Online Professional Learning and
Technical Assistance for
21st Century Community Learning Centers

Navigation

Blog

July 26, 2022

July’s the perfect time to think about expanding your program’s sisterhood (and brotherhood)! Use this helpful checklist to lay the groundwork for staff recruitment and retention as you plan for fall programming. 

  • Budget time for defining or refining your organizational culture and climate. Y4Y’s Click & Go on this important step walks you through how to break down this work if it’s all new to you. Chart your plan using the Implementation Checklist.
  • Show your dedication to an inclusive process by using Y4Y’s Culture and Climate Perception Surveys for staff and students. 
  • Establish or reinforce an effective, ongoing communications channel where staff feel safe providing feedback. This involves a compassionate management style, consistent team meetings, and a way for staff to give anonymous comments to leadership. Y4Y’s Effective Workplace Communication Training to Go can help.
  • Ask for staff input on the qualities they’d like to see in their future coworkers. Then be sure to honor that input when you advertise and consider new candidates. Who knew “resilience” would become a top characteristic that an employer might seek? Yet here we are.
  • Be sure all methods of human resources outreach are updated to reflect the shifts you’ve made in your culture and climate, and why you’ve made them. 
  • Budget time and resources for professional development throughout the program year. The more intentional you are in the planning phase, the more effective your training will be this year. Reminder: Slide 1.6 of the Coaching My Staff section of the Y4Y Introduction to 21st CCLC course can walk you through an assessment of your program professional development needs.
  • Consider a formal mentorship program to match veteran and rookie staff members and foster the sisterhood/brotherhood you’re reaching for.

Start the Healing
The pandemic has impacted employee connections and turnover across most industries. The “sisterhood/brotherhood” metaphor rings true in education because the extreme challenges you’ve faced together for over two years draw you close like family, yet it’s also true that we often turn on those people we’re closest to. You and your 21st CCLC staff deserve a glacier of credit just for showing up, not to mention how consistently you’ve worked to support student academic and emotional recovery. But your staff’s high expectations for themselves and each other might have taken a toll. It may seem impossible to ask staff for more or different investments in students and in your program without risking more burnout or diminishing wellness. 

So, what’s the solution?

The not-so-easy answer is: It will be different in every program. Certainly, every program should emphasize principles of mutual respect in all things. But gone are the days when organization leaders develop language around culture and climate without consulting the people that make up the organization. Your program family will gain strength only by listening to and celebrating every voice. This practice helps you expand your program’s appeal to current and prospective program staff (“brothers and sisters”) who want to leave work each day knowing they made a difference.
 

 



July 26, 2022

What opportunities do you offer in your 21st CCLC program for older and younger students to interact? How can that interaction benefit both parties? With tips from Y4Y’s Stages of Child and Adolescent Development and other courses and resources, explore ideas for the fall that can help all students grow socially, academically, and emotionally by forming big/little sister and brother types of bonds.

Research Speaks
Pairing students in similar age groups — whether they’re the same age or a few years apart — falls under the highly regarded pedagogical approach of peer instruction. A great deal of research shows that peer instruction can lead to better conceptual understanding, more effective problem-solving skills, increased student engagement, and greater retention of students (in science especially). These academic outcomes are true for both the younger student (who enjoys the attention of an older student) and the older student (who deepens their understanding by unpacking a topic well enough to explain it to someone else). But the benefits don’t end there. Y4Y’s course on stages of child and adolescent development, specifically the development matrix, can help you recognize the fertile ground of students’ social and emotional development and how you can help guide relationships to make the most of these opportunities.

Many 21st CCLC programs say younger students:

  • Are flattered and honored at forming friendships with older students, and it nurtures their self-esteem. Whether during the elementary years when self-image is being developed or adolescence when it’s suffering a bit, their confidence will get a boost.
  • Improve their goal setting. The adults in your program rank right up there with parents when it comes to students identifying with their elders, but close interactions with a student just a few years older can give that younger student ideas about realistic and attainable goals. This can include “do’s” and even a few “don’ts.”
  • Are inspired to do their very best. These relationships won’t be exactly like sibling relationships (surely you’ll be spared the hair pulling and the arm punching), but the upside of youngsters wanting to impress the “older sibling” is ironclad.
  • Learn through modeling. Younger students watch olders’ every move and interaction. Provide tips and training to older students about expectations and appropriate behaviors for working with younger students. Older students who model mature behavior can support healthy social and emotional development.
  • Gain a confidant. Young students could be grappling with everything from secrets about birthday presents to much more difficult subjects. A slightly older friend might offer a comfortable avenue for younger students to confide in. Be sure older students understand how to respond if a younger student confides something that seems especially troubling or disturbing. They might need help deciding which “secrets” to keep and which ones to share with an adult.

