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August 7, 2020

Every day, your students make choices that affect their future. You want them to understand that their choices matter — and enlarge their view of what’s possible. Here’s some valuable information you can use to make sure they consider career options that involve science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM).

Let students know that

New opportunities are opening up. Cultural shifts and initiatives to offer equal opportunities in STEM careers mean greater gender and ethnic diversity than in the past. “Increase diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM” is a goal in America’s Strategy for STEM Education. Outdated ideas like “girls aren’t good at math” and “science isn’t for everyone” have been exposed as myths. Increasingly, STEM fields are attracting more people like Shuri, the fearless young woman who’s the chief science and technology officer of the high-tech nation Wakanda in the movie Black Panther.

STEM is opening up. You might have a student with the potential to create a new tool or product that will benefit humanity. But if no one in his family has gone to college, he doesn’t know any scientists or engineers, and he’s struggling in math class, he might think a STEM career is beyond his reach. Leaders in STEM education, however, say STEM is much more than the sum of its parts. Modern STEM education also incorporates the arts and design as well as skills like problem solving and behaviors like perseverance and cooperation. Students can tap into their strengths and interests to create their entry point. In his book Curious, for example, Ian Leslie says Apple founder Steve Jobs was “a merely competent technician” but it was his broad range of interests (including music), combined with a drive to succeed, that led his company to launch the first successful MP3 player.

Your 21st CCLC program is the perfect place for students to explore STEM because you can

  • Introduce interesting STEM experiences in a low-stress, high-support environment.
  • Tap into student voice and choice and give young people time to play or “tinker” with STEM ideas and materials.
  • Use project-based learning to help students connect STEM topics they’re learning in school with real-life problem-solving opportunities.
  • Engage local organizations and people with STEM connections so that students see that STEM is all around them — and is a possible career pathway for people like them.  

Y4Y is your “go-to” for STEM because it has resources like

These days, STEM is at the forefront as the world looks to research scientists for a vaccine that will end the coronavirus pandemic. Take advantage of this moment to gather students (virtually, if need be) around the idea of STEM as something that’s relevant to their lives — and a career path filled with as much potential as they are.

 



August 7, 2020

A flipped classroom means different things to different educators. One consistent element across all definitions is employing technology to augment traditional classroom methods. The result can be a wide variety of blended learning models. How can 21st CCLC educators capitalize on the benefits of flipped classrooms that have been uncovered in the past 25 years of experimentation to make the most of virtual or hybrid learning during the pandemic? Here are tips and tools to help.

Kids Speak Technology

So often, even elementary students demonstrate an astonishing mastery of technology. They may be fearless about navigating platforms that are daunting to their adult counterparts. A certain segment of your students may be even more inclined to engage with technology-based activities than “IRW” (in real world) ones. Here’s your opportunity to draw them out of their shells.

Pause and Rewind

Some 21st CCLC programs that transitioned successfully to virtual summer programs made use of pre-recorded lessons — whether cooking opportunities, book read alouds or science demonstrations — and even developed their own YouTube channels. Unlike during in-person learning, students are at their leisure to pause and rewind videos if there's a point or concept they didn’t quite understand. This is a great tool for English learners, especially, who might not have the nerve to speak up in front of peers. Be sure to encourage this practice!

Classroom Management

Advocates of a flipped classroom sing the praises of the superior classroom management achieved in this environment for a couple of reasons: in-person instruction tends to be restricted to the more engaging aspects of a lesson, and students inclined toward disruptive behaviors during more passive virtual learning are less (or not at all) distracting to their peers.

Get to Know Your Students Better

Blended learning means that time spent together, whether virtually or in person, is more interactive. Even before the pandemic, this meant educators with flipped classrooms had the luxury of speaking with their students much more frequently and in-depth. With social distancing, your program is likely to be building in more direct communications between staff and students, such as emails and texts. And you never know where that communication might lead. In their book, Flip Your Classroom, authors Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams describe texts from a student that eventually revealed he had been kicked out of his home, so they were able to help guide him to appropriate help.

