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June 14, 2022

Conference or meeting with elementary school teachers students and parentsDo you ever feel like your 21st CCLC program is simply tapping into an already tightly woven community? This may be the case if your program has been around for a while, you lucky ducks. But if your program is new, or if people frequently move in and out of the area, you may be bringing some families together for the first time. Maybe you’re somewhere in between, serving a mix of “old” and “new” families. Whatever the case in your community, what lessons did you take away from the past program year for engaging those families? They were probably feeling torn by a strong need for supports and a healthy concern about gathering. With tips from Y4Y, reflect on your community’s greatest needs so you can plan family engagement events in the coming year that serve important purposes — including fun.

Now That’s a Fine How-Do-You-Do
Get a jump on those warm community fuzzies this fall from Day One! Staff need to be sure to know their community culture and understand the challenges that are unique to family engagement in your community. Besides tools, Y4Y offers staff training in cultural competence — try to make this important professional development a priority over the summer. (What you thought you knew about your community may have shifted dramatically.) Do you have standouts — some call them “super-volunteers” — who you can reliably go to, even after their children have graduated from your program? You know, the ones who always have their finger on the pulse of the neighborhood (in a positive way — gossips need not apply). Try to keep them on your program team through this slow shift back to “normal.” They can help you set the tone and hit the right notes as you start the program year.

Tell Me What You Need, What You Really, Really Need
Don’t let your community needs be a mystery! A crystal ball isn’t going to tell you what families are looking for when it comes to adult learning opportunities or group activities. Survey, survey, survey! Y4Y offers a family engagement survey and tips on focus groups to get a clear picture of what your families might be looking for from your program. Below are topics that just a few years ago you might not have expected to have such importance. Have potential partners lined up to offer family experiences and adult learning in:

  • Mental health resources
  • Mindfulness and other stress-reducing strategies
  • Response to trauma
  • Financial “rescue” resources
  • Childcare “co-ops”
  • Access to healthy foods

Be sure to gather this data as early as possible for the most effective planning of family engagement events. One important question on any survey: Are you more comfortable online or in person? Be ready for hybrid or parallel offerings for at least one more program year.

Did Someone Say Something About Fun?
As you work with families, you may very well be tackling some heavy topics and situations. Responding appropriately requires sensitivity and understanding. Y4Y’s Voices From the Field guest, Kathy Manley, grew up in abject poverty and later taught children who were in the same situation. She offers poignant insights into recognizing signs of poverty in children and how best to navigate those signs. She points out, for example, that children raised in poverty may sometimes laugh at seemingly inappropriate times as a defense mechanism or a way to find the lighter side of even the darkest subjects. Talk with mental health specialists on your program team about healthy ways to respond — and ways to tap into the “funny bone” as you work with children and adults.

Look for opportunities to build some laughs into your family engagement activities this year. After two years of virtual and hybrid learning, there may be more focus than ever on student learning and achievement. But who says you can’t laugh and learn at the same time? Family engagement events can be a great distraction from the heavier side of life, and you have all the room in the world to build in some fun! Consider shaping a literacy or STEAM event, for example, around:

  • A summer blockbuster comic book movie
  • Your city’s (or state’s) favorite baseball or football team
  • NASA’s 2024 mission to the moon
  • A simulated Olympics, tying academics to physical challenge stations
  • A “real-world” Minecraft or other popular video game event
  • A spin on a traditional American holiday — what celebrations around the world parallel Halloween, for example?

Are You Ready to Engage Current and Future Families?
Does your program culture and climate help you:

  • Welcome and support all students and families?
  • Foster a sense of community?
  • Consider the needs and priorities of all stakeholders (including kids!)?
  • Make room for fun?

If you can answer “yes” to these four questions, congratulations: Your next program’s already set up for a warm and wonderful start that engages all families, whether they’re newcomers or old-timers.



May 13, 2022

Young African American girl at home sitting on the table, using laptop, studying and looking at cameraRemember when playing on the computer was a fun thing to do? Afraid your students have lost out on that opportunity in the past couple of years? With tips from Y4Y’s course, The Virtual Edge, and Click & Go, Digital Literacy, you can make technology fun again when you use screen time wisely.

Make Safety Fun!

Sometimes students have a better grasp of what’s legitimate online than their adult counterparts. But often they don’t! Emphasizing how many bad people are out there wanting to do young people harm is no way to make students feel safe. So, make internet safety a game in your program! For example, you might stage a quiz show to help younger students understand the concepts of digital stranger danger. Ask questions like these:

  1. Is it OK to share your birthday online?
  2. Is it OK to share your favorite color online?
  3. Is it OK to share your street address online?
  4. Is it OK to share your pet’s name online?
  5. Is it OK to share your Grandma’s name online?
  6. Is it OK to share your shoe size online?
  7. Is it OK to share your email address online?
  8. Is it OK to share your favorite flavor of ice cream online?
  9. Is it OK to share where Mom hides the key to the front door online?
  10. Is it OK to share your name online? First, last?

