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June 14, 2022

Multi-ethnic high school girls working on a project outdoors with laptopsFrom the youngest elementary kids up to high school seniors, all students can be building their executive functioning skills when you offer a long-term project in your school-year program. They’ll need those skills to plan and achieve their own goals, whether they want to earn a driver’s license, become a space explorer, or anything in between. Using Y4Y resources, you can hit the ground running in August with an engaging project that will help students gain knowledge and skills throughout the year. And the more you plan for it by setting important short-term goals, the more long-term success your students will enjoy! 

Bear in mind:

  1. Learning how to plan and to implement are as much “the lesson” as the material or outcome itself.
  2. Long-term projects provide opportunities to dive deeper into a subject.
  3. Collaboration can and should be a big part of your project.
  4. Budget plenty of time and resources for a culminating event to showcase student knowledge and projects — and to celebrate their hard work!

Short-Term Goal #1: Chart the Course
As the grown-up in the room, make sure you plan any long-term project around:

  1. A needs assessment. What content knowledge or skills do your students most need to develop? Ask school-day partners to weigh in so you can give students the most bang for their afterschool buck. Don’t be afraid to merge subjects! Literacy, STEAM, and civics, for example, have fascinating points of intersection. Check out Y4Y’s Developing a Needs Assessment Click & Go, STEAM Implementation Checklist, and Building School-Day Civics Into Out-of-School Time Projects for starter tips. 
  2. Student voice. Once you know which path you’re headed down, there’s still a lot of wiggle room for variety. Hold off until the fall to collect your student voice data, but have the Y4Y Activity Choice Form and student survey on how students learn best customized to your chosen topic (or topics).
  3. Available resources. Keep Y4Y’s sample procurement packet handy for standard materials, and community asset mapping tool for forging new partnerships as more unusual resources are needed.

Short-Term Goal #2: Consider Process vs. Product
Saving the “nature versus nurture” debate for another day, from a young age it’s easy to recognize whether a person is more process-driven or product-driven. Example: Madison yells “DONE!” whenever she finishes a task, no matter how many times you ask her not to. Madison is product-driven. Meanwhile, Manny is always the last to complete an art project that, let’s face it, was designed more as a decompression activity than an art lesson. If you find Manny deep in thought about “what’s missing” from his Play-Doh sculpture, chances are that Manny is a process-driven kid. The beauty of a long-term project is that it can appeal to both these types of students. In fact, pairing these students with each other, like you might an optimist and a pessimist, is a great way to strike balance for the best outcomes! You can even give each team a fun name, like Wonder Wizards, or invite them to create their own. Collaboration: CHECK!

Short-Term Goal #3: Gather Your Y4Y Tools
The “process” mentioned above is simply “planning” plus “implementing,” and you’re going to do cartwheels when you see how many tools Y4Y offers in both areas. Here are just a few:

Planning
Project-Based Learning Youth Participation Checklist
Project Planner
Project Timelines
Student Goal Setting and Reflection (tailored to appropriate grade levels)
Goal Setting Activities, Games and Templates

Implementing
Project-Based Learning Implementation Planning Checklist
STEAM Student Self-Monitoring Checklist for Project Work
Classroom Facilitator Packet
Service-Learning Toolbox

Short-Term Goal #4: Train, Train, Train!
You’re in luck! Whether you catch Implementing Project-Based Learning With Y4Y live this week or later in the Y4Y webinar archives, you’ll learn about long-term, student-driven projects in these interactive sessions. Looking to step it up a notch? Have staff engage with the full Project-Based Learning course, or present one of the scripted PowerPoint Trainings-to-Go, like How to Craft a Driving Question or Project-Based Learning in Action.

Areas of Student Support
If you’re still in doubt about the benefits of a long-term project, rest assured that in addition to academic support, you’ll be supporting students’:

Think back to your own formative years, and those long-term projects that might still take up space in your mother’s sewing room. Your unwillingness — or hers — to let them go tells you everything you need to know about the possible impact of those well-designed long-term projects.
 



April 19, 2022

A picture of a city hall building.Citizens young and old are so focused on national politics, they often don’t realize that their neighborhood or town government officials make just as many decisions that impact daily life — or more! Taking tips from two Y4Y courses, Civic Learning and Engagement and Project-Based Learning, discover how even the youngest elementary students can meet their local representatives, learn about the problems impacting their community, and make a difference in the place where they live.

