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November 22, 2021

The world of business offers a lot more research on the value of gut-level decision-making than the world of education, but your students may well find themselves in that world one day. Trusting your gut takes a unique kind of confidence. Young people can learn how to develop and trust their instincts by matching their cultural learning with self-awareness and self-management, social awareness, leadership opportunities, and more. Tools from Y4Y courses can help you build student intuition and confidence through a variety of strategies so they’ll be ready for times when snap judgments — and trusting those snap judgments — are a must.

It Starts With a Positive Learning Environment

Creating a positive learning environment opens the door to everything from baby steps to giant leaps in each of your 21st CCLC initiatives. Consult the Y4Y list of strategies for creating a positive learning environment to make sure that door is wide open. Simple practices around how you interact with your students and your stakeholders — like one-on-one exchanges, focused listening and appropriate personal openness — ensure the safety and trust that lead to strong work in confidence building.

The Role of Social and Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning (SEL) gives students the tools needed to become well-adjusted adults. The Y4Y research brief on this subject expands on how the emotional competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making build on one another. An effective, evidence-based SEL curriculum can help this process. It might be tempting to consider “responsible decision-making” only those decisions that have been deliberated with a textbook list of pros and cons. But researchers are finding that sometimes responsible decision-making means knowing when to abandon that method.

An effective SEL program should be “SAFE” (sequenced, active, focused and explicit) and provide (1) purposeful design that leads to skill development; (2) opportunities for practice; (3) time devoted to developing one or more social and emotional skills; and (4) a plan that targets specific skills. A few Y4Y tools to get you started are the SEL Competencies Matching Game to get to know the competencies, and the Delivery Methods for SEL and SEL Learning Activity Intentional Design Planner to implement your focused practice of those competencies. Researchers advocating for the benefits of snap decisions note, “Another interesting finding in this study is that intuition can be improved over time, suggesting that the mechanisms of intuition can be improved with practice.” Your program might consider self-awareness skills the perfect place to begin a focused practice. After all, solid self-awareness is the foundation for all emotional competencies and the best assurance of trusting your gut!

The Art of Reflection

Y4Y offers many more opportunities outside of the SEL course for students to build their self-awareness skills, and reflection is at the heart of them. The course on student voice and choice includes tools for middle and high school students to reflect on what they’re learning, how they learn and how to connect that learning with their lives. The full set of voice and choice course tools contains tools specific to grades K-1, 2-3, 4-6, middle school and high school that help connect reflection and goal setting. It’s easy to see how a lifetime of reflection and goal setting could develop a strong neurological pathway for making quick, outcome-oriented decisions!

Put Confidence to the Test

Once you’ve invested time in building student confidence on the inside, there are plenty of opportunities to put that confidence to the test in your 21st CCLC program space. Help students grow into leadership with tools from the Recruiting and Retaining High School Students Click & Go, such as the Youth Leadership Roles ideas. Group brainstorming calls for quick, free-flowing ideas, as does the Concentric Circles Discussion Format. These practices are ideal for out-of-school time to prepare students for the professional world and to exercise emotional competencies beyond self-awareness, such as social awareness and relationship skills. More broadly, these group activities are essential for design thinking (at the center of the Y4Y STEAM course) and other kinds of project-based learning.

The Future of Intuition?

The linked article suggests that “the ability to quantitively measure intuition could be a boon to many different fields, especially when it comes to workplace hiring.” It cites research on a growing ability to scientifically measure intuition, which could lead to hiring practices based more on those measurements than on candidate questionnaires that merely “test people’s opinions about their own feelings of intuition.” Your 21st CCLC programs are the perfect environment to help students develop strong intuition through self-awareness and reflection exercises, and just as important, to trust that intuition as you help them build their confidence through leadership and collaboration.



