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September 23, 2022

There are some helpful takeaways from a report from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) on 10 years of systemic social and emotional learning implementation in urban settings. Keep reading to learn about these findings and Y4Y resources that can help guide social and emotional learning in your supportive 21st CCLC program now and in future program years. 

Prioritizing social-emotional learning (SEL) is key to building a joyful, resilient program environment. That’s because SEL skills help us identify and manage our emotions, express empathy, form meaningful relationships, and cope with stress. When we prioritize social-emotional well-being for both educators and students, we can foster a culture in which everyone is better equipped to reach their full potential. 

Building a Network of Support

As students return to school this fall, the social and emotional aspects are just as important as gathering school supplies, meeting the new teacher(s), and finding out what’s being offered for lunch. More than ever, SEL is a key ingredient in addressing the top concerns for schools and out-of-school time (OST) programs. That includes physical wellness, mental wellness, emotional well-being, and academic recovery. OST programs have a key role to play in this effort. As your program partners with schools and families, you can strengthen relationships and provide a network of support that includes trusted adults and enriching experiences.

These three Y4Y tools can help you shape the priorities of your group effort in implementing social-emotional programming:

Providing Comprehensive Support for Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

The CASEL report mentioned above involved large, complex school systems in the country. Not only did these districts demonstrate it was possible to implement SEL systemically, but every district deepened and expanded SEL implementation from school to OST programs and families. CASEL identified four key elements that are necessary to comprehensively support quality SEL implementation throughout the system:

  • Building foundational support and plan
  • Strengthening adult SEL competencies and capacity
  • Promoting SEL for students
  • Reflecting on data for continuous improvement

The researchers examined how the districts they studied equipped themselves to sustain a commitment to SEL over the long term, even as the people and contexts within the district changed. CASEL identified six elements for sustaining SEL:

  • Leaders model, cultivate, and elevate a shared vision for SEL.
  • Core district priorities connect SEL to all departments and individuals, so everyone is invested.
  • Schools have resources and pathways to guide SEL implementation, as well as room to innovate and customize SEL for their communities.
  • SEL informs and shapes adult learning and staff culture and climate.
  • Students, families, and communities are co-creators of the SEL vision, plans, and practices.
  • External and internal communities of practice strengthen implementation.

These findings align with advice from Dr. Dave Pauneski, a senior behavioral scientist at Stanford University: “If we really want all students to leave school having developed certain academic, social, personal, and cultural capacities, we need to think really carefully about whether we as educators are creating the types of experiences that we know from research will help develop those capacities.”

Y4Y Resources Supporting SEL

These additional Y4Y resources can also support your efforts:



September 23, 2022

Man looking at reflection in mirror that is laying on the groundComparing yourself to others is, unfortunately, human nature. Often, we do it without even noticing. But when we do it in front of children, they notice. That’s because children are like sponges — they tend to soak up behaviors, attitudes, and ways of thinking. Imagine what may happen in the mind of a child when their adult role models openly criticize themselves. The child may wonder: “If they don’t believe they’re enough, should I be worried about how I perceive myself?”

One of this month’s Creative Program Ideas is to offer students a dedicated day (October 19, to be exact) to evaluate their life. Evaluate Your Life Day was inspired by a model of social behavior called Self-Evaluation Maintenance. This model suggests that if students have close friends or family members who “outperform” them in an area students don’t particularly pride themselves in, that connection boosts their self-esteem. But if a friend or family member outperforms a student in an area that matters a lot to the student — like skills in sports or the arts, or even attractiveness — then that relationship may take away from their self-esteem.

In other words, the Self-Evaluation Maintenance model suggests that a child’s self-evaluation is constantly interacting with how others close to them perform. That means each child’s identity and sense of self can be affected by how their peers perform.

What can your out-of-school time program do to help students find healthy ways to negotiate the natural human tendency to compare themselves to others? Here are some ideas.

All for One and One for All

To make sure that all your students feel like their success is possible, they must first feel like their voice matters. It’s important to incorporate regular self-reflection in a way that deters negative comparison. Y4Y’s Student Voice and Choice course takes a deep dive into maximizing student engagement and equipping staff with the tools they need to encourage a healthy self-image. When students feel heard, their confidence grows, and they’re more likely to develop a strong sense of self. You can nurture this strong sense of self by:

  • Assessing student needs
  • Conducting student interest surveys
  • Encouraging goal setting
  • Prioritizing student self-reflection

Setting the Scene for Reflection and Growth

Just as incorporating student voice and choice nurtures a healthy self-image, it’s also important to make sure your learning environment cultivates constructive attitudes. Creating a positive learning environment will, in turn, give your staff and students the setting they need to have open and honest conversations about self-reflection and self-love. The strategies in Y4Y’s Creating a Positive Learning Environment course can help your staff to create a safe space where students and families feel supported. Students in an open and positive environment are more likely to be supportive of each other. In fact, learning to celebrate one another’s successes is a great way to stop the “comparison habit” in its tracks.

When program staff members build positive relationships with and among students and create a nurturing environment where each student feels seen and heard, it sets the stage for students to discover their own strengths. Further, a safe, nurturing environment provides opportunities for them to develop those strengths. This is the path to establishing a generation of students with a healthy self-image and a productive attitude.

You can guide students along this path by teaching them that self-reflection is best practiced through a lens of positivity and self-compassion rather than constant comparison. Make sure your students appreciate that they are only ever striving to be their best selves.



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!