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December 8, 2015

Guest blogger: Patrick Duhon, consultant and former director of the Providence After School Alliance

This is the first of two articles on planning for summer programming. January’s entry will look at program themes, staff preparation, and program outcomes and measurement.

While some school districts wait until spring to start summer planning, 21st CCLC and other out-of-school time providers need to plan early. Start between now and the new year, and you’ll be ready to deliver a robust program next summer.

Why so early? Your first step is getting the major players and pieces, including funding, in place. Here are the basics that deserve your immediate attention.                                                               

First, do advance planning with school and district leaders: 

Start by strengthening alliances with your advocates in the school system. Help them understand your program’s contribution to stemming summer learning loss.

Reach out to new partners in your district and demonstrate how your summer learning goals align with important academic outcomes and social and emotional learning.

Provide as much data as possible — pre/post test results, youth development outcomes, grades, test scores, independent reports or evaluations — anything that underscores the quality of your program.

Estimate your program capacity and the costs for scaling up your program; show your partners the largest number of students you could serve and the full costs for you to deliver that program. Determine the cost for the most robust program possible — but also know what you could be cut and still offer a high-quality program.

Once you’ve aligned your champions and determined the costs, identify the funding sources, know when you can tap them and secure the funding:

It’s important to note that summer programs usually run over two fiscal years. That’s true for Title I funding, a major potential source from schools, as the fiscal year is July 1-June 30. Show the district and partner principals the wisdom of funding some upfront costs, such as planning, training and supplies, before June 30. This will put a smaller portion of summer program costs in the next fiscal year. Ask soon, because schools usually submit Title I reallocation plans to states by January.

Considering both fiscal years might help you with other funding sources, too. Be mindful of this when budgeting and fundraising.

Research on high-yield out-of-school time programs — in the summer and year round — shows significant youth outcomes. Combine information on research with data from your program to connect to funding from other potential sources, including these:

Career and technical education funds: Work with your district to incorporate career awareness and exploration into your summer activities, and make a case for getting support from federal Perkins grant and local workforce development funds. Districts often struggle to provide these mandatory activities for elementary and middle school students, so may appreciate having your summer program connect youth with a variety of professional fields.

Other federal title funding for special populations: Your program can provide opportunities for English language learners and students with IEPs and special needs to thrive through hands-on, experiential learning. Districts often want more opportunities to offer these students.

Private sources: Align your summer program with STEM learning or another focus area of private and family foundations. Be creative by asking funders for “matching grants,” and use these to get district funds. Foundations win with new investments, and districts win by showing school boards they leveraged private funding.



September 11, 2015

The levels of excitement and chaos may seem to rise out of control when the school and program years get started. Not to worry, because Y4Y can help you “nail” the right combination of both elements to engage students and take advantage of their desire for free exploration. You create the framework through project-based learning, then tap gently to facilitate student learning and development.

Real-Time Virtual Learning

Your peers across the country have made Project-Based Learning the most popular course on Y4Y. Because of that, the Y4Y project team continues to work on new ways to extend your professional learning around this effective strategy. We call our newest offering a real-time virtual learning series; our first cohort started September 1 and will complete their experience on September 25. Virtual cohort members agreed to attend at least three of four live webinars, to participate in online discussions, and to conduct offline activities and explorations. The series will provide certificates of completion to cohort members who meet the participation requirements.

If you missed the enrollment window for “Project-Based Learning: Hands On, Minds On,” we can let you know about future real-time virtual learning events. Give us your e-mail address, and we promise to be in touch.

Here’s a glimpse into the first week’s webinar, where discussion included ideas about how to incorporate student voice into project planning. Activity leaders may start the process with a student brainstorming session that defines which topics students want to explore. If you don’t regularly give students opportunities to conduct such sessions, the “Planner for Brainstorming” tool on Y4Y will help you establish a structure, conduct the session and reflect on results.

Focused Podcast

As you begin a project and help students form work teams, you’ll consider how to group students. The first podcast produced for the learning series is titled “Who Are They?” It discusses how personality types play out in team settings, and can help program staff think about creating teams and assigning tasks in ways that help students develop both social and academic skills and knowledge. 

Online Course

If your program wants to help students grasp the big ideas of school-day academics and develop the 21st century skills they need to succeed in college and career — while you also create a fun and engaging environment for learning — try project-based learning. Research shows that this instructional approach, also called inquiry-based learning, helps students master core content, increases motivation to learn and improves attitudes toward learning. Get more details about these and other benefits in the Project-Based Learning Research Brief, one of the tools in the Y4Y course.

You may choose to start project-based learning through one of its close cousins, such as service learning or civic learning and engagement. Projects in these areas can connect students to their community and civic life in fun and fulfilling ways.

Wherever you start, look to Y4Y for learning resources and helpful tools. Most of all, get ready for the controlled chaos of busy teams of students who get totally engaged in pursuing answers to their driving questions.

 



June 17, 2014

As the days grow warmer and your program transitions from school year to summer time activities, sometimes it can be a challenge to keep your students focused and engaged. Why not take advantage of all those distractions and build some activities around them?

Would they rather be outside having a picnic? Okay, think of all the great places that could lead to…

> Investigating the beneficial aspects of “picnic pests” like mosquitos, bees, and ants
> Exploring the fundamental benefits and dangers in sunshine
Learning the science behind making ice cream

This is just a small list of suggestions, but they demonstrate how easy it is to get started down the path to some fun and educational activities.

What are your students distracted by? Once you know that, you can develop some good driving questions that are relevant to their interests. Then you develop activities around those interests and that’s where the fun – and the learning – begins!

You can find more summer time tips and tools on Y4Y related to both STEM and Project-Based Learning. And don’t forget to share your ideas in the Discussion Boards! That’s a great place to ask your colleagues for suggestions or to share your stories after your projects are complete.



September 24, 2013

Project-based learning has been shown through research to be effective, and common sense tells us it’s something kids of all ages can enjoy. But what does it really look like? Watch this video to find out.

You’ll see many of the core tenets of project-based learning – a project that has relevance, is student-driven, addresses real-life problems, and offers hands-on learning opportunities. The youth in this video are responding to a real community challenge by becoming part of the solution.

The video serves as an introduction to the Project-Based Learning course. Get a glimpse of how the steps of project-based learning play out, then continue learning by completing the course.  



September 24, 2013

Because project-based learning is such a different method than what many of us are used to, it requires staff to wear a new hat: a facilitator’s hat. Facilitation is different from directing or leading and it allows for learning to be more student-centered.

Staff may need practice and support in this new role, though. Use this checklist from the Project-Based Learning Coaching Module to help staff feel at ease in the role of facilitator and to find ideas for getting project-based learning going with students.