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September 18, 2020

Comfort foods may be satisfying in substance, but sometimes we crave something different or exotic. The same can be said of program practices. How does your 21st CCLC program build on the basics of substance while experimenting with new flavor combinations to bake up the perfect recipe for your afterschool program?

Keep the Cupboard Stocked

Whether you’re a new grantee or you’ve been in this kitchen a while now, it’s important to remember your fundamentals throughout the program year — the elements of running your program that can ensure its longevity. You have reporting responsibilities, and they all come back to doing what you said you’d do in your grant, which was based on the needs in your area. Depending on your state practices, that grant might have been written before the pandemic struck, but you can still track and report your data faithfully. Y4Y’s Tool Starter Set is the butter, flour, eggs and sugar that every 21st CCLC program will need to ensure success. The Project/Program Planner brings you back to your goals in all you do. Keep lines of communication open with your state agency to understand how best to adapt and report on those goals. For this program year, that adapting may be the most important ingredient in your continuous improvement efforts.

Try Out New Flavors

Has your professional development this summer exposed you to new ideas you’d like to try in your program? Do you wonder if the time is really right to test something out? Without a doubt, you’ve come to appreciate the importance of multimodal learning, especially if you were limited to a single way of supporting your students’ learning throughout the exclusively virtual portions of your programming over the past six months. Hopefully you’ve now navigated how to support some in-person programming and can give thought to things like activities that include visual, audio and hands-on (tactile) opportunities, whether those activities are focused on STEM, literacy, health and wellness, or some other topic.

Don’t forget to fold in some new strategies for ensuring a positive learning environment. The program environment itself differs from in the past, so of course basic safety and interpersonal interactions have a new flavor. You can adapt the Y4Y Setting Up a Positive Learning Environment Training to Go to review the importance of this element of 21st CCLC programming, then brainstorm together on how you can foster the warm fuzzies that are needed more now than ever. If your program is virtual, how can you individualize your welcomes like you once did as students walked through the door? What can you carry over from the old days to keep things as consistent as possible?

Be a Test Kitchen

During Y4Y’s summer webinar series on Strategic Partnerships, in Session 3 on Implementing Partnerships, guest speaker Ms. Marcy Richardson, Manager/Director of the Anchorage School District 21st CCLC Program, shared her practice of partnering with the school district to explore innovative ideas and projects within their 10 program sites. Her background in business management and marketing prompted Ms. Richardson to use this unique approach to forming a strong, two-way collaboration. Her 900 highly diverse elementary students benefit from fresh ideas and resources that different district departments are considering for broad implementation, while the district gets a measurable “beta” test population before expanding to its 30,000 elementary student population. Examples of this kind of exploration range from new cafeteria menu items to robotics. It pays to bring those partners along on new flavor adventures!

Whatever your mix of staple ingredients and new mix-ins, being true to your audience of “taste testers” (primarily, your students) is vital to the success of your recipe for this program year. The best recipes nourish students’ bodies, minds and spirits. They satisfy students’ hunger for knowledge and connection, comfort them with routines that are familiar and safe, and introduce new “taste experiences” that challenge and delight.

Hats off to all of you 21st CCLC chefs who are working so hard to keep students engaged and well nourished, in every sense of the word!

P.S. Y4Y would love to collect and share your best recipes for 21st CCLC success. Sign into your Y4Y account and post your ideas, big and small, on the Y4Y “Recipes” discussion board.

 



September 8, 2020

Each year, a new variety of products shows up in stores, restaurants and TV commercials as marketers aim to capitalize on the pumpkin spice fad. But is enough enough already? Education has seen its own share of fads. New ideas present exciting possibilities, but there’s nothing wrong with “old ideas” that are working well. How can your 21st CCLC program keep pace with the latest school-day wisdom and separate true innovations from passing fads?

Just as pumpkin pie isn’t going away anytime soon but pumpkin spice shoe polish may be short-lived, consider these tips for recognizing which of your tried and true program elements are keepers, and which you can, and maybe should, bid farewell:

  • What’s the evidence base for the new idea, especially when it’s used in programs with student demographics like yours?
  • Reflect on all aspects of your student population. Does the fad/trend “fit” your students?
  • What are your resources and partners, and does the fad/trend make good use of these? Or, does it spread any of these too thin?
  • Is the new idea consistent with your mission, climate and culture?
  • Are you involving student and family voices in adopting new ideas? You can customize Y4Y tools to do so.
  • Make a good, old-fashioned pros and cons list!

