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March 18, 2021

Y4Y is excited to roll out its updated STEM (now STEAM) course to familiarize your 21st CCLC program staff with the design thinking process and how your students can apply collaboration and creativity to compelling STEM learning.

Your navigator, Sean, will blast off with you into the universe of STEAM with a first stop in the Enterprise Briefing Room. As a cadette, you’ll earn a Basic Level certificate of completion when you soar through Chapters 1 and 2 of the Introduction section of the STEAM course, learning how to

  • Define STEAM as an approach to learning.
  • Describe the evolution of STEAM.
  • Describe how STEAM benefits students, 21st CCLC programs and schools.
  • Explain how STEAM can help students prepare for future careers.
  • Describe the variations and characteristics of STEAM projects and activities.
  • Identify the required tasks for planning and implementing high-quality STEAM projects and activities.

But your STEAM mission doesn’t end there! Earn an Advanced Level certificate of completion when you sign on to the six tasks of STEAM implementation:

  • Consider STEAM education variation and characteristics.
  • Activate the power of design thinking and makerspaces.
  • Plan to mitigate risks.
  • Choose your mission and implement your STEAM activity.
  • Ensure a smooth link to program goals by implementing with fidelity.
  • Assess, reflect and celebrate.

Your STEAM adventures won’t come to a full stop until you’ve earned your Leadership Level certificate of completion by rocketing through the Coaching My Staff section of the STEAM course. You’ll find support for training staff as they integrate the elements of STEAM to promote student learning, especially when it comes to

  • Applying design thinking.
  • Creating a makerspace.
  • Connecting STEAM to real-world challenges.

Sign into your Y4Y account today and discover how vast your and your students’ opportunities are as you develop collaboration, innovative thinking and limitless professional paths in your 21st CCLC program, using the new Y4Y STEAM course as your guide.



March 18, 2021

Some students walk into your program on the first day as natural leaders. Others have no vision of themselves in a leadership role. Leadership might be a concept that we hesitate to apply to young people, out of our desire to let them “come into their own.” But leadership comes in many shapes and sizes, and your 21st CCLC program is the perfect place to help all students explore and develop leadership skills. Nothing provides a greater sense of connection to the world around us than that vested feeling of active leadership.

The Texas State Safety Center offers a concise list of research-based benefits from youth leadership:

  • Leadership skills, such as personal goal-setting, problem-solving and sound decision-making
  • Improved ability to solve community problems and enhance civic participation 
  • Formation of higher career aspirations, increased self-esteem, and improved high school completion rates
  • Direct benefits to communities and organizations through a greater understanding of the problems facing other youth, and fresh perspectives on how to address these problems
  • Positive impact on adults by counteracting negative stereotypes of youth when they are successfully engaged in leadership within their communities. 

Y4Y offers a number of resources to help you guide the teens in your program to leadership roles. There are many sides to this conversation, so referencing the tools in several different Y4Y courses will arm you with a comprehensive approach.

  1. What do your students enjoy, what’s their comfort level, and what are they good at? Y4Y’s new Student Voice and Choice course offers tools such as Student Goal Setting and Reflection and SMART Goal Starter for Students. When your students better understand themselves and what they want out of your program and their lives, you can collectively find the right brand of leadership for them.
  2. What’s fair to expect? Tools in the Civic Learning and Engagement course can acquaint you with Youth Development Stages and Incorporating Multiple Viewpoints to lay the groundwork for mutually agreed upon, age-appropriate expectations as you ask students to navigate new leadership roles.
  3. What does youth leadership look like? The new Y4Y Click & Go on Recruiting and Retaining High School Students emphasizes the importance of youth leadership to the overall success of your teen program. Check out the tools on Youth Leadership Roles and the Youth Ambassador Job Description Template to dive into a framework for youth leadership in your program.
  4. What will youth actually lead? Great question! If you have non-STEM-based collaborative academic enrichment projects in mind, you can turn to the Group Roles, Youth Participation Checklist, Planner for Brainstorming and Project Planner tools, all in the Project-Based Learning course. Looking to develop student leadership skills through STEM projects and activities? Check out the new Y4Y STEAM course and related tools like the STEAM Student Self-Monitoring Checklist for Project Work, Design Thinking Task Tracker for Students and Selecting Student Roles for Group Work. Each student can play to their strengths and lead their own learning, regardless of their assigned role on a project team! Of course, if you’re looking to take that sense of community beyond the “four walls” of your program into the larger community, revisit tools in the Y4Y Civic Learning and Engagement course, like Brainstorming Civic Engagement Topics and Investigating Issues in Your Community to get student leadership on the right path to community project success.

A noted American anthropologist, Margaret Mead, famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Adopting this guiding philosophy on the power that your students can have in their own lives and the lives of others will grow leadership in each of them. Not only will your students and your program benefit, but the ever-shrinking globe will gain the leaders of tomorrow it so desperately needs.



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.



