You for Youth logo
Online Professional Learning and
Technical Assistance for
21st Century Community Learning Centers
  1. Contact Us
  2. Join
  3. Sign In

January 22, 2020

Fifty years ago, Mary Poppins advised that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and vitamin manufacturers took note. Before you knew it, kids were clamoring for their daily dose. Y4Y’s recently archived webinar, “College and Career Readiness (CCR): Elementary” explores benefits and practical ideas in introducing elementary students to planning for their futures. But the sugar and bright coloring in this arena is, quite simply, playtime!

You don’t need to think of CCR as something that demands dedicated time and resources. Rather, like a multivitamin, a CCR framework can be a tidy way of bringing together current program initiatives like literacy, STEM, social and emotional learning, and more. Here’s an overview of the kinds of structured thinking you can apply to your intentionally designed activities to start preparing young students for their future careers.

Stepping Stones: What’s the Connection?

Since elementary students love to imagine themselves in various adult roles, 21st CCLC programs are the perfect place to infuse the structure that will convert natural playtime into visible stepping stones to future careers. Y4Y offers a Career Station Planner, for example, to get those creative juices flowing. Studies show you’ll improve engagement when students can see how their learning builds on what they already know. Your job is not to push all seven-year-olds toward college, but to open their eyes to limitless career options, and to the types of skills and knowledge (stepping stones) they can gain along the way to make each option a reality.

Three goals should drive your intentional CCR activities for elementary and middle school students: connecting academic learning to higher education and careers, expanding student options and awareness of career options, and encouraging 21st century thinking skills. How do you think? What do you know or not know? What steps or actions are required? These are questions you can ask and explore with your students.

Employability Skills: Plays Well with Others?

The U.S. Department of Education has established nine critical skill areas for employment in any field. These skills are an important component of CCR. It’s never too early to be thinking about how growth in each of these can be woven into 21st CCLC activities.

Effective relationships:

  • Interpersonal skills: Give a less-than-natural leader a quiet leadership role, such as writing out rules for a new board game.
  • Personal qualities: Call out the value of honesty and propose that a specific student be named the banker in a game of “town.”

Workplace skills:

  • Technology use: Can the program’s computer be used for some new application?
  • Systems thinking: Empty your desk or cubby and reorganize!
  • Information use: Take five fun facts about dogs and suggest a new product.
  • Resource management (time, money, materials, people): Build a five-layer pyramid using all the clay in front of you. How much is needed for each level?
  • Communication skills: Charades!

Applied knowledge:

  • Applied academic skills: What did you learn in math today, and can you think of how you might use that lesson at the grocery store this weekend?
  • Critical thinking skills: Name some things a teacher, a firefighter, a doctor, a postal worker and a car salesperson have in common in their jobs.

Flavors of Activities: Grape, Cherry or Hands-on?

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the elements of possible 21st CCLC activities that could be structured to get young students thinking about future careers, consider to what degree the activity engages students. Time, student needs and abilities, and resources will demand that all of the following levels of engagement be incorporated into your program at different times:

  • Awareness: These activities are simple exposures to possible careers and educational paths. They help students connect academic learning to possible applications. This could be an introduction to various mentors and role models. For example, you could invite a local physician to be a guest speaker. You might ask her to talk about what it’s like to be a doctor, to share her experience with schooling, and to explain that there are many different specializations within the medical field. Check out Y4Y’s Awareness Activities tool for more ideas.
  • Preparation: These activities develop goals and outline steps to accomplish those goals, such as completing paperwork or practicing life skills. One example might be a show-and-tell career day that includes costumes. Students could be given a writing assignment that mimics the work, such as a scientist’s lab report or an attorney’s closing argument in the case of the missing jelly beans. Check out Y4Y’s Preparation Activities Planner to get started.
  • Exploration: These activities go beyond awareness and preparation activities to offer students more independence and a deeper exposure to careers in their areas of interest. More important, exploration activities start to connect student interests (such as sports, being outdoors or “becoming rich”) to a wealth of career options. One example might be touring a science lab and interviewing people in various job roles in that facility. For older students, be sure to consult Y4Y’s Exploration Toolkit (Grades 6-12).

Bring Those Partners Along

Families will play the crucial role in CCR activities that they always do in 21st CCLC programs. Offer families tips on exposing their young students to career options. Survey parents on their child’s interests, however unrelated to career options they might seem. Your parent base is always the best place to start for professional examples. Students’ family members may welcome the opportunity to demonstrate that skills and knowledge are needed in every job. Next, reach out to the community, bearing in mind that some of your students may not have access to professionals in STEM or finance careers, for example. Partners in institutions of higher learning, whether universities or trade schools, can help connect students’ favorite playtime activities to real careers.

