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

Navigation

Blog

December 16, 2021

Every student is a wonder. As you get to know your students through the program year (or years), you may marvel at each child’s uniqueness. Maybe one student tells you every day why he picked out the T-shirt he’s wearing. Another gives away that she’s fibbing when she does a little spin on her toes. While you celebrate the traits and habits that make up their individuality, human nature leads us to look for those things that also unite us — those patterns that give us the comfort of predictability. Y4Y’s new course on the stages of child and adolescent development (SCAD) helps you see both sides of the coin: predictable aspects of human development as well as individual variations.

An Evolving Field

Human development is an evolving field. Researchers regularly gain new insights about what it means to go from entering this world to leaving it, identifying those things that are fairly consistent among us and where variations may occur. The research brief that accompanies the new course summarizes those insights and helps you see how theories built on one another over time. The course’s “at-a-glance” tool provides an overview of child and adolescent development and the Y4Y course.

Areas and Stages

Most experts agree on the practice of treating development as something that can logically be broken into chronological phases or stages, even if experts don’t always agree on how many stages there are or where the lines of demarcation belong. In the Y4Y course, infancy refers to birth to age 3, early childhood ages 3-6, middle childhood ages 6-9, late childhood/early adolescence ages 9-12, middle adolescence ages 12-15 and late adolescence ages 15-18. For each stage, the course addresses three basic areas of development: physical, social and emotional, and cognitive. A development matrix forms when you consider milestones — or standard developmental accomplishments — for each stage and area of development. Understanding this matrix can help you recognize when a child’s developmental path diverges with that of their peers, decide if it’s cause for concern and take appropriate action.

More to the Story

Be sure to check out the full complement of tools with Y4Y’s Stages of Child and Adolescent Development course.

  • The Planning Checklist will walk you through steps to include as your program considers how child and adolescent development will be addressed.
  • The Identifying and Supporting Learning Styles tool will expand your understanding of some characteristics that make students different from one another.
  • The Sample Caregiver Survey will help you partner with families in setting individualized goals for their children. Use this tool in conjunction with your Individualized Observation Log for students in early childhood, middle childhood or late childhood.
  • Companions to these goal/observation tools as students progress through adolescence and take ownership of their own goals are Y4Y’s student self-assessments for early and late adolescence.
  • In light of the threat to healthy development that too much screen time can pose, check out the Screen Time Alternatives tool.

Three staff Trainings to Go are also available with this course:

  1. Building a Strong Program Team: Focus on Child and Adolescent Development 
  • Reflect on stages of child development from birth to adolescence in four areas: physical, cognitive, social and emotional.​ 
  • Understand that even within a peer group, students can be at different points of development and therefore respond differently to their environment.​ 
  • Explore the advantages of having team members attuned to the various elements of child and adolescent development.​ 
  • Gain strategies for recruiting and retaining a well-rounded team to support your students’ development. 
  1. Partnering With Families for Healthy Child Development 
  • Reflect on how programs can support healthy child and adolescent development in four areas.​ 
  • Learn strategies for collaborating and communicating with families.​ 
  • Consider families’ roles in supporting the healthy development of students your program.
  • Develop mission statements that reflect a commitment to partnering with families to support students’ development. 
  1. Understanding Development and Connecting With Children 
  • Discuss why it’s important for students to feel connected to the adults in your program.​ 
  • Examine social-emotional development from early childhood through adolescence.​ 
  • Reflect the keys to any healthy human relationship.​ 
  • Identify strategies for building positive, nurturing relationships with children of different ages.​ 

It can be exciting to learn just how much individuality is baked into healthy child and adolescent development. Learning about standard milestones doesn’t mean that you’re only celebrating student uniformity. Instead, you’ll be better positioned to help each student on their own path to developing into healthy grown individuals, inside and out.

