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April 25, 2018

It’s May, and if your 21st CCLC program offers a summer learning program, you’re already far along in the planning process. What’s left?

You’ve been clear all along about why: Research and experience confirm that much of the academic achievement gap between children from lower- and higher-income families is due to summer learning loss — loss of academic knowledge and skills while students aren’t in school, especially in reading and math.

You know what you’re going to focus on to prevent summer learning loss, and how. Depending on student needs, you’re probably planning to combine academic enrichment with fun activities or an engaging theme.

You know who you’re targeting: which students in your program and partner school especially need support to hold on to academic learning and retain skills related to attentiveness, organization and interpersonal relationships.

But, if you’re like many 21st CCLC program leaders, you wonder how to make sure those young people show up. It can be harder to recruit and retain students for the summer session than for school-term sessions.

One effective way to plan for recruitment is to look at the barriers students and families face. Then target your messages to address those barriers. For example:

Barrier: Parents and students confuse your summer learning program with “summer school,” which they might associate with failure.

Message: Emphasize that your 21st CCLC summer program isn’t “school.” Students are invited, not forced, to attend.

Barrier: Some parents think their child deserves to rest and have fun after a long, hard school year.

Message: List the program’s fun activities. Remind families that interacting with other children and caring adults is more fun and valuable than staying home alone with video games.

Barrier: Parents worry about practical matters, such as safety, transportation, timing and cost.

Message: Describe how you intend to address these practical concerns. For example, working parents can be drawn to a full-day program that offers breakfast and lunch.

Barrier: Caregivers might think they can teach the child at home using workbooks and online games.

Message: Let parents know that your summer program is designed and implemented by professional educators. They know how to create enjoyable activities that will keep students’ minds and bodies active while school is out.

How will you get these messages across? Every way you can! Use posters, public announcements, and send flyers home with students — more than once. Some of those flyers may stay crumpled in the bottom of the backpack until August, so you’ll need a variety of strategies:

  • Speak to families in person at pick-up.
  • Call or send a text.
  • Visit homes.
  • Recruit school staff to help. Most families see school teachers, principals and counselors as trusted messengers.

The Y4Y Summer Learning Youth Recruitment Planner can help you identify recruitment strategies, action steps, needed materials, team assignments and due dates. There’s room for you to write in and track additional strategies that will work for your families and students.

With intentional messages, delivered in a variety of ways, you can make sure that many students benefit from the summer program you and your staff have so carefully planned. Thanks for all you do to make it happen!



April 20, 2018

The start of summer is a good time for 21st CCLC programs to focus on prevention. Why? Because most first-time use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco among adolescents under age 18 happens in June or July. This finding comes from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Survey on Drug Use and Health. During these months, young people are usually out of school, with more free time and less adult supervision than usual. 
 
That’s why National Prevention Week is held during the third week of May each year. The purpose is to bring together communities and organizations across the country to raise awareness about the importance of substance abuse prevention and mental health. To get involved, consider partnering with your school to host prevention-themed events before the school year ends. 
 
There are many ways your program can raise awareness about this important issue among students and their families. Here are a few ideas and resources from the Y4Y Family Engagement course:
  • Direct families to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, where they can get information and resources or call 1-800-DRUGFREE to talk with a trained parent counselor. If their child is struggling with substance abuse, the counselor can help them develop an action plan.
  • Download tip sheets and other customizable materials to share with families from SAMHSA’s campaign against underage drinking, Talk. They Hear You. Also, let families know about an app called Start the Talk. Parents can use this interactive app to learn the do’s and don’ts of talking with young people about underage drinking. (Your program staff might find it helpful as well!)
  • Refer families to the National Institute on Drug Abuse Family Checkup website, where they can learn about five critical parenting skills that are linked to drug-free childhood, youth development and healthy family relationships. The checkup includes a video clip with positive and negative examples of each skill, such as handling emotional conflicts, along with additional information and videos parents can use for practice.
 
Additional resources to support your program’s efforts around drug and alcohol prevention are available on Y4Y.
 
Prevention, of course, is a year-round concern. The work your program does every day to strengthen community, school and family bonds can help protect young people from substance abuse.


April 20, 2018

As more people use mobile devices to stay connected, texting seems like a natural way to inform and engage families. If your 21st CCLC program is considering it, here are some things to keep in mind:
 
Have a plan. Meet with your program team to discuss whether texting might be a good tool for your communications toolbox. Discuss possible pros and cons. Who will be in charge of setting it up, creating and sending messages, and responding if a family member sends a message in return? 
 
Select a texting platform. A texting platform, also called a short message service or SMS, lets you send messages to multiple subscribers at once. With most platforms, you can import contact information from a spreadsheet, which makes messaging easy and quick. Some platforms let you store messages to be sent automatically. It’s smart to test the platform with team members to work out any kinks and to make sure everyone knows how to use it.
 
Get family members’ permission. On your program’s student enrollment form, where it asks for family members’ cell phone numbers, also ask for permission to send text messages from the program. Remind families about this option periodically in letters or newsletters, or in person.  
 
Use texting to remind about actions or deadlines. Texting works best for quick reminders like “We hope to see you Friday at 7 p.m. at the high school for the ABC Program’s student showcase!” Texting isn’t the best tool for explaining concepts like why it’s important for students to present their work to an audience.  
 
Keep it short. Messages that get to the point respect families’ time. Also, if your message is longer than 160 characters, some phone carriers will break it into two parts. Be specific, but not wordy. 
 
