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November 22, 2021

The world of business offers a lot more research on the value of gut-level decision-making than the world of education, but your students may well find themselves in that world one day. Trusting your gut takes a unique kind of confidence. Young people can learn how to develop and trust their instincts by matching their cultural learning with self-awareness and self-management, social awareness, leadership opportunities, and more. Tools from Y4Y courses can help you build student intuition and confidence through a variety of strategies so they’ll be ready for times when snap judgments — and trusting those snap judgments — are a must.

It Starts With a Positive Learning Environment

Creating a positive learning environment opens the door to everything from baby steps to giant leaps in each of your 21st CCLC initiatives. Consult the Y4Y list of strategies for creating a positive learning environment to make sure that door is wide open. Simple practices around how you interact with your students and your stakeholders — like one-on-one exchanges, focused listening and appropriate personal openness — ensure the safety and trust that lead to strong work in confidence building.

The Role of Social and Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) gives students the tools needed to become well-adjusted adults. The Y4Y research brief on this subject expands on how the emotional competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making build on one another. An effective, evidence-based SEL curriculum can help this process. It might be tempting to consider “responsible decision-making” only those decisions that have been deliberated with a textbook list of pros and cons. But researchers are finding that sometimes responsible decision-making means knowing when to abandon that method.

An effective SEL program should be “SAFE” (sequenced, active, focused and explicit) and provide (1) purposeful design that leads to skill development; (2) opportunities for practice; (3) time devoted to developing one or more social and emotional skills; and (4) a plan that targets specific skills. A few Y4Y tools to get you started are the SEL Competencies Matching Game to get to know the competencies, and the Delivery Methods for SEL and SEL Learning Activity Intentional Design Planner to implement your focused practice of those competencies. Researchers advocating for the benefits of snap decisions note, “Another interesting finding in this study is that intuition can be improved over time, suggesting that the mechanisms of intuition can be improved with practice.” Your program might consider self-awareness skills the perfect place to begin a focused practice. After all, solid self-awareness is the foundation for all emotional competencies and the best assurance of trusting your gut!

The Art of Reflection

Y4Y offers many more opportunities outside of the SEL course for students to build their self-awareness skills, and reflection is at the heart of them. The course on student voice and choice includes tools for middle and high school students to reflect on what they’re learning, how they learn and how to connect that learning with their lives. The full set of voice and choice course tools contains tools specific to grades K-1, 2-3, 4-6, middle school and high school that help connect reflection and goal setting. It’s easy to see how a lifetime of reflection and goal setting could develop a strong neurological pathway for making quick, outcome-oriented decisions!

Put Confidence to the Test

Once you’ve invested time in building student confidence on the inside, there are plenty of opportunities to put that confidence to the test in your 21st CCLC program space. Help students grow into leadership with tools from the Recruiting and Retaining High School Students Click & Go, such as the Youth Leadership Roles ideas. Group brainstorming calls for quick, free-flowing ideas, as does the Concentric Circles Discussion Format. These practices are ideal for out-of-school time to prepare students for the professional world and to exercise emotional competencies beyond self-awareness, such as social awareness and relationship skills. More broadly, these group activities are essential for design thinking (at the center of the Y4Y STEAM course) and other kinds of project-based learning.

The Future of Intuition?

The linked article suggests that “the ability to quantitively measure intuition could be a boon to many different fields, especially when it comes to workplace hiring.” It cites research on a growing ability to scientifically measure intuition, which could lead to hiring practices based more on those measurements than on candidate questionnaires that merely “test people’s opinions about their own feelings of intuition.” Your 21st CCLC programs are the perfect environment to help students develop strong intuition through self-awareness and reflection exercises, and just as important, to trust that intuition as you help them build their confidence through leadership and collaboration.



October 21, 2021

Charming football stories, like that of real-life Michael Oher (featured in the beloved book and film The Blind Side), remind us that each teammate has a role of equal importance to play. So why should all the glory go to one? Y4Y offers numerous tools within several courses — from Including Students With Disabilities to Student Voice and Choice and beyond — that will help to ensure equity in your program and that nobody’s hogging the ball.

