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September 23, 2022

Diverse group of students running in a parkThe school dismissal bell is a phenomenon that should be studied. The second that the sweet chimes grace the ears of students, a sort of shapeshifting happens. Children and youth transform from slow-moving students to track stars hurtling toward the finish line! As they rush out the door to their buses, chaos ensues. Imagine a slow-motion replay of their exit as Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube,” plays in the background as they improvise their “school dismissal dance.” You get the picture.

But not all students head out the door. For some, their out-of-school time (OST) programs are just getting started. This is where the learning continues. This is where it’s all happening.

America After 3PM, a 16-year study published this spring by the Afterschool Alliance, confirms that parents and communities truly value OST programs. The findings below highlight some advantages of OST programs and ideas for making them even better. But wait — there’s more! You already have an OST program that supports student success and values family engagement. Why keep that all to yourself?! Read to the end for some tips on connecting with policy leaders in your school district, reaching out to colleagues in neighboring communities, and expanding your program’s outreach to spread the word on the value of your OST program.

Not Just “Another Brick in the Wall”

The OST programs of today are not where imagination and creativity go to die, and just like students, they’re not “one size fits all.” According to the Afterschool Alliance study, parents recognize a wide array of benefits:

  • Technology is great, but unproductive screen time is a real problem. More than eight in 10 parents in the study agreed that afterschool programs provide opportunities for young people to live beyond the screen by learning life skills and building confidence. Sounds like a recipe for a productive member of society!

Try this: Not all screen time is created equal. Building digital literacy is important to ensure that students can successfully navigate the digital age. That’s why Y4Y created the Digital Literacy Click & Go especially for you. Learn about digital literacy and what your program can do to teach digital literacy skills to youth. Let’s face it — the last thing parents want to do is play the part of FBI agents when it comes to tracking down their children and monitoring their every move. Luckily, most of the parents surveyed (84%, to be exact) agreed that OST programs help to reduce risky behaviors.

  • Physical activity and nutritious foods are super important factors for parents. In fact, these OST benefits were cited by 84% and 71% of parents surveyed, respectively. These factors only grow in importance when considering low-income families, families living in urban communities, and Black and Latinx parents.

Try this: See the Y4Y Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day Click & Go for tools and detailed information to help you make health and wellness a priority for you and your staff!

Let’s Give the People What They Want

You know that OST programs like yours provide students with the tools they need to be successful in and out of the classroom. However, there are areas of opportunity for OST programs to support families as well. Consider the following findings as you seek to fill any gaps you may have in your program to ensure that families feel valued!

  • One of the most important factors in fostering student success is bringing families into the conversation. Children tend to model their attitudes and self-image after family members, so it’s critical that families feel included in their student’s OST journey. However, the Afterschool Alliance study found that only 43% of parents reported that their child’s program offered parent and family activities.

Try this: Y4Y recognizes that children thrive when families are valued, so we created an entire course on family engagement, complete with useful tools!

  • Even though helping your students strengthen relationships in their community can also positively impact their “health outcomes, educational achievement, feelings of connectedness to the community, and economic prospects,” only 36% of the parents surveyed stated that their child’s OST program prioritizes this. Including service learning and community service is a great way to make sure your program is meeting the needs of students and their families.
  • Some parents and families believe that enrolling their child in OST programs might expose their child to “negative influences, experiences, and values, such as bullying and peer pressure.” Unfortunately, only one in four parents said they feel there’s substantial information on OST programs within their community. Parents want to be in the know! Keep them updated with newsletters and social media, and encourage open communication about your program.

Shout It From the Rooftops

Wait, you’re telling me that you already have an OST program that caters to students’ needs, prioritizes family engagement, and provides opportunities for service learning — and you’re not performing a song and dance about it? The world needs to hear about your program! Thankfully, there are ways to make this happen.

Try this: Check Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course. You and your staff will get an in-depth understanding of how to identify strategic partners in your area and develop an outreach plan to engage them and to develop strong partnerships. To convey the value of your program, you’ll also need a killer elevator speech that lets potential partners know what your program is all about and why your program is the one they should work with! The Y4Y course also comes equipped with an abundance of tools that cover important topics such as community asset mapping, conveying needs to partners, and developing an effective memorandum of understanding. We know you’ve got a hectic schedule, so we tried our best to think of everything!

