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February 13, 2020

Bad weather is sometimes unpredictable and always out of our control. Cultures that have developed around some of the harshest weather conditions just lean into the storm with good preparation like dry clothes, an emergency kit and a strategic plan. Similarly, people can navigate life’s storms successfully by preparing socially and emotionally. That way, they’re ready to act and respond wisely when difficulties arise — and they always do! Your 21st CCLC program can use social and emotional learning strategies to help students develop this kind of “storm readiness.”

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has done a great deal of research and development in social and emotional learning. Here’s the definition CASEL uses:

“Social and emotional learning is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Y4Y’s new Social and Emotional Learning course spotlights five areas for personal growth identified by CASEL:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management
  • Responsible decision making

People sometimes say these are “soft skills,” which can make them sound unimportant or unnecessary. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Our ability to navigate emotions and relationships greatly affects how and what we learn, in school and beyond. Social and emotional skills are life skills. So, when you model and teach these skills to students, you’re helping them prepare for success throughout their lives.

Not convinced? Think back on your own experiences in school:

  • Remember your favorite teacher, coach or counselor? Why is that person your favorite? It’s probably not just because you loved math or were really good at soccer. Your personal relationship with this adult made you more interested in learning what he or she had to teach you.
  • Consider a time when you were anxious about a test, felt intimidated by a teacher or had trouble with a classmate. This likely kept you from doing your best. You may even have developed long-term anxiety about test taking, a particular subject or certain kinds of classroom interactions (like giving a speech or working in small groups).

Your experiences are similar to those of every learner, including the children and youth in your 21st CCLC program. Social relationships and emotional states have a profound effect on learning. Positive emotional experiences motivate people of all ages to work hard and try their best.

Developing smarter, kinder, happier, more productive human beings is a goal we can all get behind. Y4Y’s new Social and Emotional Learning course helps you envision how social and emotional learning fits with that goal and with your other program goals. It also shows you how to weave social and emotional learning strategies into your program activities, and how to support staff members throughout the process.

You might also want to check out Y4Y’s new Creating a Positive Learning Environment course. It has strategies for infusing a “can do” attitude into program activities and routines. That course shows ways your staff can improve the overall program culture and climate, whereas the Social and Emotional Learning course shows ways to help students manage their internal “weather system.”

Why not put on your snow boots or galoshes and jump in with both feet?

 



February 13, 2020

Counselors have a saying: “Environment always wins.” At the height of flu season, this isn’t always great news, but instituting the Dracula sneeze, aggressive hand washing and a generous supply of hand sanitizer are measures every educator knows can sway the environment in their favor. But when it comes to positivity, slather that stuff all over your 21st CCLC program.

Creating a program environment that enables your staff and students to do their best work is a smart way to magnify everyone’s efforts. Not sure where to start? Take a peek at Y4Y’s new Creating a Positive Learning Environment course. Chelsea, your guide, will welcome you as an “apprentice builder” and walk you through six strategies to help you renovate your program environment. You’ll learn how to define and assess organizational culture and climate, plan for behavior management, build relationships, be intentional about designing a positive learning environment, and plan for continuous improvement. A few tweaks can make a big difference.

Add this course to your tool belt, and use it to strengthen your program’s foundation, imagine new possibilities, and make dreams come true for students and families. It might be easier than you think to create a “yes, I can” environment where confidence, curiosity and enthusiasm are contagious. 

 



February 10, 2020

Great research momentum is building on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the impact they can have throughout life. This research provides a new window into the thoughts and emotions of what may be a troubling number of your students. Consider for a moment what the view might be from their side of that window. Is it a jungle out there?

Ask yourself, “Do I see a pattern of any of these behaviors in a student I’m concerned might be experiencing trauma?”

  • Inappropriate displays of emotion, whether anger, crying, or even laughter that’s not appropriate to context
  • Withdrawal from activities or peers, especially when others are enjoying themselves
  • Tendency to jump at sudden sounds that don’t startle others
  • Expression of distressing thoughts, either verbally or through drawings
  • Ongoing complaints of a stomachache or headache
  • Aggression
  • Quickly changing emotions
  • Habitual absences

If you answered “yes,” that student may well feel like getting through each day is like navigating a jungle. One common finding in children who’ve experienced trauma is a heightened state of arousal, which can resemble a sensory processing disorder. This could mean hypersensitivity to sounds, lights, touch or movement. Your 21st CCLC program could feel as loud and overwhelming to a student as a Grateful Dead concert would to Grandpa. But before you go lowering the lights, demanding silence from everyone, and pushing for 6-foot personal bubbles, bear in mind these essential tips for building resilience:

Encourage doing for others. When students feel they’ve helped another person, especially if they have a unique gift to share, it boosts their confidence and sense of purpose.

