April 28, 2015

These videos provide glimpses into 21st CCLC programs that are proud to share their successes, especially in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), with students from elementary to high school. In the videos, directors, site coordinators and teachers share their advice on program development; content, methods and approaches; staffing; partnerships; and continuous improvement. So put up your feet, grab some popcorn — and be sure to log-in to use the “My Notebook” feature to jot down new ideas and inspirations to apply to your program.

Here are some narrative “trailers” to get you thinking before you watch. Follow the links to go into the modules and watch the videos.

Aligning With the School Day

At Schuylkill Achieve Pennsylvania, STEMovation is designed to excite students about STEM. The program experiences some challenges that come with a rural setting but staff have instilled principles and practices that strengthen the program. For example, they’re resourceful, drawing creatively on what’s available in the community and thinking about how to tie STEM to any type of lesson. School-day connections are critical, too, especially for staffing, and Barbara Naradko in the school district emphasizes that, “An afterschool program is not a stand-alone program. It takes a team, and that team needs to work together.” 

Strengthening Partnerships

In New Jersey, Sister Jude Boyce, the principal of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Academy, also stresses teamwork as a key to success, and the 21st CCLC team unifies around the one goal of providing students with the best possible STEM program. Partnerships with local business and other sources of STEM expertise expose students to new skills and real-world examples of how to apply their school-day curriculum standards. What students see is that “STEM is everywhere. Science is in everything,” says project director Sowmiya Thirumoorthy. Staff get this message, too, through consistent professional development sessions that help them blend the curriculum standards with fun and engaging afterschool activities. 


Robots, CAD software and fabrication are the norm for 21st CCLC students in Oregon’s McMinnville School District, where these and other STEM activities give students ways to try out new things to see what they like and don’t like. Tony Vicknair, the district STEM Director, recommends taking youth voice and choice a step further: survey the students and their parents. “Don’t be afraid of the survey results, because they will help you better your program,” he says.

And, we all want a better program, right? Matt Finkinger, a Schuykill instructor, reminds us to look at our STEM programming and ask, “What will this mean in the real world? What will the students be able to do when they leave this place? … That’s the challenge of education.” One more showcase video will help you frame a plan: High-Quality STEM: Features, Practices, and Tips From the Field summarizes the key ideas to building a strong STEM afterschool program for your students. 


April 24, 2015

Earlier this month, Y4Y hosted a panel discussion and webinar on building an advisory board and collaborating with your parents and community members to support students and activities. Follow the link to hear the panelists’ authentic and practical approaches for establishing and maintaining strong advisory boards. 


What happens when you truly collaborate with families and communities? According to our Y4Y panelists, you will gain access to the voices and talents of your community. You will find ways to enhance your program — directly, through alternate and additional funding sources, and indirectly through empowering parents and building their capacity. For more about how to develop such win-win relationships, see The Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships.


Whether you have established an advisory board or intend to do so, Y4Y offers some great tools to help you get going and keep track of what you’re doing. Here are short descriptions and quick links to those tools.

Communication and Collaboration Checklist
Although this tool focuses on fostering good relationships between your program and the schools your students attend, it can easily be customized to include connecting with families and community members. It also helps you think about your short-term and long-term goals and action steps. 

Identifying Partners
Here’s a tool to help you identify your community resources and think about potential members for your parent-community advisory board. After you establish a board, continue to conduct a community inventory every two or three years so you don’t miss any important connections. 

Volunteer Job Description
Before you invite people to join your parent-community advisory board, we recommend preparing a volunteer job description. Get this template in the Y4Y portal, and customize it to fit the specifics of your advisory board. 

Volunteer Skills Grid
As you connect with people who express interest in becoming board members, ask them to complete this simple form to share their skills, interests and available time. Just delete the examples from the grid before distributing to members to fill out.


February 13, 2015

In your afterschool and expanded learning programs, you try every day to fit in as much fun and learning as you can, balancing all the competing demands. Y4Y staff know how busy your days are. Luckily, literacy can be worked into a program in many ways, big and small. Let’s go through the key building blocks of literacy to demonstrate some ways.


Many programs have found success with book clubs. Beyond providing risk-free space to practice the mechanics of reading and strengthen comprehension skills, book clubs boost motivation, which is critical for developing readers. To get everyone on the same page, visit Y4Y’s Book Club hub for ideas that will help your students become detectives or space explorers, visit other countries, travel to the past or future, and meet people who are very different but very alike, too.


In the special space of afterschool, writing needs to be more than sitting down and working in silence. Get your students super-charged about writing by involving them in fun and thought-provoking Pre-Writing Activities from Y4Y. They’ll be engaged in a topic and brimming with ideas, ready to write! To add another level of motivation, bring in a local writer or offer books written by people from your city or state.

Speaking and Listening

Speaking and listening skills are gateways: they help students become better readers. One strategy that’s common in early childhood education works for all ages — it’s the Interactive Read-Aloud, which mixes a teacher reading to a group, students interacting with the teacher about the text, and students talking with one another to dig deeper into the content.


It’s easy to incorporate language skills into any program activity or project. Try some of the strategies on Y4Y’s Vocabulary Development page to reinforce language learning while your students are accomplishing other goals. Several strategies, like those that foster word consciousness, take very little preparation time and can be fun and casual to add into transition times or snack time. Some of the more formal strategies, such as a Vocabulary Collage or the Frayer Chart, would pair perfectly with a new thematic unit or a project you are already doing in your program. 

Tip: Engaging families in literacy events is also a great way to build your literacy programming and make a positive impact on your community.  Consider hosting a fun family literacy event. Use this checklist to ensure it’s well planned!

For more ideas to incorporate the key building blocks of literacy into your program, check out the Learn More Library’s wealth of resources. 


January 22, 2015

STEM concepts—science, technology, engineering and math—are important concepts to tackle complex local and global challenges. Whether you’re new to STEM or ready to raise the bar, Y4Y resources can help you build STEM knowledge and practice to support student learning. 

Your activities and projects can help close the STEM gap by encouraging student interest in related topics and careers. Here’s one simple strategy: reinforce a way of thinking called the scientific method. You don’t need to be a STEM whiz to do this — Y4Y provides guidance on developing scientific habits of mind, fitting STEM into program schedules, and adding scientific processes throughout the program day with the STEM Vocabulary Builder.

Start with something your staff members already know well — your students! What do your youth like to do? What interests get them fired up? This page on Y4Y shows how to transform student interests into STEM activities. If your students enjoy creative expression, check out our STEAM resources.

STEM offers endless possibilities, and Y4Y can help you deliver them. If you’d like to dig deeper, visit the Learn More Library. You may also want to use Y4Y’s Teach resources to equip staff with the skills and knowledge to implement fun and effective STEM activities. Use the STEM Strategies and Techniques tool to infuse STEM into all aspects of your program.