You for Youth logo
Online Professional Learning and
Technical Assistance for
21st Century Community Learning Centers
  1. Contact Us
  2. Join
  3. Sign In

March 21, 2019

Designing activities that engage families and address their needs can improve your program’s performance. As you plan activities, be sure to look at your family needs assessment. If you haven’t checked needs recently, the Y4Y Family Engagement Survey can get you started. Find it and many other resources in the updated Family Engagement course.

Here are five activity types that can add horsepower to your program’s family engagement engine:

Skill-based activities: These activities help adult family members gain new knowledge and skills, serve as good role models, and support and nurture their children. Topics can include GED preparation, English as a second language, nutrition and healthy living, and understanding the school system. For some topics, you might want to partner with the school, the district or local agencies.

Enrichment activities: Engaging in enjoyable activities can help family members strengthen connections to program and school staff, build friendships with community members, and explore and expand their interests. Topics might include arts, crafts, exercise (such as Zumba or yoga) and attending cultural and sporting events.

Family and student shared activities: These activities pull family members into student learning while introducing ways they can support their children. Topics can include activities with a high fun factor, such as educational games, and future-focused activities like college and career planning.

Leadership activities: Family members can become “learning mechanics” for your program when you engage them in roles that involve making decisions, taking leadership or mentoring peers. When family members serve on your program planning team, lead special events or advocate for your program in the community, they take ownership and feel valued.

Resource-linking activities: You provide important support for families when you make them aware of community resources. Consider working with partners to design events that introduce employment services, food banks, literacy support and more. Your program might host a vision or dental health screening, or create a resource table where families can take discount coupons and information when they pick up their children. For more, see this Training to Go on Connecting Families to Resources.

Remember to communicate! The best family engagement events are the ones family members attend. So, make sure everyone knows what’s coming. You can send notices home with students, of course, but also use other ways to communicate. For tips on using social media, see our recent Y4Y post: Social Media: Where to Begin.



January 24, 2019

Do your students think of scientists as loners in lab coats? Citizen science can change their minds and spark new interests — especially when you add social media to the mix.

Citizen science enlists people of all ages in collecting and sharing data for research purposes. It’s nothing new. In fact, the first Farmers’ Almanac more than 200 years ago relied on the general population for data, although they didn’t call it crowdsourcing at that time. It’s a way for your students to work and learn with others, either virtually or in real time, on authentic science projects. For some, the experience could be a game changer. It might even spark an interest in subjects and careers that previously seemed beyond their reach.

There’s a citizen science project to match just about every interest area, and several involve social media:

  • Fascinated by creepy-crawly things? Do a bioblitz! It’s a species inventory that involves observing, recording and documenting living things in a well-defined area in a short period of time. This group project will get students working and talking together in real time — plus they can use apps like iNaturalist and Fieldscope to share and discuss their findings with other citizen scientists across the world. Get instructions for a do-it-yourself bioblitz from National Geographic. Watch this 2.5-minute video to hear what students and organizers say about their schoolyard bioblitz experience.
  • Enjoy word games? The VerbCorner website collects data from humans as they play word games to help computers better understand the nuances of the English language. The site includes an online discussion forum.
  • Are you a cloud watcher? Download NASA’s GLOBE Observer app, contribute your observation data, and connect to the project’s worldwide community of cloud observers via Facebook and Twitter.    
  • Interested in innovation? Visit citizenscience.gov for a U.S. government-wide listing of citizen science and crowdsourcing projects designed to help local, state and federal agencies accelerate innovation through public participation.
  • Want more options? Citisci.org lets you participate in projects created by other citizen scientists or create your own. SciStarter lets you search for projects that match your interests and track your contributions. Scientific American features a variety of real science projects to join. Zooniverse has citizen science projects in medicine, history, literature, social science, the arts and more. Also try searching on #citizenscience.

For links to more citizen science projects, see the Introduction section of Y4Y’s Citizen Science course. The Coaching My Staff section of the course has resources to help train staff and students. See this Y4Y blog post for pointers on integrating technology into activities.

If you haven’t yet dipped your toes into citizen science activities, take a look! Then bring your planning team together to consider what might fit into your spring and summer sessions.

Meanwhile, if you’re in the mood for crowdsourcing, feel free to share your own citizen science stories and ideas; just look for Leave a Reply below. Your 21st CCLC colleagues will thank you.  



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.