Career Counselors à Gogo

Who knew when you signed up to work with elementary students in a 21st CCLC program that you’d be adding “career counselor” to your job description? Besides Ms. Poppins, be sure to get advice from Y4Y’s CCR Train Your Staff materials around building college and career readiness, engaging families and planning age-appropriate activities. You may not staff magical nannies, but as a well-trained team, you’re sure to create a happy head start for your students.



March 22, 2018

The  term “well-rounded education” occurs 24 times in federal education law (the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA). What does it mean, and how is it related to 21st CCLC activities? 
 
A Well-Rounded Education Includes Many Subjects and Experiences
First, let’s see how ESSA defines the term: 
 
"WELL-ROUNDED EDUCATION — The term ‘well-rounded education’ means courses, activities, and programming in subjects such as English, reading or language arts, writing, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, geography, computer science, music, career and technical education, health, physical education, and any other subject, as determined by the State or local educational agency, with the purpose of providing all students access to an enriched curriculum and educational experience.’’ 
 
The ESSA list of subjects includes many that are already part of 21st CCLC programming, and it opens the door to potential areas of collaboration with schools. As you work with the school to identify high-priority student needs, look for ways to enhance what the school is already doing. Could your program use music and arts to explore mathematics, or use Reader’s Theater to expand students’ knowledge of history and other subjects? Could your students increase their own knowledge about exercise and nutrition by organizing a community health fair? Y4Y courses and resources offer many possibilities. Here are links to just a few:
Every Student Deserves a Well-Rounded Education
The title of the federal legislation (ESSA) refers to “every student,” and the definition of “well-rounded education” includes “all students.” That means every ethnicity, every socioeconomic group and every ability. An intentionally designed 21st CCLC program targets specific academic needs within specific grade levels. In many cases, students with disabilities will be among the students with the greatest needs and you can encourage these students to apply. They can benefit from the academic enrichment and social development experiences your program offers. Including students with disabilities can be easier and more rewarding than you might imagine. See these Y4Y resources: 

User-friendly, topic-focused guides and webinars provide strategies and best practices from experts and practitioners.

Start Planning Now
Add the above Y4Y resources to your current favorites, and use it as you plan student recruitment, projects and activities for your next program session.


February 23, 2018

Guest blogger: David Mazza, Y4Y Educational Technology Specialist

Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, MapQuest, Snapchat Stories, Skype, Google Hangouts, Google Duo, Periscope, Vine, Peeks Social — these are a few of the many apps available today. I’m often asked, “Should we use these apps for educational activities?” It sounds like a yes-or-no question, but it’s not. Here are two important follow-up questions that can help you decide.

Will technology enhance your activity, or be a distraction?

The first thing to consider is whether technology is appropriate for the activity you’re planning. Sometimes it seems that young people, not to mention adults, stare at screens or use mobile devices day and night. On city sidewalks, it’s common to pass one person after another who’s texting or talking on their phone. Hopefully you’ve avoided getting run over by these distracted pedestrians! On elevators, have you ever responded to a “hello” only to realize the stranger next to you wasn’t talking to you, but was on a cell phone? In restaurants, have you noticed families or groups sitting together at a table but interacting with their devices instead of with each other?

Technology is part of our lives, but as these examples show, there are trade-offs. What are we missing when we bring technology along as we walk outdoors, engage in everyday activities, and visit with friends and family? You can apply this question as you consider whether to make technology part of any activity you’re planning for students. What benefits might technology bring to the activity? What might students miss by bringing technology along? Will it enhance your activity, or be a distraction?

If your goal is to have students learn about forest management, and you plan to engage a forest ranger from a remote location to provide expertise, the answer could be Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype. (See this Y4Y blog post for ideas on videoconferencing.) If your activity is a walk in the forest, however, and the goal is to help students sharpen their observation skills, it might be best to leave technology behind and have them “take pictures” mentally.

What are the options for apps that will enhance the activity and be enjoyable for students to use?

A multitude of free apps are available, but if you don’t know about them or haven’t used them, how can you determine which ones might work well? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Ask around. You can always do a Google search to get started. First, though, ask family, friends, colleagues and students about their favorite apps and their uses. Most people love sharing their favorites. Asking students can help you learn about apps they already like and use. Here are a few of my favs for skywatching:

  • MyScript Calculator
  • Meteor Shower Calendar
  • Phases of the Moon
  • Sky Map
  • EQInfo

Play around. Start with a suggested app that looks interesting to you. Download it and spend some time playing with the app. Consider possible ways to integrate it into an activity. For example, could students use Facebook Live or Periscope to present a project they’ve done, or to let a homebound family member watch as they perform an original skit, song, dance or story?

Try it with your students! If your students are struggling with mathematical concepts, you might use Skype to have a local carpet installer show how they calculate the area of a room to make sure they order the right amount of carpet. Or an auto mechanic might show how they calculate angles for pipe bending. These examples show real-world applications of concepts taught in math classes. Skyping with experts from various fields can also introduce students to careers they otherwise might not consider.