Be positive. The old fake-it-till-you-make-it adage came about for good reason. There’s a wealth of data on the impact of gratitude in one’s life. Transition times are a great opportunity to play with positivity. Maybe students can quickly call out their favorite dessert or color as they pass under the overhead fire alarm, starting their turn with “I LOVE….”

Create safe opportunities to socialize. Humans are unquestionably social creatures. Of course, circumstances matter. Be intentional in grouping students into small groups for looser activities, especially when you suspect a student may be dealing with trauma.

Talk about feelings. Remind students that there are no bad feelings to have. Naming feelings instead of pushing them away helps people process emotions so that they can move forward.

Reinforce and exhibit good self-care habits. A sense of powerlessness is likely to plague traumatized students. Healthy eating, sleeping and exercise habits may not be fully within their control, but you can talk up simple practices like treating oneself to dancing around the room for exercise, getting outdoors as much as your program allows, or taking a 10-minute “power nap” to get back some of that lost power. (Stress management ideas are available on Y4Y).

Help students think constructively about the future. Universally, children are focused on the future. That is where most of their living lies, after all. Thoughts and dreams of a better life are not exclusive to students of any demographic, but an understanding of how to get there may be. Make a practice of brainstorming as a group how, for example, a student whose parents can’t afford college could become an engineer. Better still, bring in visitors who have personal stories like this to share.

Remember that behind every success story are a few whopper “failures.” Maybe you’ve heard the saying “Failure is the breakfast of champions.” It’s not failure itself that feeds success; it’s what you learn from it. You can embed the practice of thinking about something constructive you’ve learned from failures — whether it’s something as small as spilling water on the floor or something more significant, like failing a test or a class — into every undertaking. It’s not a true failure if wisdom is gained.

Get students to think for themselves. Ask leading questions instead of offering solutions to problems or dilemmas. Help students view problems as jigsaw puzzles: the person to place the last piece is the one who finishes the puzzle. How gratifying it is for a student to solve her own puzzle.

Researchers and frontline professionals are in agreement that even a single nurturing, attentive connection with an adult — and it truly could be any adult who has the child’s best interests at heart — improves the odds that a child who has experienced trauma will succeed in building resilience and overcoming ACEs. Put on that big yellow hat and be prepared to fight your way through the jungle together.

Check out Y4Y’s Click & Go on Trauma-Informed Care for more ways to serve these very special students.

 



January 22, 2020

Fifty years ago, Mary Poppins advised that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and vitamin manufacturers took note. Before you knew it, kids were clamoring for their daily dose. Y4Y’s recently archived webinar, “College and Career Readiness (CCR): Elementary” explores benefits and practical ideas in introducing elementary students to planning for their futures. But the sugar and bright coloring in this arena is, quite simply, playtime!

You don’t need to think of CCR as something that demands dedicated time and resources. Rather, like a multivitamin, a CCR framework can be a tidy way of bringing together current program initiatives like literacy, STEM, social and emotional learning, and more. Here’s an overview of the kinds of structured thinking you can apply to your intentionally designed activities to start preparing young students for their future careers.

Stepping Stones: What’s the Connection?

Since elementary students love to imagine themselves in various adult roles, 21st CCLC programs are the perfect place to infuse the structure that will convert natural playtime into visible stepping stones to future careers. Y4Y offers a Career Station Planner, for example, to get those creative juices flowing. Studies show you’ll improve engagement when students can see how their learning builds on what they already know. Your job is not to push all seven-year-olds toward college, but to open their eyes to limitless career options, and to the types of skills and knowledge (stepping stones) they can gain along the way to make each option a reality.

Three goals should drive your intentional CCR activities for elementary and middle school students: connecting academic learning to higher education and careers, expanding student options and awareness of career options, and encouraging 21st century thinking skills. How do you think? What do you know or not know? What steps or actions are required? These are questions you can ask and explore with your students.

Employability Skills: Plays Well with Others?

The U.S. Department of Education has established nine critical skill areas for employment in any field. These skills are an important component of CCR. It’s never too early to be thinking about how growth in each of these can be woven into 21st CCLC activities.

Effective relationships:

  • Interpersonal skills: Give a less-than-natural leader a quiet leadership role, such as writing out rules for a new board game.
  • Personal qualities: Call out the value of honesty and propose that a specific student be named the banker in a game of “town.”