Many 21st CCLC programs say older students:

  • Are inspired to do their very best. Especially if your “older students” are in the thick of adolescence, the unbridled enthusiasm of younger students can pull them out of their shells into new (old!) bursts of creativity.
  • Develop empathy. This might be the greatest reason of all to implement those big sibling/little sibling kinds of relationships — offering students a concrete way to consider the thoughts and feelings of another person is a fast track out of narcissistic thinking.
  • Start thinking in terms of community. Your program can foster a sense of community all day long, but this has true meaning for students only when they see how they can personally make a difference. Starting inside your program helps students develop the practice of “giving back” that helps them develop as good citizens.
  • Improve their attendance. Once older sisters and brothers recognize a younger student is depending on them, they’re less likely to blow off your program, and we all know the benefit in that!

Keep It Simple
You don’t have to be ambitious about bringing students of different ages together, whether it’s for occasional tutoring, a large-group project, or social activities like icebreakers. You might be surprised at the ideas they come up with all on their own to strengthen their sisterly (and brotherly) bonds!
 

 



June 14, 2022

Conference or meeting with elementary school teachers students and parentsDo you ever feel like your 21st CCLC program is simply tapping into an already tightly woven community? This may be the case if your program has been around for a while, you lucky ducks. But if your program is new, or if people frequently move in and out of the area, you may be bringing some families together for the first time. Maybe you’re somewhere in between, serving a mix of “old” and “new” families. Whatever the case in your community, what lessons did you take away from the past program year for engaging those families? They were probably feeling torn by a strong need for supports and a healthy concern about gathering. With tips from Y4Y, reflect on your community’s greatest needs so you can plan family engagement events in the coming year that serve important purposes — including fun.

Now That’s a Fine How-Do-You-Do
Get a jump on those warm community fuzzies this fall from Day One! Staff need to be sure to know their community culture and understand the challenges that are unique to family engagement in your community. Besides tools, Y4Y offers staff training in cultural competence — try to make this important professional development a priority over the summer. (What you thought you knew about your community may have shifted dramatically.) Do you have standouts — some call them “super-volunteers” — who you can reliably go to, even after their children have graduated from your program? You know, the ones who always have their finger on the pulse of the neighborhood (in a positive way — gossips need not apply). Try to keep them on your program team through this slow shift back to “normal.” They can help you set the tone and hit the right notes as you start the program year.

Tell Me What You Need, What You Really, Really Need
Don’t let your community needs be a mystery! A crystal ball isn’t going to tell you what families are looking for when it comes to adult learning opportunities or group activities. Survey, survey, survey! Y4Y offers a family engagement survey and tips on focus groups to get a clear picture of what your families might be looking for from your program. Below are topics that just a few years ago you might not have expected to have such importance. Have potential partners lined up to offer family experiences and adult learning in:

  • Mental health resources
  • Mindfulness and other stress-reducing strategies
  • Response to trauma
  • Financial “rescue” resources
  • Childcare “co-ops”
  • Access to healthy foods

Be sure to gather this data as early as possible for the most effective planning of family engagement events. One important question on any survey: Are you more comfortable online or in person? Be ready for hybrid or parallel offerings for at least one more program year.

Did Someone Say Something About Fun?
As you work with families, you may very well be tackling some heavy topics and situations. Responding appropriately requires sensitivity and understanding. Y4Y’s Voices From the Field guest, Kathy Manley, grew up in abject poverty and later taught children who were in the same situation. She offers poignant insights into recognizing signs of poverty in children and how best to navigate those signs. She points out, for example, that children raised in poverty may sometimes laugh at seemingly inappropriate times as a defense mechanism or a way to find the lighter side of even the darkest subjects. Talk with mental health specialists on your program team about healthy ways to respond — and ways to tap into the “funny bone” as you work with children and adults.

