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October 10, 2019

“Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself. After you become a leader, success is about growing others.” As a 21st CCLC program leader, you no doubt see the wisdom in this insight from business leader Jack Welch. After all, supporting and acknowledging your team’s professional growth benefits your program as well as individual staff members. It also helps you retain staff because it shows you’re invested in their success and treasure their contributions.

Y4Y’s new online Human Resources course walks you through nine key strategies you can use to manage and develop your staff. It covers everything from hiring to training to building a positive work environment to managing staff performance. Here are three tips you can start using right away:

Help staff members find their sweet spot. If Natalie loves to plan, enlist her to help plan the next Family Literacy Event or Citizen Science Experience. Once she’s had success, provide opportunities for her to grow her skills and use them in new ways. For example, ask her to lead a planning team, create an event planning checklist for staff, train others in event planning, or join a strategic planning session. If these tasks seem to take her out of her comfort zone, provide encouragement and support. Helping her find the “sweet spot” between current and potential abilities will help her grow.

Provide feedback to focus and inspire your staff. Let’s say Natalie loves planning so much that she offers to help students plan their culminating project presentations. As you observe her interact with students, you hear her say things like “Let’s do it this way” and “Here’s a better idea.” Should you call her aside and say, “Natalie, you’re making too many decisions for students instead of letting them make their own. I’d like to see you improve in this area.” Or should you say, “Natalie, I’d love for our students to develop their project planning and decision-making skills. Would you be willing to team with Linda to plan some coaching strategies to help students learn and practice these skills?” Which feedback is more likely to inspire and support Natalie in changing her approach? For most people, the second approach works best. See the Coaching My Staff section of Y4Y’s Human Resources course for ways to coach your staff (especially site coordinators) to program gold!

Recognize good work. Use formal and informal strategies to tell staff members their contributions are noticed and valued. For example, during employee reviews, be specific and give examples of what employees do well. Implement an employee recognition system to spotlight effort, innovation, problem solving and results. Recognize individual and team efforts. See Y4Y’s Employee Retention Training to Go for ideas you and other program leaders can use to keep staff engaged.

For more ideas on ways to treasure your staff and help them grow, see Y4Y’s new Human Resources course. To share your own ideas and success stories, leave a comment below. 



July 16, 2019

The featured link in this month’s Y4Y newsletter, Teaching and Learning STEM in 21st CCLC Programs, takes you to a thought-provoking webinar. The content helps out-of-school time educators think about the bright future they can open for students who have traditionally had little access to the broad spectrum of STEM-related careers. Let’s consider these gleaming rays of sunshine:

What Is My STEM Identity?

Every student has a “STEM identity” — a term gaining traction in research and educational communities — which means the degree to which a student relates to science, technology, engineering and math, and how they see themselves as STEM learners. This will start at home, depending on the careers of family members and friends a student has been exposed to. But good news! It won’t end there. The sooner educators offer fun and exciting learning opportunities to students, the healthier their STEM identity will become.

What Are the Advantages of STEM Education in 21st CCLC Programs?

There is so much flexibility in STEM curriculum in 21st CCLC programs that school-day teachers can’t take advantage of. Use student voice to determine what your students are most interested in. If it seems like favorite topics are unrelated to STEM, get creative! Even fashion design, football and finance have traceable roots in STEM, and you can help students seek them out. When students can connect STEM experiences to their own lives, the lessons are more meaningful to them. Another great idea is to tie student interests to the STEM lessons of their school day. Out-of-school time programs often involve students from several grades; consider this an asset, not a liability. Projects can be scaffolded to give smaller tasks to smaller students and help them feel like they are a part of something bigger; meanwhile older students reap the intellectual and social rewards of teaching and helping. And while you might be measuring their progress, students know they don’t have a school-day grade hanging in the balance.

Where Is This Headed? Citizen Science Is the Wave of the Future!

Speaking of waves, did you know that centuries-old “tsunami stones” pepper the Japanese coastline to warn future generations about flood dangers if they build too close to the shoreline? The spirit of sharing scientific observation for the good of all has a rich history, and citizen science captures this practice by asking everyday citizens to report observations on water quality, bird migrations and everything between. Engaging students in citizen science is the fastest way to develop their STEM identity, partly because projects — whether local, national or international — provide a learning opportunity. These projects, many of which are found readily online, also provide students a contributing opportunity.

