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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.

 


December 11, 2018

As winter arrives, longer nights and cooler temperatures might have you and your 21st CCLC team wishing for summer already. Take advantage of “summer fever” to make sure your plan for summer programming is on track. Take five minutes right now to visit the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative page and do a quick gut check. Here’s how:

  • Get motivated. The Implementation Planner page gives four reasons to plan now instead of later. The Research page describes eight ways summer learning programs matter for student success, and what practices matter most. (Hint: Number 8 says good planning gets results!)
  • Get organized. The Plan a Program page lays out seven sequential steps for planning an effective summer program. You can see all seven at a glance and note steps that might need attention, like inviting a community member to join the program team or planning logistics for local field trips.
  • Get tools. Tools are listed for each planning step. All the lists are on one screen, so you can quickly see what’s available for the steps that need the attention in your program.
  • Get started. Bookmark the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative site now so you can benefit from the experiences of 40 Summer Learning Initiative grantees across seven states who received in-depth coaching and professional learning to build their summer programs.
  • Get others engaged. Forward the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative link to your team with a short personal message like this: “This cold weather has me thinking about summer. Here’s a good resource from the U.S. Department of Education. Let’s talk about this in our next meeting.”
An ounce of planning now can save a ton of last-minute problem solving next summer.


September 17, 2018

Whether you’re an old hand or just had your first experience with summer programming, you know the best time to start planning for next summer is now. Here are some ideas from 21st CCLC sites that participated in the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative and used a planning process designed to produce high-quality programming.

Market your program to build interest before summer begins.

In Kansas, a summer program for elementary school students once struggled to enroll students in what was described as a “summer school” focused on academics. Using strategies from the Summer Learning Initiative, staff decided to call the program a “summer camp” instead of summer school and created a fun “summer safari” theme. They emphasized engaging, hands-on learning experiences that build students’ academic skills. The program sent personalized invitations to the students who would benefit most from participation, and followed up with phone calls. For the summer 2018 program, they were at capacity with a waiting list, and parents were calling to ask if their child could get into the program. The program director attributed this success to the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative’s marketing and intentional student recruitment strategies.

Offer activities that keep students engaged throughout the summer.

Incorporating student voice is essential to creating a summer program that students want to attend. A high school program in California provided a variety of opportunities for student input. For example, the site coordinator turned his office into a resource center and encouraged students to stop by to talk. The program also used student surveys. Staff members set up an outdoor canopy during lunch to conduct informal focus groups with students. The site coordinator said these efforts to incorporate student voice improved program quality.

Some programs used educational field trips that were connected to their learning goals and program themes. For example, a program in New Jersey with a theater theme took students to local performing arts centers for learning events, then had them write about their experiences in a journal. Structured experiences like this provide real-world learning opportunities that motivate student attendance and engagement.

"They don't have to be here — they want to be here." 

State Coordinator, California

Your work’s not over when summer ends.

Once your program ends, taking the time to learn from your successes and struggles can help you make improvements the next time around. Summer Learning Initiative participants created continuous improvement plans that included performance measures and measurement tools. They assigned staff, targeted groups for assessment, and set time frames to help them determine if they met their goals. Comparing actual outcomes to intended outcomes will help you understand the effectiveness of your program. Analyzing data and discussing lessons learned can help you make adjustments that will lead to greater satisfaction and success for staff and students.

For example, a program for high school students in Oregon struggled with student attendance — until staff members decided to incorporate more student voice and offered engaging science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) activities that matched student interests. A program in Kansas learned that many students were struggling during the school year, so the staff tried a new approach for the summer, using project-based learning to target specific skills and content. Students and teachers alike enjoyed the hands-on activities, and the program director reported increases in staff capacity.

"This helps them see different ways to teach. It's making them better teachers."

Project Director, Kansas

Summer Learning Initiative resources are free and available on Y4Y.