 



December 15, 2021

As humans with an instinct for survival, we’re “wired” to look for problems, concerns and barriers. For decades, education has focused on identifying each student’s weaknesses and sought to strengthen student performance in those areas. But does this mean generations have identified themselves by the things that trip them up? Are your 21st CCLC students at particular risk of this when the very legislation that serves as the basis for your funding includes language like “underperforming?” How can you flip the coin on deficit thinking in your program to help your students not only survive but thrive? You can start by demonstrating your commitment to helping all students discover their gifts, develop their skills, and perform to their full potential. This asset-based approach places students (not their weaknesses) front and center.

Feeling or Focus?

Scientific studies demonstrate that practicing gratitude improves everything from sleep to physical and mental health to relationships, self-esteem and beyond. While gratitude is an individual mindset and practice centered on life’s positives, it’s easy to see how asset-based thinking in education is a systemwide extension of this principle. While your 21st CCLC program may not have “feelings” of gratitude, the studies say it’s the practice of gratitude that yields results. When you think of this shift toward intentionality, you can appreciate that the results are more dependent on focus than feeling. So, how can you focus on student assets in your program to improve results?

Set the Culture

Y4Y’s course on creating a positive learning environment walks programs through the steps needed to set or reshape your culture. Revisit your core values with the implementation checklist that accompanies the course, and commit your program to that cultural shift that emphasizes individual and group strengths.

Just Ask!

If your program hasn’t mastered the topic, check out the Y4Y course on capturing student voice and choice. Effective methods and tools for considering both student and family feedback will not only help you discover those student strengths; they’ll also illustrate that strengths are your focus. Download and adapt these Y4Y tools:

Strengths as Data Points

As you move toward an asset-based approach, be sure that your data collection reflects this shift:

  • The Y4Y Three Types of Data tool serves as a reminder of what goes into intentional program design. Even school-level data could speak to individual strengths like resilience of students in a region that experienced a recent natural disaster.
  • Explore the Structuring Successful Homework and Tutoring Sessions Click & Go for suggestions on how to use that data in your staffing efforts, then group students in ways that highlight their respective strengths.
  • Get comfortable with qualitative data. This less rigid way of determining needs and results is critical in a shift to asset-based thinking, given that quantitative data is often rooted in a deficit framework.

Just as health and longevity get a boost with a generous dose of gratitude, so, too, will your program when you give students the opportunity to be seen for their strengths. Every single student has strengths. If you can’t see their positives, it doesn’t mean they need to work harder. It means you do. Y4Y is ready to work for you and WITH you on this great mission.

 



December 6, 2021

Do you ever feel like you dove into your 21st CCLC program midstream? You could be a new frontline staff member joining midyear, a site coordinator hired with lots of “this is how we do it” rules, or a program director who’s handed a funded grant and asked to make it happen. It can feel like a game of catch-up, but the other side of that coin is: Coming in midway means some groundwork has already been laid for you! Whatever your program role, Y4Y’s updated Introduction to the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant Program course (Intro to 21st CCLCs) can help you from beginning to middle to the end, if that’s where you happen to be coming in! The new course breaks 21st CCLC programs down into three phases: planning, implementing and sustaining.

Beginning: Planning

Planning includes everything from deciding to apply for a grant to gathering stakeholders to reviewing legislation, performing a needs assessment, considering how to leverage your partnerships and assets, understanding your state’s application (or request for application — RFA) and applying or reapplying for a grant. Your role in this phase depends on your role in the organization.

