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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

Young students sitting around a table drawingAs a close second after the fear of public speaking, most of us have at least a little fear of putting our creative selves out there. But the willingness to share our literary or scientific ideas, or our artistic creations — even if we feel vulnerable — is what keeps us moving forward. Y4Y’s new Click & Go on makerspaces can help you guide students as they discover the risks and rewards of “making.” Y4Y resources on creative teamwork, design thinking, and problem-based learning will also support your efforts. Did your program participate in this month’s Date to Create? Whether it happens on August 8 or any other day of the year, show students how to support each other’s creativity.

Mission: Makerspace

Makerspaces began as an adult practice in the most forward-thinking companies, but they’ve since been adapted to educational settings for students of all ages. Makerspaces recognize and celebrate all that can be learned through tinkering and play, especially thinking critically, collaborating, and communicating. Are you considering a makerspace in your program? If so, congratulations on shifting to a “maker culture” where you encourage students to explore and innovate as you put student interests at the center of everything you do.

The Creating a Makerspace Click & Go mini-lesson introduces you to potential outcomes and simple steps for developing your makerspace based on evidence-based practices. It walks you through:

  1. Understanding your learners
  2. Evaluating existing program offerings and school-day curricula
  3. Considering global trends and best practices
  4. Developing a theme
  5. Gathering your resources

These steps are accompanied by new Y4Y podcasts and tools — with just a few linked above — to turn the idea of a makerspace into a reality that suits your program needs. After spending just 30 minutes with this content, you’ll gain key takeaways for supporting creativity, like:

  • A culture that rejects “right-answer thinking” in favor of different-answer thinking builds confidence.
  • There are no mistakes, only opportunities to discover ways to improve (a central idea in the design thinking framework).
  • Establishing student roles for group work in a makerspace can foster mutual support of creativity by developing interdependence.
  • Emphasizing questions over answers grows excitement for exploring possibilities rather than simply arriving at a destination.

Creativity Comes in Many Forms

Fostering creativity doesn’t just mean putting a paintbrush in everyone’s hand and saying, “Now get to work!” Instead, you’re encouraging students to act on their unique creative impulses. For example, some students might want a pen, musical instrument, or dance floor instead of a paintbrush! By laying the groundwork for your tailor-made makerspace — consisting of anything from popsicle sticks to computer software and many things in between ­— your program can support creativity year-round.



July 26, 2022

July’s the perfect time to think about expanding your program’s sisterhood (and brotherhood)! Use this helpful checklist to lay the groundwork for staff recruitment and retention as you plan for fall programming. 

  • Budget time for defining or refining your organizational culture and climate. Y4Y’s Click & Go on this important step walks you through how to break down this work if it’s all new to you. Chart your plan using the Implementation Checklist.
  • Show your dedication to an inclusive process by using Y4Y’s Culture and Climate Perception Surveys for staff and students. 
  • Establish or reinforce an effective, ongoing communications channel where staff feel safe providing feedback. This involves a compassionate management style, consistent team meetings, and a way for staff to give anonymous comments to leadership. Y4Y’s Effective Workplace Communication Training to Go can help.
  • Ask for staff input on the qualities they’d like to see in their future coworkers. Then be sure to honor that input when you advertise and consider new candidates. Who knew “resilience” would become a top characteristic that an employer might seek? Yet here we are.
  • Be sure all methods of human resources outreach are updated to reflect the shifts you’ve made in your culture and climate, and why you’ve made them. 
  • Budget time and resources for professional development throughout the program year. The more intentional you are in the planning phase, the more effective your training will be this year. Reminder: Slide 1.6 of the Coaching My Staff section of the Y4Y Introduction to 21st CCLC course can walk you through an assessment of your program professional development needs.
  • Consider a formal mentorship program to match veteran and rookie staff members and foster the sisterhood/brotherhood you’re reaching for.

