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July 26, 2022

What opportunities do you offer in your 21st CCLC program for older and younger students to interact? How can that interaction benefit both parties? With tips from Y4Y’s Stages of Child and Adolescent Development and other courses and resources, explore ideas for the fall that can help all students grow socially, academically, and emotionally by forming big/little sister and brother types of bonds.

Research Speaks
Pairing students in similar age groups — whether they’re the same age or a few years apart — falls under the highly regarded pedagogical approach of peer instruction. A great deal of research shows that peer instruction can lead to better conceptual understanding, more effective problem-solving skills, increased student engagement, and greater retention of students (in science especially). These academic outcomes are true for both the younger student (who enjoys the attention of an older student) and the older student (who deepens their understanding by unpacking a topic well enough to explain it to someone else). But the benefits don’t end there. Y4Y’s course on stages of child and adolescent development, specifically the development matrix, can help you recognize the fertile ground of students’ social and emotional development and how you can help guide relationships to make the most of these opportunities.

Many 21st CCLC programs say younger students:

  • Are flattered and honored at forming friendships with older students, and it nurtures their self-esteem. Whether during the elementary years when self-image is being developed or adolescence when it’s suffering a bit, their confidence will get a boost.
  • Improve their goal setting. The adults in your program rank right up there with parents when it comes to students identifying with their elders, but close interactions with a student just a few years older can give that younger student ideas about realistic and attainable goals. This can include “do’s” and even a few “don’ts.”
  • Are inspired to do their very best. These relationships won’t be exactly like sibling relationships (surely you’ll be spared the hair pulling and the arm punching), but the upside of youngsters wanting to impress the “older sibling” is ironclad.
  • Learn through modeling. Younger students watch olders’ every move and interaction. Provide tips and training to older students about expectations and appropriate behaviors for working with younger students. Older students who model mature behavior can support healthy social and emotional development.
  • Gain a confidant. Young students could be grappling with everything from secrets about birthday presents to much more difficult subjects. A slightly older friend might offer a comfortable avenue for younger students to confide in. Be sure older students understand how to respond if a younger student confides something that seems especially troubling or disturbing. They might need help deciding which “secrets” to keep and which ones to share with an adult.

Many 21st CCLC programs say older students:

  • Are inspired to do their very best. Especially if your “older students” are in the thick of adolescence, the unbridled enthusiasm of younger students can pull them out of their shells into new (old!) bursts of creativity.
  • Develop empathy. This might be the greatest reason of all to implement those big sibling/little sibling kinds of relationships — offering students a concrete way to consider the thoughts and feelings of another person is a fast track out of narcissistic thinking.
  • Start thinking in terms of community. Your program can foster a sense of community all day long, but this has true meaning for students only when they see how they can personally make a difference. Starting inside your program helps students develop the practice of “giving back” that helps them develop as good citizens.
  • Improve their attendance. Once older sisters and brothers recognize a younger student is depending on them, they’re less likely to blow off your program, and we all know the benefit in that!

Keep It Simple
You don’t have to be ambitious about bringing students of different ages together, whether it’s for occasional tutoring, a large-group project, or social activities like icebreakers. You might be surprised at the ideas they come up with all on their own to strengthen their sisterly (and brotherly) bonds!
 



May 13, 2022

Children playing with toy rocket and looking at the sky. Boy and girls make a wish by seeing a shooting star.At each stage of child development, there are new cognitive horizons to explore. Summer’s the perfect time to open young minds to different ways of thinking. With guidance from Y4Y’s course on stages of child and adolescent development, think about summer fun like going barefoot, stargazing, nature journaling, or hosting a lemonade stand to support healthy development in engaging ways.

The Little Guys

A recent study of academic pre-k programs in Tennessee revealed that early childhood settings with an academic emphasis may better prepare first graders for testing than their counterparts, but ultimately those students don’t perform as well and are more likely to display behavior issues. The importance of having the freedom to explore at young ages is promoted by a Y4Y Voices From the Field guest, Stacey Gummey, as the foundation of the Hickory Hill Nature School, a “Nature Kindergarten.” While 21st CCLC programs begin at the kindergarten level, these findings are a good reminder that “play” is a child’s work. Also, play nurtures creativity among people of all ages. That’s something to keep in mind as your team plans activities, especially during summer programming!

The Y4Y Child and Adolescent Development Matrix demonstrates that 4- to 6-year-old children are beginning to play cooperatively, are eager to show adults what they’ve learned or can do, are more attentive to details, and with an increased understanding of cause and effect, ask many questions. This summer, consider how your program can offer your youngest students the chance to explore new spaces as teams — whether indoors or out. Ask them the kinds of questions they might want to find answers for. Even if it’s a rainy day and the school cafeteria is the only space available for exploration, challenge them to see the space in a new way. What shapes can they find? How many tiles run along each wall? Are some surfaces more worn than other surfaces? Why might that be? Hopefully, you’ll have many new outside spaces to explore, with even richer discussions on tap.

You may be surprised at how much development can occur over a summer at this age! To ensure you’re meeting goals you’ve set for your summer program, download and customize Y4Y’s Individualized Observation Log for Early Childhood.

In the Middle

Returning to the Y4Y Child and Adolescent Development Matrix, you’ll see that students in middle childhood, ages 6-9, are transitioning from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” They’re becoming more interested in having special friends, can and should be tasked with more independence and responsibility, but still want to please adults and enjoy imaginative stories and play. While your summer programming will be a little more focused on academic recovery and reengagement for students in this age group, those academics can be imbedded in exciting play in your 21st CCLC environment.

What sort of continuing theme might you weave through your summer program to spark the imagination of your students in the lower grades? You could designate your 21st CCLC program as an old-fashioned newspaper office and put out a new issue each week with contributions from each student and their buddy on a topic of their choosing. (Be sure they research their subject!) Or maybe your program will become a space station or a candy factory. What roles need to be filled, and what are the responsibilities of each of those roles? Get serious about involving student voice with students in this age range. Y4Y offers student goal-setting tools for all grade levels (check out those for grades 2-3 and 4-6), and an activity choice form to get you started. And as with younger students, using the age-appropriate Individualized Observation Log to gauge student progress is essential.

What Summer Means to the Big Kids

Your summer program needs to be captivating to appeal to students in late childhood and adolescence. Through the end of elementary and on through middle school, students get better at planning. They usually experience a boost in self-esteem, though it quickly drops. They’re much more inclined to break into peer groups, and they have increasing awareness of linguistic and cultural nuances. Then on into high school, they struggle to gain more independence and develop greater anxiety about the future. High school students enjoy meaningful debates that demonstrate a greater awareness of the world around them. Most ultimately recover their self-esteem. They may even envision playing a crucial role in improving the world as they grasp complex problems.

Student voice is never more important than it is in your middle- and high school programs, so be sure to visit the tools that accompany the Y4Y course on student voice and choice and the Click & Go on recruiting and retaining high school students. For several years to come, your program will have to bear in mind that these are the students who missed some critical social and emotional development opportunities due to the pandemic. Despite the very great need for academic enrichment, evidence points to these students valuing the social aspects of your 21st CCLC program above all. Of course, when you’re active in capturing student voice, those social bonds might be forming over an interest in STEM, spikeball, or hip-hop dancing — or all of the above! Get them involved in new and interesting ways to imbed academics in these activities and take a leadership role in implementing them. Remember, the sky’s the limit in summer, so if students suggest writing research reports on the invention of spikeball, choreographing a hip-hop routine around principles in geometry, or developing a word cloud around cold fusion vocabulary, get comfortable with the words, “Sure, let’s put it to a vote!”



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.