October 21, 2021

Did you know that recent research suggests the best teams are made up of both optimists and pessimists? Are you strategic in placing students together for team projects? Using tools in Y4Y’s STEAM and Project-Based Learning courses, and a strengths-based approach, consider how you can be intentional in your team building for the best creative outcomes, and how these lessons can also inform staffing.

Let’s start by identifying the strengths of both optimists and pessimists.

What can “optimists” bring to the table?

  • Broader acceptance of information
  • Flexible thinking
  • Enthusiasm
  • Relationship building
  • Strategies for dealing with unnecessary negativity
  • Energy
  • A strength-based lens

What can “pessimists” bring to the table?

  • Persistent pursuit of details
  • Critical thinking
  • Caution and planning
  • Realism
  • Strategies for dealing with disappointment
  • Delight over small victories (even if it’s because they’re unexpected)
  • Stress management

If you’re a frontline worker or site coordinator, you might be thinking about students in each of these categories. If you’re a program director (and again, site coordinator), you might be thinking about staff. To begin with, don’t worry that you might have labeled someone in your head as a pessimist. Instead, celebrate the strengths of that person, like the ones listed above, and keep those strengths in mind as you’re team building.

Building Those Teams

The research cited above says that when you group only optimists together, you might get amazing, big ideas, with very little thought as to how those ideas might carry challenges. Even if some of your optimists envision challenges, they may not voice them in an effort to always be positive and supportive of their team. By the same token, a team made of up of only pessimists can stifle each other. They may be less likely to have big, imaginative ideas to begin with, but even when or if they have them, they’ll be less confident about voicing them, for fear that their fellow pessimists will only poke holes in them. This is the basis for the theory that with some big-thinking optimists, balanced with some challenge-minded pessimists, the best outcomes can result.

Depending on how deep you are in recovery mode, ambitious design thinking STEAM projects or months-long civic problem-based undertakings might not be on your radar. But that doesn’t mean you’re not finding ways to group students for cooperative activities in your catch-up efforts. Today and going forward, you can think about how to group students (and staff) to allow for the most balanced groups (or teams) and the best outcomes. Grab tips from Y4Y’s

  • Ice Breaker Activities list to better understand each student or staff member’s perspective on the world. A rousing game of “this or that” could do it!
  • Selecting Student Roles for Group Work tool to reflect on how different personalities work best in different roles that need fulfilling. Brainstorm about what those roles might be for any given project or activity, and adapt this tool accordingly.
  • Team-Building Activities list for ideas on how you can use a low-stakes environment to help a new grouping of students or staff find their collective rhythm.
  • Group Discussion Guidelines to ensure that these conflicting approaches keep conversations respectful.
  • Working With Groups Training Starter to train staff on navigating group dynamics.

Opposites attract. Yin and Yang. The good with the bad. Offense and defense. Language is rich with expressions that illustrate exactly what these researchers have discovered: We shouldn’t isolate ourselves from people who think differently from us if we’re to ensure balance and best outcomes. What a great message to send young people during an era of great division. After all, there is no “I” in TEAM.



September 21, 2021

Many out-of-school time professionals confess that teaching or tutoring STEM subjects is their greatest fear. Well, the best weapon against fear is preparation! These resources from Y4Y around STEAM (STEM plus the arts) and citizen science will help alleviate those fears and make the most of STEM activities in your program.

Site coordinators can download and adapt Y4Y’s Training to Go PowerPoints for informal sessions in as little as 30 minutes. You can conduct them either in person, or virtually while staff are relaxing on their couch at home. With each title and link below are objectives of these trainings.

STEAM Trainings (also check out the Y4Y tool Everyday STEAM: Strategies for Staff).

Applying Design Thinking

Objectives: Describe the components, model design thinking and plan methods for the design thinking process.

Connecting to Real-World Challenges

Objectives: Use the design thinking process, identify real-world challenges facing your community, describe the relationship between STEAM projects and community partners, and prepare a specific ask for those partners.

