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August 9, 2019

Experts agree that heeding student voice can help out-of-school time programs engage students and help them grow academically, socially and emotionally. Sometimes, though, when the defining characteristic of your program seems to be noise, you might think you have more student voice than you can handle! How can you be sure you get it right? Here are some quick tips and Y4Y tools.

Engage Students in Program Decisions

Consider these questions. If you can’t answer “yes,” decide what actions you need to take:

  • Are students represented on your program planning team?
  • When your team starts to plan for the next program term, are all students included in a goal-setting activity or discussion?
  • When your team reflects on results at the end of a program term, are students included, too?

Also consider this:

  • Who thinks about program culture and climate, and sets norms for behavior — staff alone, or do students contribute?

Involving students in decisions helps give them a sense of ownership in program activities and supports engagement. Equally important, it equips young people with important skills like collaboration, communication, caring and reflection.

Do Formal and Informal Observations

The next time you’re surrounded by students in your program space, conduct an informal observation: Close your eyes and listen.

  • Maybe you’ll hear comments like this: Wow! I get it! Cool! Can we do that again? I want to try that, too.
  • Or, maybe you’ll hear this: Go away, I’m doing this. Get somebody else to hang with. Do I have to do that now?

This type of quick, informal check can tell you how things are going in the moment, so you can act immediately if students and colleagues need help to find their focus.

To capture information for designing an effective schedule and engaging activities, use a formal observation tool. Y4Y’s Observation Checklist will help you consider staff and student engagement, fidelity of implementation, and the status of the physical environment. The data you gather can help with intentional design of student activities and staff professional learning events.

Conduct Surveys and Use the Results

Want to know how students and families feel about your program, and how you can do things differently or better? Surveys offer a quick, anonymous way for audiences to tell you what they think. Here are some Y4Y survey tools you can use:

When you ask others to respond to a survey, be prepared to react in turn. You won’t get future feedback if you ignore what respondents tell you now. After you analyze the combined data, be sure to share the results. You can post charts on the wall, include numbers in the electronic newsletter, or announce results through social media. Present the data beside plans for future activities to demonstrate how audience input helps to shape your program.

 



July 16, 2019

This quote is often attributed to former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She was known for her commitment to human and civil rights, and she often advocated for the youth of this country. Parents and out-of-school time professionals share the beautiful dream of giving young people a thriving future. Working toward that goal together can improve the chances for success.

Since the 1960s, research has shown that students can reap significant benefits from family involvement in their education. This is especially true for disadvantaged students. Among 21st CCLC families, only 50 percent of parents have completed high school, and 90 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs. What does this mean for your family engagement efforts? First, it means it’s important and worth doing! Second, it means you may need to challenge any assumptions that low levels of family engagement mean disinterest or “lack of commitment” on their part. You’ll need to consider and address such issues as the transportation and scheduling difficulties families at lower socioeconomic levels may face as they work to put food on the table.

Your program staff can build their knowledge with Understanding and Overcoming Challenges to Family Engagement, a tool in the updated Y4Y Family Engagement course. A helpful tool for making a creative plan is Y4Y’s Supporting and Engaging Families. If your family engagement efforts fall short of your expectations, take heart. Emerging wisdom surrounding success cites the importance of learning from failure, whether your own or someone else’s. In fact, “automatic success” doesn’t necessarily give you layers of information you can use to advance your expertise. It sounds like a cliché, but failures truly are learning opportunities. You and your staff can adopt this positive approach by conducting the Family Engagement Training to Go with a critical eye toward learning opportunities.

As Mrs. Roosevelt’s contemporary, Humphrey Bogart, might say, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

For additional information on the benefits of family engagement, and ways you and your staff can forge family partnerships, visit the updated Y4Y course on Family Engagement.

 



July 16, 2019

The featured link in this month’s Y4Y newsletter, Teaching and Learning STEM in 21st CCLC Programs, takes you to a thought-provoking webinar. The content helps out-of-school time educators think about the bright future they can open for students who have traditionally had little access to the broad spectrum of STEM-related careers. Let’s consider these gleaming rays of sunshine:

What Is My STEM Identity?

Every student has a “STEM identity” — a term gaining traction in research and educational communities — which means the degree to which a student relates to science, technology, engineering and math, and how they see themselves as STEM learners. This will start at home, depending on the careers of family members and friends a student has been exposed to. But good news! It won’t end there. The sooner educators offer fun and exciting learning opportunities to students, the healthier their STEM identity will become.

What Are the Advantages of STEM Education in 21st CCLC Programs?

There is so much flexibility in STEM curriculum in 21st CCLC programs that school-day teachers can’t take advantage of. Use student voice to determine what your students are most interested in. If it seems like favorite topics are unrelated to STEM, get creative! Even fashion design, football and finance have traceable roots in STEM, and you can help students seek them out. When students can connect STEM experiences to their own lives, the lessons are more meaningful to them. Another great idea is to tie student interests to the STEM lessons of their school day. Out-of-school time programs often involve students from several grades; consider this an asset, not a liability. Projects can be scaffolded to give smaller tasks to smaller students and help them feel like they are a part of something bigger; meanwhile older students reap the intellectual and social rewards of teaching and helping. And while you might be measuring their progress, students know they don’t have a school-day grade hanging in the balance.

Where Is This Headed? Citizen Science Is the Wave of the Future!

