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December 11, 2018

As winter arrives, longer nights and cooler temperatures might have you and your 21st CCLC team wishing for summer already. Take advantage of “summer fever” to make sure your plan for summer programming is on track. Take five minutes right now to visit the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative page and do a quick gut check. Here’s how:

  • Get motivated. The Implementation Planner page gives four reasons to plan now instead of later. The Research page describes eight ways summer learning programs matter for student success, and what practices matter most. (Hint: Number 8 says good planning gets results!)
  • Get organized. The Plan a Program page lays out seven sequential steps for planning an effective summer program. You can see all seven at a glance and note steps that might need attention, like inviting a community member to join the program team or planning logistics for local field trips.
  • Get tools. Tools are listed for each planning step. All the lists are on one screen, so you can quickly see what’s available for the steps that need the attention in your program.
  • Get started. Bookmark the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative site now so you can benefit from the experiences of 40 Summer Learning Initiative grantees across seven states who received in-depth coaching and professional learning to build their summer programs.
  • Get others engaged. Forward the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative link to your team with a short personal message like this: “This cold weather has me thinking about summer. Here’s a good resource from the U.S. Department of Education. Let’s talk about this in our next meeting.”
An ounce of planning now can save a ton of last-minute problem solving next summer.


December 11, 2018

Dedicated 21st CCLC practitioners like you have three things on their wish list for the coming year:

✔ Activities that target student needs.

✔ Activities that advance program goals.

✔ Activities that students love.

Fortunately, a magic wand called “data” can help you make these wishes come true. You can use data to assess where you are versus where you want to be and make targeted changes. It doesn’t have to be painful or time consuming. Here’s a fun way to do it as the calendar year winds down:

Make a red wand:

  • Gather your program team around the fireplace and provide hot cocoa.
  • Pull out the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time bound) goals you set earlier for your program and for specific activities.
  • Review the goals and, together, rate your success in reaching them.
  • For each goal you didn’t reach, ask the team, “What’s one thing can we do differently in the coming year to reach this goal?” If you did reach a goal, decide whether to set a new one.
  • Write your red-hot ideas on red paper, and wrap the paper around a stick. You can use this “data wand” in future planning meetings.

Make a green wand:

  • Survey students and families on what they liked about the fall session and what they want in the future.
  • Review the responses with your team, and put results in categories like “student choice,” “outdoor activities” and “social skills.”
  • Write your green-for-growth ideas on green paper, and wrap the paper around a stick. Use this “data wand” along with the red one as you plan your spring activity schedule.

You can pull out your data wands in the coming months to remind the team of their findings and conclusions. This “data magic” can help them focus their talents and efforts on making a positive difference for students. Best wishes in making your 21st CCLC wish list reality in the coming year!

P.S. Consider setting a date in January for Y4Y’s Training to Go, Identifying and Addressing Program Strengths and Weaknesses. This customizable training can take your team deeper into program improvement.



October 24, 2018

Some days, planning and running a 21st CCLC program can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t have to do everything alone! Community partners can add resources and expertise to your tool box and provide diverse experiences for students, ranging from drug and alcohol prevention to dance lessons. It’s important to build partnerships thoughtfully, however, so they benefit everyone involved.

Map your community assets.

Start by listing your program needs and your current resources. Then expand your list by brainstorming additional community resources available through institutions, organizations, businesses and individuals. This process is called asset mapping. Be sure to involve others! Ask colleagues, parents, friends and youth for ideas. A staff member’s spouse might work at a local bank that provides financial literacy activities for all ages. A parent who works in the science department of your local university might know about resources for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities. Expand your search to the online community if you can’t find local assets related to a program need.

Identify and recruit potential partners.

Potential partners might include schools and universities, libraries, museums, businesses, nonprofit organizations, professional societies, government agencies, media outlets, clubs or special interest groups, family members and other individuals. Brainstorm all possibilities before prioritizing the list and recruiting partners who are willing and able to work with your program to address a specific topic or need.

Communicate and collaborate with partners.

Once you connect with a potential partner, you’ll want to create a compelling shared vision. How will students benefit? How will the partners benefit? How will the larger community benefit? At a kickoff meeting, discuss your shared vision for why the partnership matters, and define roles and responsibilities. After that, schedule weekly or monthly check-in meetings. Include partners in program events such as end-of-year celebrations, and publicly acknowledge their contributions.

Use free Y4Y resources to help you build and strengthen partnerships.