Creating a Makerspace

Describe what a makerspace looks like and how it can support the STEAM approach to learning, plan key logistics (budget, schedule, materials and professional development), and describe ways to assess student learning in a makerspace.

Citizen Science Trainings (Also check out the many tools that accompany these trainings)

Assessing Citizen Science

Objectives: Understand the importance of assessment, explore the difference between informal and formal assessment, and learn how to build an observation rubric.

Facilitating Learning to Practice Inquiry and Science Process Skills

Objectives: Discuss how the science process skills are supported through citizen science, understand the importance of inquiry, and guide students in using science process skills.

Introduction to Citizen Science

Objectives: Understand the definition of citizen science, explain its benefits, and explore strategies to engage students in citizen science.

What’s that you say, site coordinators? You dread public speaking as much as anyone else? You have limited time to prepare? You’re looking for professional development for your frontline staff to learn about facilitating STEM activities when it’s convenient for them? Here’s a shortcut: Check out these archived webinars (and their objectives) to help you choose the right trainings. Y4Y certificates of participation are only available to those who participate in live events, but don’t let that stop you.

State Highlight: Minnesota Citizen Science Initiative

Y4Y highlights the great work out-of-school time programs can achieve through partnerships with state agencies and community partners. Minnesota’s out-of-school time programs have worked in tandem with the University of Minnesota’s Pollinator Initiative, whose mission is to develop a coordinated research, education, extension, and policy-driven effort to address issues related to pollinators and pollination in Minnesota. Youth across the state learned about local plants and insects, operating as citizen scientists. Hear from the Minnesota state coordinator, program directors, facilitators, and partners on how they organized, implemented, and assessed projects.

STEAM (Two-Part Series)

When did STEM become STEAM, and why? Incorporating the arts into traditional STEM learning means exploring the design thinking process that’s central to engineering and other innovating careers. How can you expand STEAM in your 21st CCLC programs with limited time, budget and content knowledge? Learn a concrete process for planning and implementing problem-based design thinking. Work through how you can prepare your mind and your environment to develop high-quality activities that will propel your students into careers of the future. No prior knowledge necessary! This session is for experts, newbies and those in between!

Learning Approaches to Science-Based Education

This session is focused on methods for facilitating hands-on science education. Explore best practices in the scientific method, design thinking and the engineering design process to get students thinking and doing. By developing your knowledge of these hands-on strategies, you’ll expand your instructional toolkit and be ready to implement STEAM in your out-of-school time program.

Bringing Students and STEM Professionals Together! 21st CCLC STEM Collaboration With NASA and IMLS

Beginning in 2013, the U.S. Department of Education created an interagency initiative to integrate high-quality STEM programming into 21st CCLC programs by partnering with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), then the National Park Service (NPS), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). How can your program tap into national STEM-based initiatives and the rich curriculum and resources these agencies have to offer? Check out this archived webinar!

Wherever your STEM fears stem from (rimshot), Y4Y is here to support you! The greatest pioneers in science, technology, engineering and math took risks. Made mistakes. So, if you wobble a bit in facilitating the highest quality STEAM/STEM activities, guess what? That, in itself, is an important lesson to your students!



July 19, 2021

Many programs are concerned that creating a more inclusive program means having to give up some favorite activities, but this isn’t the case. Discover in your program how inclusion means addition, not subtraction.

Located in Boston, the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) developed the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. The idea is to build enough flexibility into goals, assessments, methods and materials to minimize barriers and maximize learning for all students. By adopting UDL in your program, you can address your students’ diverse cultural and linguistic needs; disabilities; and differences in privilege — not with numerous, complicated initiatives, but a single overarching program design approach, summarized in this brief video. Greater equity is the result.

Consider the basics of the UDL guidelines, and what this design approach means in your 21st CCLC program for adding opportunities for inclusion of students with disabilities, without subtracting any opportunities from students without disabilities. In all you do, you should provide multiple means of the below elements.

