This summer, Boston After School & Beyond piloted its digital badge system in partnership with six STEAM-focused Summer Learning Community programs: Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston’s Blue Hill Club, DotHouse Health, Hale Reservation, MathPOWER, Sociedad Latina, and Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center. These six programs collectively served 470 young people throughout Greater Boston. Together, we set out to test three ideas: the badge criteria, the technology that enables the digital badge system, and whether this concept has traction with middle schoolers.
Using a common set of criteria and a central database, these six programs awarded 1422 badges to 297 students for their demonstration of five different skills: communication, critical thinking, engagement in learning, perseverance, and teamwork. Criteria for earning badges was based on students’ program attendance over the summer, as well as how frequently their teachers observed them demonstrating each skill. In addition to a digital record of their achievement and growth in each skill area, students were awarded badge pins at their program’s closing ceremony. A special thanks to Artists For Humanity is in order, for both the badge designs and producing the pins.
In a recent debrief discussion with participating partners, teachers and program staff reported that their students were more excited about the badges than initially anticipated. We’re eager to follow up with student participants and collect direct feedback from the youth perspective. Our partners also pointed out the need for enhanced communications tools to discuss badges and the skills they represent with their students, as well as the need to evaluate the criteria used to award badges based on this summer’s data.
While we explore these issues, we also look forward to testing this system in the context of the school year with Citizen Schools’ Orchard Gardens campus and select partners of Madison Park High School. Through these efforts, Boston After School & Beyond seeks to better understand the impact of badging on young people and to refine the technology so that the system can be implemented at scale across the city.
We are so grateful to our partners for taking the first step with us to validate the learning that happens in all corners of the city and during all months of the year. Together, we are excited to continue this journey of looking beyond the traditional school day to close the opportunity gap for all Boston youth.