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September 21, 2021

Heading into what’s traditionally flu season, your host organization is likely stepping up its safety practices to ensure a healthy winter. Throughout August, the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) released resources and reminders to start the year out right. Be sure to review them along with Y4Y resources to help you “brave” the rest of the program year.

To start, check out the Department’s comprehensive list of COVID-19 resources and the Return to School Roadmap.

The Department responded to questions about enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) — which promises all a free appropriate public education (FAPE) — during these unpredictable times. The Department issued a letter to state education agencies (SEAs) noting that it reaffirms a commitment to the legislation. What does this mean in your 21st CCLC program? As an entity receiving federal funds, you want to be sure your students with disabilities are not disproportionately impacted. Consult Y4Y’s resources in the course on including students with disabilities, such as the Federal State Law Fillable Document, to be sure you’re up to speed with any modifications your state might have made in response to COVID-19 measures. While you continue to make modifications to your program space with infection safety in mind, don’t forget to review the Environmental Checklist to be sure you’re still accommodating those students with disabilities.

While it does stand firm on IDEA, be sure to review the Department’s list of Waivers and Flexibility, and know that as you have pockets of students going in and out of quarantine, your state may offer generous flexibility around school-time 21st CCLC programming. Y4Y hosted and archived many webinars and published contributions from practitioners around the country who managed to meet their students where they were throughout the last school year. Check out 21st CCLC Programs in a Virtual World Part I and Part 2, and podcasts on engaging students virtually, successful virtual STEAM programming and one program’s student-driven “netiquette” policies.

In response to questions around school openings and civil rights, the Department prepared a civil rights Q&A document. Has the question of civil rights come up in your program space? Don’t be afraid of this conversation! Instead, use the opportunity to help students understand how our government works, both on the national and local levels. Y4Y’s Civic Learning and Engagement course and resources like the Investigating Issues in Your Community tool can help you turn a hot-button topic into a teaching moment.

Know that a focus on wellness — both physical and mental — is a priority for everyone this year. The Department published a list of resources, but catering to your 21st CCLC program specifically, tools within the Y4Y’s Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day Click & Go can make it easy to work with the professionals who know your students as well as you do to fill in the wellness gaps you discover together. In some cases, your program may even be connecting families with health care or other related services. Now is a good time for staff to brush up on their understanding of how important all types of family engagement are in 21st CCLC programs with Y4Y’s Training to Go on connecting families to supports.

“Wellness” means different things to different people, especially in 2021, but we know your concern for students’ wellness covers all definitions: physical, mental and academic. We’re here to help. Just take your dose of Y4Y and call us in the morning!



July 19, 2021

Is your health and wellness the first thing you let go of in your personal life when things get hectic? Is it also the first thing to give way when you need a little more space or time in your 21st CCLC program? Look to Y4Y’s Click & Go resources so that by partnering with school-day professionals, you’re committing to everyone’s well-being.

Consider New Risk Factors

The long-term effects of the pandemic will take years to fully document, but here are some concerns you might already have about your students:

  • Possible infection by COVID-19, including unknown lifelong health risks
  • A more sedentary lifestyle for a full year
  • Food insecurity, which could mean hunger, unhealthy attitudes about food and/or even higher processed food consumption than before COVID-19
  • Neglect or trauma in the family, which adds to their Adverse Childhood Experiences score (ACES), also bringing with it lifelong health risks (see Y4Y’s Background on Trauma Research Brief or Mini-Lesson: An Introduction to Trauma-Informed Care).

In other words, the time is right to focus on student health as an important aspect of their overall recovery.

Exercise Is Important, But Not All Important

Naturally, a generous dose of good old-fashioned running around or playground time is a go-to in your 21st CCLC program. When weather permits, those outdoor activities that allow for student choice, teamwork and physical exercise are irreplaceable. But some obstacles to your “plan A” for student health and wellness might include limited time, a program space that is not conducive, weather that drives you indoors, and possibly student mask wearing, which some students might find troubling during physical exercise. For these reasons and many more surrounding their future wellness, you can look to weaving in mindfulness exercises for students to address many of the same health considerations that exercise does.

