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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

Part of overall wellness is moving our bodies. This bit of obvious wisdom should play a role in everything you do in your program. Whether you’re offering alternatives to screen time, incorporating stretch breaks into your tutoring sessions, or building dance parties into your virtual programming, Y4Y has tips and tools to remind you to encourage students to “keep bouncing” to bounce back.

Get Aligned

Y4Y created an entire Click & Go on strategies for partnering with the school day in your health and wellness efforts. Your program would never offer academic supports without first checking with the school day about needs, content, and methods of delivering those supports, so why should health and wellness be any different? Check out tools to start those important conversations and initiate a partnership with your host school or district, learn about health and wellness standards that impact out-of-school time, assess your students’ specific needs, then select appropriate activities. You’ll want to be sure to get buy-in from students. After all, you’re helping them to set a lifelong habit of moving their bodies — you want to be sure it’s fun for them! Download and customize the elementary or secondary student interest inventory according to what your program can offer! Give families a voice in this partnership too with the Family Satisfaction Survey, which you can customize to fit your needs.

Take a Page From Transitions

Transitions may be those little windows in your program day when you’ve been extra intentional in building in movement. Y4Y offers a tool on transition strategies that guides you through some practices of consistency and predictability so that students can move onto something different with renewed focus. Consider using these same principles to build stretch or wiggle breaks into the middle of an activity. When there are predictable rules around those breaks, they don’t have to be an interruption, but a reset with physical and mental benefits.

Re-Create Recreation in Out-of-School Time

At the secondary level especially, recreational activities can be unique opportunities to help students bounce back. Karyl Resnick of Massachusetts shared her state’s practice of infusing social and emotional learning into sports activities. She notes, “We’ve explored research that says developing relationships can enhance student outcomes, and we’re building that finding into our sports and recreation activities. We’re doing the same with movement and mindfulness activities. To help programs infuse social and emotional learning into activities, we’re developing short videos to help grantees understand what it is, what it looks like in practice, and strategies for making it part of their activity design.” And 21st CCLC grantee Simone Miranda of Schenectady City School District noted that her program was a saving grace during school closings: “During the pandemic, students shared with staff that they needed more physical activities and to share their feelings and emotions. The program used this information to develop a sports club and art lessons to meet the students’ needs. The sports club incorporated virtual physical activities designed by the sports specialist, which included yoga, Zumba, fitness challenges, and other physical activities. In addition, literacy was embedded in the sports club by using books written by male, female, and diverse sports athletes.” Even with programs reopened, Ms. Miranda acknowledges that physical activities are the greatest draw in her popular and successful high school program.

Allow For Bouncing Differently

Just as students have different interests when it comes to how they move their bodies, they also have different strengths and abilities. Be sure the students who might need the most bouncing back have the opportunity to bounce to their greatest ability. Helpful tools from Y4Y’s Including Students With Disabilities course include an activity planner and environmental checklist. A strengths-based approach should be considered for all students. Some students are at their best in agility activities. Others may be drawn to activities that emphasize speed or strength. You don’t have to offer 100 physical activities to find something that will work for everyone.

Show the Parallels

As you’re using physical activity in your program to help students build resilience, help them to understand that’s what you’re doing! When a student falls after attempting a layup shot, applaud them for getting back up. Challenge them to think of a time they “got back up” from something that felt like an academic failure. If a student calls out a friend to spot them while attempting a new trick on the bars or lifting a heavy weight, challenge them to think of when they leaned on a friend through heartache. You can help them frame their thinking so that not only are they bouncing out negative feelings, but they are also discovering a mind-body connection they can use to bounce back for the rest of their lives.



July 8, 2021

Some educators suggest we should resist the idea that “learning loss” is the only thing that happened to students during the pandemic. Why? They want everyone, including students, to recognize what they’ve gained over the past 18 months. For example, some gained technology skills; developed a greater appreciation for family, friends and the great outdoors; and discovered resilience they didn’t know they had. Yes, there were losses, but there were gains as well. What does this mean in your 21st CCLC program?

Focus on the Positives

If policymakers were to build from scratch a new program to support learning recovery today, it might look a lot like a 21st CCLC program. Summer and afterschool learning. Tutoring. Family engagement. Student voice and choice. Attention to social and emotional learning and positive learning environments. Increased support for underserved students in the communities hit hardest by the pandemic. These are priorities that have been emerging in all recovery plans, so existing 21st CCLC programs are ahead of the game! With that in mind, let’s set aside those negatives that are getting plenty of airtime and focus on the positives.