The Y4Y Strengthening Partnerships course will help you learn how to identify partners, develop an effective memorandum of understanding, establish a shared vision, and communicate roles and responsibilities. The Y4Y Mapping Community Assets tool from the Summer Learning Initiative webpage can help you think about what your community has to offer. 


October 24, 2018

With a new program year under way, and your activities up and running, it’s a good time to check on staff professional learning needs. If you’ve hired new staff or made big changes in activities or partnerships, ask, “What’s one thing you’d like to learn that would help you feel more comfortable or confident in your role?”

Staff needs and responses are likely to vary from one person to another. Encourage everyone to register on Y4Y and explore what’s there. Also, be ready to point to specific Y4Y resources that can help address their needs.

Meeting staff members’ individual short- and medium-range needs. If someone says, “I wish I could do more to support students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs),” you could point to Topic Guide 8 in the Y4Y series of implementation guides on inclusion. If several people say “I’d like to facilitate project-based learning more effectively,” you might suggest that they do the Y4Y Project-Based Learning course together. For staff who are new to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, the Y4Y Introduction to 21st CCLC course could be helpful.

Aligning your program’s professional learning plan with staff needs. Consider staff responses to the “What do you need?” question as you review your upcoming professional learning events. For example, if you’ve scheduled an in-house literacy seminar for March, but staff identify it as a pressing need in September, you might want to hold the seminar earlier than planned.

Working toward long-term staff and program goals. You can inspire and motivate staff members to think about their individual long-term professional goals. Y4Y provides professionalization resources that can help 21st CCLC staff members develop a plan to help them reach those goals. Having a more skilled and qualified staff will, in turn, help your program reach its goals.

Enrolling in an online course or pursuing a formal certification program might take some staff members out of their comfort zone. Program leaders can offer coaching, support and reassurance that professional learning is the key to greater satisfaction and success.



September 17, 2018

Whether you’re an old hand or just had your first experience with summer programming, you know the best time to start planning for next summer is now. Here are some ideas from 21st CCLC sites that participated in the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative and used a planning process designed to produce high-quality programming.

Market your program to build interest before summer begins.

In Kansas, a summer program for elementary school students once struggled to enroll students in what was described as a “summer school” focused on academics. Using strategies from the Summer Learning Initiative, staff decided to call the program a “summer camp” instead of summer school and created a fun “summer safari” theme. They emphasized engaging, hands-on learning experiences that build students’ academic skills. The program sent personalized invitations to the students who would benefit most from participation, and followed up with phone calls. For the summer 2018 program, they were at capacity with a waiting list, and parents were calling to ask if their child could get into the program. The program director attributed this success to the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative’s marketing and intentional student recruitment strategies.

Offer activities that keep students engaged throughout the summer.

Incorporating student voice is essential to creating a summer program that students want to attend. A high school program in California provided a variety of opportunities for student input. For example, the site coordinator turned his office into a resource center and encouraged students to stop by to talk. The program also used student surveys. Staff members set up an outdoor canopy during lunch to conduct informal focus groups with students. The site coordinator said these efforts to incorporate student voice improved program quality.

Some programs used educational field trips that were connected to their learning goals and program themes. For example, a program in New Jersey with a theater theme took students to local performing arts centers for learning events, then had them write about their experiences in a journal. Structured experiences like this provide real-world learning opportunities that motivate student attendance and engagement.

"They don't have to be here — they want to be here." 

State Coordinator, California

Your work’s not over when summer ends.

Once your program ends, taking the time to learn from your successes and struggles can help you make improvements the next time around. Summer Learning Initiative participants created continuous improvement plans that included performance measures and measurement tools. They assigned staff, targeted groups for assessment, and set time frames to help them determine if they met their goals. Comparing actual outcomes to intended outcomes will help you understand the effectiveness of your program. Analyzing data and discussing lessons learned can help you make adjustments that will lead to greater satisfaction and success for staff and students.

For example, a program for high school students in Oregon struggled with student attendance — until staff members decided to incorporate more student voice and offered engaging science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) activities that matched student interests. A program in Kansas learned that many students were struggling during the school year, so the staff tried a new approach for the summer, using project-based learning to target specific skills and content. Students and teachers alike enjoyed the hands-on activities, and the program director reported increases in staff capacity.

"This helps them see different ways to teach. It's making them better teachers."

Project Director, Kansas

Summer Learning Initiative resources are free and available on Y4Y.

Even if you’ve never helped plan a summer learning program, you don’t have to start from scratch! Visit the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative webpage to watch short videos of Initiative participants and download the tools they used on. You can learn more about the steps for planning and implementing high-quality summer learning experiences by exploring the resources on that page and ones in the Y4Y Summer Learning course.