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September 21, 2017

You’ve worked hard to make your 21st CCLC program feel like a second home to children and youth. So how do you ensure that their families feel the same way? Try the three R’s of family engagement: Be a resource, be a refuge and help families refuel! 

These tips and the linked tools can help you put family-friendly practices in place right away. Also be sure to visit the Y4Y Family Engagement course!

 

Be a Resource

- Assess family needs. When family members pick up students, ask them to complete a brief survey or have a brief conversation to learn about areas where they need help. 

- With your program team, map community assets. Find agencies and organizations that target unmet needs. 

- Set up a family information center. Offer brochures and application forms for free or low-cost services, such as food pantries, housing support and children’s health insurance. Put information and forms where family members will see them when they pick up their children. 

- Hold an evening or weekend information fair. Invite students’ families and people from the service agencies and organizations to come learn about one another. Be prepared to help family members complete applications or schedule appointments. 

 
Be a Refuge

- Start by welcoming families, learning their names, using translators if they speak a language other than English, and doing other things to build trust.  

- Help families learn about the school system. Families want their children to do well in school, but cultural or personal factors may make them reluctant to approach school personnel. Help families understand education jargon, how the school system works and how to get help for challenges their children face. 

- Make connections to the school day. You see family members several times a week, so you can show parents what students have done on their homework, and suggest ways family members can help continue the learning at home. Make an opportunity for a casual, friendly introduction to a school-day teacher or principal. 

- Offer a safe space. Work with your facility manager or a local partner and local law enforcement to offer a community recreation space that adults can share with children. 

 
Help Families Refuel

- Nurture social and emotional connections. Hold regular (perhaps monthly) events such as coffee hours where families, program staff and school-day staff can get acquainted in a relaxed setting.

- Create opportunities for physical activity. Arrange for occasional yoga, dance or exercise classes that welcome all family members, including seniors and those with mobility issues. 

- Feed the intellect. Tell families about free or low-cost adult education and job training programs in the community. Connect parents and students to workshops about college financial aid and testing.

- Recognize financial needs. Coordinate with schools and local employers to hold a job fair, so family members can learn about local work opportunities. Provide information about housing support, unemployment benefits and other programs that help to meet basic needs. 

 

A Word About Respect

In all that you do, treat students and their families with dignity and respect. Take time to hear their voices, and to understand their strengths as well as their needs. Whenever possible, schedule program events at times that are convenient for families, and coordinate with school-day activities and community events. Respecting others never goes out of style. In fact, it might be considered the fourth R of family engagement — resource, refuge, refuel and respect



September 21, 2017

A new school year has started, and your students are that much closer to making decisions about the future. You can help them be ready!

Did you know that when ACT analyzed 2016 test results, it found only one in four U.S. high school seniors are college and career ready?By focusing on a mix of academics and employability skills,2 your 21st CCLC program can provide fantastic opportunities for students to learn and apply knowledge and skills, interact with others to identify and solve problems, and develop workplace skills such as communication and resource management — all skills required for college and career success. Y4Y is here to help you kick-start your efforts! Here are three things you should know before diving in:

1. College and career readiness has importance for all age groups — yes, even the youngsters!

In elementary school, responses like “I can do that!” and “Let me try!” are common as students engage in hands-on activities. These attitudes will serve them well as they get closer to entering college and careers. So give them opportunities to work and play with ideas and materials related to various careers (for example: robots!). 

Consider using career stations for grades K-5. For grades 6-12, use the Y4Y Exploration Toolkit to help students explore careers that match their interests and strengths. 

2. Projects offer a powerful way to prepare students for college and career success.

This is all about tapping into young people’s natural excitement and curiosity to help them gain academic and 21st century skills connected to possible college and career paths. Try these project ideas to start: 

- Service learning. Connect youth to projects that have positive impacts on local communities.

- The arts. Give students opportunities to work with teaching artists, to connect with local arts organizations, to lead or join a project team, and to showcase what they learn (in music, theater, dance or visual arts) for the larger community.

- Citizen science. Students can support real projects by becoming citizen scientists and using the skills professional researchers use, such as observing and recording data. For example, they can help map the surface of Mars by joining NASA’s Be a Martian project.  

Use Y4Y’s Tips for Programs for more ideas.

3. Families want to know about low- and no-cost ways to help children succeed in school and beyond.

Nature walks, snack preparation, trips to the library, late-night talks about the trials and tribulations of playing team sports — through simple activities like these, families can help their children explore their world. Every day offers hidden opportunities to use and practice reading, math and other skills! Tell families about simple things they can do to prepare their children for college and career success. 