Pioneering Partners: Where Would Doc Brown Be Without Marty McFly?

Absurd science fiction or not, Doc Brown’s vision took a curious, adventurous Marty McFly to visit the future. So, don’t worry about “bothering” the local botanist at the university extension office, engineer at the power company, or chemist at a nearby manufacturer when you want someone to partner in an educational opportunity for your students. Remember three things: (1) an adult in every STEM professional’s student life helped build their STEM identity, and they’ll be gratified to do the same; (2) these are not careers one stumbles into, so STEM professionals tend to be passionate about and eager to share their work; and (3) real-world practitioners are your best source for ideas about hands-on learning projects and tying STEM subjects to career paths.

No One Knows the Future Like NASA!

As the country celebrates the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Y4Y wants to recognize one of the U.S. Department of Education’s partners in STEM education and the future, NASA. All 21st CCLC professionals are encouraged to acquaint themselves with the incredible real-world design challenges NASA has created. Are you running a summer program? Want to get involved with NASA? Click here to view creative ideas on how to get involved with the 50th anniversary of the first humans landing on the Moon!

For more great tips on making the most of your STEM education programs, check out the Y4Y webinar series Unlocking Possibilities: Bringing STEM to Life, which includes an event dedicated to citizen science.



May 22, 2019

A 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 17 percent of teens “often” or “sometimes” can’t complete homework assignments because they don’t have access to a computer or the internet. This situation is so common that it has a name: the homework gap. The students most likely to have this challenge are Black teens and those from lower-income households.

Students with no computer or internet access at home might depend on your 21st CCLC program for access. Here are three ways your program can help bridge the homework gap:

  • Pinpoint technology needs. Survey students and teachers to identify technology needs. Computers, a printer and internet access are “givens.” But what if a biology assignment calls for an original, illustrated presentation? Can your program provide access to presentation software and a digital camera? What if a future engineer wants to join a live online study group moderated by a NASA scientist? Do you have an internet-connected computer in a quiet area so the student can fully participate? There may be other needs, like access to a graphing calculator or a handheld GPS unit.
  • Use strategy and collaboration to meet identified needs. If you find technology needs beyond the reach of the program budget and resources, look elsewhere. Might the school provide access to its technology lab? Have you checked your local library? Some libraries loan digital cameras, video cameras, tripods, telescopes, microscopes and other hardware. Might a local business or community organization loan or donate new or used items to your program? You might be surprised at people’s willingness to help, once you tell them what you need and why.
  • Make technology part of your program activities. Make sure your students don’t “sit on the sidelines” when it comes to technology. If you have limited tech abilities yourself, invite a tech-savvy parent, college student or volunteer to coach. Your students will love watching you make mistakes as you learn along with them! Robotics and coding are popular activities in many 21st CCLC programs. Creating a blog or a podcast is a great way to integrate technology into project-based learning. Maybe your students can help you set up a videoconference with a professional geologist or weather forecaster as part of a citizen science project. Building skills and confidence with technology is important to students’ future success.

Visit the Y4Y website for more ideas on making technology part of your program and providing homework help.

 

Reference

Anderson, M., & Perrin, A. (2018, October 26). Nearly one-in-five teens can’t always finish their homework because of the digital divide. Pew Research Center Fact Tank.



January 24, 2019

Do your students think of scientists as loners in lab coats? Citizen science can change their minds and spark new interests — especially when you add social media to the mix.

Citizen science enlists people of all ages in collecting and sharing data for research purposes. It’s nothing new. In fact, the first Farmers’ Almanac more than 200 years ago relied on the general population for data, although they didn’t call it crowdsourcing at that time. It’s a way for your students to work and learn with others, either virtually or in real time, on authentic science projects. For some, the experience could be a game changer. It might even spark an interest in subjects and careers that previously seemed beyond their reach.