Out-of-school time programs really are a priceless gem that sets students up for success — and parents already agree! So use this knowledge to your advantage! An open and continuous dialogue between families and your staff will only enhance what your program can do. Furthermore, learning how to make the most of partnerships (and the resources and connections they provide) is a surefire way to take your program to the next level.



August 25, 2022

Smiling teenage boy reading book online on tablet computer when his sister checking social media on smartphoneWhile students decidedly still need access to books, you may depend heavily on computers for literacy activities in your program. Here are some reminders about partnering with the school day to share resources, teaching internet safety to even your youngest students, and thinking critically about the websites they’ll visit.

Centering on Centers?

If your data tell you that literacy needs to be a high priority in your program, literacy centers can be a great approach. What’s more, devices can be a way to address lower-than-ideal staff-to-student ratios when you want to keep groups small.

  • Start with Y4Y’s Literacy Activity Center Planner tool. It will help you think about how you’ll design centers to accommodate some use of computers or tablets for students to independently build literacy skills.
  • Check out the Y4Y Literacy course and its full list of tools for more guidance on developing your specific activity goals.
  • What familiar websites are going to be comfortable and user friendly for students? Has your district already done its due diligence in identifying the best literacy sources? Are they willing to share online subscriptions, given that you’re all serving the same students? Consult Y4Y’s Continuous Education course and its full list of tools if your leadership needs to get up to speed on forging and maintaining that partnership with school-day professionals.
  • Y4Y also has developed a list of reputable online education sources, available in the Quality Online Education Resources tool.

Next-Level Decisions

Y4Y offers an entire Click & Go on digital literacy to further guide decisions about what online activities to offer and how to train students to use the internet safely and wisely.

The Future of Using the Internet to Strengthen Literacy

The pandemic meant hitting the “fast forward” button on virtual learning. The planet was headed in that direction already, but my how that process sped up!  Y4Y developed The Virtual Edge course to help 21st CCLC professionals continue to use virtual learning to their students’ advantage. But here’s a thinker: did you notice how many celebrities began to do online BOOK read-alouds during that time? Storyline Online is a great example. This was in recognition that when it comes to literacy, almost nothing compares to reading, or being read, a good old-fashioned book. So, as you continue to offer literacy activities on devices in your program, never forget the value of sitting in front of your students with a picture book in hand, doing all the funny voices and gestures that you can muster, and foster a lifelong love of reading.



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

Do your students give up too easily on projects demanding online research because there’s just “too much out there” to know where to begin? Simple tips and tricks from Y4Y’s new Click & Go on digital literacy can help them recognize that, with some basic principles and skills, the information avalanche contains a wealth of real treasure — once you learn how to find it.

We all remember with dread the assignment of a big research paper.

  • How will I choose a topic?
  • What information will my teacher want me to include?
  • How will I organize my information?
  • How will I get this giant paper written?!

Education has come a long way in guiding students through each of these steps, and your program can be a great resource to them during homework and tutoring time. To help with organization, check out Y4Y’s Goal Setting Activities, Games and Templates, and Research-Based Techniques and Practices for ideas. More writing guidance is available through Y4Y’s literacy course, including tools for Pre-Writing Activities, Revision Conference Planner, Writer’s Workshop, and Peer Editing Checklist. Tools like Guiding Content Creation and Presenting to Different Audiences can also help students with age-old questions like “What information will my teacher want me to include?”

But let’s take a step back and talk research! Students today face a whole new set of questions. They’re unlikely to step into a brick-and-mortar library and head over to a card catalog where nothing but reliable sources are conveniently organized by subject. Instead, they’re probably doing all of their research online. So, the questions they might be asking themselves are

  • How do I narrow down all of my “hits”?
  • Which sources are reliable?
  • Why can’t I use just the information that validates my ideas?
  • Who’s even going to know if I just copy and paste text?

Y4Y is here to help navigate many of these dilemmas of the information age too!

How do I narrow down all of my “hits”?

To begin, there are some simple tips for yielding smart lists of hits.