Build Trust Through Transparency

Your 21st CCLC program has done its best to invite families in to see for themselves how their child spends his time with you, but virtual learning places you directly in their home where they can see activities and interactions for themselves. This unexpected gift of the pandemic means you have a one-time opportunity to really build trust and buy-in that will benefit your program for years to come. Your activities are on full display and bound to impress even skeptical families. And we know that the true value of family engagement for the success of students is clear.

More on Technology?

You bet! Y4Y has many resources to help you incorporate technology into your program. Be sure to review the Classroom Facilitator Packet to inspire your development of key responsibilities of a virtual facilitator or facilitator in a socially-distanced space.

Without a doubt, flipped classrooms were born of the philosophy set forth in the 1993 book From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side by Alison King. Your new challenge of coaching your students through self-directed learning in a virtual, hybrid or socially distanced environment is no small feat. But the reality is, flipped classrooms have improved student engagement and performance through blended learning, strengthened student-educator relationships and expanded the scope of education just in time, it would seem. “Flipping” might have once seemed upside down, but with a new point of view, you may just discover that a flipped-model 21st CCLC program makes more sense than you ever imagined it could.

 



August 7, 2020

Your 21st CCLC families might be among the hardest hit financially due to workplace closures and layoffs as they navigate months of uncertainty. The lessons on sound financial planning in Y4Y’s Financial Literacy course will be all the more important to help students prepare to act later when unpredictable events arise in their adulthood. But your most impactful role with families right now may be offering ideas on how to REact to circumstances outside their control. When times are tough, prioritizing expenses and debts requires careful thought and can have lasting consequences. An extreme example would be surviving family members using limited resources to pay down the student debt of a passed loved one, only to discover years later the debt could have been discharged. This is the case for federal loans, but not all education loans — be sure to investigate if this situation ever comes up for you.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has gathered a series of resources to help citizens protect their finances during the pandemic. These resources can provide guidance on everything from student loans to housing liabilities, asset protection and the host of scams that have arisen at this unfortunate time. Consider offering a virtual event to walk families through these and other resources from authoritative sources. You might also discuss decision-making strategies for today’s environment, while steering clear of offering financial advice. The Tackling Tough Subjects Training to Go can help you prepare staff to engage appropriately with families.

You’ll better understand just where families are coming from if you download and customize the Adult Financial Literacy Needs Survey. Pick and choose from the Financial Literacy Adult Program Schedule to reflect the exact needs you discover in your community. Invite trusted partners with knowledge of finances or relevant laws to present in your program, and consider forming new relationships. There may be organizations that offer pro bono credit counseling to specific populations such as survivors of domestic violence, veterans or low-income families. You can search for members of the Financial Planning Association in your area for potential partners near you. Be sure to coordinate in advance to agree on the type of expertise they’ll offer.

On a more basic level, your families may be facing greater food insecurity than before the pandemic. The bad news is, so are many other members of the community. Suddenly, already scarce resources are being spread even thinner. It’s time to get creative on behalf of your families. You can start by reviewing Y4Y’s January guest blog post on Food Insecurity and 21st CCLC programs with Shannon Browning, 21st CCLC Program Director at Macomb Public Schools in Oklahoma. Consider the possible problem-based learning and civic engagement aspects of researching, understanding and facilitating solutions to food insecurity, if not for your students, perhaps for students in neighboring communities. Reach out to student leadership advisors or social studies educators, for example, across the town, district, or county, and advocate for the families in your community. Young people today are globally minded and are seeking opportunities to have a positive impact. They, too, may be struggling with feelings of helplessness. You can help plant the seeds of successful kid-to-kid food collection programs that benefit all.

Quite literally, everyone on the planet has a different financial perspective than they had six months or a year ago. While many of your students’ families may fit into the category of “essential worker” and continue to work, by no means does this ensure their financial security or stability. Your 21st CCLC program can continue to be a much-needed resource, partner and comfort to the families you serve.

 



August 7, 2020

Your 21st CCLC program has much to offer students, especially those with fewer opportunities than their more-affluent peers. As you reflect on student needs, it’s unlikely that the question of program priorities has ever carried more weight than it does at this very moment in time. Chances are, helping students feel safe is at the top of your list. After all, how can students focus on learning if their minds are engaged in worry?

