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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.



April 18, 2017

Effective out-of-school time programs partner with families, students and schools to achieve the best possible educational outcomes. As you plan your programming for this summer and beyond, make sure to get the input you need to keep those partnerships healthy. Here are some ways to get input: 

•    Informal “hallway conversations”
•    Formal meetings with individuals or groups
•    Structured small-group discussions
•    Suggestion boxes
•    Surveys

Not sure where to start? Check out our ready-to-use Y4Y stakeholder surveys!

If you’re planning a summer program, use the Family Survey and Student Survey from our new Summer Learning course. By administering these surveys at the start and end of your program, you can demonstrate your program’s impact, and find what you’re doing right and where you can improve. 

Y4Y’s new STEM surveys for grades K-1, 2-3, 4-6 and 7-12 can help you design STEM programming that engages students’ minds by focusing on subjects that already interest them. 

You can align your program with school-day learning by using the Survey of Teacher Programming Needs to find out where students are struggling and could use extra support.

Finding out what families, students and schools think about your program (and ways they can contribute) can make it more effective. Y4Y stakeholder surveys can do some of the work for you. It’s the perfect place to start!



March 16, 2017

Students need to feel safe, encouraged and welcome to keep their stress levels down and their minds open for learning. But creating a positive, inclusive environment is easier said than done. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone! In fact, it’s often best to enlist the help of school-day staff, parents and community members. Here’s how you can start:

Take positive steps to prevent bullying. 
The first step to stopping bullying is knowing how to spot it. Know how bullying is defined and learn about warning signs that can tip you off if a student is being bullied or is bullying others. When you see bullying happening, intervene immediately. Then follow up by finding out what happened and supporting the students involved.

Work with school-day teachers. 
Coordinating bullying prevention efforts is an important part of sharing responsibility with school staff. Align policies with schools to send a consistent message to students that bullying is never okay. Improve your connections to schools with the Communication and Collaboration Checklist.

Engage parents and family.
Including family members in bullying prevention can help students feel safer and more secure, and make parents worry less. Help parents and family develop the skills needed to talk about bullying with youth in productive ways, and share ideas for how family can be part of the solution. These efforts can support your goals for family engagement.

Get the community involved. 
Bullying affects entire communities. Taking the lead on prevention can be a service learning project for students, and a great opportunity to demonstrate the value your program brings to your community. Consider which of your existing partners might help, reach out to new ones and recruit volunteers.

Share knowledge and resources with others. 
Online or in person, bullying causes misery now and can lead to unhealthy behaviors in the future. The website StopBullying.gov offers many free, research-based resources and strategies to help young people and adults stop aggressive behavior and build a positive community climate. For example, learn about the different roles: students who bully, students who are the targets of bullying, students who assist and reinforce, students who defend, and students who want to help but don’t know how. Also see The BULLY Project website for ideas about how to take action.

When students don’t feel safe, you can’t possibly expect their full attention. Don’t let bullying-related stress be an obstacle to their happiness and their ability to learn!



December 16, 2016

It’s not too soon to begin reviewing your program data – especially around this time of year. So, take a moment to review some tips on using data to make your program stronger and your students more prepared for college and their careers.

Check out archived sessions from the 2016 21st CCLC Summer Institute for helpful guidance on several areas of program management. For data use, go to Plenary Session 4, which discusses using data to demonstrate and improve alignment with the school day. The session offers plenty of useful information, but if you’re in a hurry, jump to the timecodes below for a few quick takeaways to help you use data to improve program outcomes:

[12:17-15:44] Consider using a logic model to illustrate the intended result of a new season of programming. Then, capture data so you can see which factors really make a difference for student outcomes. The logic model can also help explain your program’s goals and successes to parents, community partners and other audiences.

[24:30-24:56] Look closely at your data to see how successfully you’ve promoted staff professional development, built partnerships and aligned program content with the school day. These practices can be powerful levers to improve student outcomes.

[27:36-29:33] Work with your state’s afterschool network to find ways to effectively leverage data from your program and other programs in your state. You can find information about your state’s afterschool network from these websites: the Afterschool Alliance and The Power of Afterschool.

[35:25-37:18] Keep the lines of communication open between your program and your partner school district by using teacher-staff meetings, surveys and tools that facilitate information exchanges and drive mutual support. The more you know about the school day, the better you’ll be able to create action plans that support students.

 



November 6, 2013

As we travel around the country at the request of States and grantees (and under the guidance of the U.S. Department of Education of course!), the Y4Y team often hears exciting recommendations from the field. Recently we were at the Fall Meeting of Delaware 21st CCLC grantees in Newark, DE, and heard a great idea from Rob.

He facilitated a project that presented small teams of students with a challenge: you are stranded on a desert island and must overcome various obstacles to survive. The goal of the project is to help students develop various skills, from problem-solving to collaboration. Rob also used this project to help students work on their writing skills. He presented the teams with challenges and asked them to create journal entries addressing how they would solve the problem. Rob then read their entries and responded each week with new hypothetical disasters for the individual teams to overcome.

Rob shared this idea with other grantees who loved the concept and added suggestions for extensions. For example, ask students to create artwork or comics narrating their survival. Or ask students to solve puzzles as part of their plan for survival (e.g., if students say they will fish for food, ask them to create a fishing pole from specific limited materials) and create written instructions.

Thank you to Rob and all the Delaware grantees for sharing your excellent ideas! We hope everyone will continue sharing their experiences and seeking advice from peers on the Y4Y Discussion Boards.