Engagement — The “Why” of Learning

In your program, you’ll be able to offer multiple “why” choices by

Representation — The “What” of Learning

In your program, you’ll be able to offer multiple “what” choices by

  • Taking advantage of any existing documentation that can help you develop viable choices. Y4Y’s tool for interpreting common Individualized Education Program (IEP) sections can help.
  • Expanding activities with Y4Y’s tool that steps you through a sample opportunity to implement UDL.
  • Understanding a range of abilities from a neurological development standpoint, as addressed in Y4Y’s Developmental Stages of Reading Tool. The full Literacy Toolkit offers expert guidance that can help you apply UDL to literacy.
  • Remaining faithful to your needs assessments as established in your RFP and each program year. Y4Y’s Mapping Needs to Activities tool can guide you to address the academic subjects requiring your program’s focus, and the depth and breadth of that need. Just as a high rate of English learners in your program will drive fundamental literacy activities, a high rate of learning disabilities in your community impacts other types of academic supports.

Action & Expression — The “How” of Learning

In your program, you’ll be able to offer multiple “how” choices by

  • Considering universal accessibility to make program activities authentic and relevant to each student. Check out Y4Y’s Environmental Checklist to get you started.
  • Embracing group work that gives everyone an important role and plays to each student’s strengths. Y4Y’s Selecting Student Roles for Group Work can help.
  • Recognizing the value of project-based learning (PBL) as an instrument for student-driven achievement at many levels. Y4Y’s PBL Diagram and Classroom Facilitator Packet can set you on this path.
  • Adopting the design thinking process in your STEAM enrichment activities. This process expands on PBL by putting students behind the wheel of problem discovery. This accommodates more complete inclusion by promoting both agency and collaboration. Learn more about this approach with Y4Y’s Design Thinking Framework: Project Planning Template.

Horace Mann said, “Every addition to human knowledge is an addition to human power.” When you add inclusion by way of UDL, you’re adding to your program’s power. The only things you’re subtracting are feelings of exclusion and isolation.



June 16, 2021

You’ve probably noticed that no matter how many strategies for success a Y4Y course offers, the final one is always to celebrate! That’s because celebrating is fundamental to impactful educational experiences. From STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics) to civic learning and engagement, check out these ideas of what successful celebrations might look like, both virtually and in person.

  • Shout from the rooftops. If your program just wrapped up a successful project or met a milestone you’ve been looking forward to (like enrolling your 1,000th student), don’t keep it to yourself! Share the news on social media and in your regular communications with partners.
  • Don’t forget student voice and choice! Your students are bound to have their own thoughts about how they’d like to celebrate. In fact, you can use their favorite reward, whether it’s a pizza party, dance party or trip to the park, as an incentive to meet an attendance goal, for example.
  • It’s all in the family. Your celebrations are a natural fit for family involvement. Get the most bang for your family engagement buck by listening to students’ ideas about how to engage each of their family members in attendance.
  • Have a backup plan. If your celebration is a culminating event for a design-thinking project in STEAM or a problem-based solution to a community concern, have a backup illustration of your students’ successes, such as printed photos or short write-ups, in case technology or prototypes malfunction. Never waste an opportunity to show off your program or your students!
  • Play it safe. Virtual celebrations with a mix of adults and children online demand a little extra vigilance. Have staff rotate the assignment of gauging appropriate internet etiquette and being prepared to mute or turn off cameras if needed. If in person, be sure to follow your host facility’s guidelines for gatherings, such as making sure any snacks are individually wrapped, avoiding crowded spaces and masking.
  • Have fun! It doesn’t really need to be said, but don’t forget that your staff sets the tone. It can be stressful to aim for perfection in your celebration. Remember: Perfection isn’t your goal — a happy vibe is.

For more ideas, see these Y4Y tools: Tips and Tricks: Plan a Successful Culminating Event and Demonstrating and Documenting Learning.