Safety can mean many things. Freedom from threats of physical danger or harm might be the first thing that comes to mind. But there’s also social and emotional safety — a feeling of acceptance and support that frees us to express ourselves and take the “good risks” that learning requires. In the current flurry of activity, as you prepare for a fall opening unlike any you’ve experienced as a 21st CCLC professional, you’ll feel more confident in every step, in every decision, if you and your colleagues jointly address two essential questions: (1) What can we do to make students, families and staff feel safe as they participate in program activities? and (2) How can our program culture and climate support “safety,” in all its forms, as a priority for all? Answering the second question will help you answer the first one!

You’re in luck because Y4Y’s Creating a Positive Learning Environment course is shaped around key strategies for addressing your program’s culture and climate. The Culture Climate and Perception Survey is a great tool to be sure you and your staff are starting off at the same place. Try doing the staff survey individually. Collectively, you can then reflect on who you are as a program and what you want to become. What do you value collectively? What are your priorities?

Someone might ask, “Is it OK to change our program priorities just because the world around us is changing?” It’s not only “OK” — it’s critical that your priorities and values reflect the immediate needs of your students. Accept that you may need to spend more time than usual on basic health and safety measures, knowing that one day soon you’ll have the luxury of arranging field trips and other community-based experiences. Revamping your activities to accommodate social distancing might not feel like “improvement.” That word implies “better than,” and maybe that’s not how you feel this year’s program is going to look. But “better than” can be “better suited to.” If your revamped activities are better suited to current conditions and student needs, your program is remaining faithful to continuous improvement. Even if those amazing STEM projects don’t look the way you imagined, and the simple “high-fives” in the hallway that have always motivated students and staff have to take the year off, you can offer fun, creative activities and positive feedback in other ways that are better suited to the circumstances.

Here's an idea: In June, Y4Y presented a four-part series webinar series, An Artfully Formed Positive Environment, with sessions dedicated to sketching your organizational culture and ensuring a positive learning environment, appropriate safety measures, and social and emotional learning. Consider hosting a virtual watch party of these timely strategies, rich with voices from across the country, and discussing them with your staff in light of current circumstances. Give everyone a chance to express their ideas and concerns so that you can address them as a team. That way, you can head into the fall with a shared goal of paving a high road for your students, where the path is dry, the view is fine, and there’s room for all. That road can lead to success, to safety, to basic well-being — it’s up to YOU to determine what your students need most right now. Y4Y believes in you (air high five!).

 



July 22, 2020

Last month, Y4Y hosted a four-part Human Resources webinar series on identifying talent, recruiting and hiring staff, training and developing your team, and retaining staff. Are candidates proficient at engaging students remotely? Flexible and creative? Committed to the work? The following must-know tips from the series are the place to start, and the Y4Y Human Resources course will take you to the finish line in the race to hire, develop and keep top dogs.

Identifying Talent

Your program may or may not be planning to recruit this summer, but one thing’s for sure: if you ARE hiring, your priorities look a little different than in the past. You might have an even larger bank of candidates to draw from and be focused on different core competencies. Your first step should be expanding your program team. Some organizations shy away from larger deciding bodies because it’s hard to get broader buy-in. But in 21st CCLC programs, you want the perspectives of all your stakeholders, which means including those stakeholders. We’re in a different world than we were a year ago, so don’t assume that the opinions or priorities of partners like families or school-day professionals are the same as in the past. Reconvene and set a new tone. You won’t go wrong by adding local health department officials and other community members to your team. Check out Y4Y’s Program Team Roster tool if you’re building or adding to your team.

Your program leader has a lot on her plate right now. Reviewing human resource policies and recruiting staff should be a shared responsibility. Once your program team is established, develop program-wide guidelines for recruiting and retaining staff. Your sites can tailor these guidelines to their specific needs. Y4Y’s Human Resources Planning Checklist will keep your team on task.

As your sites are identifying the talent they need on staff, reflect on the hard and soft skills you’ll be looking for. Hard skills are measurable knowledge and skill sets. You may suddenly find you’re adding “extensive social media experience” to the list of hard skills on your frontline staff job description. Soft skills are less measurable, and relate to the personal characteristics that will ensure your staff’s success at engaging students and families. In a virtual or reduced-contact environment, staff members who are good at establishing relationships with students in person but require constant supervision might be less successful than candidates who are good with students AND self-directed.

