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December 12, 2019

The concept of mentoring has been infused into all levels of society, from elementary school buddy programs to Fortune 500 executive training. A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor. Being mentored can be powerful.

According to research cited by The National Mentoring Partnership, young adults who were at risk for falling off track but had a mentor were 55% more likely to enroll in college, 78% more likely to volunteer regularly and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions than their peers who were not mentored. Also 90% are, themselves, interested in becoming mentors. You’ve undoubtedly recognized the benefit to students of bringing mentors to your 21st CCLC program. Now it’s time to put together your elevator speech for adults in your community to educate them on what mentoring does for them on the two-way street called Mentor Way.

First, take a minute to reflect on the people in your life whom you consider mentors. Do you have a formal mentoring relationship? Probably not. For most people, our mentors are just people with more experience in some facet of living, even as fundamental as how to breathe (think swimming or Lamaze). The thing that made them special was, yes, their knowledge and wisdom, but equally important, their approachability and their desire to be useful to others. No doubt, there are people in your community with these characteristics. Finding them and connecting them with your program is one of the most valuable things you can do for your students, and for the “mentors in waiting” who respond to your call to serve.

Y4Y’s new course on strategic partnerships includes many tools that can help you map your community assets and link those assets to your program needs. For example, what if the greatest need in your program is support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities? Can you approach a local university to solicit student volunteers who might be wooed with the promise of a resume builder, improved communications skills, confidence boosting, networking opportunities and gratitude for their help? Factor these benefits for mentors into a targeted elevator speech for this potential partner.

What if your greatest need is literacy support? The retired teachers association in your area is a great resource for men and women who are hardwired to help and teach young people, and have the time and skills to do it. Your elevator speech for these potential volunteers might emphasize the liberty of leaving in the afternoon with no papers to grade, the emotional satisfaction of helping young people, the health benefits of contributing in a meaningful way, and the intellectual stimulation that comes from keeping up with their profession.

If strengthening social and emotional support for students is high on your list of program needs, check out community resources for mentors who can offer that extra adult guidance. These resources might run the gamut from veteran organizations to Big Brother/Sister programs to graduates of your program or programs like it. What does the other side of the street look like in this mentor-mentee relationship? This mentor has opportunities to reflect on the choices they’ve made in their own lives, to watch another life grow and change with their involvement, and to rest easy that they’ll be leaving the world a little better than they found it.



July 16, 2019

The featured link in this month’s Y4Y newsletter, Teaching and Learning STEM in 21st CCLC Programs, takes you to a thought-provoking webinar. The content helps out-of-school time educators think about the bright future they can open for students who have traditionally had little access to the broad spectrum of STEM-related careers. Let’s consider these gleaming rays of sunshine:

What Is My STEM Identity?

Every student has a “STEM identity” — a term gaining traction in research and educational communities — which means the degree to which a student relates to science, technology, engineering and math, and how they see themselves as STEM learners. This will start at home, depending on the careers of family members and friends a student has been exposed to. But good news! It won’t end there. The sooner educators offer fun and exciting learning opportunities to students, the healthier their STEM identity will become.

What Are the Advantages of STEM Education in 21st CCLC Programs?

There is so much flexibility in STEM curriculum in 21st CCLC programs that school-day teachers can’t take advantage of. Use student voice to determine what your students are most interested in. If it seems like favorite topics are unrelated to STEM, get creative! Even fashion design, football and finance have traceable roots in STEM, and you can help students seek them out. When students can connect STEM experiences to their own lives, the lessons are more meaningful to them. Another great idea is to tie student interests to the STEM lessons of their school day. Out-of-school time programs often involve students from several grades; consider this an asset, not a liability. Projects can be scaffolded to give smaller tasks to smaller students and help them feel like they are a part of something bigger; meanwhile older students reap the intellectual and social rewards of teaching and helping. And while you might be measuring their progress, students know they don’t have a school-day grade hanging in the balance.

Where Is This Headed? Citizen Science Is the Wave of the Future!

Speaking of waves, did you know that centuries-old “tsunami stones” pepper the Japanese coastline to warn future generations about flood dangers if they build too close to the shoreline? The spirit of sharing scientific observation for the good of all has a rich history, and citizen science captures this practice by asking everyday citizens to report observations on water quality, bird migrations and everything between. Engaging students in citizen science is the fastest way to develop their STEM identity, partly because projects — whether local, national or international — provide a learning opportunity. These projects, many of which are found readily online, also provide students a contributing opportunity.

Pioneering Partners: Where Would Doc Brown Be Without Marty McFly?

Absurd science fiction or not, Doc Brown’s vision took a curious, adventurous Marty McFly to visit the future. So, don’t worry about “bothering” the local botanist at the university extension office, engineer at the power company, or chemist at a nearby manufacturer when you want someone to partner in an educational opportunity for your students. Remember three things: (1) an adult in every STEM professional’s student life helped build their STEM identity, and they’ll be gratified to do the same; (2) these are not careers one stumbles into, so STEM professionals tend to be passionate about and eager to share their work; and (3) real-world practitioners are your best source for ideas about hands-on learning projects and tying STEM subjects to career paths.

No One Knows the Future Like NASA!

As the country celebrates the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Y4Y wants to recognize one of the U.S. Department of Education’s partners in STEM education and the future, NASA. All 21st CCLC professionals are encouraged to acquaint themselves with the incredible real-world design challenges NASA has created. Are you running a summer program? Want to get involved with NASA? Click here to view creative ideas on how to get involved with the 50th anniversary of the first humans landing on the Moon!