Workplace skills:

  • Technology use: Can the program’s computer be used for some new application?
  • Systems thinking: Empty your desk or cubby and reorganize!
  • Information use: Take five fun facts about dogs and suggest a new product.
  • Resource management (time, money, materials, people): Build a five-layer pyramid using all the clay in front of you. How much is needed for each level?
  • Communication skills: Charades!

Applied knowledge:

  • Applied academic skills: What did you learn in math today, and can you think of how you might use that lesson at the grocery store this weekend?
  • Critical thinking skills: Name some things a teacher, a firefighter, a doctor, a postal worker and a car salesperson have in common in their jobs.

Flavors of Activities: Grape, Cherry or Hands-on?

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the elements of possible 21st CCLC activities that could be structured to get young students thinking about future careers, consider to what degree the activity engages students. Time, student needs and abilities, and resources will demand that all of the following levels of engagement be incorporated into your program at different times:

  • Awareness: These activities are simple exposures to possible careers and educational paths. They help students connect academic learning to possible applications. This could be an introduction to various mentors and role models. For example, you could invite a local physician to be a guest speaker. You might ask her to talk about what it’s like to be a doctor, to share her experience with schooling, and to explain that there are many different specializations within the medical field. Check out Y4Y’s Awareness Activities tool for more ideas.
  • Preparation: These activities develop goals and outline steps to accomplish those goals, such as completing paperwork or practicing life skills. One example might be a show-and-tell career day that includes costumes. Students could be given a writing assignment that mimics the work, such as a scientist’s lab report or an attorney’s closing argument in the case of the missing jelly beans. Check out Y4Y’s Preparation Activities Planner to get started.
  • Exploration: These activities go beyond awareness and preparation activities to offer students more independence and a deeper exposure to careers in their areas of interest. More important, exploration activities start to connect student interests (such as sports, being outdoors or “becoming rich”) to a wealth of career options. One example might be touring a science lab and interviewing people in various job roles in that facility. For older students, be sure to consult Y4Y’s Exploration Toolkit (Grades 6-12).

Bring Those Partners Along

Families will play the crucial role in CCR activities that they always do in 21st CCLC programs. Offer families tips on exposing their young students to career options. Survey parents on their child’s interests, however unrelated to career options they might seem. Your parent base is always the best place to start for professional examples. Students’ family members may welcome the opportunity to demonstrate that skills and knowledge are needed in every job. Next, reach out to the community, bearing in mind that some of your students may not have access to professionals in STEM or finance careers, for example. Partners in institutions of higher learning, whether universities or trade schools, can help connect students’ favorite playtime activities to real careers.

Career Counselors à Gogo

Who knew when you signed up to work with elementary students in a 21st CCLC program that you’d be adding “career counselor” to your job description? Besides Ms. Poppins, be sure to get advice from Y4Y’s CCR Train Your Staff materials around building college and career readiness, engaging families and planning age-appropriate activities. You may not staff magical nannies, but as a well-trained team, you’re sure to create a happy head start for your students.

 



January 22, 2020

Knowing how money works can help people make smart choices. When you think about money management, spending wisely may be the first thing that comes to mind. There are other things to consider too, like different ways to increase earnings, how to use credit and manage debt, when it makes sense to insure against risk, and how saving and investing can help make dreams come true. The term used to describe financial know-how across all of these areas is “financial literacy.”

Wouldn’t it be great to give students a head start on financial literacy? What if they started thinking early about the difference between wants and needs? If they knew the power of compound interest, might it motivate them to work and save toward big dreams instead of spending now on “wanted” things that won’t last? What if they suddenly “got it” that classes like math, science and foreign language study will affect their career options and income later in life?

“Sure,” you might be thinking, “but our 21st CCLC program doesn’t have the time, knowledge or resources for that.”

The good news is, you don’t have to be a money whiz to make financial literacy part of your program, and you don’t have to start at square one. Y4Y’s new Financial Literacy course walks you through planning and implementing financial literacy activities for students of all ages and their families. It shows how to enlist local people and resources to create powerful learning experences. It has tips for coaching and training your staff to support financial literacy activities and community partners. As with all Y4Y courses, you’ll also get tools to customize or use “as is.”

If you learned from Y4Y’s Building Financial Literacy Click & Go last year, and you’re ready to take the next step, this course is for you. Let Tawanda, the host, guide you through planning and implementing high-impact program activities. Investing in student and family financial literacy now can pay off in attitudes and habits that last a lifetime.