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November 18, 2019

Some students find school-day learning about government and civics to be dry as dust, and it’s no wonder. Studying the three branches of the U.S. government, the Electoral College and tariffs on trade with other countries can seem pretty remote from young people’s everyday lives. They might not know how federal, state, and local policies are made, or how those policies can affect things that matter to them, like social justice, clean air, and the price of groceries and video games. Also, they might not know how to make their voices heard. Here are some ideas to help you brush the dust off to make civics interesting.

Use Y4Y resources. See the Introduction section of the Project-Based Learning course and the Introduction to Civic Learning and Engagement Training to Go for ideas on connecting with local civics activities. Service learning and citizen science also offer entries into local, real-world policies in action. See the Citizen Science course and the Service-Learning Toolbox.

Engage students in virtual-hands-on activities. Take advantage of game-based activities to introduce cross-disciplinary learning and thinking as students encounter and grapple with problems related to science, ecology, history, agriculture and government. Choose from a group of virtual environments funded by grants from the Institute of Education Sciences. You can also explore civics, social activism and world governments through virtual tours, primary documents, and connections with students from around the world. Common Sense Education has collected links to 30 Best Government and Civics Websites and Games, all created by government, education and civic sponsors.

Recruit local partners and experts to bring civics to your site. Start by gathering student voice data on social issues that interest them. The Student Voice podcast in Y4Y’s Developing a Needs Assessment Click & Go offers tips on this step. Then find experts to help students explore one or more of these issues. The local chapter of the American Bar Association, a nearby law school or professors at a local college might help conduct a mock trial. Local advocacy organizations or individuals might help students explore an issue or event and conduct a reenactment. Local writers and theater groups might help facilitate student development of a play, video or other event related to a social issue or historical event. When it comes to civics, your neighborhood is a real-world textbook that offers plenty of teachable moments.



September 16, 2019

Creativity. Collaboration. Persistence. Questioning. Impulse control. Increased motivation. Improved academic performance. When students engage in project-based learning, these are just some of the outcomes you can expect to see.

Why does it work?

Project-based learning builds on the theory that learning is more likely to “stick” when it’s active rather than passive. Projects help students actively discover, process and apply new information rather than passively get information from textbooks, lectures or worksheets.

How does it work?

For thousands of years, educators from Confucius to Montessori and Piaget have outlined steps to help students define questions that lead to exploration, discovery and a lasting love of learning. The Y4Y Project-Based Learning course is a step-by-step guide to using this hands-on learning approach in your program. Briefly, it goes like this:

  • Check student interests to identify a topic to explore. This might be cleaning up the local river or learning how rockets work.
  • Guide students as they develop a driving question to organize the learning. Keep in mind the specific skills you want to help students master.
  • Help students create a project plan and timeline. They’ll need to decide on a product or outcome that will demonstrate their learning. Creating a product with real-world relevance motivates and rewards student efforts. They might build a model rocket, create a video to encourage community members to act against pollution, develop a how-to guide so others can replicate their work or create multiple products.
  • Facilitate the process as students work in groups to conduct research, brainstorm ideas, develop answers to their driving question and complete their projects.
  • When the final products are complete, celebrate student learning with an event that helps show off the work.

Ready to start exploring?

The Introduction section of the Y4Y Project-Based Learning course provides an overview. The Y4Y Project-Based Learning Project Planner is a handy checklist and reminder to help you facilitate this kind of learning in your program. For examples of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects completed by students in other 21st CCLC programs, see the Y4Y National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration project overview page.



August 9, 2019

Experts agree that heeding student voice can help out-of-school time programs engage students and help them grow academically, socially and emotionally. Sometimes, though, when the defining characteristic of your program seems to be noise, you might think you have more student voice than you can handle! How can you be sure you get it right? Here are some quick tips and Y4Y tools.

Engage Students in Program Decisions

Consider these questions. If you can’t answer “yes,” decide what actions you need to take:

  • Are students represented on your program planning team?
  • When your team starts to plan for the next program term, are all students included in a goal-setting activity or discussion?
  • When your team reflects on results at the end of a program term, are students included, too?

Also consider this:

  • Who thinks about program culture and climate, and sets norms for behavior — staff alone, or do students contribute?

Involving students in decisions helps give them a sense of ownership in program activities and supports engagement. Equally important, it equips young people with important skills like collaboration, communication, caring and reflection.

Do Formal and Informal Observations

The next time you’re surrounded by students in your program space, conduct an informal observation: Close your eyes and listen.

  • Maybe you’ll hear comments like this: Wow! I get it! Cool! Can we do that again? I want to try that, too.
  • Or, maybe you’ll hear this: Go away, I’m doing this. Get somebody else to hang with. Do I have to do that now?

