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September 23, 2022

There are some helpful takeaways from a report from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) on 10 years of systemic social and emotional learning implementation in urban settings. Keep reading to learn about these findings and Y4Y resources that can help guide social and emotional learning in your supportive 21st CCLC program now and in future program years. 

Prioritizing social-emotional learning (SEL) is key to building a joyful, resilient program environment. That’s because SEL skills help us identify and manage our emotions, express empathy, form meaningful relationships, and cope with stress. When we prioritize social-emotional well-being for both educators and students, we can foster a culture in which everyone is better equipped to reach their full potential. 

Building a Network of Support

As students return to school this fall, the social and emotional aspects are just as important as gathering school supplies, meeting the new teacher(s), and finding out what’s being offered for lunch. More than ever, SEL is a key ingredient in addressing the top concerns for schools and out-of-school time (OST) programs. That includes physical wellness, mental wellness, emotional well-being, and academic recovery. OST programs have a key role to play in this effort. As your program partners with schools and families, you can strengthen relationships and provide a network of support that includes trusted adults and enriching experiences.

These three Y4Y tools can help you shape the priorities of your group effort in implementing social-emotional programming:

Providing Comprehensive Support for Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

The CASEL report mentioned above involved large, complex school systems in the country. Not only did these districts demonstrate it was possible to implement SEL systemically, but every district deepened and expanded SEL implementation from school to OST programs and families. CASEL identified four key elements that are necessary to comprehensively support quality SEL implementation throughout the system:

  • Building foundational support and plan
  • Strengthening adult SEL competencies and capacity
  • Promoting SEL for students
  • Reflecting on data for continuous improvement

The researchers examined how the districts they studied equipped themselves to sustain a commitment to SEL over the long term, even as the people and contexts within the district changed. CASEL identified six elements for sustaining SEL:

  • Leaders model, cultivate, and elevate a shared vision for SEL.
  • Core district priorities connect SEL to all departments and individuals, so everyone is invested.
  • Schools have resources and pathways to guide SEL implementation, as well as room to innovate and customize SEL for their communities.
  • SEL informs and shapes adult learning and staff culture and climate.
  • Students, families, and communities are co-creators of the SEL vision, plans, and practices.
  • External and internal communities of practice strengthen implementation.

These findings align with advice from Dr. Dave Pauneski, a senior behavioral scientist at Stanford University: “If we really want all students to leave school having developed certain academic, social, personal, and cultural capacities, we need to think really carefully about whether we as educators are creating the types of experiences that we know from research will help develop those capacities.”

Y4Y Resources Supporting SEL

These additional Y4Y resources can also support your efforts:

 



September 23, 2022

Man looking at reflection in mirror that is laying on the groundComparing yourself to others is, unfortunately, human nature. Often, we do it without even noticing. But when we do it in front of children, they notice. That’s because children are like sponges — they tend to soak up behaviors, attitudes, and ways of thinking. Imagine what may happen in the mind of a child when their adult role models openly criticize themselves. The child may wonder: “If they don’t believe they’re enough, should I be worried about how I perceive myself?”

One of this month’s Creative Program Ideas is to offer students a dedicated day (October 19, to be exact) to evaluate their life. Evaluate Your Life Day was inspired by a model of social behavior called Self-Evaluation Maintenance. This model suggests that if students have close friends or family members who “outperform” them in an area students don’t particularly pride themselves in, that connection boosts their self-esteem. But if a friend or family member outperforms a student in an area that matters a lot to the student — like skills in sports or the arts, or even attractiveness — then that relationship may take away from their self-esteem.

In other words, the Self-Evaluation Maintenance model suggests that a child’s self-evaluation is constantly interacting with how others close to them perform. That means each child’s identity and sense of self can be affected by how their peers perform.

What can your out-of-school time program do to help students find healthy ways to negotiate the natural human tendency to compare themselves to others? Here are some ideas.

All for One and One for All

To make sure that all your students feel like their success is possible, they must first feel like their voice matters. It’s important to incorporate regular self-reflection in a way that deters negative comparison. Y4Y’s Student Voice and Choice course takes a deep dive into maximizing student engagement and equipping staff with the tools they need to encourage a healthy self-image. When students feel heard, their confidence grows, and they’re more likely to develop a strong sense of self. You can nurture this strong sense of self by:

  • Assessing student needs
  • Conducting student interest surveys
  • Encouraging goal setting
  • Prioritizing student self-reflection

Setting the Scene for Reflection and Growth

Just as incorporating student voice and choice nurtures a healthy self-image, it’s also important to make sure your learning environment cultivates constructive attitudes. Creating a positive learning environment will, in turn, give your staff and students the setting they need to have open and honest conversations about self-reflection and self-love. The strategies in Y4Y’s Creating a Positive Learning Environment course can help your staff to create a safe space where students and families feel supported. Students in an open and positive environment are more likely to be supportive of each other. In fact, learning to celebrate one another’s successes is a great way to stop the “comparison habit” in its tracks.