Start the Healing
The pandemic has impacted employee connections and turnover across most industries. The “sisterhood/brotherhood” metaphor rings true in education because the extreme challenges you’ve faced together for over two years draw you close like family, yet it’s also true that we often turn on those people we’re closest to. You and your 21st CCLC staff deserve a glacier of credit just for showing up, not to mention how consistently you’ve worked to support student academic and emotional recovery. But your staff’s high expectations for themselves and each other might have taken a toll. It may seem impossible to ask staff for more or different investments in students and in your program without risking more burnout or diminishing wellness. 

So, what’s the solution?

The not-so-easy answer is: It will be different in every program. Certainly, every program should emphasize principles of mutual respect in all things. But gone are the days when organization leaders develop language around culture and climate without consulting the people that make up the organization. Your program family will gain strength only by listening to and celebrating every voice. This practice helps you expand your program’s appeal to current and prospective program staff (“brothers and sisters”) who want to leave work each day knowing they made a difference.
 



July 26, 2022

What opportunities do you offer in your 21st CCLC program for older and younger students to interact? How can that interaction benefit both parties? With tips from Y4Y’s Stages of Child and Adolescent Development and other courses and resources, explore ideas for the fall that can help all students grow socially, academically, and emotionally by forming big/little sister and brother types of bonds.

Research Speaks
Pairing students in similar age groups — whether they’re the same age or a few years apart — falls under the highly regarded pedagogical approach of peer instruction. A great deal of research shows that peer instruction can lead to better conceptual understanding, more effective problem-solving skills, increased student engagement, and greater retention of students (in science especially). These academic outcomes are true for both the younger student (who enjoys the attention of an older student) and the older student (who deepens their understanding by unpacking a topic well enough to explain it to someone else). But the benefits don’t end there. Y4Y’s course on stages of child and adolescent development, specifically the development matrix, can help you recognize the fertile ground of students’ social and emotional development and how you can help guide relationships to make the most of these opportunities.

Many 21st CCLC programs say younger students:

  • Are flattered and honored at forming friendships with older students, and it nurtures their self-esteem. Whether during the elementary years when self-image is being developed or adolescence when it’s suffering a bit, their confidence will get a boost.
  • Improve their goal setting. The adults in your program rank right up there with parents when it comes to students identifying with their elders, but close interactions with a student just a few years older can give that younger student ideas about realistic and attainable goals. This can include “do’s” and even a few “don’ts.”
  • Are inspired to do their very best. These relationships won’t be exactly like sibling relationships (surely you’ll be spared the hair pulling and the arm punching), but the upside of youngsters wanting to impress the “older sibling” is ironclad.
  • Learn through modeling. Younger students watch olders’ every move and interaction. Provide tips and training to older students about expectations and appropriate behaviors for working with younger students. Older students who model mature behavior can support healthy social and emotional development.
  • Gain a confidant. Young students could be grappling with everything from secrets about birthday presents to much more difficult subjects. A slightly older friend might offer a comfortable avenue for younger students to confide in. Be sure older students understand how to respond if a younger student confides something that seems especially troubling or disturbing. They might need help deciding which “secrets” to keep and which ones to share with an adult.

Many 21st CCLC programs say older students:

  • Are inspired to do their very best. Especially if your “older students” are in the thick of adolescence, the unbridled enthusiasm of younger students can pull them out of their shells into new (old!) bursts of creativity.
  • Develop empathy. This might be the greatest reason of all to implement those big sibling/little sibling kinds of relationships — offering students a concrete way to consider the thoughts and feelings of another person is a fast track out of narcissistic thinking.
  • Start thinking in terms of community. Your program can foster a sense of community all day long, but this has true meaning for students only when they see how they can personally make a difference. Starting inside your program helps students develop the practice of “giving back” that helps them develop as good citizens.
  • Improve their attendance. Once older sisters and brothers recognize a younger student is depending on them, they’re less likely to blow off your program, and we all know the benefit in that!

Keep It Simple
You don’t have to be ambitious about bringing students of different ages together, whether it’s for occasional tutoring, a large-group project, or social activities like icebreakers. You might be surprised at the ideas they come up with all on their own to strengthen their sisterly (and brotherly) bonds!