Each of these questions can be conversation starters. Students have such vivid imaginations that a round of “What happens if…” for each of these will get those critical thinking wheels turning.

The same can be done for helping younger students judge how valid sources online are. Again, let each quiz show question be a conversation starter.

  1. Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.gov”?
  2. Is it OK to trust information on a site that asks you for a donation?
  3. Is it OK to trust information on a site that requires you to sign in?
  4. Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.com”?
  5. Is it OK to trust information on a site that asks you to enter your birthday?
  6. Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.org”?
  7. Is it OK to trust information on a site that makes you feel upset or angry?
  8. Is it OK to trust information on a site that ends in “.edu”?
  9. Is it OK to trust information on a site that your friend or family member sent you?
  10. What can you do to verify if information on a site is true?

For your older students, download and customize the Y4Y Digital Privacy Self-Assessment tool (although they can benefit from a fun quiz show too!). And if you think your staff doesn’t know the best answers to the quiz show questions, direct them to a quick Y4Y training on internet safety with the Digital Literacy Click & Go, especially podcasts on Searching Safely and Evaluating Information and Digital Content.

Make Searching Fun!

Now that you’re confident that your students have gained some important safety rules, how can you make sure that during program time, digital learning — whatever form it takes — is fun? Y4Y’s new course on virtual learning addresses many of the needs of virtual programming, but there are some great takeaways that can help you reestablish a positive relationship between your students and their computers in your in-person environment. The Y4Y Virtual Powers Explainer is a great staff training tool for breaking down these concepts:

  • Technology power is the ability to select and use virtual tools strategically to achieve a specific goal
  • Relationship power is the ability to connect people and strengthen relationships
  • Equity power is the ability to increase access and opportunity for all
  • Personalization power is the ability to create learning that matches individuals’ strengths, needs, skills, and interests

Using these principles to guide your in-program digital learning is a great place to start to ensure student engagement. Next, check out Y4Y’s Technology Decision Checklist for Learning and Engagement, Intentional Activity Design Planner, and Virtual Edge Activity Planning Examples. Each will remind you that at the heart of any successful activity is student voice. Students feel empowered when they have a say in their learning, and digital learning is no exception!

What if Students Don’t Feel Empowered by Digital Learning?

There are a number of reasons students may still reject digital learning and even push back against it. Consider some of these possible explanations with tips on navigating this challenge.

  • Natural extroverts prefer interactions. Every program has its social butterflies, and they’re more likely to want to interact with one another than with a screen. Make digital learning a group activity! Be sure that there are steps that demand conversation and compromise. This way, everyone in your program is building those 21st century skills!
  • Computers are associated with isolation. You may have students in your program recovering from varying levels of trauma over feeling “stranded” with a screen during the pandemic. As staffing allows, do more adult pairing or check-ins with those students who might be unexpectedly pushing back on digital activities. If there’s still cause for concern, consult Y4Y’s Click & Go on Trauma-Informed Care for more advice on how to make a student who has experienced trauma feel safe.
  • Written English is even more challenging than spoken. If you have English learners in your program, be sure to seek out multi-modal and bilingual websites so these students can fully participate in digital activities. Don’t forget, Y4Y’s tools for supporting English learners (like Instructional Strategies for English Learners) are useful in all types of programming!
  • A disability makes the computer a frustrating tool. The Secretary of Education recently called out the added challenges faced through the pandemic by students with disabilities, and the importance of providing them with the supports they’re entitled to by law. In your 21st CCLC, you have some flexibility in program delivery that the classroom doesn’t have. Check out Y4Y’s Including Students With Disabilities course, and specifically the Expanding Activities tool, for general principles to follow so you can minimize student frustration with digital activities. Just like your natural extroverts or your students of trauma, it may come down to simple human connections to smooth the way.

Screen Alternatives

Two years in an online or hybrid environment definitely got those creative juices flowing on ways of giving students a break from screens. Some students are ready for those breaks, while others have had their screen dependence deeply reinforced through virtual learning. To further ensure that digital learning in your program is fun for students, share Y4Y’s Screen Time Alternatives tool with families to maintain that momentum of keeping kids occupied offline when they’re at home.

Computers Are Here to Stay

This far into the technological revolution, most of your staff members probably don’t remember a time when personal computers had no role in daily life. Despite this, access and ease with technology creates equity gaps. Giving your students skills and comfort with technology will be absolutely essential to their successful futures. That all starts by just having fun on the internet!