Speaking of waves, did you know that centuries-old “tsunami stones” pepper the Japanese coastline to warn future generations about flood dangers if they build too close to the shoreline? The spirit of sharing scientific observation for the good of all has a rich history, and citizen science captures this practice by asking everyday citizens to report observations on water quality, bird migrations and everything between. Engaging students in citizen science is the fastest way to develop their STEM identity, partly because projects — whether local, national or international — provide a learning opportunity. These projects, many of which are found readily online, also provide students a contributing opportunity.

Pioneering Partners: Where Would Doc Brown Be Without Marty McFly?

Absurd science fiction or not, Doc Brown’s vision took a curious, adventurous Marty McFly to visit the future. So, don’t worry about “bothering” the local botanist at the university extension office, engineer at the power company, or chemist at a nearby manufacturer when you want someone to partner in an educational opportunity for your students. Remember three things: (1) an adult in every STEM professional’s student life helped build their STEM identity, and they’ll be gratified to do the same; (2) these are not careers one stumbles into, so STEM professionals tend to be passionate about and eager to share their work; and (3) real-world practitioners are your best source for ideas about hands-on learning projects and tying STEM subjects to career paths.

No One Knows the Future Like NASA!

As the country celebrates the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Y4Y wants to recognize one of the U.S. Department of Education’s partners in STEM education and the future, NASA. All 21st CCLC professionals are encouraged to acquaint themselves with the incredible real-world design challenges NASA has created. Are you running a summer program? Want to get involved with NASA? Click here to view creative ideas on how to get involved with the 50th anniversary of the first humans landing on the Moon!

For more great tips on making the most of your STEM education programs, check out the Y4Y webinar series Unlocking Possibilities: Bringing STEM to Life, which includes an event dedicated to citizen science.

 



July 16, 2019

Learn from the past to improve the future. How many times have you heard this saying from historians, politicians and even your mother? It’s good advice for 21st CCLC programs as well!

As you plan your fall program, look back at data you gathered in the spring to pinpoint learning needs for current students and staff members. Learn about students who haven’t been in your program but could use the extra support you provide. School-day teachers can help you identify new prospects, and tell you about academic areas where they see students struggling.

Here are some data types and Y4Y tools that can help you learn from the past:

Program Performance Data

Identifying and Addressing Program Strengths and Weaknesses Training to Go: This ready-to-use presentation can be customized or used “as is.” It offers strategies that help you analyze program performance and build on strengths to improve effectiveness.

Sample Evaluation Guide: This tool describes program-level evaluation, which uses some of the same data you’ll want for fall planning. Look near the end of the guide to find sample focus group questions for parents, students and staff. These questions can also be used in interviews or surveys to help you discover stakeholder reactions to and ideas about your program.

Observation Checklist: This tool helps site leaders understand important areas of student engagement, teacher/facilitator engagement and the physical environment. If you used the checklist during spring or summer program sessions, you already have data to analyze. If you haven’t used this tool, it can guide reflections and discussions when you plan your next session. Be sure to add it to your continuous improvement process tool kit.

Student Needs Data

Three Types of Data: This tool explains school-level, student-level and student voice data.

Survey of Student Needs: Use this tool to check with school-day teachers about student needs in subject areas and specific skills. It also helps with setting priority levels for student needs.

Staff Learning Needs

Intentional Activity Design: Mapping Needs to Activities: As the title suggests, this tool helps staff put data into action. If your staff hasn’t used SMART goals before, introduce this tool when you use the Setting SMART Activity Goals Training Starter. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.

The tools in this list come from three Y4Y courses: Continuous Education, Summer Learning and Managing Your 21st CCLC Program. To see more free learning resources, go to the Y4Y Learn Overview page and start exploring!

 



June 18, 2019

Every dream — saving for a rainy day or a special event, getting a higher education, taking a trip to the moon — starts with a sound plan and a realistic budget. To help the students and families in your 21st CCLC program reach their dreams, you can introduce the basic concepts and tools that make up the foundation of financial literacy. By providing the right knowledge and skills, you’ll help young people and their families deal with financial realities that can get in the way of achieving their dreams.

It’s easy when you use the free financial literacy tools on Y4Y. Check out the new Click & Go: Building Financial Literacy to learn about financial concepts and how to embed them into activities. This learning experience will fuel your rockets as you explore the financial literacy universe.

The Facts

Fewer than half of Americans have a budget and track their spending, and nearly half don’t have enough cash to cover a $400 emergency such as repairing a car so they can get to work. One third of adults have no retirement savings. Many young people and adults don’t understand debt well enough to borrow wisely, and may find they have astronomical interest payments. Because out-of-school time programs help students make connections between academics and the real world, supporting financial literacy is a natural fit with 21st CCLC activities.

The Learning

The good news is, you don’t need to become an accountant or banker to help students and families learn about finances. The financial literacy Click & Go includes two mini-lessons, three focused podcasts, tools and external resources. The video mini-lessons and the podcasts introduce and explore five concept categories: earning income, spending, credit and debt, saving and investing, and protecting and insuring.

The Implementation

What you learn about the five concept categories will help you use the Click & Go tools and external resources to start building financial literacy into program activities right away. For example, Financial Literacy Knowledge and Activities Across Age Groups has ideas to use with very young learners up through adults.

The Next Level

To go to a higher altitude of financial literacy, find one or more community partners to help. You might connect with accountants, bankers, representatives of consumer credit agencies, economics teachers or professors, or other financially savvy professionals. To start recruiting them, use the Financial Literacy Partnership Planner.

The Launch

With the Building Financial Literacy Click & Go, you and your crew are just 60 minutes from takeoff. Start the countdown now!