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December 18, 2017

Y4Y’s online courses, archived webinars, and other professional learning resources are always free and available 24/7 to 21st CCLC leaders and practitioners. So please forgive the use of “marketing lingo” in the headline. Here are some highlights of new content added to Y4Y in 2017, just to make sure you don’t miss out:

Citizen Science

By working with professional scientists on real-world problems, students hone their research skills by gathering and analyzing data. Check out the new Y4Y course for ideas that will get you fired up about the potential of citizen science. For a guided tour of course tools, resources and strategies, see this archived webinar. The Y4Y STEM Initiatives page includes links to a range of activities that engage students in the scientific process. You’ll find engineering design activities from NASA, making and tinkering activities from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and watershed-focused citizen science activities from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For a deeper dive, set aside an hour or two to go through the updated STEM course. Meanwhile, you and your students can get a taste of citizen science by taking part in Audubon’s 118th Christmas Bird Count (Dec. 14, 2017, through Jan. 5, 2018).

Summer Learning

Stem the tide of summer learning loss with fun activities that target student needs. Another new Y4Y course, Summer Learning, gives step-by-step guidance on designing a high-impact program that students will enjoy. You can use Y4Y’s ready-made Trainings to Go to get others talking and planning for summer. You can also sign up for “The Right Stuff” Summer Learning Series webinars (the next one will be Feb. 7). Looking for ways to get families involved to prevent summer learning loss? There’s a blog post on that topic.

Virtual Institute for New Grantees

If the fall season was so busy that you missed the four-part virtual institute for new grantees, Y4Y understands! The institute’s webinars, PowerPoints and resources are archived and ready when you are. The virtual institute covers four topics: conducting a needs assessment, intentionally designing activities, implementing with fidelity and engaging partners for sustainability.

There’s more to explore! Bookmark the Y4Y website so you can browse the menus whenever you have some free time. If you haven’t visited in a while, you’ll notice an updated look and other improvements.

P.S. Happy New Year from the Y4Y Team!



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.



April 18, 2017

Effective out-of-school time programs partner with families, students and schools to achieve the best possible educational outcomes. As you plan your programming for this summer and beyond, make sure to get the input you need to keep those partnerships healthy. Here are some ways to get input: 

•    Informal “hallway conversations”
•    Formal meetings with individuals or groups
•    Structured small-group discussions
•    Suggestion boxes
•    Surveys

Not sure where to start? Check out our ready-to-use Y4Y stakeholder surveys!

If you’re planning a summer program, use the Family Survey and Student Survey from our new Summer Learning course. By administering these surveys at the start and end of your program, you can demonstrate your program’s impact, and find what you’re doing right and where you can improve. 

Y4Y’s new STEM surveys for grades K-1, 2-3, 4-6 and 7-12 can help you design STEM programming that engages students’ minds by focusing on subjects that already interest them. 

You can align your program with school-day learning by using the Survey of Teacher Programming Needs to find out where students are struggling and could use extra support.

Finding out what families, students and schools think about your program (and ways they can contribute) can make it more effective. Y4Y stakeholder surveys can do some of the work for you. It’s the perfect place to start!



March 16, 2017

Phillip A. Collazo, MSEd., Education & Training Specialist, Kids Included Together

Knowing a little about biology and brain chemistry can make a big difference in helping students lower their stress levels. Here’s a promise: You won’t need to memorize formulas or spend hours in special classes. As 21st CCLC practitioners, you work in the ideal environment to build pleasure into learning.

What Research Says

According to research conducted by Dr. Stuart Shanker, stress ranks as one of the greatest barriers to learning. He wrote extensively about decline in the mental and physical well-being of U.S. children due to stress. 

When humans experience stress, our bodies produce cortisol, which some call the “stress hormone.” High levels of cortisol have been linked to “increased anxiety, depression and challenging behaviors in children and youth” (Ruttle et al., 2011), and to “higher risk for developing learning difficulties or impaired cognitive abilities” (Suor et al., 2015).