Look for opportunities to build some laughs into your family engagement activities this year. After two years of virtual and hybrid learning, there may be more focus than ever on student learning and achievement. But who says you can’t laugh and learn at the same time? Family engagement events can be a great distraction from the heavier side of life, and you have all the room in the world to build in some fun! Consider shaping a literacy or STEAM event, for example, around:

  • A summer blockbuster comic book movie
  • Your city’s (or state’s) favorite baseball or football team
  • NASA’s 2024 mission to the moon
  • A simulated Olympics, tying academics to physical challenge stations
  • A “real-world” Minecraft or other popular video game event
  • A spin on a traditional American holiday — what celebrations around the world parallel Halloween, for example?

Are You Ready to Engage Current and Future Families?
Does your program culture and climate help you:

  • Welcome and support all students and families?
  • Foster a sense of community?
  • Consider the needs and priorities of all stakeholders (including kids!)?
  • Make room for fun?

If you can answer “yes” to these four questions, congratulations: Your next program’s already set up for a warm and wonderful start that engages all families, whether they’re newcomers or old-timers.

 



June 14, 2022

Two men shaking hands at a Farmer's MarketMost U.S. cities and towns are alive with activity in the summer, and potential partners will be making the most of it! Street festivals, community events, and outdoor movies and concerts abound. Put on your networking hat while having fun in your leisure time, and think about how each new encounter is a partnership opportunity. With Y4Y tools at your fingertips, new partners will come as easily as a summer breeze.

Think Network
Most 21st CCLC program directors and site coordinators have experience in seeking program partners to meet a specific need. A perfect example is an ambitious STEAM project that will go much more smoothly if you can convince the local hobby shop to donate a few robotics kits. While this is an important practice to keep in place, just remember that there’s no partnership quota! Your program can and should develop community relationships that might have nothing to do with an immediate need. Those relationships stand to be even stronger, in fact, if you don’t have your hat in hand the moment you make a new acquaintance. Instead, you’re building a network — learning as much about your community members as you can, sharing as much about your program as they’ll let you, and noticing any shared goals. 

Broaden Those Horizons
If you’re blanking out on how the summer’s leisure activities could put you in the path of potential program partners, brush up on the basics of seeking out partners with Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course and related tools. Pull up the Identifying Partners tool and brainstorm with colleagues about how you could add even more ideas to the list of businesses, artisans, organizations, and leaders that you might encounter. If immediate program needs come to mind, great! If not, tuck those new network friends into a mental file and a physical one for revisiting once the new program year begins. The Mapping Needs to Partners tool will help. Here are a few ideas:

  • Art fair vendor: possible art activity leader
  • Political candidate: possible guest speaker on government
  • In-home water delivery rep: possible donor of water bottles
  • Face painter: possible culminating event special guest
  • Livestock winner: possible field trip host

What’s Stopping You?
Chances are, one of three things gives you the greatest pause in reaching out to new partners.

  1. I just know they’ll say no. Why bother?
  2. Call it Mom’s lessons: I’m uncomfortable talking to strangers.
  3. If I were any good at selling, I’d be rolling in my Lamborghini commissions.

Let’s break it down.

  1. Maybe they will say no. Or get that cringy face that tells you they want you to walk away. Here’s the good news: It costs you zero dollars to ask, and Y4Y can boost your confidence when you realize that all you’re really doing is planning for developing program champions! YOU are the first champion of your program and advocate for your students, and you simply want to recruit more members of that cheering squad!
  2. Mom wasn’t wrong: You should be leery of strangers. Bring a friend and never share personal information when meeting new potential partners in nonacademic environments. Tip: Ask questions that might lead you to find acquaintances in common. They might be able to tell you more about your new program friend.
  3. Fair point on the Lamborghini commissions. Except there are sales jobs that fill much more than your bank account. Your 21st CCLC work fills your soul. Use all the tools you can, like the Y4Y Creating a Program Elevator Speech tool to make finding new partners just one more task that you can develop strategies for. Remember to be brief, informative, positive, and results-oriented. 

