Aiko Sato had a question. Amid the pandemic, Northwest wildfires and protests against racism, she wanted to know what kinds of educational programming would allow kids in her afterschool program to come together, feel seen and supported, and stay connected to learning.
“There are many ways that our community members feel unsafe,” Sato said. “Trauma-informed care tells us that kids’ brains cannot learn when they feel unsafe or are experiencing trauma.”
As a program manager with Champions in Portland, Oregon, Sato spent the year working with her team of afterschool educators and with school districts and families to create distance learning programs and pods in response to the pandemic. They carved out time in each student’s schedule for breaks and looked for engaging, experiential projects that kids could do on their own or in groups.
And then she said she realized, “There’s an app for that.”
Sato had been part of a cohort of afterschool professionals that pioneered the Mizzen by Mott app and helped guide the development of its features. She looked to Mizzen to help her team prepare activities for these scheduling gaps that would be meaningful — and restorative — for the kids they serve.
“As a program manager, I look for activities that promote the engagement, safety and well-being of our kids and also for resources that support the growth of my team members and teachers,” said Sato. “Mizzen is unique in that it’s a one-stop shop for our field. There are amazing educational resources out there, to be sure, but this is the first one that’s entirely geared toward us.”
Mizzen’s features include messaging, scheduling and communications tools that help afterschool providers streamline their programs. Its content, which is available through a mobile or desktop version of the app, offers hands-on science, math, arts, literacy, college and career readiness, youth entrepreneurship, civil rights and youth leadership activities for students in grades K-12.
This includes timely activities that inspire STEM learning. For instance, when NASA’s Perseverance rover touched down on Mars, Mizzen featured NASA activities on rocket-building and how the Red Planet got its distinctive color. The app also provides a one-of-a-kind curriculum from Jazz at Lincoln Center and Foundations Inc. that invites children to learn about the art of improv and explores the rich traditions of jazz through the lens of music, language arts, science and math.
In addition to vetted educational content for students, Mizzen also offers Pro Tips for afterschool professionals. STEM Next and Million Girls Moonshot share tips on engaging youth in developing an engineering mindset by applying science to real-world problems. The California Academy of Sciences offers guidance on harnessing students’ curiosity to shape a project’s next steps. After-School All-Stars offers ideas on team building and ways to strengthen relationships with families.
Carlos Santini, national executive vice president of programs with After-School All-Stars, calls Mizzen’s Pro Tips “PD in your pocket.”
“So many afterschool best practice gems reside with one person or organization,” said Santini. “We look to leverage this app to house practices that can be used internally and across the field in an accessible manner.”
With a grant from the Mott Foundation, After-School All-Stars also is participating in multicity focus groups on the rollout of Mizzen in Puget Sound, Orlando and Cleveland.
“Our vision is for kids to stay safe and healthy, especially in COVID times, do well in school, find careers they love and give back,” Santini said. “So much of Mizzen’s content aligns with the work we do, and we’re already finding that the portability of STEM, social emotional learning, health and wellness, and college and career readiness content in the app is very helpful in supporting novice and seasoned staff.”
That’s what Mott Foundation President and CEO Ridgway White had in mind in 2018, when he first asked the Foundation’s Education team to identify the best ways to leverage technology to support afterschool educators in their efforts to provide challenging, engaging and awe-inspiring learning experiences for youth.
“The Mott Foundation has believed in the power of afterschool for almost a century,” White said. “In the last several years, we got to wondering, ‘How can we do more to help ensure that kids in every ZIP code are getting high quality learning experiences on a daily basis through afterschool?’ And Mizzen is the answer we came up with.”
Mizzen by Mott was launched in spring 2020 and introduced to the field in collaboration with the Mott-funded 50 State Afterschool Network. To help afterschool programs around the country meet children’s and families’ needs during the pandemic, the app was adapted to include activities that providers can offer in person, virtually, in small-group settings and at home.
Now, as afterschool and summer programs continue to play pivotal roles in helping communities rebuild, Mizzen offers a wide range of content to support students’ recovery, help them reconnect with peers and mentors, and inspire their love of learning and discovery.
The app is free to the afterschool field through support from the Mott Foundation. You can learn more at www.mizzen.org and download Mizzen from your favorite app store.