A few things to know about planning if you’re a frontline staff member who just came in:

  • You should have an idea of the who, what, where, why, when and how of 21st CCLC programs. The introduction section of the new course is a great primer on the spirit of 21st CCLCs.
  • Ask your supervisors or peers what aspect of 21st CCLCs your program emphasizes (or plans to emphasize, if it’s a new grant). Examples include general academic enrichment, career exploration, STEM/STEAM projects, community engagement, or social and emotional learning (SEL). Remember: (1) there’s not a single “right” answer — your program is designed around the needs of your community; (2) your program might emphasize more than one area of need; and (3) your program’s priorities have probably shifted over time. Try to understand these shifts and when and how they might happen again. Embrace a flexible mindset about shifting priorities. These priorities can inform your interactions with your students.
  • As you become comfortable in your role, recognize that you’ll be a key player in data collection and setting priorities! If you’re providing academic support but discover half of your students aren’t able to focus on academics because of difficult situations or traumatic experiences in their personal lives, your frontline feedback will be critical in moving the needle toward more emphasis on SEL.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

A few things to know about planning if you’re a site coordinator who just came in:

  • Whether a new grant or an existing one, get to know the elements of programming for the grant(s) you’re managing. What are the regulations around areas like staffing, expenditures and recruitment? Whether a pre-existing or new position, you might ask your program director to connect you with other programs in your area or state to speak with peers in the field about their own hard-learned do’s and don’ts. Remember to continue to crosswalk these discoveries with your program’s grant proposal and regulations.
  • Begin to think about the relationships that will be key for you to establish and maintain as a site coordinator. What will your role be in interacting with school or district administrators? With families? Within the organization?
  • Consider your role in training staff, and bearing that role in mind, acquaint yourself with the initiatives and priorities your stakeholders are calling for as they prepare the grant, or that have been documented in an existing grant.
  • Review the full Intro to 21st CCLCs course, especially the section on coaching my staff, to gain a better understanding of where to find the resources you need.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

A few things to know about planning if you’re a program director who just came in:

  • For a new grant, begin by bringing together serious stakeholders (folks who are ready to work!) from every aspect of programming — partners and parents from around the community and local education agency (LEA). Train together with the full Intro to 21st CCLCs course before moving forward with the grant planning strategies described there.
  • For grants that are funded but not yet implemented, forge an open line of communication with the team who contributed to its writing.
  • Your 21st CCLC state coordinator is your new best friend. Look to them with any questions you have along the way.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

Middle: Implementation

Phase 2 is implementation. Anyone joining a 21st CCLC program midstream is likely in this phase of the grant, which lasts for most of its lifespan. A new team member will have a “getting to know you” period, which hopefully leads to a “helping the program improve” period. Consider what’s been done for you versus what lies ahead, depending on your role.

A few things to know about implementing if you’re a frontline staff member who just came in:

  • Review your program’s policies and procedures, including those around safety. It’s best to direct any questions to your site coordinator or program director to be sure you’re honoring the grant.
  • “Off book” advice from peers can also be helpful. Just be sure to understand official practices set forth because it’s always possible that other frontline staff don’t fully understand the guidelines or have fallen into bad habits. An example of this could be poor handling of student privacy or ways of addressing behavior management.
  • Be sure to understand all aspects of activity delivery. If you don’t fully understand why an activity was designed a certain way, don’t be afraid to ask. You’re a much more effective facilitator when you’re invested in the process.
  • Offer real-time feedback to peers and supervisors to ensure the most effective program delivery.
  • Remember that relationships are the foundation of your work with students. Regularly foster appropriately warm and engaging personal interactions with each young person in your group.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

A few things to know about implementing if you’re a site coordinator who just came in:

  • You’re an important bridge between the program director, who has a high-level view of activities and budget, and the frontline staff who put activities in motion. Be sure your communication style and advocacy for appropriate allocation of time, space and resources makes sense up and down the organization.
  • Understanding how to intentionally design activities is an absolute must. Revisit the grant as often as needed to carry out this key role.
  • If you’re coming into a previously existing position, ask your program director and frontline staff what they liked about how your predecessor coordinated the work. What changes would they like to see?
  • Communication outside of the organization is just as important. Gauge where the program is with recruitment, family engagement efforts and data collection, and try to be consistent with your predecessor if you’re coming in midstream. After your stakeholders have gotten to know you is the time to make improvements to that system, unless they make you immediately aware of problems that existed before you entered the program. In that case, assure them of your commitment to the grant and the students it serves.
  • Staff training should be a priority. You may discover that staff training in your program is little more than being handed a policies and procedures guide. Explore the Y4Y courses and Click & Go’s, and determine which ones your staff can benefit from right away. Consider asking staff members to take different courses and share their takeaways during staff meetings.
  • Engage in Y4Y’s Managing Your 21st CCLC Program course.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