The quarterback leads the team, calls the huddle and ultimately decides who has the ball. This is your 21st CCLC program director (PD). To work toward greater equity, a PD should

  • Gather stakeholders to be sure the program mission reflects your team’s dedication to equity. Consult tools like the Positive Learning Environment Implementation Checklist for guidance. Knowing families and cultures is another great place to start.
  • Train staff on creating an environment that amplifies student voice with the goals of explaining how group norms can support a program culture that values student voice, and defining and developing those group norms with students. Place emphasis on equal opportunities for all voices in that training.
  • Be sure to consult your state and local education agencies for standard resources around language and initiatives relevant to you, like Minnesota’s LeadMN.

The tight ends and fullbacks might do a little catching or running, but a lot of blocking. These are your site coordinators. Their role in supporting equity in your program is to make sure that a play that was called with the best of intentions can be translated into real yardage. Your site coordinators should

  • Begin by ensuring equitable student voice and choice in practice. Check out the Y4Y Student Voice and Choice Implementation Checklist.
  • Be sensitive about all program communications, like your program’s Family Handbook (you can download and adapt a Y4Y sample), and all program forms (see Y4Y’s Process for Developing Inclusive Forms tool).
  • Advance the work around positive group norms by using Y4Y’s Group Norms Agreement. This is the student-driven aspect of your program culture, so getting student buy-in on equity is key. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised on that score. And on that note…

The wide receivers and running backs are the little guys that really get you down the field. These are your students. Not only do they need your protection at the snap; you want to be sure that each one has a turn at possession. This makes for a much livelier game and offers your best chance for a win. Really demonstrate that your 21st CCLC program is the place for students from historically disenfranchised groups to get a leg up:

Finally, your safeties, or frontline staff, are your last line of defense. Legislation around 21st CCLC programs is specific about who your program serves. You can be sure you’re within the letter and the spirit of the law when staff members ensure opportunity for enrichment and advancement to the students who need it the most. Staff should

Back to Michael Oher and the critical role of the left tackle: When a team has a right-handed quarterback, which is most common, the left tackle makes sure that when the quarterback turns for a throw, his “blind side” is protected. When it comes to ensuring equity in your program, do your best not to have a blind side. But just in case, you might have an equity warrior in mind within your organization who can serve as your left tackle. Be sure that position carries with it all the weight and power it deserves.



October 21, 2021

Did you know that recent research suggests the best teams are made up of both optimists and pessimists? Are you strategic in placing students together for team projects? Using tools in Y4Y’s STEAM and Project-Based Learning courses, and a strengths-based approach, consider how you can be intentional in your team building for the best creative outcomes, and how these lessons can also inform staffing.

Let’s start by identifying the strengths of both optimists and pessimists.

What can “optimists” bring to the table?

  • Broader acceptance of information
  • Flexible thinking
  • Enthusiasm
  • Relationship building
  • Strategies for dealing with unnecessary negativity
  • Energy
  • A strength-based lens

What can “pessimists” bring to the table?

  • Persistent pursuit of details
  • Critical thinking
  • Caution and planning
  • Realism
  • Strategies for dealing with disappointment
  • Delight over small victories (even if it’s because they’re unexpected)
  • Stress management

If you’re a frontline worker or site coordinator, you might be thinking about students in each of these categories. If you’re a program director (and again, site coordinator), you might be thinking about staff. To begin with, don’t worry that you might have labeled someone in your head as a pessimist. Instead, celebrate the strengths of that person, like the ones listed above, and keep those strengths in mind as you’re team building.

Building Those Teams

The research cited above says that when you group only optimists together, you might get amazing, big ideas, with very little thought as to how those ideas might carry challenges. Even if some of your optimists envision challenges, they may not voice them in an effort to always be positive and supportive of their team. By the same token, a team made of up of only pessimists can stifle each other. They may be less likely to have big, imaginative ideas to begin with, but even when or if they have them, they’ll be less confident about voicing them, for fear that their fellow pessimists will only poke holes in them. This is the basis for the theory that with some big-thinking optimists, balanced with some challenge-minded pessimists, the best outcomes can result.

Depending on how deep you are in recovery mode, ambitious design thinking STEAM projects or months-long civic problem-based undertakings might not be on your radar. But that doesn’t mean you’re not finding ways to group students for cooperative activities in your catch-up efforts. Today and going forward, you can think about how to group students (and staff) to allow for the most balanced groups (or teams) and the best outcomes. Grab tips from Y4Y’s

  • Ice Breaker Activities list to better understand each student or staff member’s perspective on the world. A rousing game of “this or that” could do it!
  • Selecting Student Roles for Group Work tool to reflect on how different personalities work best in different roles that need fulfilling. Brainstorm about what those roles might be for any given project or activity, and adapt this tool accordingly.
  • Team-Building Activities list for ideas on how you can use a low-stakes environment to help a new grouping of students or staff find their collective rhythm.
  • Group Discussion Guidelines to ensure that these conflicting approaches keep conversations respectful.
  • Working With Groups Training Starter to train staff on navigating group dynamics.