Follow the Evidence

Chances are, your school district is well aware of the proven health benefits of mindfulness. Dozens of controlled studies indicate that active, routine participation in mindfulness or meditation can do the following:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Slow cognitive decline in older people and improve mental clarity and focus at all ages
  • Reduce cell aging
  • Improve immune response
  • Help to counteract psychological pain

These strong arguments for introducing your students to routine mindfulness exercises are sure to sway your school-day partners if they don’t already have a formal initiative in place. Or, maybe a wellness initiative exists, but little or no emphasis is given to mindfulness. Your program’s efforts will have greater impact if you collaborate, so Y4Y developed a microlearning Click & Go with easy-to-follow guidance to either tap into existing efforts or start a new ball rolling. Important tools to get you started are the Quick Guide to Initiating a Partnership and the Conversations Starters tool. Like any other collaboration with the school-day, your program’s voice at the policy table will amplify results — in this case, boosting students’ health and wellness recovery.

Ready to Implement

Luckily, simple mindfulness exercises require little training for staff to lead. As an added bonus, when staff engage in these activities, they reap the short-term reward of being more patient, compassionate educators and the long-term health benefits noted above. But be sure to get staff on the same page at the outset. Y4Y’s Staff Health and Wellness Self-Assessment and Self-Assessment on Personal Views of Health and Wellness will help. Also see Y4Y’s Best Practices for Mindfulness tool.

Although practicing mindfulness can help you learn how to let things go — an argument, disappointment, anxiety or even grief — the practice itself is something your program should keep a tight grip on. And be sure you’re giving students the tools they’ll need to do likewise throughout their long, healthy lives.



May 20, 2021

Through the pandemic, 21st CCLC programs across the country learned just how valuable cooking lessons can be. Many plan to carry them on indefinitely. Discover point by point all of the skills and knowledge that you can build in your students with a good old-fashioned afternoon in the kitchen.

  • Build literacy skills. Reading a recipe expands your students’ vocabularies. Depending on the difficulty level of your selection, students might learn to distinguish between chop, mince, dice and cube. Putting these terms, and their differences, on their brain’s back burner can be an introduction to nuance. We know that extensive vocabulary building actually broadens thinking, self-expression and ultimately success. Check out the Y4Y Literacy Everywhere tool for more tips.
  • Exercise math skills. Cooking is a "textbook" lesson for working with fractions (e.g., “mix 1/2 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda”).
  • Learn about real-world science. Again, depending on the age of your students, there are concepts in chemistry and physics to explore in cooking. We’ve all heard the story about how the first chocolate chip cookies were supposed to be chocolate cookies but their baker misjudged how the chocolate would behave in the oven.
  • Collaborate. Too many chefs in the kitchen? No such thing in your 21st CCLC program! But each student needs to understand her or his role in each task, take turns and play to their strengths. The STEAM tool for Selecting Student Roles for Group Work is easily adapted to the kitchen.
  • Develop healthy eating habits. Preparing a simple soup in the kitchen instead of popping open a can means using fresh ingredients. You can also help students develop the habits of reading labels on packaged foods and making healthy choices. Does the recipe give the option of substituting whole milk for cream? How does the fat content compare? Every ingredient is a potential research project in healthfulness. Be sure to partner with school-day professionals for consistent messaging and to see what gaps they may be seeking to fill. For tips, see the Y4Y Click & Go on Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day.
  • Plan, budget and shop. Cooking is a great opportunity to exercise the planning process. Instead of starting your cooking lesson with a pile of ingredients and the needed equipment, start it with a recipe and a conversation around what you have and what you’ll need. Now that you can shop online together, go back to that cream soup and ask: how does the cost of cream compare to milk?
  • Honor history and cultures. Just as each ingredient is a research opportunity in healthfulness and cost, each recipe is a research opportunity in history and culture.

As your students increase their comfort in the kitchen, you can make recipe selection a group activity, honoring student voice and choice. Every parent of a picky eater knows that a dash of voice and thick slice of kitchen help can increase a child’s interest in the resulting product! Or, rather than seeking agreement for each recipe selection, if your program is small enough, you might assign each student a week to bring in their own favorite recipe from home. Beef up your family engagement and invite a family member to come in to help.

Afterschool educators across the country warmly invited students into their home kitchens (virtually) throughout school closures in a resourceful effort to keep them engaged. Just imagine how well loved those in-person cooking activities will be when students can take in those savory aromas from a delicious pot of soup simmering on the back burner while all their learning simmers in their bright young minds.