Even if you’ve never helped plan a summer learning program, you don’t have to start from scratch! Visit the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative webpage to watch short videos of Initiative participants and download the tools they used on. You can learn more about the steps for planning and implementing high-quality summer learning experiences by exploring the resources on that page and ones in the Y4Y Summer Learning course.



June 20, 2018

Many site coordinators describe feeling frantic as they wrap up the school year and sprint into summer trying to get things ready at the last minute. Sound familiar? Y4Y can help: Over the past two years, 40 programs across seven states have engaged in structured planning to increase the quality and intentional design of their summer programs and end the summer sprint. Now, you can use their process and learn from practitioners like you across the nation.

The Summer Learning Initiative section of the Y4Y website presents a seven-step process for planning a high-quality summer program. Starting the September before, you will follow a path that begins with building your program team and concludes with reflecting on successes and ways to continuously improve. And, believe it or not, the planning process will have you completely ready for summer before the school year ends!

You can start by downloading a comprehensive Program Implementation Planner to support your planning process. The planner will keep you organized and on schedule while helping you capture important details. It’s also useful for orienting new program leaders, and for getting a head start on planning future summer learning. (Try using it in Google Sheets to achieve a truly collaborative team experience.) As you scroll down the page with the Planner, look for the helpful Sample Planner and and the User Guide, and listen to a podcast that will walk you through the planner tab by tab.

Y4Y’s Summer Learning Initiative section describes each planning step in detail, offers downloadable tools and resources, and provides engaging videos to give you a peek into the experiences and programs of the participating sites. If you missed the Summer Learning Series of webinars, you can access the recordings to help launch your planning. To avoid the dreaded last-minute sprint, start now, and you’ll spring into next summer feeling stress-free and ready for a season chock full of exciting learning!

Seven Steps to a High-Quality Summer Program

  1. Build Your Planning Team
  2. Conduct a Needs Assessment
  3. Set SMART Goals
  4. Plan Your Logistics
  5. Intentionally Design Activities
  6. Intentionally Recruit Students
  7. Continuously Improve Your Program


June 20, 2018

You developed a high-quality summer learning program for your students and worked with your staff to design a continuous improvement process. Now, how do you ensure the plan is being implemented with fidelity (in other words, implemented as planned)? The Y4Y Summer Learning course tools and resources can help you monitor to stay on track.

Observations

Use Y4Y’s Observation Checklist to observe academic and enrichment activities. Are you doing what you said you would do? If you planned on a student-to-teacher ratio of 10 to 1 but ended up at 18 to 1, this difference is likely to impact your outcomes. Observations are one way to track important areas of implementation so you can make modifications along the way, assess outcomes and plan for future programming. Make sure to visit all the activities, spread observations across the summer, and observe transition and dismissal times.

Feedback

Students and families are your “customers” and you want to know how well your program meets their needs. Surveys are effective and easy ways to find out. The Y4Y Summer Learning course has sample surveys for families and students that you can customize to your program. Administer them in person or online through Google Forms, which collects your feedback into a spreadsheet. Be sure to schedule time with your program team to discuss the results and follow-up action steps. Feedback is only valuable if it leads to action.

Continuous Improvement

If you used the Y4Y Summer Learning course, you have already developed a continuous improvement plan. If not, download the Continuous Improvement Process Diagram and Continuous Improvement Planner to get started. The Continuous Improvement Planner helps to keep you on track with goals and outcomes. As you complete each data collection window, analyze your data and record outcomes. Take time to discuss why you met or fell short of your goals (or exceeded them!) and consider implications for the coming school-year program.

Celebration

Many programs plan a culminating event to showcase summer activities and student achievements. With students and staff, plan a fun event that will engage families while giving students a chance to show off their learning and express themselves. You might add a reflection element such as an open discussion about what worked well and what could be tweaked in the future. Review results from your observations and stakeholder surveys, and discuss your continuous improvement plan. Celebrating with your students and staff is the perfect way to wrap up an amazing summer.