A few things to know about implementing if you’re a program director who just came in:

  • Observation is going to be a top priority. Spend your nonprogram hours catching up on everything about planning that has been documented, and spend your program hours visiting sites.
  • Be sure that, in addition to the day-to-day aspects of your program’s implementation, you understand the components that went into its planning. This knowledge will help you remain true to the program goals and understand its “roots” so that you can revisit all aspects of planning as needed.
  • You might consider an informal survey of your stakeholders via email to assure them that you want to honor their voices as the program takes a little different shape under your leadership. Assure them that changes will be made only to benefit students or to ensure that the program follows the letter of the grant.
  • Continue or establish a culture of positivity and improvement. This includes encouraging sites to budget time and resources for staff to feel safe about giving honest feedback and for training.
  • Ensure that systems are in place for recruiting students and staff, choosing and designing appropriate activities, and collecting and managing data for the duration of the program. Be sure to look ahead to your reporting requirements so that there are no surprises at reporting time.
  • Engage in the Managing Your 21st CCLC Program course, and meet with site coordinators to understand existing delegation and to discuss any changes in responsibilities.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

End: Sustaining

Continuing and sustaining is the last phase of the 21st CCLC grant process, though there are elements of this phase throughout the life of the grant. The hallmarks of this phase include culminating events, final data collection and reporting, fiscal reconciliation and reporting, planning for continuous improvement of the program, and sustaining your initiatives beyond the period of grant funding. And yes, it’s possible to be a new frontline staff member, site coordinator or program director coming in at this phase. While you’ll have a flurry of catch-up to do no matter what your role, you can make the most of your circumstances by focusing on your assets — any and all groundwork that has been laid for you. Your investment in wrapping up loose ends will pay off in the role you’ll get to have planning for the next year or grant cycle.

A few things to know about sustaining if you’re a frontline staff member who just came in:

  • Sharpen your skills of observation! The qualitative data you can provide about the growth of specific students and the success of activities will be important.
  • Don’t forget that culminating events are a wonderful opportunity to fully engage families. As your resources allow, budget the time, space and funds for something truly special.
  • Recognize your role in family and community partnerships. As your site coordinator or program director seeks to strengthen and leverage these partnerships, be sure that your interactions with families and community members are respectful and enthusiastic. You can inspire their support!
  • The same goes for student interactions. Program recruitment depends heavily on student word of mouth, especially in high school programs. You might be coming in at the end, but leave students with a great feeling about the future of your 21st CCLC program!
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

A few things to know about sustaining if you’re a site coordinator who just came in:

  • Your program director will depend on you for end-of-cycle data collection. Quickly familiarizing yourself with related staff, budget and data needs will be key.
  • Reassure partners about the future of the program, even if leadership is undergoing shifts. Be future-oriented in your conversations, and don’t be shy with specific asks for upcoming cycles. Grant funding is limited, but creative solutions can lead to sustaining programs indefinitely.
  • Continuous improvement is essential at this stage. Give staff and students a safe opportunity to provide feedback, and collaborate with your program director on how to honor that feedback.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

A few things to know about sustaining if you’re a program director who just came in:

