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January 21, 2016

Guest blogger: Patrick Duhon, consultant and former director of the Providence After School Alliance

This is the second of two articles on planning for summer programming. See part 1, on budgeting, in the December 2015 newsletter.

Now that you’ve lined up funding, you can start planning your summer learning activities. Focus on these five Rs: Leverage and deepen your relationships with students by providing relevant and rigorous programs that get them more excited about learning, which will also help you recruit and retain youth throughout the summer.

Blend the best of informal and formal education to deepen summer learning:

Positive youth development: Make this your starting point. Establish a primary focus to get positive impacts on social, emotional and academic outcomes. Think about how to develop the whole child through recreation, civic engagement, service and leadership opportunities, academics, creativity and fun. 

Inquiry and “habits of mind”: Consider which of the state’s college- and career-ready learning standards you can advance. Your best targets are probably the habits of mind, which you can support through project-based learning and activities that help youth apply and extend their academic skills. Discuss these with school and district instructional leaders to determine how your program can build in essential 21st century skills.

The “sweet spots” for out-of-school time: Some areas are especially suited to the relaxed, hands-on learning environment of summer and afterschool settings (watch the video “This Is Dan”).

STEM learning: Helping youth explore their interests through hands-on inquiry can unleash amazing potential. Science and math move from just “subjects” to critical tools for understanding the world. Integrating art and design into activities can engage youth and wrap the learning in fun. Connecting applied mathematics and literacy to activities in STEM, the arts and other areas expands learning rather than replicating the school day.

Career and technical education: Exposing students to these areas helps them explore careers they probably didn’t know about. Give them a taste of work in science and technology to add relevance and motivation to those academic areas.

Students with special needs: English learners, students with IEPs and students who struggle with other issues can all build skills and experience success through hands-on learning. Providing tailored, expanded learning activities for these and other students makes learning more fun and relevant.

Partnerships between formal and informal educators: Many certified teachers who work in summer programs say they have built new pedagogical practices through partnering with community-based experiential educators. Have your summer program staff lead cross-training sessions. Perhaps district staff can help build shared understanding around learning standards, and informal educators can lead sessions on hands-on ways to meet standards. This supports more collaboration, and helps to shape effective school-community alignment for summer and year-round partnerships. For resources and videos from programs that have strong models for summer learning, see the Providence After School Alliance and Boston AfterSchool & Beyond.

Data and measurement: Work with staff and partners to review your data from past summers and discuss how to build stronger this year. To measure the impacts of your summer program, use tools that address a broad set of youth outcomes, including development of 21st century skills. The Every Hour Counts network, the National Institute on Out-of-School Time and Harvard University’s PEAR program offer resources and tools that can provide guidance.



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.



July 17, 2015

The laid-back days of summer are perfect for getting young people outside to explore the neighborhood, talk with community members, and think of ways to improve the places they live, play and learn. In fact, student-generated civic engagement projects can provide powerful lessons in “how society works” and how groups and individuals of all ages can make a positive difference.

For example, the students in your afterschool program might decide they’d like to turn an unsightly vacant lot into an obstacle course or community garden. They’d need to find the property owner (which might require a visit to City Hall or the County Courthouse), ask permission, develop a detailed plan and rationale, solicit advice and participation from local business and community leaders, obtain any necessary permits (another trip to City Hall) and work together to make it happen. By encouraging them to dream of what could be, and to turn dreaming to doing, you can help young people develop meaningful civic knowledge, skills and dispositions. 

The “Civic Learning and Engagement” materials on Y4Y make it easy for you to get started. This special section of the Project-Based Learning training module includes examples of civic learning and engagement in action, a process for helping students generate and act on their own ideas and tools for successful civic engagement projects.

Opportunities for civic learning and engagement are especially important for low-income and minority youth served in 21st CCLC programs. Researchers have found that low-income youth are less likely to become politically engaged than their more affluent peers. Results from the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress show that a persistent civic achievement gap persists among racial and ethnic groups. Less than a fourth of those taking the assessment (22 percent) said they had worked on a group project, and only 2 percent reported going on field trips or having outside speakers.    

You can make a difference by opening the door to active involvement in local civic projects that interest your students and helping them reflect on their experiences.   



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.



July 22, 2013

Thunderstorms, lightning bugs, ocean waves, and Fourth of July fireworks add up to sunny, hot, and humid days bursting with energetic children ready to have fun. Ah, summer!

Y4Y is here to help your summer program channel that energy and combine it with the spirit of summer for a focused approach to learning about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The excitement of summer aligns well with the principles of inquiry-based learning and STEM concepts. Try out some of the resources in the Y4Y STEM content module to encourage exploration and discovery in your summer program.