Limit the number of texts you send. If parents know you’ll send texts only to share important or useful messages, they are more likely to pay attention when you write. 
 
Personalize when possible. Some texting platforms enable you to personalize messages you send to a group. Also, sometimes, you might choose to send an individual message to just one or two families.   
 
Proofread before you send. Double-check times, dates, spelling and grammar. If you’re not sure about something, ask a colleague to take a look.  
 
Don’t over-rely on texting. Some families might not have a mobile device, and some might choose not to sign up for text messages from your program. So don’t make texting your only form of communication. Delivering a message multiple times in multiple formats is a good practice, no matter what you’re communicating. That’s why major companies often advertise their products in a variety of ways.       
 
Y4Y’s Family Engagement course points out the importance of making information available in a variety of formats and languages that families can understand. Texting is just one of many possible tools your staff can use to overcome common challenges in communicating with families. Also take a look at the recent Family Engagement Virtual Institute for a wealth of resources.
 
Does your 21st CCLC program use texting? What has the experience been like? What benefits and drawbacks have you seen? What other strategies have worked for you? Please share your ideas and strategies with peers on this Y4Y discussion board so that others may benefit from what you’ve learned!


February 23, 2018

Guest blogger: David Mazza, Y4Y Educational Technology Specialist

Twitter, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, MapQuest, Snapchat Stories, Skype, Google Hangouts, Google Duo, Periscope, Vine, Peeks Social — these are a few of the many apps available today. I’m often asked, “Should we use these apps for educational activities?” It sounds like a yes-or-no question, but it’s not. Here are two important follow-up questions that can help you decide.

Will technology enhance your activity, or be a distraction?

The first thing to consider is whether technology is appropriate for the activity you’re planning. Sometimes it seems that young people, not to mention adults, stare at screens or use mobile devices day and night. On city sidewalks, it’s common to pass one person after another who’s texting or talking on their phone. Hopefully you’ve avoided getting run over by these distracted pedestrians! On elevators, have you ever responded to a “hello” only to realize the stranger next to you wasn’t talking to you, but was on a cell phone? In restaurants, have you noticed families or groups sitting together at a table but interacting with their devices instead of with each other?

Technology is part of our lives, but as these examples show, there are trade-offs. What are we missing when we bring technology along as we walk outdoors, engage in everyday activities, and visit with friends and family? You can apply this question as you consider whether to make technology part of any activity you’re planning for students. What benefits might technology bring to the activity? What might students miss by bringing technology along? Will it enhance your activity, or be a distraction?

If your goal is to have students learn about forest management, and you plan to engage a forest ranger from a remote location to provide expertise, the answer could be Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype. (See this Y4Y blog post for ideas on videoconferencing.) If your activity is a walk in the forest, however, and the goal is to help students sharpen their observation skills, it might be best to leave technology behind and have them “take pictures” mentally.

What are the options for apps that will enhance the activity and be enjoyable for students to use?

A multitude of free apps are available, but if you don’t know about them or haven’t used them, how can you determine which ones might work well? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Ask around. You can always do a Google search to get started. First, though, ask family, friends, colleagues and students about their favorite apps and their uses. Most people love sharing their favorites. Asking students can help you learn about apps they already like and use. Here are a few of my favs for skywatching:

  • MyScript Calculator
  • Meteor Shower Calendar
  • Phases of the Moon
  • Sky Map
  • EQInfo

Play around. Start with a suggested app that looks interesting to you. Download it and spend some time playing with the app. Consider possible ways to integrate it into an activity. For example, could students use Facebook Live or Periscope to present a project they’ve done, or to let a homebound family member watch as they perform an original skit, song, dance or story?

Try it with your students! If your students are struggling with mathematical concepts, you might use Skype to have a local carpet installer show how they calculate the area of a room to make sure they order the right amount of carpet. Or an auto mechanic might show how they calculate angles for pipe bending. These examples show real-world applications of concepts taught in math classes. Skyping with experts from various fields can also introduce students to careers they otherwise might not consider.

I’d be happy to discuss more about using apps effectively with students. I’d also love to hear about your favorite apps and how you use them. Leave a reply below!



January 19, 2018

As you select and plan student activities, what guidelines help you decide what to do, and how? Hopefully your answer isn’t “Whatever I can pull together in the next five minutes!”

Designing effective program activities requires a clear understanding of what you hope to accomplish. That means asking four questions:

  • Does the activity align with program goals?
  • Does it target student needs?
  • Does it build skills and knowledge that will help students succeed?
  • Will it engage students?

Addressing these questions during the activity design phase can make the difference between an activity that “fills up time” and one that moves students toward meaningful goals. The questions help you focus on the purpose or intent behind the activity.

Here’s how Y4Y defines an intentional approach to activity design:

intentional activity design: The process of designing engaging activities that align with program goals and target identified student needs to help students build the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.

Intentional design of activities fits within the larger framework of intentional program design:

intentional program design: The process of assessing student needs; designing a set of delivery strategies, interventions and activities that will engage those students while helping them build skills and knowledge they need to succeed; and recruiting the targeted students for which the program activities were designed.

The Y4Y Intentional Activity Design Diagram reminds you to consider data sources, overarching program goals, and strategies for aligning student needs and program goals as you plan activities. You might decide to develop a similar diagram based on your particular program goals and student needs to help guide staff as they plan and implement activities.

For a deeper dive into intentional activity design, go to the Y4Y Virtual Institute for New Grantees and see the webinar and PowerPoint for Week 2: Intentionally Designing Activities.