Use Y4Y’s Tips for Families for 10 practical ideas to share with families.

As a 21st CCLC practitioner, you can use program activities to help young people see and imagine career possibilities, understand how to prepare for those careers, and gain and practice skills they will need to pursue their dreams. Y4Y is here to help. Start with the tools linked in this blog, and be sure to visit the Y4Y College and Career Readiness Course.

References:
1. ACT. (2016). The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2016. Available at https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/CCCR_National_2016.pdf 
2. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career and Technical Education. (n.d.). Employability Skills Framework: What Are Employability Skills? Available at http://cte.ed.gov/employabilityskills/index.php/framework 


July 10, 2017

Summer has started and before you know it, the staff will be preparing for the next school year. No doubt you have plans in place for fall activities, and have done some intentional design to target student needs. Now it’s time to identify and target staff needs.

You may have collected some data in the spring to determine what types of professional learning would be most valuable. A staff survey, ongoing program observations and requests from individual staff members can all inform your training plan. You’ll also want to look at the delivery strategies, activity types and general knowledge areas your staff needs to master. This list suggests some possibilities:

Delivery Strategies

• Project-based learning
• Blended learning
• Service learning
• Themed learning

Activity Types

• Academic learning
• Academic enrichment
• Family engagement
• Recreation
• Health/nutrition

Knowledge and Skill Areas

• College and career readiness
• 21st century skills
• Positive youth development

Don’t let this list overwhelm you — you don’t need to do them all! Your returning staff members may already have expertise in some areas, and introductions to topics for new staff can be refreshers for continuing staff. To further support new staff, you might identify experienced staff to act as mentors or leaders in specific areas. However, if you want to use a strategy such as blended learning or project-based learning for the first time, or at a deeper level than before, you might make it a focus of your fall training. 

Be sure to include the “evergreen” topics. For example, academic enrichment — the practice of purposefully incorporating academic skills and knowledge into many types of activities — deserves ongoing emphasis. If your students need to learn and practice math skills in fun, relevant ways, embedding those skills in citizen science, art, music, recreation and other activities can be powerful. You want your staff to understand how to make this happen.

Whether you plan to dive deep into a topic, or brush up on existing knowledge and skills, here are some tips for how to prepare for effective learning events. Y4Y and other resources that can help are listed at the end of this article.

Tip 1: Know Your Needs. Review your observation notes for areas where you need to build capacity. Then, survey your staff to find out which areas they want to know more about. Shape your learning event around the results and provide time for introducing and practicing the high-priority skills. 
Tip 2: Use Your Experts. You and your staff have built knowledge and skills you can introduce to new staff members. Share leadership of training with your in-house experts. 
Tip 3: Include Your Partners. Your school and district partners have knowledge about delivery strategies and activity types. Your community-based partners can help you think about ways to integrate academic enrichment into the arts, recreation and other activities they lead.

Resources

The Magical Mathematics of Music. See illustrations that show the mathematics behind the sounds we hear.
https://plus.maths.org/content/magical-mathematics-music 

Music and Math. Go here for lesson ideas to help students use music to understand mathematical concepts.
http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/music-and-math.html 

Maths and Sport: Millennium Mathematics Project. Get activities, video challenges and more to help students explore connections between sports and math.
http://sport.maths.org/content 

Intentional Activity Design Diagram. Customize this tool to look at staff wants and staff needs to design powerful professional learning experiences.

Y4Y Courses. Get ideas and video examples to use during your training from any or all these courses: Citizen Science, Project-Based Learning, College and Career Readiness, and STEM.
 



June 8, 2017

Whether or not you offer a summer learning program, you can partner with families to use strategies that keep children’s brains active during the summer. We know that all students run the risk of summer learning loss, and children in low-income communities have the highest risk. Here are some ideas to involve your 21st CCLC families in helping students hold on to the skills they learned in the past school year. 

1.    Connect With Family Members

Work with school-day teachers to create tip sheets so families have ideas about how to help their students. Then, deliver the tip sheets when you can have a conversation, so you make personal connections and can answer questions. 

•    Meet at the program site. If you operate a summer learning program, provide the tip sheets when family members pick up their children at the end of the day, or during a family event that’s tied to program activities.

•    Make home visits. If you don’t run a summer program, plan a short visit to deliver the summer learning tips.

•    Meet in the community. If you hold a community-based event, use email, a postcard or phone call to invite families to come pick up their summer learning tips. You might do this at a book swap (see below) or when you have an informational event — perhaps at a local street fair or a local market.