There’s a citizen science project to match just about every interest area, and several involve social media:

  • Fascinated by creepy-crawly things? Do a bioblitz! It’s a species inventory that involves observing, recording and documenting living things in a well-defined area in a short period of time. This group project will get students working and talking together in real time — plus they can use apps like iNaturalist and Fieldscope to share and discuss their findings with other citizen scientists across the world. Get instructions for a do-it-yourself bioblitz from National Geographic. Watch this 2.5-minute video to hear what students and organizers say about their schoolyard bioblitz experience.
  • Enjoy word games? The VerbCorner website collects data from humans as they play word games to help computers better understand the nuances of the English language. The site includes an online discussion forum.
  • Are you a cloud watcher? Download NASA’s GLOBE Observer app, contribute your observation data, and connect to the project’s worldwide community of cloud observers via Facebook and Twitter.    
  • Interested in innovation? Visit citizenscience.gov for a U.S. government-wide listing of citizen science and crowdsourcing projects designed to help local, state and federal agencies accelerate innovation through public participation.
  • Want more options? Citisci.org lets you participate in projects created by other citizen scientists or create your own. SciStarter lets you search for projects that match your interests and track your contributions. Scientific American features a variety of real science projects to join. Zooniverse has citizen science projects in medicine, history, literature, social science, the arts and more. Also try searching on #citizenscience.

For links to more citizen science projects, see the Introduction section of Y4Y’s Citizen Science course. The Coaching My Staff section of the course has resources to help train staff and students. See this Y4Y blog post for pointers on integrating technology into activities.

If you haven’t yet dipped your toes into citizen science activities, take a look! Then bring your planning team together to consider what might fit into your spring and summer sessions.

Meanwhile, if you’re in the mood for crowdsourcing, feel free to share your own citizen science stories and ideas; just look for Leave a Reply below. Your 21st CCLC colleagues will thank you.  



October 24, 2018

Looking back on his childhood, nature writer Paul Gruchow lamented not knowing that his town’s leading banker wrote an important book about Minnesota’s native prairie. “I can only imagine now what it might have meant to me — a studious boy with a love of nature — to know that a great scholar of natural history had made a full and satisfying life in my town,” he wrote.

Too bad no one at Gruchow’s school (or afterschool program) invited the banker to share his passion for botany with local students. But chances are, they weren’t even aware of it!

Until you go looking, you may not realize how much knowledge and talent is around you. Maybe the district Title I coordinator is also a Master Gardener. The high school Spanish teacher could be a yoga instructor. Maybe your local insurance agent goes rock climbing on weekends, your son’s coach bakes special event cakes and the school secretary paints landscapes. Thrills and skills with student appeal may be just down the hall and around the corner. Here are tips on finding and recruiting local experts to enrich your program.

Three Places to Look

  • Institutions and organizations: Government agencies and universities often have outreach offices or participate in community service events. For example, agricultural extension offices offer programs and experts to interest young people in citizen science and develop skills they can use throughout their lives.
  • Social networks: What interests and hobbies do your friends mention in their profiles or posts? What local groups or clubs have an online presence? If your students are interested in astronomy, you or an online friend probably knows someone who knows someone who does star parties.
  • Everyday life: Every person you know or meet — at school, work, church, the gym, local businesses, community events, family reunions — is a potential contributor. Keep your eyes and ears open.

Two Ways to Recruit

  • Personal contact: If you learn the local banker is a botanist, why not make your pitch: “Hi! This is Ms. Talent Scout, and I work in our local 21st CCLC afterschool program. I just heard that you wrote a book about local plants. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to share your knowledge with our students. Could we talk sometime soon?”
  • Call for volunteers: Maybe you’re looking for expertise in a specific area, like photography or financial planning. Or maybe you could issue a general invitation for students’ family members and others in the school or community to share their knowledge, skills and interests. Either way, put out the word in newsletters, bulletin boards, social networks and word of mouth.

Be Prepared If a Local Expert Says Yes

  • Offer a variety of formats and time frames, ranging from a single event to a series of activities to one-on-one mentoring. Both you and the person you recruit might want to “start small” before committing to long-term involvement.
  • Be prepared to support local experts, once they get involved. Watch for ideas in an upcoming Y4Y blog post! 

Ready to get started?

Y4Y’s student interest inventories (one for elementary students and another for secondary students) can help you identify topics. But remember: Bringing in an outside expert is also a good way to introduce new ideas and spark students’ curiosity. As Paul Gruchow wrote, “Curiosity, imagination, inventiveness expand with use, like muscles, and atrophy with neglect.”