Here are a few examples of current trends or fads in education with some points to consider.

Phasing Out Direct Instruction?

Sometimes it seems there’s a tug-of-war between advocates for the “guide on the side” approach and the “sage on the stage” instructional approach. To supplement and enrich the education efforts of the school day, your program might lean toward hands-on, self-guided learning experiences and the “guide on the side” approach.

Is there an argument to be made for keeping direct instruction in your program? Consider these benefits of direct instruction:

  • Sometimes direct instruction is the most efficient choice. Time is at a premium in your program. On less in-depth subjects, a few minutes of direct instruction, with opportunities for questions and discussion, can be the way to go.
  • Let the sage be a sage. You might have opportunities to bring in guest speakers like STEM professionals or business advisors with a wealth of content knowledge but no teaching experience. You wouldn’t want to miss opportunities to tap into their wisdom by overburdening them with instructional duties. But you can structure the experience to make it beneficial to the students and the sage. Y4Y’s College and Career Readiness course offers a tool for developing guiding questions for partnerships, which may be of use in this arena.
  • Different instructional strategies offer different opportunities. Small-group discussions and collaborative work, for example, call on students to use different skills than direct instruction. Using a variety of strategies can help you to learn more about students’ skill gaps and areas of strength.
  • Direct instruction gives students practice in exercising patience and attention. Self-management is one of five skill domains in social and emotional learning that’s addressed in the Y4Y course on the subject. The recent switch to virtual learning environments has been an eye-opener for most educators on the advantages of having students accustomed to focusing their attention on the leader, even if lessons have an interactive format.
  • Some students benefit from the clarity and structure that direct instruction provides. While the argument is made by some that direct instruction doesn’t accommodate different learning styles, eliminating it entirely could be a disservice to those students who benefit from its clarity and structure.

What arguments can be made for minimizing direct instruction in out-of-school time?

  • Other instructional strategies like project-based learning put 21st century skills in action. These are skills like critical thinking, initiative, self-direction, leadership, productivity, accountability, responsibility, communication and collaboration.
  • Direct instruction is difficult to individualize. It doesn’t accommodate all learning styles.
  • Student voice and choice are more difficult to incorporate into direct instruction. Approaches like project-based learning give students more options.
  • Variety engages students. Often when students arrive at your 21st CCLC program, they’ve spent their day receiving direct instruction. The less you rely on this method, the better your chance of keeping students engaged.

OUTCOME: Reducing (but not eliminating) direct instruction in your 21st CCLC program earns the pumpkin pie award: it’s a trend or “fad” that’s likely to become a tried and true practice. Many Y4Y courses give examples of appropriate use of direct (“explicit”) instruction alongside other approaches. Keep direct instruction as a spice in your drawer and use as needed.

BYOD?

BYOD, or bring your own device, is a trend toward encouraging students to bring their own devices to school and afterschool programs. If you search online, you’ll find long lists of advantages, ranging from cost savings to increasing interactivity to boosting student ownership of learning. But what about equity? In a best-case scenario, there’s some disparity in the socioeconomic levels of your students and the devices they own, IF they can afford devices at all. BYOD can draw attention to these disparities in a way that could make some students uncomfortable or put them at a disadvantage. Also, an array of different devices could lead to frontline staff spending more time as tech support than as activity leaders. A different stance could be adopted if your students are all loaned the same device from their school district, but in 21st CCLC programs, there are some rural districts where going to the expense of supplying devices is of limited use due to lack of internet access.

OUTCOME: BYOD is a fad in education that earns the pumpkin spice shoe polish award: enough is enough! Although we’ve made close friends with technology under current circumstances, requiring students to bring their own device to your program may not be the most equitable or practical choice.

Maker Lab or Computer Lab?

In many educational settings, the idea of a computer lab where technology is a stand-alone subject is giving way to maker labs (makerspaces) or design labs where students might make use of technology to create things, but the technology itself isn’t the central focus.

Your 21st CCLC program likely doesn’t have its own computer lab, but you probably have access to some technology. There might be excellent reasons to focus on the basics of using a computer in your program, such as

  • Students can’t access technology in their homes to augment their classroom learning or do homework assignments, and they need extra time to learn and practice technology skills.
  • A lack of funding in your district means limited school-day access to technology.
  • The primary concern of your student population is learning English, so computer instruction might need to begin with very basic technology terms and concepts.