March 10, 2022

As humans, our psychological need for closure is so well documented that a scale was developed to measure this need. Culminating events are an important element in 21st CCLC programs — whether you’re wrapping up a big STEAM or problem-based learning project or inviting families to celebrate a successful in-person year. Bear in mind, though, that some students could be heartbroken at losing the constancy of their time in your program. Consider these tips and tools for addressing the end of the program year in a way that enables everyone to enjoy healthy closure.

As you’re planning, keep these goals and benefits of a culminating event in mind:

  • Involve students. This needs to be their event. So much has been outside their control, especially this year. Be sure their voice is loud and proud in decisions around your culminating event.
  • Everyone loves a surprise. Just because you’ve handed over the reins on most aspects of planning doesn’t mean you can’t surprise students and families with a special guest, a small giveaway, or a performance. A surprise amplifies the festive atmosphere and tells everyone involved you think they’re special.
  • You’re tying accomplishment to celebration. Young people need every possible opportunity to reinforce that their hard work will pay off. Sometimes that hard work is just sticking with something or showing up. But even that effort deserves recognition.
  • Whenever a door closes, another opens. If your students are sad about the end of the program year, remind them that every ending is also a new beginning. You can ask them to remember some of their favorite beginnings in the past — even the first day of this program year — to demonstrate that new beginnings can lead in exciting directions.

Y4Y offers tools to help you plan for your culminating event because this is such an important step in programming. See this month’s Topical Tool Kit for other aspects of your planning.

You can visit the last strategy in each course for more ideas that relate to the focus of your programming. For example:

  • Have you been exploring career pathways with your elementary students? Have them dress as their favorite professional. (See more tips by selecting the drop-down Menu in the course and jumping to slide 107, “Celebrate Peaks and Summits.”)
  • Is supporting English learners your emphasis? Explore your students’ cultural traditions around celebrations and ask them how they’d like to bring those traditions to your event. (See more tips by going to the course and jumping to slide 119, “How Will You Celebrate?”)
  • Are you celebrating something smaller, like completing a project in civic learning and engagement? Arrange for students to attend a school board meeting and give an official report on the work they accomplished in their community. (See more tips by jumping to slide 73, “Example Celebration,” in that course.)
  • Visit other Y4Y courses like Literacy, STEAM, Financial Literacy, Social and Emotional Learning, and Family Engagement for other targeted celebration ideas.

In celebrating the 20th anniversary of Human Resources Development Quarterly, Tim Hatcher makes a poignant observation: “Celebration is an ancient ritual. It gives us a way to feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments. When we celebrate we are reinforcing something important to us. Without it we simply maintain the status quo and candidly have a lot less fun.” There are so many things you want for your students in your 21st CCLC program: academic growth, a safe space with caring adults, meaningful connections with their peers, and exposure to new and exciting opportunities. Happily, each of these can go hand in hand with celebrating and having fun!



February 10, 2022

More than just a word, “resilience” is a measurable area of growth. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of threat.” According to research, two thirds of any given human population demonstrates resilience through a continued ability to function after traumatic events such as 9/11. Maybe some resilience comes from a natural tendency or family culture to be optimistic — it’s not totally clear yet. But professionals have little doubt that you can build resilience, in young people especially, by adopting a growth mindset. Tools from Y4Y’s Trauma-Informed Care Click & Go, and courses in Stages of Child and Adolescent Development and Social and Emotional Learning, can help your program be intentional in nurturing resilience in your students.

A Foundation of Understanding

Your staff members probably have amazing insights and observations about child psychology after working with students in your program and previous jobs. But what kind of formal training on this topic has taken place to ensure your program offers the best individualized approach to building resilience? Here are some useful Y4Y tools and short trainings to start conversations around understanding what makes students tick:

Time to Implement

Use these Y4Y tools to put interventions into practice within your program space:

Measure Success

Some of your success in nurturing resilience will be evident. The child who lost a beloved grandparent begins to smile and laugh again. The child who was in a car accident realizes that playing out his experience gains him attention and awe from peers who ask questions. Maybe he even shares his fears out loud, building his skills of self-awareness and his peers’ skills in social awareness and relationships skills through empathy. Be sure you’re noting these observations with Y4Y tools and planning for ways to measure the resilience more formally that you’ve nurtured in students.

Turn to Nature to Nurture Resilience

Just as those picture book characters show students different ways to persevere, you can turn to nature to nurture resilience in your students. Consider forest fires. In our limited view, we think of fire as needless destruction, and in many cases, perhaps it does have unnecessary human causes. However, even before forests became a habitat for humans, they had adapted to fire. They depend on a cycle of fire and regrowth to remain healthy. Every student, whether they’re living with mild stress to full-blown crisis, can remember this: From the ashes comes new, stronger growth.



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.