For more great tips on making the most of your STEM education programs, check out the Y4Y webinar series Unlocking Possibilities: Bringing STEM to Life, which includes an event dedicated to citizen science.



February 14, 2019

Author Marie Kondo is known for her advice on “tidying up” your space and getting rid of things that don’t “spark joy.” Regardless of whether you agree with her approach, the advice to keep it simple is nothing new. The KISS principle (“Keep It Simple, Stupid” or sometimes “Keep It Short and Simple”) has been around for years. 

Keeping things simple means clearing out the clutter so there’s more room for what you truly care about. Sometimes the clutter isn’t in your home or office. It’s in your brain. If worries and to-do lists take up too much of your mental space, you may find it hard to focus at work, enjoy your job and feel a sense of accomplishment. Sound familiar? One way to pare down brain clutter and self-imposed pressure is to reduce the day’s to-do list to one item:

  • Deliver something of value today.   

You get to define what the “something” is, and to whom it’s valuable (e.g., yourself, your colleagues or students, the world, or all of the above).  It could be working one-on-one with a student who has attention deficit disorder to show him how to organize his homework, or getting a community organization to partner with your program. At the end of the day, write down what you delivered, the people it affected and how it made you feel.  

You might think of this method as a stripped-down way to set a personal or professional SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goal. Simply put, it’s a way to work smarter and love it more.

Here are some Y4Y “work smart” resources:

Activity and Program SMART Goals

This tool has examples and guidance on developing goals that ensure common understandings and drive results.

Positive Youth Development Rubric

This tool will remind you of the five C’s of positive youth development and ways to help students — and staff — develop competence, confidence, connection, character and caring.

Project-Based Learning Research Brief

Summer Learning Research Brief

STEM Research Brief

Learn more about one of these learning approaches so you can help students get the most out of program activities and encourage parents and partners to become more involved.

 


January 24, 2019

Happy new year! Chances are, you already have several program activities, meetings, appointments, deadlines and to-do lists on your new calendar. Before all the blank space is filled, here’s a reminder: Don’t forget to put yourself on the calendar! Taking time for personal and professional renewal is important to your success and well-being. Here’s some advice:

Look both ways. As a child, you probably heard this line often from the crossing guard and from Mom as you approached busy intersections. It’s also good advice for crossing into the new year. First, look back at the past year, and reflect: What went well? What didn’t? Which habits, activities and goals do you want to keep? Which will you ditch? Then look forward and consider what you’d like to have, do and be in the coming year. What habits, activities and goals will get you there? A SWOT analysis can help you “look both ways” and consider your options. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Put on your own oxygen mask first. This pre-takeoff advice from flight attendants reminds us we can’t help others if we ignore our own needs. Sure, you’d love to spark students’ interest in reading and math, and help them prepare for successful college and career experiences. But maybe you first need to build your skills through training and tools in those areas. The links in this paragraph can help. See Y4Y’s professionalization resources for other ideas you can use to build your skills and your resume.

Keep your balance. The examples above focus on professional renewal, but time for personal goals and interests is equally important. Maybe you love nature photography or trips with family or friends but haven’t taken a photo or a trip for months. Or maybe you daydream about an afternoon of downtime. Decide what you need, and put yourself on the calendar. Seeking work-life balance and taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. It’s essential.



January 24, 2019

Now that reindeer games and year-end holidays are over, it’s time to get serious — about fun and games! With forethought, games can be a terrific way to engage students in meaningful learning in a relaxed and supportive environment. Here are three ideas:

Play with numbers. Some students feel anxious just thinking about math. Structured play with numbers might be just what they need! Y4Y’s Afterschool Training Toolkit has math game tips, templates and examples for targeting areas where your students could use extra help, whether it’s fractions, problem-solving skills, or big ideas like symbols and patterns. Math games can be competitive or cooperative, single-player or multiplayer. Math play could be part of a treasure hunt (reading x and y coordinates on a treasure map), a foot race (timing the race and ranking the finishers), a bake-off (measuring ingredients and using a rating scale) or an art project (finding geometric shapes in paintings). Finding math in everyday activities isn’t hard, once you know where to look! Considering an online math game, or a game related to financial literacy? Guidelines in the Afterschool Training Toolkit can help you choose wisely.

Play with words. Creating and performing poems, raps, riddles, jokes and jingles feels like play, but these activities build mental muscle. It’s OK to start small: Let’s see how many words your team can list in 60 seconds that rhyme with “hat.” The Y4Y Literacy course has ideas for playing with sounds. It also has ideas for improving vocabulary. For example, you could award points to students “caught” using a word of the day in conversation or in writing. You could start by introducing words they might hear on TV (like endgame) or at school (like theory), and everyday words with multiple meanings (like cloud). Look for opportunities to make this a natural part of regular program activities, such as homework time and field trips. You could also check with school-day teachers for vocabulary ideas. Be sure to play along by using the word of the day yourself!           

Play “what if.” Scientists and researchers play the “what if” game for a living. For example, what if you’re landing a spacecraft on another planet, and you need to slow down to avoid a crash landing? If you’re a NASA engineer, solving problems like this is part of your job. NASA’s “Parachuting Onto Mars” engineering design challenge invites students to think like an engineer by creating and testing possible solutions. Working in teams, they’ll practice problem-solving, math and collaboration skills as they compete against other teams for the honor of saying “We did it!”

Purposeful play can build students’ confidence and skills. It can offer new angles on subjects they’re learning about in school. It’s easy to get started. Many of the ideas described above can add an element of fun to what you’re already doing. Talk it over with your team, and see what they think!