February 26, 2021

You can learn about design thinking in Y4Y’s new course on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics). Design thinking is a problem-solving learning approach that acknowledges the role of creativity and the arts in STEM learning. It’s similar to the engineering design process NASA engineers use, as well as the creative process you see in the arts. You might remember that classic scene in Apollo 13 when the engineering team is presented with a list of materials at the astronauts’ disposal and asked to devise a way to make a “square peg to fit into a round hole.” The engineers had to use their imaginations, being flexible in their perceptions of what materials serve what purpose, in order to save the lives of their space-going counterparts. That scene perfectly illustrates design thinking.

An activity that taps into design thinking leads students to develop a product that solves a real-world problem or create something meaningful or of value. These activities ask students to

  • Research users' needs.
  • Clearly state the needs of users.
  • Challenge their assumptions and document their ideas.
  • Create solutions through brainstorming, collaboration and experimentation.
  • Test and refine solutions.

Since 1978, schools around the world have offered Odyssey of the Mind (OotM) competitive clubs, promoting collaborative, creative problem-solving activities. Explore the design thinking that’s at the heart of this organization, the benefits and outcomes for students who’ve participated over the decades, and how these globally relevant lessons can be brought into 21st CCLC programs.

OotM problems, both long-term and spontaneous, ask students to combine their knowledge and their imaginations in a team environment to build, fix or create something in a new way. A small but statistically significant 2019 study that surveyed coaches and judges in the organization found that 10 core competencies were built through participation: teamwork, creativity, problem solving, planning and organizing, time management, public speaking, leadership, compromise, oral communication and adhering to constraints or parameters. Noted, also, in a 2017 study, participation in OotM helps students “learn, develop, and create highly transferable skills, experiences, and competencies, helping them become more career-ready and better prepared to engage into the global workforce.” So, what is OotM’s magic formula?

OotM teams are guided by adult coaches who might aid in developing discrete skills needed to solve a problem, but do not assist in forming actual solutions. Reflecting the importance of student voice and choice, teams can choose from several different types of problems, from mechanical to literary or musical. Long-term problem-solving involves student-planned use of time and material resources according to a list of criteria that must be met. These principles also come into play in the solving of spontaneous problems which are, as the name suggests, on-the-spot activities.

But the key element of imagination, to young minds, translates to a sense of “play,” even when rigorous structure and goals define an activity. Any veteran coach will tell you that preparation for an OotM team is a textbook makerspace, complete with generic materials such as rubber bands and Popsicle sticks with endless possible uses. While the students’ “arts and crafts” experience will offer them some proficiency with using these materials, formal curriculum and hands-on experience will help them understand nuances such as how you can best orient a Popsicle stick to maximize its strength, or what conditions and forces dictate the limits of a rubber band.

OotM’s popularity speaks to how much students enjoy creative problem solving together because it taps into their natural love of play. In fact, another way to describe design thinking is “play with a purpose!” With tools such as the Activity Center Planner, Student Self-Monitoring Checklist for Project Work, and STEAM Activity Example, the new Y4Y STEAM course will inspire you to reimagine how to support your students’ school-day STEM learning. Incorporating design thinking means that not even the sky is the limit when it comes to also giving your students the many career-readiness skills that OotM participants have enjoyed for decades. Truly, you can place the universe at their fingertips by helping your students to learn through play.



February 17, 2021

In 2017, Admiral William H. McRaven wowed Americans with his viral commencement speech centered on his experience with elite Navy Seal training. His simple message, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed,” reduced all achievements, great and small, to simple goal setting and drawing inspiration from achieving those goals. More important, it drew attention to the fact that little things matter: We all have the power to end each day with a reminder that we started the day having achieved a goal.

Y4Y’s new Click & Go, Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day, might seem a far-flung topic from Navy Seal training. After all, our wellness goals for our students hopefully don’t involve confronting sharks or sitting in freezing cold mud all night. But Admiral McRaven’s advice still resonates.

The mini-lesson in the new Y4Y Click & Go shows how valuable your 21st CCLC program can be in advancing the health and wellness of your students, beginning with the basic definition of health as “the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Moreover, wellness is defined as “the quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively sought goal.” An actively sought goal: enter Admiral McRaven.

With tips from the Click & Go resources, your health and wellness initiative can bridge gaps in school-day offerings with activities centered on physical activity, social and emotional learning, and nutrition. As the admiral might say, you can inform, support and inspire students to set goals around making good choices in these areas. Then help them reach those goals. Research shows that improving wellness boosts the ability to focus attention, process information and build new skills and knowledge. This ultimately results in better grades and behavior, and a better outlook in life for your students. What’s more, the lessons gained through social and emotional learning itself builds self-awareness, self-regulation and positive coping skills. Before you know it, your students may very well have the fortitude of a team of Navy Seals!

Admiral McRaven’s words of wisdom emphasize the power of hope, and how profoundly one person can change the world by giving hope to others. This gets to the very spirit and mission of the 21st CCLC program, which is designed to pave the way for underserved students, show them the bright futures within their power to achieve, and provide tools to help them reach their goals. Their health and wellness lie at the beginning and end of that achievement, just as a neatly made bed lies at the beginning and end of a goal-driven day.