I’d be happy to discuss more about using apps effectively with students. I’d also love to hear about your favorite apps and how you use them. Leave a reply below!



September 21, 2017

A new school year has started, and your students are that much closer to making decisions about the future. You can help them be ready!

Did you know that when ACT analyzed 2016 test results, it found only one in four U.S. high school seniors are college and career ready?By focusing on a mix of academics and employability skills,2 your 21st CCLC program can provide fantastic opportunities for students to learn and apply knowledge and skills, interact with others to identify and solve problems, and develop workplace skills such as communication and resource management — all skills required for college and career success. Y4Y is here to help you kick-start your efforts! Here are three things you should know before diving in:

1. College and career readiness has importance for all age groups — yes, even the youngsters!

In elementary school, responses like “I can do that!” and “Let me try!” are common as students engage in hands-on activities. These attitudes will serve them well as they get closer to entering college and careers. So give them opportunities to work and play with ideas and materials related to various careers (for example: robots!). 

Consider using career stations for grades K-5. For grades 6-12, use the Y4Y Exploration Toolkit to help students explore careers that match their interests and strengths. 

2. Projects offer a powerful way to prepare students for college and career success.

This is all about tapping into young people’s natural excitement and curiosity to help them gain academic and 21st century skills connected to possible college and career paths. Try these project ideas to start: 

- Service learning. Connect youth to projects that have positive impacts on local communities.

- The arts. Give students opportunities to work with teaching artists, to connect with local arts organizations, to lead or join a project team, and to showcase what they learn (in music, theater, dance or visual arts) for the larger community.

- Citizen science. Students can support real projects by becoming citizen scientists and using the skills professional researchers use, such as observing and recording data. For example, they can help map the surface of Mars by joining NASA’s Be a Martian project.  

Use Y4Y’s Tips for Programs for more ideas.

3. Families want to know about low- and no-cost ways to help children succeed in school and beyond.

Nature walks, snack preparation, trips to the library, late-night talks about the trials and tribulations of playing team sports — through simple activities like these, families can help their children explore their world. Every day offers hidden opportunities to use and practice reading, math and other skills! Tell families about simple things they can do to prepare their children for college and career success. 

Use Y4Y’s Tips for Families for 10 practical ideas to share with families.

As a 21st CCLC practitioner, you can use program activities to help young people see and imagine career possibilities, understand how to prepare for those careers, and gain and practice skills they will need to pursue their dreams. Y4Y is here to help. Start with the tools linked in this blog, and be sure to visit the Y4Y College and Career Readiness Course.

References:
1. ACT. (2016). The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2016. Available at https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/CCCR_National_2016.pdf 
2. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career and Technical Education. (n.d.). Employability Skills Framework: What Are Employability Skills? Available at http://cte.ed.gov/employabilityskills/index.php/framework 


November 21, 2016

Monique McDowell-Russell, Y4Y Lead Education Specialist

“Every little step” is more than a song lyric. It can be a mantra for high school students making the transition into the “world out there.” In 21st CCLC programs, we have the challenge and pleasure of helping students develop a path to what they want to do after graduation. While the new Y4Y course on College and Career Readiness can help us set high expectations for students of all ages, this is especially urgent for students who are nearing the end of their K-12 experience.

So, how do we plan? Here are some tips for ways to get — and keep — your teenage students on track for postsecondary success.

 

What we can do as professionals:

- Create a one-page document, with your program logo, that provides information on where to get help with financial aid and other services (both in and out of state) for high school seniors and college students.
- Collaborate with the high school to promote an event for families that explains how to apply for financial aid.
- Post flyers about job fairs and help students explore job opportunities.
- Identify tour opportunities for vocational and technical schools, colleges and universities, and help to arrange field trips for students and parents.
- Invite staff and students from vocational and technical schools, colleges and universities to speak at your programs. Don’t worry; it’s free. Invite parents and guardians to come, too.
- Help to develop or implement transition plans and services for students with disabilities. Parents can invite you to join the planning team, so consult with them about being included and ask them to suggest ways your program can support their child’s dreams for the future.
- Work with the district’s special education office to understand the diploma options available for students with special needs.
- Always keep your door open for a conversation!

 

What students can do:

- Create a list of interests and activities they enjoy doing, then reflect on how these connect to college and career choices.
- Create a list of vocational and technical schools, colleges and universities they may be interested in.
- Write down their questions and raise them during group discussions. There are no wrong questions!
- Keep parents and guardians in the loop.

 

What we can do together:

In a word, communicate! Try to meet once a week during program hours either in a group or one-on-one. Focus discussions on student questions and concerns. Hold some sessions at convenient times for parents, so they can become more knowledgeable.

 

More Y4Y resources to consult:

College and Career Readiness Tips for Families

Guiding Questions for College and Career Readiness Partnerships 

College and Career Readiness Research Brief

 

Graduation is a big step for high school students, but remember: every little step to get there counts, too!