Opposites attract. Yin and Yang. The good with the bad. Offense and defense. Language is rich with expressions that illustrate exactly what these researchers have discovered: We shouldn’t isolate ourselves from people who think differently from us if we’re to ensure balance and best outcomes. What a great message to send young people during an era of great division. After all, there is no “I” in TEAM.



September 12, 2021

The country’s collective consciousness and conscience are waking up to inequity. Institutions are eager to address this societal albatross, and there are many very different ideas on how to do it. Resources such as Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan ask educators to shift thinking from deficit-mindedness to asset-mindedness. “Street data is the qualitative and experiential data that emerges at eye level and on lower frequencies when we train our brains to discern it. Street data is asset based, building on the tenets of culturally responsive education by helping educators look for what’s right in our students, schools, and communities instead of seeking out what’s wrong.” While your 21st CCLC program will continue to require evidence-based intervention methods, how can you begin to shape the culture and implementation in your program around student strengths rather than perceived deficits?

Authors Safir and Dugan, who were featured at the 2021 Summer Symposium, offer guiding principles and core stances for each chapter of their groundbreaking book. These are crosswalked below to Y4Y resources that can help your program shift its framework to an asset-minded approach that promotes equity.

Why Street Data, Why Now?

Guiding Principle 1: Reimagine our ways of knowing and learning. Core Stance: Holism.

How can your program give value to learning that’s emotional, spiritual, and physical as well as that which is cognitive?

  • Know the five skill domains of social and emotional learning.
  • Principles of inclusion reach beyond disabilities. Gather a full team and build an inclusive team by roles so your program can see every student for their strengths, like leadership, teamwork and clear communication.
  • Tools available in Y4Y’s Career Pathways for Students course already put you in the mindset of focusing on each individual’s strengths. Asset-based thinking takes this principle a step further and recognizes that different subcultures in your community might practice different and exciting ways of knowing and learning. 

Guiding Principle 2: See the barriers; imagine what’s possible. Core Stance: Awareness.

Is equity just one more new initiative, or is your program committed to a culture shift?

  • Your culture and climate language must reflect your commitment. Consult the implementation strategies section of Y4Y’s course on creating a positive learning environment.
  • Only with strong community champions that share your values can you make progress toward equity.
  • Team building is one more way to stress that your program is a community that values all its members.

Choose the Margins

Guiding Principle 3: Center voices from the margins. Core Stance: Antiracism.

Are the loudest voices that are front and center the only ones that are heard in your program?

Guiding Principle 4: Seek root causes over quick fixes. Core Stance: Deep Listening.

How is your program working to fully understand its students?

Deepen the Learning

Guiding Principle 5: Equity work is first and foremost pedagogical. Core Stance: Agency.

Does your program place resilience at the center of perceived success?

Guiding Principle 6: Less is more; focus is everything. Core Stance: Coherence.

Progress cannot be made in the silo of your program. How can you reach to partners to bring them along on this journey?

  • Review the introduction section of Y4Y’s course on continuous education to develop strategies for approaching your school-day partners. Aligning your efforts to foster asset-based thinking with hopes of affecting pedagogy is key.
  • Adapt the Y4Y tool to establish professional learning communities and bring all your stakeholders together from around the community to reflect on your different views of data collection.
  • Families are your strongest partner in advocating for equity. Understanding and overcoming challenges to family engagement are important first steps.

Guiding Principle 7: Mobilize a pedagogy of voice for educators. Core Stance: Symmetry.

Have you empowered your staff, many of whom were perhaps chosen for their familiarity with the community, to act on their best impulses for supporting equity?

Transform the Culture

Guiding Principle 8: Break the cycle of shame. Cores Stance: Vulnerability.

Do you strive so relentlessly for perfection in the delivery of your programming that you don’t take the risks that can lead to imperfect progress?