From the Rocks to the Politics

The significant role of local government is coming into sharper focus for communities around the country. From small-town courthouses to the governor’s office, what basic government functions can help students better understand their place? Sarah Johnson, an environmental educator and Y4Y Voices From the Field guest, colorfully describes “learning a place” as involving investigations, “from the rocks to the politics.” This illustrates that learning a place ranges from something as unchanging and objective as a rock to something as fluid and subjective as politics. That fluidity is a good place to start! Why are politics so fluid? Elections! To help students get to know about elections in your area:

  • Arrange to visit a polling place during school board, primary, or local elections. Have a polling official ready to answer student questions about what’s being voted on and what the different outcomes mean.
  • Invite elected officials to come and talk about what they did to be elected and why they decided it was important for them to serve. Start with your local school board members, who’ll likely tell your students it was to see them succeed!
  • Hold an election in your own program for a leadership position that carries some meaning. Even down to your youngest students, if you have a student role or responsibility that the students fight for, make it a monthly elected position and emphasize how important it is to change each month, and the value of having someone who’s an active participant in the program to serve in that role.

Beyond Politics: Governing!

Under that superficial layer of “politicians” — elected officials — lie many layers of government employees who work hard, often without recognition. Recognizing the essential role of these people is an important part of students’ civic learning and engagement. Y4Y developed the Civic Learning and Engagement course specifically to help your program involve students in local governing. Check out these Y4Y tools:

More broadly, you can tailor Y4Y Project-Based Learning course tools by working with partners such as state and local government, courthouse, urban planning, and law enforcement offices; organizations like the Bar Association and Women’s Council; and elected officials at all levels of government including school boards. Ask these professionals to help direct students to real work they can do to contribute as citizens. Check out Y4Y’s:

For additional ideas and guidance on directing students through place-based civics learning, check out Y4Y’s Voices From the Field podcast, The Smithsonian, Sustainable Communities, and Your 21st CCLC Program, with Heidi Gibson, a science curriculum developer. The Smithsonian community research guide for 8- to 17-year-old students, Sustainable Communities? How will we help our community thrive?, is a great, low-tech resource for helping your students gain a deep understanding of the place where they live. All of your students’ place-based learning — in the arts, literacy, human and natural history, STEM, and careers — will ideally culminate in their development as amazing, curious, and contributing citizens of the world. And maybe even more important: citizens of their own community.



April 19, 2022

New York City, USA - April 28, 2019: People study in the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library's main building on Fifth Avenue (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building).Where did the street names in your neighborhood come from? Or park names? Or the names of bodies of water? Diving into local human history might lead you down the path of the language spoken by your city’s first European settlers or the Native Americans who once inhabited it. You might also discover surprising connections to other places and cultures all over the world! Who are the artists and writers influencing the local atmosphere today, and how are they themselves influenced by that atmosphere? Learning about the people, both past and present, who shaped and continue to shape your local culture will connect your students to their community on a whole new level!

Past Is Prologue

These famous words by William Shakespeare tell us to understand and learn from history. Of course, engaging students with dusty old facts can be challenging. Storytelling, however, is appreciated by people of all ages, and oral histories have been a key way for many cultures to pass along important knowledge. Who are some potential program partners in state and local historical societies and libraries? Local tribal elders, organizations like Freemasons, Shriners, and Daughters of the American Revolution? These are people with a passion for local history, and many have a gift for sharing that history in colorful story form.

Be sure to access Y4Y’s course on Student Voice and Choice to drive your place-based historical inquiry. You might work with your partners to draft a questionnaire on what interests your students most, then use the results to drive your activities. Here are some potential questions to explore:

  • What Native peoples lived in the region 500 years ago?
  • What was their lifestyle like?
  • What became of them?
  • What Europeans or other non-Native peoples first settled here?
  • What was their motivation for coming? Did they come here by choice?
  • What were they looking to “create” with the farms/towns/cities they established?
  • Who developed our specific neighborhood or community?
  • How does it differ historically from other neighborhoods or communities around town?

Keeping the ever-changing tapestry of American cities in mind, you can shift your place-based human history to the present by partnering with regional educational and city government officials. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Who are our largest immigrant populations today?
  • What are their motivations for coming?
  • What are they seeking from and for our community?

