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February 23, 2018

Every discovery or invention of our time started with a question: When an apple falls from a tree, what makes it fall down instead of sideways or up? Is there a way to use this weak glue I accidentally created while trying to create a strong adhesive? (The answer to the latter question was yes, and if you’ve ever used a Post-it note, you’ve seen the result!)

“The important thing,” Albert Einstein said, is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

What are you curious about? What are your students curious about? Y4Y’s newly updated Project-Based Learning course shows, step-by-step, how to tap into students’ natural curiosity by awakening a sense of wonder about people, places and things in the world (indeed, the universe) where they live.

Chapter 1, “Introduce and Prepare,” provides a proven strategy for tapping into students’ questions or “wonders” to get them excited and prepared for project-based learning. Here’s a quick snapshot of the strategy:

  • Mind mapping helps students identify what they already know about a topic (for example, zoo animals).
  • Brainstorming helps them identify things they wonder about (for example, whether putting endangered species in zoos helps the species survive, or where zoos get food for all the different animals). Even if your students’ curiosity seems as dormant as an inactive volcano, this activity can get their thoughts flowing. As their questions or “wonders” erupt, don’t be surprised if they overflow the whiteboard or chart paper as they write them down!
  • Voting is a democratic approach for agreeing on a topic or issue to explore.
  • Discussing the topic helps students drill deeper into why they selected the topic and what aspects they’d like to explore through a project. Guiding questions such as “What interests you about…? Have you ever…? Why do you think it’s important to…?” facilitate the conversation and help students connect their “wonders” to real-life experiences.

That’s the strategy, in a nutshell, for preparing students to write a strong driving question that will focus inquiry throughout the project. The course walks you through the strategy with an example to show exactly how it works.

 

Curious about other strategies for using project-based learning to awaken an Einstein-like sense of wonder in your students? Check out the updated course. You and your students will be glad you did!



February 23, 2018

Guest blogger: David Mazza, Y4Y Educational Technology Specialist

Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, MapQuest, Snapchat Stories, Skype, Google Hangouts, Google Duo, Periscope, Vine, Peeks Social — these are a few of the many apps available today. I’m often asked, “Should we use these apps for educational activities?” It sounds like a yes-or-no question, but it’s not. Here are two important follow-up questions that can help you decide.

Will technology enhance your activity, or be a distraction?

The first thing to consider is whether technology is appropriate for the activity you’re planning. Sometimes it seems that young people, not to mention adults, stare at screens or use mobile devices day and night. On city sidewalks, it’s common to pass one person after another who’s texting or talking on their phone. Hopefully you’ve avoided getting run over by these distracted pedestrians! On elevators, have you ever responded to a “hello” only to realize the stranger next to you wasn’t talking to you, but was on a cell phone? In restaurants, have you noticed families or groups sitting together at a table but interacting with their devices instead of with each other?

Technology is part of our lives, but as these examples show, there are trade-offs. What are we missing when we bring technology along as we walk outdoors, engage in everyday activities, and visit with friends and family? You can apply this question as you consider whether to make technology part of any activity you’re planning for students. What benefits might technology bring to the activity? What might students miss by bringing technology along? Will it enhance your activity, or be a distraction?

If your goal is to have students learn about forest management, and you plan to engage a forest ranger from a remote location to provide expertise, the answer could be Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype. (See this Y4Y blog post for ideas on videoconferencing.) If your activity is a walk in the forest, however, and the goal is to help students sharpen their observation skills, it might be best to leave technology behind and have them “take pictures” mentally.

What are the options for apps that will enhance the activity and be enjoyable for students to use?

A multitude of free apps are available, but if you don’t know about them or haven’t used them, how can you determine which ones might work well? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Ask around. You can always do a Google search to get started. First, though, ask family, friends, colleagues and students about their favorite apps and their uses. Most people love sharing their favorites. Asking students can help you learn about apps they already like and use. Here are a few of my favs for skywatching:

  • MyScript Calculator
  • Meteor Shower Calendar
  • Phases of the Moon
  • Sky Map
  • EQInfo

Play around. Start with a suggested app that looks interesting to you. Download it and spend some time playing with the app. Consider possible ways to integrate it into an activity. For example, could students use Facebook Live or Periscope to present a project they’ve done, or to let a homebound family member watch as they perform an original skit, song, dance or story?

Try it with your students! If your students are struggling with mathematical concepts, you might use Skype to have a local carpet installer show how they calculate the area of a room to make sure they order the right amount of carpet. Or an auto mechanic might show how they calculate angles for pipe bending. These examples show real-world applications of concepts taught in math classes. Skyping with experts from various fields can also introduce students to careers they otherwise might not consider.