2.    Promote Literacy

When students lose reading ability over the summer, they rarely catch up during the school year, and summer losses can really add up. By fifth grade, if learning stopped over the summers, a student may be two or more grade levels behind. Here are ways that families and programs can help students maintain their reading and writing skills:

•    Share books with families and encourage reading out loud every day. Your program can hold a monthly book swap — arrange a place and time (just half a day) when families can bring books to trade so everyone gets something new to read and enjoy. Ask a community partner to provide the location, and even to conduct a book drive to expand the reading choices. 

•    Use story starters to encourage writing and reflection about summer activities. In your program or at home, a sheet of paper with simple prompts can start student writing about summer activities. Thinking of family members as the audience, students can “tell about today’s adventure” or “explain what you learned when…” At the dinner table, everyone can read the story and discuss the activity.

3.    Practice Math Skills

When families know which math skills their students need to reinforce — fractions, multiplication, measurement or something else — they can involve students in everyday activities that require math:

•    Do the math when grocery shopping and preparing meals. Students can help their families by reading price tags and nutrition information to make good decisions at the grocery store. When cooking together, students can learn how to read recipes and measure ingredients, and how to expand or reduce recipe amounts to serve a different number of people. 

•    Make good home fix-up decisions. Students can help adults do the math to answer questions like these: How much paint does it take to give my bedroom a new look? How much lumber should we buy to fix the fence in the back yard? 

Y4Y Resources

Family Engagement course. Take advantage of this free online course to brush up on many aspects of engaging with families. Don’t miss the Coaching My Staff section if you want ready-to-use materials for your fall training.
 
Family Engagement Strategies. This tool includes some of the above ideas, and more. 

Family Engagement Implementation Planner. This tool offers strategies for welcoming family involvement in your program.



May 18, 2017

Holding a celebration at the end of a project or program session can accomplish several things:

•    Give staff and students something fun to look forward to.
•    Provide an opportunity to review, reflect on and demonstrate the learning that occurred.
•    Make meaning from the learning by planning a celebration that’s also an authentic assessment for students — and for your program.

What does “authentic” mean in this context? Perhaps you’re more accustomed to a similar term: “real world.” You hear that term a lot in the out-of-school time field. Real-world learning is the complement to traditional, classroom-based learning. Instead of listening to lectures and reading text, real-world learning generally has students construct their own learning paths in response to real-world problems or situations. Rather than passively receiving information compiled by experts and educators, students become explorers and experimenters. 

Does your program use project-based learning, STEM explorations, citizen science or other active approaches to learning? These authentic learning experiences can be celebrated in authentic, real-world ways. Successful celebrations happen when they’re tied to learning goals and planned accordingly. 
 
The following tips can help you provide meaning and rewards for students, while also gathering valuable information to inform your program’s continuous improvement process. (See Five Steps to Continuous Improvement for more information.)

  1. Design early, and plan with the end in mind. This party has a purpose: tie the celebration to the learning goals of your major theme or activity. 
  2. Give students choice and voice. Whether they work individually or in teams, guide students to appropriate demonstrations of learning that also reflect their interests. For some students, this may be making a video. For others, it may be writing and performing a play, creating a diagram that teaches others about a process, or contributing to a project conducted by professional scientists or historians. 
  3. Get input from parents and program partners. Know about the community needs and values your activities should address.
  4. Market your event. A real-world audience for the culminating event has value for your students, the community and your program. Plan the event’s timing and content to encourage participation. 
  5. Make it an opportunity to reflect. Your staff and students will do a lot of hard work during the program term, so help them see the value of that work in the demonstration of results.

The Y4Y Project-Based Learning course offers examples of ways to structure culminating events and ideas about marketing your event. Also, the Y4Y Summer Learning course has tips for planning a culminating event. (Go to the Implementation Strategies section, click on “Menu” in the top-right navigation bar, and select Step 8.) 

Here are other resources to explore for ideas about celebrating student learning:

•    Culminating Projects at Reading Rockets
•    The FUN Factor: Culminating Events in Physical Education 

 

Y4Y Discussion: Learning Celebrations
What has your program done to celebrate the completion of learning events?

•    Maybe your students prepared a meal for a family open house at the end of nutrition/cooking project.
•    ​Perhaps students wrote and performed a play about the life cycle of monarch butterflies after your summer citizen science program.  

Please share your celebratory stories with peers and the Y4Y team on this discussion board. Our team members will check in, respond and prompt during the week of May 18 to May 31.