with her at the event has given me an open communication with Senators Blunt’s office and has helped me advocate further for afterschool in many ways.

This is your time to shine, so let your Lights Shine Bright on Missouri Afterschool! 


Guest Blogger: Tyler Kearns, Program Coordinator at Clayton Kid Zone 

Tylertylerkearns has been the Program Coordinator for Clayton Kid Zone for 8 years and in the afterschool field 10 years. He is the MASN vice chair for the Professional Development committee and an Afterschool Ambassador.  Last year, Tyler was selected as one the 2017’s Next Generation of Afterschool by the National Afterschool Association and continues to push to develop and advocate for high quality afterschool programming.


THIS FALL: Take the Crazy Cardboard Arcade Challenge!


A few years ago, a 9-year old boy living in Southern California spent his summer vacation making his dad’s workshop come to life with his own arcade made of cardboard. In the years since, his imagination and innovation have inspired others to create their own arcade games out of cardboard, and the Caine’s Arcade Challenge was born.

Please visit the Caine’s Arcade website below to view the videos and learn how this amazing movement came to be!


The Missouri Challenge

This year, the STEM Committee is challenging Missouri afterschool programs to participate in MASN’s Crazy Cardboard Arcade Challenge, with a chance for winning groups to exhibit their arcade games at the MOSAC2 Professional Development Institute this November!

The committee has created some sample lesson plans for you to use to bring the Crazy Cardboard Arcade Challenge into your programs. Review the sample lesson plans and rules below:

Sample Curriculum for the Crazy Cardboard Arcade Challenge

Arcade Rules

  1. The arcade game must be mainly composed of cardboard.
  2. Most of the non-cardboard components should be made out of things that are found lying around or recyclables.  There is no materials purchase necessary.
  3. There can be no electronic or electrical parts.
  4. There must be a documented plan for the game, which can be written, drawn or a combination of both.
  5. The arcade game must include simple machines:
    • Kindergarten-2nd Grade:  1 simple machine
    • 3rd-5th Grade:  2 simple machines
    • 6th-8th Grade:  4 simple machines
    • 9th-12th Grade:  5 simple machines

Click Here to Register to Take the Crazy Cardboard Arcade Challenge here! 

We are excited to see what you come up with and for the chance to play your games at the 2017 MOSAC2 PDI! 

Questions? Email Ashley Stephens at astephens@warrensburgr6.org for more information.