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September 23, 2022

There are some helpful takeaways from a report from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) on 10 years of systemic social and emotional learning implementation in urban settings. Keep reading to learn about these findings and Y4Y resources that can help guide social and emotional learning in your supportive 21st CCLC program now and in future program years. 

Prioritizing social-emotional learning (SEL) is key to building a joyful, resilient program environment. That’s because SEL skills help us identify and manage our emotions, express empathy, form meaningful relationships, and cope with stress. When we prioritize social-emotional well-being for both educators and students, we can foster a culture in which everyone is better equipped to reach their full potential. 

Building a Network of Support

As students return to school this fall, the social and emotional aspects are just as important as gathering school supplies, meeting the new teacher(s), and finding out what’s being offered for lunch. More than ever, SEL is a key ingredient in addressing the top concerns for schools and out-of-school time (OST) programs. That includes physical wellness, mental wellness, emotional well-being, and academic recovery. OST programs have a key role to play in this effort. As your program partners with schools and families, you can strengthen relationships and provide a network of support that includes trusted adults and enriching experiences.

These three Y4Y tools can help you shape the priorities of your group effort in implementing social-emotional programming:

Providing Comprehensive Support for Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

The CASEL report mentioned above involved large, complex school systems in the country. Not only did these districts demonstrate it was possible to implement SEL systemically, but every district deepened and expanded SEL implementation from school to OST programs and families. CASEL identified four key elements that are necessary to comprehensively support quality SEL implementation throughout the system:

  • Building foundational support and plan
  • Strengthening adult SEL competencies and capacity
  • Promoting SEL for students
  • Reflecting on data for continuous improvement

The researchers examined how the districts they studied equipped themselves to sustain a commitment to SEL over the long term, even as the people and contexts within the district changed. CASEL identified six elements for sustaining SEL:

  • Leaders model, cultivate, and elevate a shared vision for SEL.
  • Core district priorities connect SEL to all departments and individuals, so everyone is invested.
  • Schools have resources and pathways to guide SEL implementation, as well as room to innovate and customize SEL for their communities.
  • SEL informs and shapes adult learning and staff culture and climate.
  • Students, families, and communities are co-creators of the SEL vision, plans, and practices.
  • External and internal communities of practice strengthen implementation.

These findings align with advice from Dr. Dave Pauneski, a senior behavioral scientist at Stanford University: “If we really want all students to leave school having developed certain academic, social, personal, and cultural capacities, we need to think really carefully about whether we as educators are creating the types of experiences that we know from research will help develop those capacities.”

Y4Y Resources Supporting SEL

These additional Y4Y resources can also support your efforts:



March 10, 2022

As humans, our psychological need for closure is so well documented that a scale was developed to measure this need. Culminating events are an important element in 21st CCLC programs — whether you’re wrapping up a big STEAM or problem-based learning project or inviting families to celebrate a successful in-person year. Bear in mind, though, that some students could be heartbroken at losing the constancy of their time in your program. Consider these tips and tools for addressing the end of the program year in a way that enables everyone to enjoy healthy closure.

As you’re planning, keep these goals and benefits of a culminating event in mind:

  • Involve students. This needs to be their event. So much has been outside their control, especially this year. Be sure their voice is loud and proud in decisions around your culminating event.
  • Everyone loves a surprise. Just because you’ve handed over the reins on most aspects of planning doesn’t mean you can’t surprise students and families with a special guest, a small giveaway, or a performance. A surprise amplifies the festive atmosphere and tells everyone involved you think they’re special.
  • You’re tying accomplishment to celebration. Young people need every possible opportunity to reinforce that their hard work will pay off. Sometimes that hard work is just sticking with something or showing up. But even that effort deserves recognition.
  • Whenever a door closes, another opens. If your students are sad about the end of the program year, remind them that every ending is also a new beginning. You can ask them to remember some of their favorite beginnings in the past — even the first day of this program year — to demonstrate that new beginnings can lead in exciting directions.

Y4Y offers tools to help you plan for your culminating event because this is such an important step in programming. See this month’s Topical Tool Kit for other aspects of your planning.

You can visit the last strategy in each course for more ideas that relate to the focus of your programming. For example:

  • Have you been exploring career pathways with your elementary students? Have them dress as their favorite professional. (See more tips by selecting the drop-down Menu in the course and jumping to slide 107, “Celebrate Peaks and Summits.”)
  • Is supporting English learners your emphasis? Explore your students’ cultural traditions around celebrations and ask them how they’d like to bring those traditions to your event. (See more tips by going to the course and jumping to slide 119, “How Will You Celebrate?”)
  • Are you celebrating something smaller, like completing a project in civic learning and engagement? Arrange for students to attend a school board meeting and give an official report on the work they accomplished in their community. (See more tips by jumping to slide 73, “Example Celebration,” in that course.)
  • Visit other Y4Y courses like Literacy, STEAM, Financial Literacy, Social and Emotional Learning, and Family Engagement for other targeted celebration ideas.