Even if these circumstances describe your program, you can be looking to a long-term shift toward your program serving as more of a maker/design space. The arguments for this trend/fad include

  • You’ll build learning opportunities on the premise of real-world problem solving.
  • You’re allowing for design thinking and problem solving by broadening materials and devices to include items like Legos, art supplies, robotics components, a sewing machine or even woodworking equipment like scrap blocks with a hammer and nails.
  • You can customize Y4Y’s Questions for Inquiry-Based Learning tool and incorporate technology as one of many resources — particularly for conducting research — in your real-world problem-solving activities. Just plan to take a beat for those students needing basic instruction in technology.

OUTCOME: Moving from a computer lab to a makerspace or design lab is a trend/fad that earns the pumpkin pie award! This transition is an expansion of your current offerings, and can grow with the budget, partnership, staff and student census fluctuations your program experiences. Nothing is lost; instruction on technology basics is always at your disposal. But moving with the times and adopting a richer, creative, hands-on approach to learning is a winning idea.

 



August 7, 2020

Every day, your students make choices that affect their future. You want them to understand that their choices matter — and enlarge their view of what’s possible. Here’s some valuable information you can use to make sure they consider career options that involve science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).

Let students know that

New opportunities are opening up. Cultural shifts and initiatives to offer equal opportunities in STEM careers mean greater gender and ethnic diversity than in the past. “Increase diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM” is a goal in America’s Strategy for STEM Education. Outdated ideas like “girls aren’t good at math” and “science isn’t for everyone” have been exposed as myths. Increasingly, STEM fields are attracting more people like Shuri, the fearless young woman who’s the chief science and technology officer of the high-tech nation Wakanda in the movie Black Panther.

STEM is opening up. You might have a student with the potential to create a new tool or product that will benefit humanity. But if no one in his family has gone to college, he doesn’t know any scientists or engineers, and he’s struggling in math class, he might think a STEM career is beyond his reach. Leaders in STEM education, however, say STEM is much more than the sum of its parts. Modern STEM education also incorporates the arts and design as well as skills like problem solving and behaviors like perseverance and cooperation. Students can tap into their strengths and interests to create their entry point. In his book Curious, for example, Ian Leslie says Apple founder Steve Jobs was “a merely competent technician” but it was his broad range of interests (including music), combined with a drive to succeed, that led his company to launch the first successful MP3 player.

Your 21st CCLC program is the perfect place for students to explore STEM because you can

  • Introduce interesting STEM experiences in a low-stress, high-support environment.
  • Tap into student voice and choice and give young people time to play or “tinker” with STEM ideas and materials.
  • Use project-based learning to help students connect STEM topics they’re learning in school with real-life problem-solving opportunities.
  • Engage local organizations and people with STEM connections so that students see that STEM is all around them — and is a possible career pathway for people like them.  

Y4Y is your “go-to” for STEM because it has resources like

These days, STEM is at the forefront as the world looks to research scientists for a vaccine that will end the coronavirus pandemic. Take advantage of this moment to gather students (virtually, if need be) around the idea of STEM as something that’s relevant to their lives — and a career path filled with as much potential as they are.

 



August 7, 2020

A flipped classroom means different things to different educators. One consistent element across all definitions is employing technology to augment traditional classroom methods. The result can be a wide variety of blended learning models. How can 21st CCLC educators capitalize on the benefits of flipped classrooms that have been uncovered in the past 25 years of experimentation to make the most of virtual or hybrid learning during the pandemic? Here are tips and tools to help.

Kids Speak Technology

So often, even elementary students demonstrate an astonishing mastery of technology. They may be fearless about navigating platforms that are daunting to their adult counterparts. A certain segment of your students may be even more inclined to engage with technology-based activities than “IRW” (in real world) ones. Here’s your opportunity to draw them out of their shells.

Pause and Rewind

Some 21st CCLC programs that transitioned successfully to virtual summer programs made use of pre-recorded lessons — whether cooking opportunities, book read alouds or science demonstrations — and even developed their own YouTube channels. Unlike during in-person learning, students are at their leisure to pause and rewind videos if there's a point or concept they didn’t quite understand. This is a great tool for English learners, especially, who might not have the nerve to speak up in front of peers. Be sure to encourage this practice!

Classroom Management

Advocates of a flipped classroom sing the praises of the superior classroom management achieved in this environment for a couple of reasons: in-person instruction tends to be restricted to the more engaging aspects of a lesson, and students inclined toward disruptive behaviors during more passive virtual learning are less (or not at all) distracting to their peers.