  • Orient students to internet research with Y4Y’s relevant terms around digital literacy.
  • Use more than one search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
  • Use several terms to narrow the search. For example, if a student is writing a paper on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, encourage them to not simply search on Dr. King’s name, but also on “Million Man March,” “civil rights,” “famous orators,” and “I have a dream.”
  • If they need to further narrow their search, add .org, .edu, and .gov to the list of terms.
  • Check out Y4Y’s Searching Safely podcast for tips on how to search thoroughly and safely. Have students take the Y4Y Youth Digital Literacy Self-Assessment to be sure of that safety.

Which sources are reliable?

After you’ve introduced students to the basics of finding information, consider these tips:

Why can’t I use just the information that validates my ideas?

Help your students understand that the best argued points are those that recognize the strengths of an opposing view and counter that view. 

Who’s even going to know if I just copy and paste text?

This might be a rhetorical question, but educators today have access to many resources to discover if a student has plagiarized someone else’s work. It’s OK to copy and paste if a student is properly citing a reference, so be sure to align with the school day on citation practices. It’s also possible that the project your student is engaged in isn’t meant to be a formally researched report, and there’s room for creative license. Help them have some fun with those projects! Just ask Andy Warhol: Some of the best art is born of imitation.



November 22, 2021

Misinformation is as old as information itself. Without a doubt, broad internet access has amplified access to both. Where students in previous generations worked hard at finding information, today’s students have all the information they could ever need, and more. Y4Y’s new Click & Go on digital literacy will help you guide students through discerning online content to become more savvy learners. Borrowing from the creative program ideas in this month’s newsletter — What was the actual first U.S. European settlement? — you can break this mystery down with new Y4Y tools, including why the answer differs from what lies on the surface at Thanksgiving.

Find and Evaluate

The mini-lesson in this Click & Go provides an overview of the cognitive and technical skills students will need. The components of find, evaluate, create and communicate are all fundamental to strong digital literacy, but within evaluate — perhaps the most important — students are asked to consider the accuracy and credibility of information. The second podcast with this Click & Go, Evaluating Information and Digital Content, lays the groundwork for this exercise. The Guide for Spotting Misinformation and Disinformation is another useful tool. So, back to that question: What was the actual first European settlement in what is now North America? Let’s scratch the surface with critical thinking questions! Are we talking about a settlement that became permanent? Were women and children along? Is there archeological evidence or only a cultural or religious story shared from one generation to another? By answering these questions, again you’ll get many different answers!

Create and Communicate

Let’s move on to the digital literacy components of create and communicate. With the Guiding Content Creation, Comparing Presentation Modalities and Presenting to Different Audiences tools in hand, you can guide students through a number of considerations to produce a digitally literate assignment. Suppose your student who claims heritage dating to the Mayflower wants to prepare a report on the first Thanksgiving and frame Plymouth as the first European settlement in America. All credible sources — such as those ending with .edu, .gov or in some cases .org — say Jamestown was earlier, and some Spanish and French settlements that don’t remain today were even earlier. Other credible sources assert that the people who were native to this part of the world were the true first settlers. After listening to the podcasts Communicating With Your Audience and Creating Content, you and your student might decide together that their plan needs some modifying.

Striking a Balance

Does your student need to abandon all plans of honoring their family’s tradition of Thanksgiving to demonstrate digital literacy? Absolutely not! They can

  • Frame Plymouth as the widely accepted first European settlement in New England. In other words, be direct about accuracy.
  • Call out any importance or relevance of the “first Thanksgiving” as a personal opinion.
  • Honor known facts and historical figures in other ways with mentions and citations.
  • Be clear with audience-appropriate tools — such as humor or illustrations — what the intention of the piece is and is not.

The world would be a very dull place if all we had access to was dry, factual information. For centuries we’ve read novels, enjoyed paintings, appreciated trick photography and told ghost stories with very little threat of mistaking facts for fiction once each new medium was understood. Young and old alike are slowly discovering how to apply the skills of scrutiny that have always been there to the brave new digital world. By appreciating that in all that color, texture and variation of digital content there is a sort of beauty, we’ll become better skilled at scratching the surface and strengthening our digital literacy at Thanksgiving and year-round. Y4Y’s new Click & Go is a great place to start!