  • Funding. The American Rescue Plan for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER III) is disbursing funds through states and school districts. Whether you’re in a school-based or a community-based program partnering with a school district, you’re sure to be already collaborating on how your program can beef up tutoring, especially to meet shared student goals. If you missed Y4Y’s webinar on ARP ESSER III addressing how 21st CCLC programs can make the most of funding, check it out today!
  • Lessons learned. The world of education is ever-evolving. Challenging periods can provide important lessons, if we pay attention. Your program professionals have likely discovered how to be resourceful about everything from seeking out education resources to strengthening human connections — with peers and students — when faced with obstacles. Your students’ families have learned how to advocate for their children on a whole new level. And students are walking away with skill sets nobody would have imagined at such young ages.

Name and “Own” Your New Strengths

Which of these new strengths have you, your staff or students developed during the pandemic?

  • Flexibility. You had that going for you before the pandemic, but now you’re the Olympic gymnasts of education when it comes to flexibility.
  • Tech wizardry. Staff and students alike have gained amazing skill sets for navigating the virtual world. You’re making the most of a whole host of useful features on various platforms and eking out new kinds of experiences — like fascinating field trips around the world and in your own (literal) backyards — thanks to virtual learning.
  • Organization. The added workload called on staff to heighten their organizational skills. At the same time, students — even younger ones  — developed impressive skills at time, schedule and workload management.
  • Social and emotional development. The five skill domains of social and emotional learning (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making and relationships skills) got a lot of “exercise” during virtual learning. Most educators have concerns that gaps in social-emotional development are as pronounced as academic gaps. Yet being on camera every day gave many students a boost in certain aspects of self-awareness and self-management. It also reinforced an appreciation of relationships, leaving students eager to participate and be fully present for in-person learning.
  • Resilience and a growth mindset. The oyster and the pearl are the ultimate symbol that an irritant can turn into something beautiful. The resilience that all staff and students have gained sets everyone up for great future achievements.

Apply What You’ve Gained

There are so many positives and new strengths to focus on! How is your 21st CCLC program moving forward to apply what you’ve learned and make “learning loss” an obsolete term? See how many of these things you’re already doing:

  • Trying new virtual platforms. You’re no longer afraid of the brave new virtual world. The more tricks you can find, the better! Check out Y4Y’s two archived webinar series on 21st CCLCs in a virtual world (part 1 for novices or part 2 for masters). You’ll learn about dozens of platforms and how you can use them virtually or in person.
  • Leaning into the power of resilience. Keep reminding students that as things get better, as things feel better, they’ll carry with them always the muscles built when they had to be resilient. Nothing hits a message home like a good story. Y4Y offers a Teaching Resilience Book List with suggestions for read-alouds at different grade levels.
  • Counting on partners. You may be increasing the number of paid and volunteer tutors in your program. Your retired teachers association is a great resource. Be sure to map other community assets as well. To learn the basics of partnership development, see the Implementation Strategies section in Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course.
  • Making time to connect. Developing relationships is the pinnacle of social and emotional development. So even as academic focus intensifies, you’ll want to make sure that human connections stay front and center in your program. Y4Y’s Building Relationships Training to Go is a great tool for brushing up if staff are looking for fresh ideas on how to connect with students. These basic ideas carry over into ever-important peer relationships as well.
  • Bringing students along in planning. In February’s Education Week, there’s a great quote from Neema Avashia, an eighth-grade civics teacher in Boston Public Schools (and Boston’s 2013 Educator of the Year). She notes, “One important lesson I’ve learned from my students is that everything I plan with them goes much better than anything I plan without them.” Build on the self-awareness they’ve developed and consult Y4Y’s Student Voice and Choice course or accompanying tools like Student Survey: How Do I Learn Best? if you’re looking for tips on how to effectively incorporate student voice in your program and activity planning.

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, every human experience gives us a new opportunity to weigh our practices, our habits, and our ways of doing — and to weed out the things that don’t work. With that exercise comes the opportunity to view new experiences differently. Instead of focusing on “learning loss” in your 21st CCLC program, scrounge around for the unexpected opportunities brought about by the pandemic, and discover how you can build on those gems to ensure a bright future for all your students.