This type of quick, informal check can tell you how things are going in the moment, so you can act immediately if students and colleagues need help to find their focus.

To capture information for designing an effective schedule and engaging activities, use a formal observation tool. Y4Y’s Observation Checklist will help you consider staff and student engagement, fidelity of implementation, and the status of the physical environment. The data you gather can help with intentional design of student activities and staff professional learning events.

Conduct Surveys and Use the Results

Want to know how students and families feel about your program, and how you can do things differently or better? Surveys offer a quick, anonymous way for audiences to tell you what they think. Here are some Y4Y survey tools you can use:

When you ask others to respond to a survey, be prepared to react in turn. You won’t get future feedback if you ignore what respondents tell you now. After you analyze the combined data, be sure to share the results. You can post charts on the wall, include numbers in the electronic newsletter, or announce results through social media. Present the data beside plans for future activities to demonstrate how audience input helps to shape your program.


May 22, 2019

A 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 17 percent of teens “often” or “sometimes” can’t complete homework assignments because they don’t have access to a computer or the internet. This situation is so common that it has a name: the homework gap. The students most likely to have this challenge are Black teens and those from lower-income households.

Students with no computer or internet access at home might depend on your 21st CCLC program for access. Here are three ways your program can help bridge the homework gap:

  • Pinpoint technology needs. Survey students and teachers to identify technology needs. Computers, a printer and internet access are “givens.” But what if a biology assignment calls for an original, illustrated presentation? Can your program provide access to presentation software and a digital camera? What if a future engineer wants to join a live online study group moderated by a NASA scientist? Do you have an internet-connected computer in a quiet area so the student can fully participate? There may be other needs, like access to a graphing calculator or a handheld GPS unit.
  • Use strategy and collaboration to meet identified needs. If you find technology needs beyond the reach of the program budget and resources, look elsewhere. Might the school provide access to its technology lab? Have you checked your local library? Some libraries loan digital cameras, video cameras, tripods, telescopes, microscopes and other hardware. Might a local business or community organization loan or donate new or used items to your program? You might be surprised at people’s willingness to help, once you tell them what you need and why.
  • Make technology part of your program activities. Make sure your students don’t “sit on the sidelines” when it comes to technology. If you have limited tech abilities yourself, invite a tech-savvy parent, college student or volunteer to coach. Your students will love watching you make mistakes as you learn along with them! Robotics and coding are popular activities in many 21st CCLC programs. Creating a blog or a podcast is a great way to integrate technology into project-based learning. Maybe your students can help you set up a videoconference with a professional geologist or weather forecaster as part of a citizen science project. Building skills and confidence with technology is important to students’ future success.

Visit the Y4Y website for more ideas on making technology part of your program and providing homework help.

 

Reference

Anderson, M., & Perrin, A. (2018, October 26). Nearly one-in-five teens can’t always finish their homework because of the digital divide. Pew Research Center Fact Tank.



February 14, 2019

Author Marie Kondo is known for her advice on “tidying up” your space and getting rid of things that don’t “spark joy.” Regardless of whether you agree with her approach, the advice to keep it simple is nothing new. The KISS principle (“Keep It Simple, Stupid” or sometimes “Keep It Short and Simple”) has been around for years. 

Keeping things simple means clearing out the clutter so there’s more room for what you truly care about. Sometimes the clutter isn’t in your home or office. It’s in your brain. If worries and to-do lists take up too much of your mental space, you may find it hard to focus at work, enjoy your job and feel a sense of accomplishment. Sound familiar? One way to pare down brain clutter and self-imposed pressure is to reduce the day’s to-do list to one item:

  • Deliver something of value today.   

You get to define what the “something” is, and to whom it’s valuable (e.g., yourself, your colleagues or students, the world, or all of the above).  It could be working one-on-one with a student who has attention deficit disorder to show him how to organize his homework, or getting a community organization to partner with your program. At the end of the day, write down what you delivered, the people it affected and how it made you feel.  

You might think of this method as a stripped-down way to set a personal or professional SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goal. Simply put, it’s a way to work smarter and love it more.

Here are some Y4Y “work smart” resources:

Activity and Program SMART Goals

This tool has examples and guidance on developing goals that ensure common understandings and drive results.

Positive Youth Development Rubric

This tool will remind you of the five C’s of positive youth development and ways to help students — and staff — develop competence, confidence, connection, character and caring.

Project-Based Learning Research Brief

Summer Learning Research Brief

STEM Research Brief

Learn more about one of these learning approaches so you can help students get the most out of program activities and encourage parents and partners to become more involved.