Our bodies can balance the negative effects of stress by producing endorphins, or “feel-good” chemicals. Fun, active and engaging activities that also encourage positive social interactions are some of the easiest and healthiest ways to activate endorphins and reduce classroom stress. Both exercise and relaxation can help. 

In an ideal world, children and youth would spend their days learning at their own pace, while also having fun in and out of school. In reality, curriculums, learning objectives and high-stakes tests often control the content and pace of the school day. How can we help children reduce stress and make learning more fun? Here are two strategies that work well together.

Stress Reduction Part 1: Manage Time to Match Focus

This solution involves managing time by strategically grouping content — what Preston (2013) calls “activity chunking.” Many educators have successfully used versions of this strategy for years. 

Start by setting realistic and achievable expectations. Consider your students’ natural attention span, and chunk activities accordingly. Preston recommends calculating the average focus time of students by adding five minutes to their age. For example, the average six-year-old should be able to attend to an 11-minute lesson. Psychologists, scientists and researchers hold varied opinions on attention span, with estimates ranging between 15 and 40 minutes (Briggs, 2014).

For tasks that can complement academic content while still giving students a chance for a break, incorporate activity centers into your program. With common classroom materials you can plan quick exercises that develop key STEM and literacy skills. With these suggested STEM and reading activities, you can “chunk” in as needed to help students refocus.

Stress Reduction Part 2: Activate Senses to Feel Good

Plan activities that capture your learners’ interests, and then play to their strengths. According to Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1991), we all have “a unique blend of capabilities and skills (intelligences).” Plan activities and short breaks that use a “six-sense” approach. Look for ways to get students to use their eyes, ears/voice, fingers, muscles, balance and social skills. End it all by encouraging the group to take two deep breaths together. The sensory activities release those feel-good endorphins and help students refocus for their next learning activity.

Here are a few ideas for building the senses into activities and breaks:

- Ask young students to act out characters when they read a story aloud. Older students may enjoy dramatic readings of poetry or plays. Don’t be shy: add a musical soundtrack with some group humming to keep the beat.
- Stand up and “shake your wiggles out” now and then.
- Play a creative game of Acrobat-Simon-Says, use call-and-response chants, or create finger play songs.
- For older students, include time for meaningful socializing by encouraging share-outs, group polling or content debates.
- Play games like “I Spy” or practice yoga poses. See “Tips for Helping Your Child Focus and Concentrate” from PBS Parents for more ideas.​

Everyone Benefits

Fun, active and engaging activities that benefit students can also benefit the adults in your program. Chunking activities can help you organize so you provide better support to help students meet academic goals. Managing time frames and achieving small goals increases educators’ sense of accomplishment, just like for students. Best of all, these strategies work for students of all abilities and can help make your program more inclusive. 


Resources
For information on creating an inclusive setting that welcomes students with disabilities, visit the Implementation Guides section of Y4Y to find resources on addressing individual needs, engaging all learners, supporting social-emotional development and other topics.

References
Briggs, S. (2014). The science of attention: How to capture and hold the attention of easily distracted students. Retrieved from opencolleges.edu
Northern Illinois University, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. (2009). Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Summary. Retrieved from facdev.niu.edu
Preston, J. (2013). Increasing attention span and engagement in the classroom through chunking: A method that works for all grades. Retrieved from brighthubeducation.com
Ruttle, P. L., Shirtcliff, E. A., Serbin, L. A., Fisher, D. B., Stack, D. M., & Schwartzman, A. E. (2011). Disentangling psychobiological mechanisms underlying internalizing and externalizing behaviors in youth: Longitudinal and concurrent associations with cortisol. Hormones and Behaviors 59 (1), pp. 123-132.
Suor, J. H., Sturge-Apple, M. L., Davies, P. T., Cicchetti, D., & Manning, L. G. (2015). Tracing differential pathways of risk: Associations among family adversity, cortisol, and cognitive functioning in childhood. Child Development 86 (4), pp. 1142-1158.