In celebrating the 20th anniversary of Human Resources Development Quarterly, Tim Hatcher makes a poignant observation: “Celebration is an ancient ritual. It gives us a way to feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments. When we celebrate we are reinforcing something important to us. Without it we simply maintain the status quo and candidly have a lot less fun.” There are so many things you want for your students in your 21st CCLC program: academic growth, a safe space with caring adults, meaningful connections with their peers, and exposure to new and exciting opportunities. Happily, each of these can go hand in hand with celebrating and having fun!



February 10, 2022

More than just a word, “resilience” is a measurable area of growth. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of threat.” According to research, two thirds of any given human population demonstrates resilience through a continued ability to function after traumatic events such as 9/11. Maybe some resilience comes from a natural tendency or family culture to be optimistic — it’s not totally clear yet. But professionals have little doubt that you can build resilience, in young people especially, by adopting a growth mindset. Tools from Y4Y’s Trauma-Informed Care Click & Go, and courses in Stages of Child and Adolescent Development and Social and Emotional Learning, can help your program be intentional in nurturing resilience in your students.

A Foundation of Understanding

Your staff members probably have amazing insights and observations about child psychology after working with students in your program and previous jobs. But what kind of formal training on this topic has taken place to ensure your program offers the best individualized approach to building resilience? Here are some useful Y4Y tools and short trainings to start conversations around understanding what makes students tick:

Time to Implement

Use these Y4Y tools to put interventions into practice within your program space:

Measure Success

Some of your success in nurturing resilience will be evident. The child who lost a beloved grandparent begins to smile and laugh again. The child who was in a car accident realizes that playing out his experience gains him attention and awe from peers who ask questions. Maybe he even shares his fears out loud, building his skills of self-awareness and his peers’ skills in social awareness and relationships skills through empathy. Be sure you’re noting these observations with Y4Y tools and planning for ways to measure the resilience more formally that you’ve nurtured in students.

Turn to Nature to Nurture Resilience

Just as those picture book characters show students different ways to persevere, you can turn to nature to nurture resilience in your students. Consider forest fires. In our limited view, we think of fire as needless destruction, and in many cases, perhaps it does have unnecessary human causes. However, even before forests became a habitat for humans, they had adapted to fire. They depend on a cycle of fire and regrowth to remain healthy. Every student, whether they’re living with mild stress to full-blown crisis, can remember this: From the ashes comes new, stronger growth.



February 3, 2022

The data are in: “Adaptation of children in disasters depends on the resilience of interconnected systems, including families, schools, communities, and policy sectors.” Throughout the U.S., in the past two months alone, communities have faced unprecedented fires, tornados, flooding, and freezing temperatures with loss of power. The entire country is facing surges in COVID-19, and with them, more school closings and virtual learning, illness and loss, and economic impacts. Who are your partners in critical efforts to buoy students through recovery? The school district? Parents? Reflections on an invited paper in the International Journal of Psychology suggest you can use Y4Y professional development resources to arrive at common language and align practices with these partners to build student resilience as a group effort.

Safety Planning and Implementation

A Y4Y Click & Go offers a mini-lesson to bring you up to speed on the basics of safety preparedness missions, alignment with your host organization, and the roles of each staff member. The Click & Go includes podcasts that further explain safety planning, host organization plans, developing and implementing a program-specific plan, and how to practice safety with appropriate sensitivity to the emotional needs of students. There are tools to help you put it all in place. If your program is already implementing a safety plan, you can use the Click & Go to ensure common language, alignment, and clear roles among partners. These steps can strengthen what the paper cited above calls “the resilience of interconnected systems.”

Partnership and Communication

Many Y4Y resources can be tapped to reinforce the strength of your community and family partnerships, both from a structural perspective — like aligned policies and practices — and from a social perspective — like shared culture and climate. Check out these partnership- and communication-building tools:

Cross-organizational trainings and regular reminders can help you keep everyone on the same page. Program leaders can review the Y4Y trainings listed below and pull out the most relevant information to share with staff and partners:

Student Well-Being

With all your adult-to-adult group efforts strengthened, you’ll be ready to decide together what student well-being looks like and how priorities are set. Remember to assign those priorities according to school- and student-level data in your district. At this moment in history, those data may well include the number of homes destroyed, loved ones lost, or students living with food insecurity. Revisit the vast collection of Y4Y data collection tools if you’re unsure how to carry out this critical step. Then, use the tools below to shape the priorities of your group effort in ways that are developmentally appropriate, honor social and emotional growth, and acknowledge the likely presence and impact of trauma:

As with building communication among partners, consider cross-organizational training on student well-being with Y4Y resources like these:

The proverb It takes a village to raise a child has evidence behind it today. The question your community needs to ask itself is: What does “raise” mean? One thing you’re sure to agree on is this: You can’t put children in a bubble. You can’t protect them from tough times. What you can do is prepare them for tough times with supports that build their resilience — their ability to learn and grow from those tough times. A look at the data confirms that when you do this as a community, you’ll have the greatest chance for success.