April 7, 2021

The school day is the protein-rich foundation in your students’ day. Your 21st CCLC program is the light and sweet finish. When you align your efforts, everyone leaves the table satisfied. Y4Y’s new Click & Go, Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day, has simple tips on forming a delicious pairing.

We’re Hungry! (The Why)

This spring is an important time to commit to intentional collaboration with your school-day counterparts. This collaboration can and should intersect with staff at every level of your program.

  • School-day teachers are taking an inventory of the academic recovery each student is facing. Students’ circumstances and their responses to virtual and hybrid education during the pandemic can vary widely, even within a single virtual classroom. Students’ academic gains and losses through this academic year are also likely to vary widely.
  • Student health and wellness have suffered universally as well, but schools may be spread thin, given the high priority on academic recovery. Your program can play a key role in supporting students’ health and wellness.
  • Funds are available! The Afterschool Alliance produced a webinar, “$122 Billion for Education in American Rescue Plan: What It Means for OST Programs,” on how out-of-school time programs like yours can boost their role in recovery. Your school-day partners will be hungry to work with you to maximize access to this funding on behalf of your mutual students.
  • Most districts can’t follow their students through the summer, but your program can. Jointly, you can decide the best approach for each student.

Spread Generously. (The How)

Developing or strengthening partnerships with the school day doesn’t have to be complicated. Just intentional.

Delish PB&J. (The What)

Get ready to implement the best activities your creative, mouth-watering programming juices can muster!

Unless you’re allergic to peanut butter, the idea of the PB&J pairing of the school day and your program should strike just the right tone. Each is made better with the other right there for balance. And each nourishes students in different but important ways. “Spread” the word!



March 18, 2021

Every day brings more promise of a return to “normal” 21st CCLC programming. Rich lessons we’ve taken from a year of full or partial physical separation from students include these:

  • An understanding that connectedness is everything. A decade of social media might have suggested that you can trick the brain into believing those human connections can be replaced with virtual (“wireless”) ones, but a year of pandemic has blown that theory out of the water. Relationships matter.
  • Despite those charming articles and blog posts about how the pandemic has allowed people to reevaluate and reset their eating habits, 21st CCLC families are more likely to be food insecure and dependent on processed foods for basic sustenance.
  • “Self-care” has grown way beyond buzz words; professionals in many industries, but ESPECIALLY education, are keenly aware of an escalation in stress levels from the day-to-day demands of flexibility. The stakes of student outcomes make most education professionals eager to begin bridging the learning gap that has only widened for 21st CCLC students over the course of the last year.

As the school year winds down with anything but normal momentum, the hope of more in-person programming can at least offer your program the opportunity to be one with your students, set a footing for a summer of remediation and healing, and set new priorities and practices on well-being going forward.

There’s a certain irony in suggesting the need for more “heavy lifting” to arrive at your happy place, so consider all of the resources you can take advantage of passively. Grab a cup of tea, jump on your rowing machine, or even step out with your laptop onto your patio this weekend and check out these archived webinars and Click & Go mini-lessons and podcasts. Let the messages swirl around in the back of your mind to plan for summer and fall programming with the above goals in mind.

  • A new Y4Y Click & Go, Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day, offers a mini-lesson with the basics, as well as four short podcasts: Planning Health and Wellness Activities, Connecting With School-Day Staff on Health and Wellness, Health and Wellness On the Go, and Caring for Your Staff.
  • An archived LIVE With Y4Y webinar, Bringing Mindfulness to Out-of-School Time, offers strategies for promoting thoughtful positivity and awareness among staff and students.
  • A four-part webinar series, Social and Emotional Learning, steps through the process for delivering high-quality social and emotional learning activities: planning, designing, implementing and assessing your efforts.
  • Another four-part webinar series, An Artfully Formed Positive Environment, provides the tools you need to paint smiles on the faces and warmth in the hearts of staff, family, partners and, most of all, your students.
  • An archived Y4Y Showcase webinar, Expanding Quality Health and Recreational Opportunities, lives up to the promise in its name. It demonstrates successful implementation health and wellness initiatives in out-of-school time.
  • An archived four-part webinar series, Strategic Partnerships, helps you consider how partnerships can be an asset in helping to address food insecurity among your students.

We hear it everywhere today: “Give yourself grace.” These are simple words, representing a simple concept. Goodness knows that 21st CCLC professionals across the country have extended that grace to their students! Now it’s time to be one with your students in this exercise as you ease out of an unprecedented year and into one of unity, calm and productive energy.