When program staff members build positive relationships with and among students and create a nurturing environment where each student feels seen and heard, it sets the stage for students to discover their own strengths. Further, a safe, nurturing environment provides opportunities for them to develop those strengths. This is the path to establishing a generation of students with a healthy self-image and a productive attitude.

You can guide students along this path by teaching them that self-reflection is best practiced through a lens of positivity and self-compassion rather than constant comparison. Make sure your students appreciate that they are only ever striving to be their best selves.

 



September 23, 2022

Diverse group of students running in a parkThe school dismissal bell is a phenomenon that should be studied. The second that the sweet chimes grace the ears of students, a sort of shapeshifting happens. Children and youth transform from slow-moving students to track stars hurtling toward the finish line! As they rush out the door to their buses, chaos ensues. Imagine a slow-motion replay of their exit as Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube,” plays in the background as they improvise their “school dismissal dance.” You get the picture.

But not all students head out the door. For some, their out-of-school time (OST) programs are just getting started. This is where the learning continues. This is where it’s all happening.

America After 3PM, a 16-year study published this spring by the Afterschool Alliance, confirms that parents and communities truly value OST programs. The findings below highlight some advantages of OST programs and ideas for making them even better. But wait — there’s more! You already have an OST program that supports student success and values family engagement. Why keep that all to yourself?! Read to the end for some tips on connecting with policy leaders in your school district, reaching out to colleagues in neighboring communities, and expanding your program’s outreach to spread the word on the value of your OST program.

Not Just “Another Brick in the Wall”

The OST programs of today are not where imagination and creativity go to die, and just like students, they’re not “one size fits all.” According to the Afterschool Alliance study, parents recognize a wide array of benefits:

  • Technology is great, but unproductive screen time is a real problem. More than eight in 10 parents in the study agreed that afterschool programs provide opportunities for young people to live beyond the screen by learning life skills and building confidence. Sounds like a recipe for a productive member of society!

Try this: Not all screen time is created equal. Building digital literacy is important to ensure that students can successfully navigate the digital age. That’s why Y4Y created the Digital Literacy Click & Go especially for you. Learn about digital literacy and what your program can do to teach digital literacy skills to youth. Let’s face it — the last thing parents want to do is play the part of FBI agents when it comes to tracking down their children and monitoring their every move. Luckily, most of the parents surveyed (84%, to be exact) agreed that OST programs help to reduce risky behaviors.

  • Physical activity and nutritious foods are super important factors for parents. In fact, these OST benefits were cited by 84% and 71% of parents surveyed, respectively. These factors only grow in importance when considering low-income families, families living in urban communities, and Black and Latinx parents.

Try this: See the Y4Y Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day Click & Go for tools and detailed information to help you make health and wellness a priority for you and your staff!

Let’s Give the People What They Want

You know that OST programs like yours provide students with the tools they need to be successful in and out of the classroom. However, there are areas of opportunity for OST programs to support families as well. Consider the following findings as you seek to fill any gaps you may have in your program to ensure that families feel valued!

  • One of the most important factors in fostering student success is bringing families into the conversation. Children tend to model their attitudes and self-image after family members, so it’s critical that families feel included in their student’s OST journey. However, the Afterschool Alliance study found that only 43% of parents reported that their child’s program offered parent and family activities.

Try this: Y4Y recognizes that children thrive when families are valued, so we created an entire course on family engagement, complete with useful tools!

  • Even though helping your students strengthen relationships in their community can also positively impact their “health outcomes, educational achievement, feelings of connectedness to the community, and economic prospects,” only 36% of the parents surveyed stated that their child’s OST program prioritizes this. Including service learning and community service is a great way to make sure your program is meeting the needs of students and their families.
  • Some parents and families believe that enrolling their child in OST programs might expose their child to “negative influences, experiences, and values, such as bullying and peer pressure.” Unfortunately, only one in four parents said they feel there’s substantial information on OST programs within their community. Parents want to be in the know! Keep them updated with newsletters and social media, and encourage open communication about your program.

Shout It From the Rooftops

Wait, you’re telling me that you already have an OST program that caters to students’ needs, prioritizes family engagement, and provides opportunities for service learning — and you’re not performing a song and dance about it? The world needs to hear about your program! Thankfully, there are ways to make this happen.

Try this: Check Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course. You and your staff will get an in-depth understanding of how to identify strategic partners in your area and develop an outreach plan to engage them and to develop strong partnerships. To convey the value of your program, you’ll also need a killer elevator speech that lets potential partners know what your program is all about and why your program is the one they should work with! The Y4Y course also comes equipped with an abundance of tools that cover important topics such as community asset mapping, conveying needs to partners, and developing an effective memorandum of understanding. We know you’ve got a hectic schedule, so we tried our best to think of everything!

Out-of-school time programs really are a priceless gem that sets students up for success — and parents already agree! So use this knowledge to your advantage! An open and continuous dialogue between families and your staff will only enhance what your program can do. Furthermore, learning how to make the most of partnerships (and the resources and connections they provide) is a surefire way to take your program to the next level.