  • Accurate reporting will be your most important task if you’re joining a program at this phase. Relationships with SEAs, LEAs and site coordinators will be essential. Their investment in your program by this stage is significant, so don’t be shy about enlisting their help!
  • It’s never fun to jump in the moment decisions need to be made, but if you have to, be sure that in your continuous improvement of the program you’re bringing all stakeholders to the table. Some of your program’s initiatives, such as STEAM or including students with disabilities, may have dedicated program teams. If not, now might be the time to assemble those teams in order to have the voices you need to feel confident in your decisions about future years/cycles.
  • Ideas about sustaining your program (or at least some of the enrichment activities your program has offered) beyond your 21st CCLC grant may be one of the reasons you were hired at this phase. Don’t waste any time putting those ideas in motion, connecting with old partners and new, and thinking creatively about leveraging those partnerships.
  • Throughout this “end” phase of your grant year, keep in mind that all the information you’re collecting truly serves these multiple purposes. Bearing that in mind can help you from feeling overwhelmed.
  • Check out these Y4Y tools:

Whatever your role in your 21st CCLC program, don’t let the game of catch-up get you down. There will always be folks who want to help, both up and down the organization and among your community partners. Taking a few beats to focus on what’s already been done for you will help you get your bearings, and it might even lift your spirits about the future of the program and your place in it! And, of course, Y4Y will be there right by your side with tools and resources. Before you know it, you’ll be the seasoned afterschool professional lending someone else a hand. Won’t that be the flip side of the coin!

 



November 22, 2021

The world of business offers a lot more research on the value of gut-level decision-making than the world of education, but your students may well find themselves in that world one day. Trusting your gut takes a unique kind of confidence. Young people can learn how to develop and trust their instincts by matching their cultural learning with self-awareness and self-management, social awareness, leadership opportunities, and more. Tools from Y4Y courses can help you build student intuition and confidence through a variety of strategies so they’ll be ready for times when snap judgments — and trusting those snap judgments — are a must.

It Starts With a Positive Learning Environment

Creating a positive learning environment opens the door to everything from baby steps to giant leaps in each of your 21st CCLC initiatives. Consult the Y4Y list of strategies for creating a positive learning environment to make sure that door is wide open. Simple practices around how you interact with your students and your stakeholders — like one-on-one exchanges, focused listening and appropriate personal openness — ensure the safety and trust that lead to strong work in confidence building.

The Role of Social and Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) gives students the tools needed to become well-adjusted adults. The Y4Y research brief on this subject expands on how the emotional competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making build on one another. An effective, evidence-based SEL curriculum can help this process. It might be tempting to consider “responsible decision-making” only those decisions that have been deliberated with a textbook list of pros and cons. But researchers are finding that sometimes responsible decision-making means knowing when to abandon that method.

An effective SEL program should be “SAFE” (sequenced, active, focused and explicit) and provide (1) purposeful design that leads to skill development; (2) opportunities for practice; (3) time devoted to developing one or more social and emotional skills; and (4) a plan that targets specific skills. A few Y4Y tools to get you started are the SEL Competencies Matching Game to get to know the competencies, and the Delivery Methods for SEL and SEL Learning Activity Intentional Design Planner to implement your focused practice of those competencies. Researchers advocating for the benefits of snap decisions note, “Another interesting finding in this study is that intuition can be improved over time, suggesting that the mechanisms of intuition can be improved with practice.” Your program might consider self-awareness skills the perfect place to begin a focused practice. After all, solid self-awareness is the foundation for all emotional competencies and the best assurance of trusting your gut!

The Art of Reflection

Y4Y offers many more opportunities outside of the SEL course for students to build their self-awareness skills, and reflection is at the heart of them. The course on student voice and choice includes tools for middle and high school students to reflect on what they’re learning, how they learn and how to connect that learning with their lives. The full set of voice and choice course tools contains tools specific to grades K-1, 2-3, 4-6, middle school and high school that help connect reflection and goal setting. It’s easy to see how a lifetime of reflection and goal setting could develop a strong neurological pathway for making quick, outcome-oriented decisions!