Effective place-based learning activities around your community’s human history can also help your students to realize that they are creating new history in that community, and that they have the potential to make an even greater impact into adulthood. For example, young people across the country are digging deeper into some historical facts that might not carry much pride in the modern era, and are pressing for school name changes. Although this concept may not sit well with community traditionalists, your partnerships can help your community grow and progress more smoothly through collaboration and mutual understanding.

Creative Influence

In an era of recorded music, audiobooks, online movie streaming, and mass production of art prints, how many adults, let alone young people, are tuned in to their local art and cultural scene? You don’t have to attend the philharmonic or exclusive art gallery openings to take an interest in your local creative culture and learn something about your community’s influencers, and neither do your students! Even more interesting, you can give students cultural and literacy experiences by discovering from local painters, potters, musicians, and authors how the community influences their work.

Start by again asking students what art forms appeal most to them. Then connect with your state and local art, music, and writers’ guilds; dedicated unions in any of these fields; privately operated performance companies such as local ballet, theater, and orchestra; and bookstores — especially independent stores — known to feature local authors:

  • Do any artisans have a studio in walking distance from your program? Why did they choose this neighborhood?
  • Perhaps a mural has been painted and you have an opportunity to connect with its creator to discuss how the piece came about.
  • Are the schools in your district aware of any alumni who have published? Would they be willing to work with you on a place-based literacy activity?
  • Summer street fairs are rich with local artisans of all forms. Maybe your summer program can connect with organizers to learn which artists are passionate about the region, and you can partner for a place-based art lesson.
  • Is there an accomplished local musician who can be found on the same corner of town on a regular basis, guitar in hand, their case open for contributions? Help students understand how accepting donations for performances (“busking”) differs from panhandling. Some may say street musicians or buskers enrich that neighborhood. What do nearby merchants and residents say about it?

Here are a few useful Y4Y tools to take on this place-based learning of human history and culture:

Author Paul Gruchow notes in Discovering the Universe of Home, “I read, in the course of 12 years of English instruction, many useful and stimulating books, but I never learned that someone who had won a National Book award for poetry… lived and worked on a farm 30 miles from my house…. I had not imagined, or been encouraged to imagine, that it was possible to live in the country, and to write books too…. I was left to unearth by my own devices, years later, the whole fine literature of my place.” Help your students to discover what rich human history and creative works have inspired and been inspired by the place in which they live.



April 11, 2022

Career pathways exploration may involve those fantasy jobs like astronaut or deepwater diver that aren’t found on every corner of every town. But Y4Y’s course on career pathways can direct you toward activities you can plan to expand students’ awareness of education and career opportunities close to home. Some students in 21st CCLC programs may not see themselves ever straying far from the community they grew up in, while others may think leaving is their only option. Either way, early connections to career paths and possibilities right in their own backyard will give students more investment in the community today and better ensure their future success and contribution to the world around them, no matter where they end up.

Partnerships

When taking a place-based approach to exploring career pathways with students, you might start by asking yourself a question: How do local commerce and industry ­— whether historically based on plentiful natural resources or recently developed based on community needs like technology or healthcare ­— impact the community’s success and culture?

  1. Who can help you answer this question? Consider new partnerships with state and local commerce offices, employment and workforce guidance departments; labor unions; media outlets; military recruiters; and organizations like the Rotary Club. Tools like Y4Y’s Identifying Partners, Community Asset Mapping, and Mapping Needs to Partners can help you figure out the best place to start. Other tools in the Y4Y Strategic Partnerships course will be useful in reaching out, like Creating a Program Elevator Speech and Planning for Developing Program Champions.
  2. What will student research look like? You have many options to help students better understand the relationship between commerce/industry and community success and culture. Representatives from your new partnerships can come speak to students. They can recommend internet sites to explore. Or they can answer your staff members’ questions so they can share the information with students through engaging activities.
  3. Remember school partners. What school curriculum involves research on local or state commerce/industry? Where can your program support that learning, and where can you fill gaps?

An Age-Appropriate Approach

Your 21st CCLC program is the perfect environment to introduce early career exploration! Y4Y’s new course on this topic offers a useful framework and many tools for designing age-appropriate activities. And centering those activities on your community will make them all the more relevant and meaningful to young minds.