Y4Y hears it often: Even seasoned program leaders may drag their feet when it comes to forming new partnerships. Try carrying this quote from Charles de Lint’s Memory and Dream with you to your summer leisure activities:

“She had felt straight away that she wasn’t meeting a new friend, but recognizing an old one.”

If you stay alert for shared goals, interests, and connections, finding new friends for your program will be easy as a summer breeze.

 



June 14, 2022

Multi-ethnic high school girls working on a project outdoors with laptopsFrom the youngest elementary kids up to high school seniors, all students can be building their executive functioning skills when you offer a long-term project in your school-year program. They’ll need those skills to plan and achieve their own goals, whether they want to earn a driver’s license, become a space explorer, or anything in between. Using Y4Y resources, you can hit the ground running in August with an engaging project that will help students gain knowledge and skills throughout the year. And the more you plan for it by setting important short-term goals, the more long-term success your students will enjoy! 

Bear in mind:

  1. Learning how to plan and to implement are as much “the lesson” as the material or outcome itself.
  2. Long-term projects provide opportunities to dive deeper into a subject.
  3. Collaboration can and should be a big part of your project.
  4. Budget plenty of time and resources for a culminating event to showcase student knowledge and projects — and to celebrate their hard work!

Short-Term Goal #1: Chart the Course
As the grown-up in the room, make sure you plan any long-term project around:

  1. A needs assessment. What content knowledge or skills do your students most need to develop? Ask school-day partners to weigh in so you can give students the most bang for their afterschool buck. Don’t be afraid to merge subjects! Literacy, STEAM, and civics, for example, have fascinating points of intersection. Check out Y4Y’s Developing a Needs Assessment Click & Go, STEAM Implementation Checklist, and Building School-Day Civics Into Out-of-School Time Projects for starter tips. 
  2. Student voice. Once you know which path you’re headed down, there’s still a lot of wiggle room for variety. Hold off until the fall to collect your student voice data, but have the Y4Y Activity Choice Form and student survey on how students learn best customized to your chosen topic (or topics).
  3. Available resources. Keep Y4Y’s sample procurement packet handy for standard materials, and community asset mapping tool for forging new partnerships as more unusual resources are needed.

Short-Term Goal #2: Consider Process vs. Product
Saving the “nature versus nurture” debate for another day, from a young age it’s easy to recognize whether a person is more process-driven or product-driven. Example: Madison yells “DONE!” whenever she finishes a task, no matter how many times you ask her not to. Madison is product-driven. Meanwhile, Manny is always the last to complete an art project that, let’s face it, was designed more as a decompression activity than an art lesson. If you find Manny deep in thought about “what’s missing” from his Play-Doh sculpture, chances are that Manny is a process-driven kid. The beauty of a long-term project is that it can appeal to both these types of students. In fact, pairing these students with each other, like you might an optimist and a pessimist, is a great way to strike balance for the best outcomes! You can even give each team a fun name, like Wonder Wizards, or invite them to create their own. Collaboration: CHECK!

Short-Term Goal #3: Gather Your Y4Y Tools
The “process” mentioned above is simply “planning” plus “implementing,” and you’re going to do cartwheels when you see how many tools Y4Y offers in both areas. Here are just a few:

Planning
Project-Based Learning Youth Participation Checklist
Project Planner
Project Timelines
Student Goal Setting and Reflection (tailored to appropriate grade levels)
Goal Setting Activities, Games and Templates

Implementing
Project-Based Learning Implementation Planning Checklist
STEAM Student Self-Monitoring Checklist for Project Work
Classroom Facilitator Packet
Service-Learning Toolbox

Short-Term Goal #4: Train, Train, Train!
You’re in luck! Whether you catch Implementing Project-Based Learning With Y4Y live this week or later in the Y4Y webinar archives, you’ll learn about long-term, student-driven projects in these interactive sessions. Looking to step it up a notch? Have staff engage with the full Project-Based Learning course, or present one of the scripted PowerPoint Trainings-to-Go, like How to Craft a Driving Question or Project-Based Learning in Action.

Areas of Student Support
If you’re still in doubt about the benefits of a long-term project, rest assured that in addition to academic support, you’ll be supporting students’:

Think back to your own formative years, and those long-term projects that might still take up space in your mother’s sewing room. Your unwillingness — or hers — to let them go tells you everything you need to know about the possible impact of those well-designed long-term projects.