  • A theme we can borrow from STEAM/design thinking is undoing right-answer thinking; it’s better to try and falter, learn from that experience and try again.
  • Another Y4Y Voices From the Field guest, Marcy Richards, focuses on the “can-do’s” and not the “can’t-do’s” in her approach to equity, diversity and English learners.
  • Virtual learning in 2020 and 2021 was a stark lesson in just how quickly and effectively 21st CCLC programming can pivot. Nobody said “effortlessly.” Nobody said “easily.” And certainly, nobody said “perfectly.” But take those lessons, just as California practitioners featured in Y4Y’s March webinar series, Literacy Done Virtually, did, and consider what kind of shifts toward equity can be put into place immediately and program-wide. There may be bumps in the road, and it’s OK to be OK with that.

Guiding Principle 9: Every moment is an equity moment. Cores Stance: Warm Demander.

As the authors note, “Rather than call people out, warm demanders call folks in and up to the work of equity.” Is your program committed to a universal approach to challenging your full staff, partners and community to embrace equity?

  • By definition, 21st CCLC programs are a place where diversity is understood. You already fight for the students in the margins. Consult the Diagram of Philosophy and Practices Within 21st CCLC to guide everything you do.
  • Use the Knowing Families and Cultures tool to develop strategies for familiarizing staff and partners with the unique qualities and strengths of the families you serve.
  • Become a warm demander by creating a program elevator speech. Craft your language not around calling people out, but around calling partners in and up to the work of equity. Most important, get comfortable talking about equity with a tone of gentle insistence.

As you balance your formal and informal data collection activities with an eye toward equity and improvement, consider the book’s closing message:

“Listen deeply. Trust the people. Act on what you learn. With that invocation, I invite you to walk forward on your street data journey with clear eyes and a full heart, knowing that the biggest mistake we can make is to cling to the status quo. Be brave, be bold, be visionary. We’ve got this.”



July 19, 2021

Many programs are concerned that creating a more inclusive program means having to give up some favorite activities, but this isn’t the case. Discover in your program how inclusion means addition, not subtraction.

Located in Boston, the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) developed the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. The idea is to build enough flexibility into goals, assessments, methods and materials to minimize barriers and maximize learning for all students. By adopting UDL in your program, you can address your students’ diverse cultural and linguistic needs; disabilities; and differences in privilege — not with numerous, complicated initiatives, but a single overarching program design approach, summarized in this brief video. Greater equity is the result.

Consider the basics of the UDL guidelines, and what this design approach means in your 21st CCLC program for adding opportunities for inclusion of students with disabilities, without subtracting any opportunities from students without disabilities. In all you do, you should provide multiple means of the below elements.

Engagement — The “Why” of Learning

In your program, you’ll be able to offer multiple “why” choices by

Representation — The “What” of Learning

In your program, you’ll be able to offer multiple “what” choices by

  • Taking advantage of any existing documentation that can help you develop viable choices. Y4Y’s tool for interpreting common Individualized Education Program (IEP) sections can help.
  • Expanding activities with Y4Y’s tool that steps you through a sample opportunity to implement UDL.
  • Understanding a range of abilities from a neurological development standpoint, as addressed in Y4Y’s Developmental Stages of Reading Tool. The full Literacy Toolkit offers expert guidance that can help you apply UDL to literacy.
  • Remaining faithful to your needs assessments as established in your RFP and each program year. Y4Y’s Mapping Needs to Activities tool can guide you to address the academic subjects requiring your program’s focus, and the depth and breadth of that need. Just as a high rate of English learners in your program will drive fundamental literacy activities, a high rate of learning disabilities in your community impacts other types of academic supports.

Action & Expression — The “How” of Learning

In your program, you’ll be able to offer multiple “how” choices by

  • Considering universal accessibility to make program activities authentic and relevant to each student. Check out Y4Y’s Environmental Checklist to get you started.
  • Embracing group work that gives everyone an important role and plays to each student’s strengths. Y4Y’s Selecting Student Roles for Group Work can help.
  • Recognizing the value of project-based learning (PBL) as an instrument for student-driven achievement at many levels. Y4Y’s PBL Diagram and Classroom Facilitator Packet can set you on this path.
  • Adopting the design thinking process in your STEAM enrichment activities. This process expands on PBL by putting students behind the wheel of problem discovery. This accommodates more complete inclusion by promoting both agency and collaboration. Learn more about this approach with Y4Y’s Design Thinking Framework: Project Planning Template.

Horace Mann said, “Every addition to human knowledge is an addition to human power.” When you add inclusion by way of UDL, you’re adding to your program’s power. The only things you’re subtracting are feelings of exclusion and isolation.