Put Confidence to the Test

Once you’ve invested time in building student confidence on the inside, there are plenty of opportunities to put that confidence to the test in your 21st CCLC program space. Help students grow into leadership with tools from the Recruiting and Retaining High School Students Click & Go, such as the Youth Leadership Roles ideas. Group brainstorming calls for quick, free-flowing ideas, as does the Concentric Circles Discussion Format. These practices are ideal for out-of-school time to prepare students for the professional world and to exercise emotional competencies beyond self-awareness, such as social awareness and relationship skills. More broadly, these group activities are essential for design thinking (at the center of the Y4Y STEAM course) and other kinds of project-based learning.

The Future of Intuition?

The linked article suggests that “the ability to quantitively measure intuition could be a boon to many different fields, especially when it comes to workplace hiring.” It cites research on a growing ability to scientifically measure intuition, which could lead to hiring practices based more on those measurements than on candidate questionnaires that merely “test people’s opinions about their own feelings of intuition.” Your 21st CCLC programs are the perfect environment to help students develop strong intuition through self-awareness and reflection exercises, and just as important, to trust that intuition as you help them build their confidence through leadership and collaboration.

 



November 22, 2021

Misinformation is as old as information itself. Without a doubt, broad internet access has amplified access to both. Where students in previous generations worked hard at finding information, today’s students have all the information they could ever need, and more. Y4Y’s new Click & Go on digital literacy will help you guide students through discerning online content to become more savvy learners. Borrowing from the creative program ideas in this month’s newsletter — What was the actual first U.S. European settlement? — you can break this mystery down with new Y4Y tools, including why the answer differs from what lies on the surface at Thanksgiving.

Find and Evaluate

The mini-lesson in this Click & Go provides an overview of the cognitive and technical skills students will need. The components of find, evaluate, create and communicate are all fundamental to strong digital literacy, but within evaluate — perhaps the most important — students are asked to consider the accuracy and credibility of information. The second podcast with this Click & Go, Evaluating Information and Digital Content, lays the groundwork for this exercise. The Guide for Spotting Misinformation and Disinformation is another useful tool. So, back to that question: What was the actual first European settlement in what is now North America? Let’s scratch the surface with critical thinking questions! Are we talking about a settlement that became permanent? Were women and children along? Is there archeological evidence or only a cultural or religious story shared from one generation to another? By answering these questions, again you’ll get many different answers!

Create and Communicate

Let’s move on to the digital literacy components of create and communicate. With the Guiding Content Creation, Comparing Presentation Modalities and Presenting to Different Audiences tools in hand, you can guide students through a number of considerations to produce a digitally literate assignment. Suppose your student who claims heritage dating to the Mayflower wants to prepare a report on the first Thanksgiving and frame Plymouth as the first European settlement in America. All credible sources — such as those ending with .edu, .gov or in some cases .org — say Jamestown was earlier, and some Spanish and French settlements that don’t remain today were even earlier. Other credible sources assert that the people who were native to this part of the world were the true first settlers. After listening to the podcasts Communicating With Your Audience and Creating Content, you and your student might decide together that their plan needs some modifying.

Striking a Balance

Does your student need to abandon all plans of honoring their family’s tradition of Thanksgiving to demonstrate digital literacy? Absolutely not! They can

  • Frame Plymouth as the widely accepted first European settlement in New England. In other words, be direct about accuracy.
  • Call out any importance or relevance of the “first Thanksgiving” as a personal opinion.
  • Honor known facts and historical figures in other ways with mentions and citations.
  • Be clear with audience-appropriate tools — such as humor or illustrations — what the intention of the piece is and is not.

The world would be a very dull place if all we had access to was dry, factual information. For centuries we’ve read novels, enjoyed paintings, appreciated trick photography and told ghost stories with very little threat of mistaking facts for fiction once each new medium was understood. Young and old alike are slowly discovering how to apply the skills of scrutiny that have always been there to the brave new digital world. By appreciating that in all that color, texture and variation of digital content there is a sort of beauty, we’ll become better skilled at scratching the surface and strengthening our digital literacy at Thanksgiving and year-round. Y4Y’s new Click & Go is a great place to start!