Get to Know Your Students Better

Blended learning means that time spent together, whether virtually or in person, is more interactive. Even before the pandemic, this meant educators with flipped classrooms had the luxury of speaking with their students much more frequently and in-depth. With social distancing, your program is likely to be building in more direct communications between staff and students, such as emails and texts. And you never know where that communication might lead. In their book, Flip Your Classroom, authors Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams describe texts from a student that eventually revealed he had been kicked out of his home, so they were able to help guide him to appropriate help.

Build Trust Through Transparency

Your 21st CCLC program has done its best to invite families in to see for themselves how their child spends his time with you, but virtual learning places you directly in their home where they can see activities and interactions for themselves. This unexpected gift of the pandemic means you have a one-time opportunity to really build trust and buy-in that will benefit your program for years to come. Your activities are on full display and bound to impress even skeptical families. And we know that the true value of family engagement for the success of students is clear.

More on Technology?

You bet! Y4Y has many resources to help you incorporate technology into your program. Be sure to review the Classroom Facilitator Packet to inspire your development of key responsibilities of a virtual facilitator or facilitator in a socially-distanced space.

Without a doubt, flipped classrooms were born of the philosophy set forth in the 1993 book From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side by Alison King. Your new challenge of coaching your students through self-directed learning in a virtual, hybrid or socially distanced environment is no small feat. But the reality is, flipped classrooms have improved student engagement and performance through blended learning, strengthened student-educator relationships and expanded the scope of education just in time, it would seem. “Flipping” might have once seemed upside down, but with a new point of view, you may just discover that a flipped-model 21st CCLC program makes more sense than you ever imagined it could.

 



August 7, 2020

Your 21st CCLC families might be among the hardest hit financially due to workplace closures and layoffs as they navigate months of uncertainty. The lessons on sound financial planning in Y4Y’s Financial Literacy course will be all the more important to help students prepare to act later when unpredictable events arise in their adulthood. But your most impactful role with families right now may be offering ideas on how to REact to circumstances outside their control. When times are tough, prioritizing expenses and debts requires careful thought and can have lasting consequences. An extreme example would be surviving family members using limited resources to pay down the student debt of a passed loved one, only to discover years later the debt could have been discharged. This is the case for federal loans, but not all education loans — be sure to investigate if this situation ever comes up for you.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has gathered a series of resources to help citizens protect their finances during the pandemic. These resources can provide guidance on everything from student loans to housing liabilities, asset protection and the host of scams that have arisen at this unfortunate time. Consider offering a virtual event to walk families through these and other resources from authoritative sources. You might also discuss decision-making strategies for today’s environment, while steering clear of offering financial advice. The Tackling Tough Subjects Training to Go can help you prepare staff to engage appropriately with families.

You’ll better understand just where families are coming from if you download and customize the Adult Financial Literacy Needs Survey. Pick and choose from the Financial Literacy Adult Program Schedule to reflect the exact needs you discover in your community. Invite trusted partners with knowledge of finances or relevant laws to present in your program, and consider forming new relationships. There may be organizations that offer pro bono credit counseling to specific populations such as survivors of domestic violence, veterans or low-income families. You can search for members of the Financial Planning Association in your area for potential partners near you. Be sure to coordinate in advance to agree on the type of expertise they’ll offer.

On a more basic level, your families may be facing greater food insecurity than before the pandemic. The bad news is, so are many other members of the community. Suddenly, already scarce resources are being spread even thinner. It’s time to get creative on behalf of your families. You can start by reviewing Y4Y’s January guest blog post on Food Insecurity and 21st CCLC programs with Shannon Browning, 21st CCLC Program Director at Macomb Public Schools in Oklahoma. Consider the possible problem-based learning and civic engagement aspects of researching, understanding and facilitating solutions to food insecurity, if not for your students, perhaps for students in neighboring communities. Reach out to student leadership advisors or social studies educators, for example, across the town, district, or county, and advocate for the families in your community. Young people today are globally minded and are seeking opportunities to have a positive impact. They, too, may be struggling with feelings of helplessness. You can help plant the seeds of successful kid-to-kid food collection programs that benefit all.

Quite literally, everyone on the planet has a different financial perspective than they had six months or a year ago. While many of your students’ families may fit into the category of “essential worker” and continue to work, by no means does this ensure their financial security or stability. Your 21st CCLC program can continue to be a much-needed resource, partner and comfort to the families you serve.