If you are wondering what Beyond School Bells (BSB) has been up to during the pandemic, the answer is what they do best – creating and sustaining high-quality afterschool and summer programs.
After a busy year and acquiring many new partners, Beyond School Bells set its sights on yet another ambitious goal: to build out a free, comprehensive resource for anyone looking to begin, launch, improve, or sustain an ELO.
Whether you are contemplating, starting, improving, or sustaining a high-quality afterschool or summer learning experience, what we call an Expanded Learning Opportunity (ELO), the process takes work. Beyond School Bells, a network of passionate afterschool advocates has launched its new BSB Toolkit to help you at any stage.
For those thinking about creating an ELO, the Toolkit provides planning guidelines and funding structure examples. If you are starting an afterschool or summer program, this resource contains hiring recommendations and leadership strategies.
The Toolkit was designed to provide accessible, well-organized information for its users in conjunction with Beyond School Bells’ vision to provide high-quality afterschool and summer programs, particularly in rural areas, with helpful resources.
These tools include assistance in designing, building, and launching ELOs. This project originally began in 2017 as a result of Nebraska ELO Design Challenge in which BSB supported five very different Nebraska communities–North Platte, Beatrice, Auburn, Albion, and Centura–in spearheading and bolstering their programs, thanks to a Nebraska Department of Education grant and partnerships with Nebraska Extension and Nebraska Community Foundation.
When the BSB team began to brainstorm the Toolkit’s contents, they integrated feedback from partners and communities who had already created ELO programs. At each stage of the game, BSB created the Toolkit the way they do everything else: through a partner-driven collaboration.
We are grateful to those organizations who collaborated with us alongside this project and helped generate resources that will support other locations in their ELO creation process.
Other brains behind the Toolkit operation include BSB staff members Jennifer Jones, Max Cuppens, and Val Cuppens, who were responsible for designing, creating, and spearheading this user-friendly, vibrant site.
We are certain that going forward, the Toolkit and other BSB initiatives will move Nebraska closer to thriving as we establish ourselves as leading innovators who support rural ELO initiatives.
We are aware that our work is far from done – which it never is. Over the following year, BSB will continue to solicit insight from statewide partners and add other components to the toolkit.
Even in these uncertain times, BSB envisions itself and its partners as ever-evolving, adapting entities who are revising and improving to meet changing circumstances.