Recruiting and Hiring Staff

It’s time to market your positions! Even this task looks different these days. There’s no more gathering at the water cooler and casual word of mouth, so your program must be proactive and creative to attract the best candidates. Involve those partners! Families are a great resource for bringing in talent who know the community. Also, many university students have had their internship opportunities curtailed — this is a great time to mine that resource for a win-win situation.

Be sure to have a system established ahead of time for ranking your candidates, or you may never get through the stack once resumes start rolling in. Ask yourself: What core competencies are the most important for each position? For example, if your program demands that staff be multilingual, candidates who don’t meet that criteria can be eliminated in the first round. Save time by moving to phone screening next. Ask scenario-based questions. Scenarios help you see how candidates might apply the knowledge they’ve claimed “on paper” to the real-life, in-the-moment situations they’ll encounter in your program.

Zelda Spence, 21st CCLC project director for Plainfield Public Schools in New Jersey, warns against rushing to “get the position filled.” A warm body is never your goal in out-of-school time, but especially not in the current environment. Invest the time and effort to find the right person, and that staff member will be more likely to stay with the program. She advises, “Be yourselves with candidates.” If your program has a funky personality, fly that colorful flag and bring in new staff members who dig the vibe and can see their place in it.

Training and Developing Your Team

Be sure to take advantage of Y4Y’s downloadable and customizable Sample Human Resources Packet. Firm and well communicated policies and procedures are crucial in 21st CCLC programming where there are many moving parts, judgment calls and autonomy in sensitive situations — now more than ever! The most important piece of onboarding new staff is proper training. Give thought to what training is appropriate for each position, and budget time accordingly. Examples of role-specific trainings include intentional activity design, project management, de-escalation techniques, instructional strategies, budgeting and emergency response. Be sure to check out the full set of trainings Y4Y offers that can be tailored to your organization’s needs. These PowerPoint presentations lend themselves easily to virtual trainings.

How are your staff trainings being impacted by a slow open in your state? Despite the uncertainty, you’ll want your training plan to provide a clear roadmap for staff that illustrates where your program is today, and where you’d like to take it together. Consider the four dimensions of source, delivery method, dosage and level of detail as you design that training plan. You may have other resources available to you to optimize training of existing and new staff, such as university or school district partners. Your training modes may be restricted right now, but you can host webinars, direct staff to self-paced e-learning and offer job aids. Dosage and level of detail will depend on the staff member’s position and experience level. Your training design plan will provide the clearest roadmap when you ensure that positive culture and climate are at the core of all implementation efforts.

Speaking of Positive Culture and Climate…

You’ve set your program up for success. Now follow through with staff retention efforts. Continue to offer opportunities for your staff to grow and flourish, both professionally and personally. Everyone should feel safe and supported, not just students. Hold meaningful team-building events that invite staff to share in the forward direction of your organization. Keep a staff and student “bright ideas box” to signal you want their ideas and input. Follow the continuous improvement cycle that you do for programming, and consistently assess and reflect on ways to better your efforts. Partner staff whose skills and abilities complement each other — you’re always stronger together!

The most successful organizations, whether a 21st CCLC program or major corporation, have clear, reasonable steps to be taken when it doesn’t feel stronger together. Program directors and site coordinators like Felisa Sanders, a site coordinator in Plainfield, New Jersey, spend a lot of time on their feet observing staff. Felisa offers constructive, in-the-moment feedback, always praising in public and correcting in private. In this summer’s environment, the equivalent might be popping in daily on every Zoom session or Google classroom. Annual evaluations are NOT when a manager should bring up deficits for the first time, and certainly staff should not face any surprises. Instead, missteps should be addressed as soon as they’re noticed, and treated as opportunities for staff development rather than occasions for punishment. Adopt a proportional, progressive discipline process for those worst-case scenarios where the well-being of students or your positive work environment are jeopardized by a staff member’s behavior.

In 21st CCLC programs, we know that love of children, eagerness to educate and the energy of super heroes make our staff top dogs all around. As Lewis Grizzard notes, “If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” Kudos to your staff for navigating this crazy new landscape.