I’d be happy to discuss more about using apps effectively with students. I’d also love to hear about your favorite apps and how you use them. Leave a reply below!



June 8, 2017

How can you make your program appealing to students, families, school and community? As you compile data for your end-of-year report, add a narrative story that “sells” your program, and it will help you take a step toward long-term sustainability.

Look at these examples and decide which approach has more power to demonstrate the value of your 21st CCLC program activities. Then start crafting your own and share it with your stakeholders!

Example 1. Oakville Afterschool Program

During the past school year, the Oakville program served 45 students from the first through fifth grades during the fall term, and 53 students from the same grades in the spring term. Most students attended at least three days every week, with perfect attendance by 10 students in the fall and 11 students in the spring. All students participated in the Homework Help activity, and most took part in the Readers Theater, where they focused on four different stories. Other activities included Chefs Club, soccer, jazzercise and chess. See the tables on the next two pages for data on student attendance and participation by our community partners and staff members. 

Example 2. Oakville Laughing and Learning Together

This school year, our OLL Together students and staff worked on literacy, math, team building and healthy living — and everyone got their homework done, too! Thanks to our new Student Ambassadors program, enrollment grew from 45 students in the fall to 53 in the spring — our kids love to make new friends! 

Readers Theater helped students practice important elements of literacy, such as plot, comprehension and motivation. When students produced Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, we asked science teachers to help with understanding the environmental theme. Everyone enjoyed playing with rhymes and meter when we wrote an original chapter about our Oakville environment (see the script on our Facebook page).

Our Chefs Club learned to prepare holiday dishes from different cultures. Our families provided recipes from American, Hispanic and Vietnamese traditions, and students practiced measurements and fractions as they worked in teams to test the recipes, develop the OLL Holiday Cookbook and prepare a December feast for families (see the photos on Facebook).

The local Youth Stages Art Company supported our production of The Lorax, helping our students get into costumes and characters in an authentic setting. Feel the Beat, a community dance group, provided our Monday and Wednesday jazzercise sessions, and sometimes our young musicians helped us keep the beat with their drums. From our University partner, men’s and women’s soccer players came on Thursdays to coach soccer. Our team especially enjoyed their day at the University playing on the “big” soccer field and touring the campus.

Our students told us, “This year was awesome!” We know they meant it, because they had great attendance (see enrollment, attendance and other data later in this end-of-year report). Thanks to our school partners, we could identify and target specific language, science and mathematics skills that needed to be strengthened — and we built those skills into activities that students wanted. Thanks to our families, we could help students learn more about other cultures and build friendships. Thanks to our community, we could encourage arts learning, good exercise habits and team skills — and give our young people a look at life on a college campus.

We agree: This year was awesome!

Reflection and Resources

So, what worked for you? Although the second example took more time to construct than the first, do you think that extra time would likely produce extra support?

Here are some Y4Y tools to help you strengthen your activities so your end-of-year report says “awesome”!



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.



September 30, 2016

Y4Y Showcase Webinar: College and Career Readiness
Thursday, October 13 from 1:00 - 2:30 p.m. ET

How does college and career readiness fit with 21st CCLC programs? Learn more through this Showcase event highlighting You for Youth's new course, College and Career Readiness. During the Showcase you will discover resources and real life 21st CCLC program examples to help you design enriching activities, develop key partnerships and engage families in college and career readiness. Our guest expert, Jennifer Kobrin, Director of myPLACE & Digital Initiatives for the Mayor's Commission on Literacy in Philadelphia and former content specialist for the You for Youth website, will be joining the discussion. Jennifer will share her expertise on effective college and career readiness programming and building partnerships with families and communities.

Get Registered here!

 


Project-Based Learning
Wednesdays from 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. ET
October 19 through November 9

Engaging students through exciting activities, aligning with school-day standards and training inexperienced staff can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, project-based learning can help you plan for success.

This free, four-part learning experience, featuring Y4Y Education Specialists Monique McDowell-Russell and Allyson Zalewski, combines online webinars and discussions with offline activities and explorations.

We encourage 21st CCLC program directors, site coordinators, academic liaisons and instructional directors to attend. Registrants will commit to attend all four webinars and to participate in online discussions and other activities. For participating in at least three of the four webinars, you can earn a certificate of participation to provide to your district, state or employing organization.

Don't miss this opportunity to build a strong instructional foundation for your program. 

Register Now!