January 20, 2022

The students in your program are not likely to be “spoiled” at home, though you might find they’re occasionally “indulged” by parents wishing they could make their lives just a little easier. With a quick review of the milestone matrix prepared by Y4Y to accompany the new Stages of Child and Adolescent Development course, you’ll gain some basic ideas of what students need most from the adults in their lives at various stages of development. Use these tips and additional Y4Y tools to explore those areas where your program can offer students the royal treatment by supporting healthy growth and development for the best possible life outcomes.

Students ages 4-6 are improving their fine motor skills, are beginning to understand cause and effect, and want to show off their skills. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Establishing a program space rich with materials that “grow with” young peoples’ motor development, like crayons and paint brushes in different sizes.
  • Asking many leading questions, even ones that are not lesson-oriented, like “What could happen if I don’t tie this long shoelace of mine?”
  • Creating opportunities to show off talents great and small, reminding students to encourage one another and not always take a competitive position. For example: a hopping-on-one-foot “break” (not contest) could be a nice way to take a breather from academics. You can call out different students for how creatively or slowly they hop as well as the student who hops the longest.

Check out Y4Y’s Facilitating Positive Youth Development in Summer Learning Training to Go.

Students ages 6-9 may become more physical in their games, are beginning to read to learn once they’ve learned to read, and are beginning to identify their own personality traits in comparison with others. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Offering a variety of options during outdoor playtime with established safety ground rules and the opportunity to play contact sports to the degree all participants are comfortable.
  • Coordinating with school partners like the librarian to offer interesting reading material that supports academics. Offer “fact treasure hunt” activities.
  • Providing daily reflection opportunities. Choose an adjective each day like “confident,” “strong,” or “smart,” and ask students to remember a moment in their day when they saw this trait in themselves.

Check out Y4Y’s Effective Questioning literacy tool and Best Practices for Mindfulness tool.

Students ages 9-12 are developing faster reaction times, experiencing a rise in self-esteem as interest-based peer groups emerge, and are increasingly able to monitor and direct their own progress toward a long-term goal. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Interspersing “rapid-fire” quizzing as a study strategy for students who enjoy that activity and are not stressed by it.
  • Offering icebreaker activities throughout the year to help students continually look for things in common with all their peers. Challenge them to make “unexpected” connections.
  • Allowing long-term group projects to be centered on student voice and choice and student-driven goal setting.

Check out Y4Y’s Icebreaker Activities and Student Goal Setting and Reflection – Middle School.

Students ages 12-15 are completing puberty, growing critical of adults and siblings, may thrive on conflict ranging from intellectual debate to serious rebellion, and becoming anxious for the future. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Firmly establishing your program as a safe space for different opinions and life experiences while fostering constructive debates about society and the world around your students.
  • Forging deeper trust and connections with students while maintaining healthy boundaries between adults and teens.
  • Offering a wide variety of career pathway activities to broaden students’ horizons and help them to envision themselves as successful adults.

Check out Y4Y’s Incorporating Multiple Viewpoints Checklist and Career Pathways Activity Design Guidebook.

Students ages 15-18 are physically mature or nearly so, likely to be feeling strong emotions like anger or loneliness even if those emotions aren’t always obvious, and are increasingly able to take everything they’ve learned to make decisions about their future. Ways to support these areas of development include

  • Encouraging initiative and leadership skills in your program and beyond.
  • Continuing to educate students on all aspects of lifelong health and wellness, centered on better understanding themselves and their own needs, and making good choices in much more “adult” arenas.
  • Offering guidance through the practical aspects of career pathway choices such as test prep, college or apprenticeship applications, or speaking with military recruiters.

Check out Y4Y’s Youth Leadership Roles tool and Student Self-Assessment: Late Adolescence.

No Such Thing as a Spoiled Child

It may be decades before we can successfully remove the term “spoiled” from the long list of adjectives we might use for children. But as a youth worker, you understand better than most that term simply means that expectations on a child do not match what is developmentally appropriate for them. Often you are aware of why this might be the case for the students in your program. But raising these princes and princesses to be their best selves is an honor you share with their parents, so remember to team up with tools like Y4Y’s Sample Caregiver Survey and Partnering With Families for Healthy Child Development Training to Go.

One day your students will rule the world. We’ll all benefit from them ruling wisely.