 



August 25, 2022

Smiling teenage boy reading book online on tablet computer when his sister checking social media on smartphoneWhile students decidedly still need access to books, you may depend heavily on computers for literacy activities in your program. Here are some reminders about partnering with the school day to share resources, teaching internet safety to even your youngest students, and thinking critically about the websites they’ll visit.

Centering on Centers?

If your data tell you that literacy needs to be a high priority in your program, literacy centers can be a great approach. What’s more, devices can be a way to address lower-than-ideal staff-to-student ratios when you want to keep groups small.

  • Start with Y4Y’s Literacy Activity Center Planner tool. It will help you think about how you’ll design centers to accommodate some use of computers or tablets for students to independently build literacy skills.
  • Check out the Y4Y Literacy course and its full list of tools for more guidance on developing your specific activity goals.
  • What familiar websites are going to be comfortable and user friendly for students? Has your district already done its due diligence in identifying the best literacy sources? Are they willing to share online subscriptions, given that you’re all serving the same students? Consult Y4Y’s Continuous Education course and its full list of tools if your leadership needs to get up to speed on forging and maintaining that partnership with school-day professionals.
  • Y4Y also has developed a list of reputable online education sources, available in the Quality Online Education Resources tool.

Next-Level Decisions

Y4Y offers an entire Click & Go on digital literacy to further guide decisions about what online activities to offer and how to train students to use the internet safely and wisely.

The Future of Using the Internet to Strengthen Literacy

The pandemic meant hitting the “fast forward” button on virtual learning. The planet was headed in that direction already, but my how that process sped up!  Y4Y developed The Virtual Edge course to help 21st CCLC professionals continue to use virtual learning to their students’ advantage. But here’s a thinker: did you notice how many celebrities began to do online BOOK read-alouds during that time? Storyline Online is a great example. This was in recognition that when it comes to literacy, almost nothing compares to reading, or being read, a good old-fashioned book. So, as you continue to offer literacy activities on devices in your program, never forget the value of sitting in front of your students with a picture book in hand, doing all the funny voices and gestures that you can muster, and foster a lifelong love of reading.

 



August 25, 2022

bookshelf with booksDo your students have unlimited access to the school library? Do you depend on donations of books, or do you use your 21st CCLC grant money or other braided funds to keep that bookshelf stocked? What role do books play in your program schedule? These back-to-basics reminders point to research about why books in hands are so important for all children.

Start With Staggering Stats

A 2019 study of 31 countries found that individuals who grew up with a home library demonstrated greater adult literacy, adult numeracy, and adult technological problem-solving. While researchers looked for a relationship between library size and these skills, they discovered that the greatest returns from book ownership came from smaller libraries — and that’s good news for your families! Another literacy study makes the shocking claim that the likelihood of being on track in literacy and numeracy almost doubled if at least one book was available at home compared to when there was none. One book.

A Revolving Library?

Consider stocking a program library with the hope of sending books home permanently with students and families. This goal means high volume, so get creative in how you bring books into the program. You might

  • Partner with local stores — bookstores, thrift stores, grocery stores, and even clothing stores. Have the students make posters for a “Why I’d Like My Own Books To Keep” campaign theme.
  • Speak with the school and public libraries about taking their “hand-me-downs.” Sometimes public libraries hold fundraisers with the titles they’re retiring. You can schedule a family outing around one of these very affordable events.
  • Reach out to faith-based or parent organizations in private schools or more privileged districts — especially if you’re in a larger city — to gauge their interest in a book drive for to benefit students who don’t have home libraries. Again with the posters!
  • Research regional and national grant funding for books, such as the National Book Fund (for promoting adult literacy) and book giveaway programs like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
  • Educate families on the relationship between book ownership and lifelong success. Be sure to stress that they don’t need to bring an encyclopedia into the home! Each family member should make selections that match their own interests.

How Y4Y Can Help

Y4Y has a number of tools that can help you ensure that what you have on your bookshelf honors everything that’s great about books!

  • Read this month’s Voices From the Field interview with Amy Franks of Book Harvest to appreciate the importance of students being able to see themselves in literary characters.
  • Keep in mind that the stories in books can be used to support many aspects of growing up healthy and well. The Y4Y Student Trauma Book List gives examples of titles to help students overcome trauma. As other titles come through your program, give them a skim and consider whether they might be earmarked for helping students through any kind of life challenge.
  • Y4Y has also developed a Financial Literacy Book List that can serve a similar purpose.
  • Book clubs gained traction during virtual learning. Download Y4Y’s tool, Literacy Book Clubs, to keep them alive in your program! Depend on those partnerships to get multiple copies of titles, and be sure these treasured sets stay with the program after the book club.
  • Your program “librarian” can make use of the Y4Y Text Genre Checklist to help stay organized and balanced in your offerings.

The Final Chapter

Comedian Trevor Noah said so poignantly in his memoir, Born a Crime, “People love to say, ‘Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.’ What they don’t say is, ‘And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.’ That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”

The literary equivalent of that fishing rod is book ownership and, according to studies, even a modest household library can make a huge difference in the life of a young person.