  • Share Y4Y’s Tips for Families: Preparing Children and Youth for Success. This tool guides families through the kinds of everyday practices and day trips in their neighborhoods that can help ensure that their students start connecting early with the idea of a future profession in the place where they live. Examples include visiting nearby nature centers and attending cultural events — anything that’s offered in the neighborhood will do. Even young students can be brought to college and job fairs in the community; encourage families to ask lots of questions of the booth attendants. If you’ve ever staffed a booth, you know how nice it is to have people genuinely interested in what you’re there to talk about, no matter their age!
  • Work with community partners when reviewing results of the Y4Y Elementary Student Interest Inventory. For example, the Rotary Club president might have ideas on how students who love measuring and paper airplane designs could connect with a local architect for a “day at the office,” or how one who loves animals and gardening might spend time touring a nearby farm.
  • Y4Y’s Career Pathways Activity Design Guidebook offers many more ideas. Through the lens of place-based learning, make the most of suggestions like the guidebook’s Strategy 6: Use Coaching and Mentoring Opportunities. At all academic levels, find special adults in the community to cement those magical two-way relationships. This way, the community is making a personal, direct investment in its future through your students, and the students begin to see themselves as an integral part of the community.

Author Paul Gruchow, in his work Discovering the Universe of Home notes, “Nothing in my education prepared me to believe, or encouraged me to expect, that there was any reason to be interested in my own place. If I hoped to amount to anything, I understood, I had better take the first road east out of town as fast as I could. And, like so many of my classmates, I did.” Yes, you want your students to believe — to know — they can become astronauts or deepwater divers if it is their greatest dream. But you can and should begin at home with the wealth of career possibilities hiding in plain sight in your students’ very own place.



February 3, 2022

The data are in: “Adaptation of children in disasters depends on the resilience of interconnected systems, including families, schools, communities, and policy sectors.” Throughout the U.S., in the past two months alone, communities have faced unprecedented fires, tornados, flooding, and freezing temperatures with loss of power. The entire country is facing surges in COVID-19, and with them, more school closings and virtual learning, illness and loss, and economic impacts. Who are your partners in critical efforts to buoy students through recovery? The school district? Parents? Reflections on an invited paper in the International Journal of Psychology suggest you can use Y4Y professional development resources to arrive at common language and align practices with these partners to build student resilience as a group effort.

Safety Planning and Implementation

A Y4Y Click & Go offers a mini-lesson to bring you up to speed on the basics of safety preparedness missions, alignment with your host organization, and the roles of each staff member. The Click & Go includes podcasts that further explain safety planning, host organization plans, developing and implementing a program-specific plan, and how to practice safety with appropriate sensitivity to the emotional needs of students. There are tools to help you put it all in place. If your program is already implementing a safety plan, you can use the Click & Go to ensure common language, alignment, and clear roles among partners. These steps can strengthen what the paper cited above calls “the resilience of interconnected systems.”

Partnership and Communication

Many Y4Y resources can be tapped to reinforce the strength of your community and family partnerships, both from a structural perspective — like aligned policies and practices — and from a social perspective — like shared culture and climate. Check out these partnership- and communication-building tools:

Cross-organizational trainings and regular reminders can help you keep everyone on the same page. Program leaders can review the Y4Y trainings listed below and pull out the most relevant information to share with staff and partners:

Student Well-Being

With all your adult-to-adult group efforts strengthened, you’ll be ready to decide together what student well-being looks like and how priorities are set. Remember to assign those priorities according to school- and student-level data in your district. At this moment in history, those data may well include the number of homes destroyed, loved ones lost, or students living with food insecurity. Revisit the vast collection of Y4Y data collection tools if you’re unsure how to carry out this critical step. Then, use the tools below to shape the priorities of your group effort in ways that are developmentally appropriate, honor social and emotional growth, and acknowledge the likely presence and impact of trauma:

As with building communication among partners, consider cross-organizational training on student well-being with Y4Y resources like these:

The proverb It takes a village to raise a child has evidence behind it today. The question your community needs to ask itself is: What does “raise” mean? One thing you’re sure to agree on is this: You can’t put children in a bubble. You can’t protect them from tough times. What you can do is prepare them for tough times with supports that build their resilience — their ability to learn and grow from those tough times. A look at the data confirms that when you do this as a community, you’ll have the greatest chance for success.