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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.

April 28, 2015

These videos provide glimpses into 21st CCLC programs that are proud to share their successes, especially in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), with students from elementary to high school. In the videos, directors, site coordinators and teachers share their advice on program development; content, methods and approaches; staffing; partnerships; and continuous improvement. So put up your feet, grab some popcorn — and be sure to log-in to use the “My Notebook” feature to jot down new ideas and inspirations to apply to your program.

Here are some narrative “trailers” to get you thinking before you watch. Follow the links to go into the modules and watch the videos.

Aligning With the School Day

At Schuylkill Achieve Pennsylvania, STEMovation is designed to excite students about STEM. The program experiences some challenges that come with a rural setting but staff have instilled principles and practices that strengthen the program. For example, they’re resourceful, drawing creatively on what’s available in the community and thinking about how to tie STEM to any type of lesson. School-day connections are critical, too, especially for staffing, and Barbara Naradko in the school district emphasizes that, “An afterschool program is not a stand-alone program. It takes a team, and that team needs to work together.” 

Strengthening Partnerships

In New Jersey, Sister Jude Boyce, the principal of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Academy, also stresses teamwork as a key to success, and the 21st CCLC team unifies around the one goal of providing students with the best possible STEM program. Partnerships with local business and other sources of STEM expertise expose students to new skills and real-world examples of how to apply their school-day curriculum standards. What students see is that “STEM is everywhere. Science is in everything,” says project director Sowmiya Thirumoorthy. Staff get this message, too, through consistent professional development sessions that help them blend the curriculum standards with fun and engaging afterschool activities. 


Robots, CAD software and fabrication are the norm for 21st CCLC students in Oregon’s McMinnville School District, where these and other STEM activities give students ways to try out new things to see what they like and don’t like. Tony Vicknair, the district STEM Director, recommends taking youth voice and choice a step further: survey the students and their parents. “Don’t be afraid of the survey results, because they will help you better your program,” he says.

And, we all want a better program, right? Matt Finkinger, a Schuykill instructor, reminds us to look at our STEM programming and ask, “What will this mean in the real world? What will the students be able to do when they leave this place? … That’s the challenge of education.” One more showcase video will help you frame a plan: High-Quality STEM: Features, Practices, and Tips From the Field summarizes the key ideas to building a strong STEM afterschool program for your students. 

January 22, 2015

STEM concepts—science, technology, engineering and math—are important concepts to tackle complex local and global challenges. Whether you’re new to STEM or ready to raise the bar, Y4Y resources can help you build STEM knowledge and practice to support student learning. 

Your activities and projects can help close the STEM gap by encouraging student interest in related topics and careers. Here’s one simple strategy: reinforce a way of thinking called the scientific method. You don’t need to be a STEM whiz to do this — Y4Y provides guidance on developing scientific habits of mind, fitting STEM into program schedules, and adding scientific processes throughout the program day with the STEM Vocabulary Builder.

Start with something your staff members already know well — your students! What do your youth like to do? What interests get them fired up? This page on Y4Y shows how to transform student interests into STEM activities. If your students enjoy creative expression, check out our STEAM resources.

STEM offers endless possibilities, and Y4Y can help you deliver them. If you’d like to dig deeper, visit the Learn More Library. You may also want to use Y4Y’s Teach resources to equip staff with the skills and knowledge to implement fun and effective STEM activities. Use the STEM Strategies and Techniques tool to infuse STEM into all aspects of your program. 

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.

December 9, 2013

Last month the Y4Y team had the opportunity to collaborate with 21st CCLC grantees from Maryland around promising practices for aligning programming with school day learning. Grantees brainstormed and shared their ideas for creatively embedding learning standards in their activities. Programs that already had an academic focus found strategies for boosting the development of 21st Century skills, including one STEM-focused program that turned students' love of talking into a public speaking exercise on the topic of college and career readiness.

Thanks to all of the programs that shared their ideas with us, and we encourage you to keep sharing with the Y4Y user community in the Discussion Boards!