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March 18, 2020

Literacy is an area where your 21st CCLC program can dramatically enrich and improve the lives of your students. But where in the world is the professional learning to help you achieve your goals? Look no further! Y4Y has updated its Literacy course, with four objectives in mind: assess students’ literacy needs, design and facilitate literacy activities that align with those needs, use strategies to increase the time students spend reading and writing after the school day, and implement literacy activities with fidelity. Join the course tour guide, Will, as each of 11 key strategies will take you to a different country throughout this travel-themed course. Buckle up for an engaging trip around the world!

How might key strategies look when literacy is your focus?

  • To start, your literacy program team may include some new members, such as a librarian from your public library and reading specialist.
  • Qualitative data will be as important to your needs assessments as quantitative data, since qualitative data gives people room to communicate freely and add details.
  • Partnership assets may not be dramatically different through the literacy lens. On the contrary, you might discover some of your best partners already have literacy initiatives in place that you can tap into, such as book giveaways or English as a Second Language (ESL) volunteer tutoring programs.
  • Bear in mind that SMART goals will have to be set for the program level and for activities.
  • Just like partnerships, logistics may not change dramatically when literacy is at the heart of your planning, but here again, there may be space or budgeting opportunities and challenges that are unique to your literacy activities.
  • Intentional design of literacy activities will take into account the amount of enrichment versus intervention that may be called, for based on your student-level data.
  • Recruitment of students should involve general outreach to the community. Also, asking for referrals and good advertising from school-day educators will be crucial.
  • Whether your current staff has strong literacy skills, or you’re poised to hire new staff or you’re looking for other stakeholders to fill gaps, strong literacy skills (and the ability to teach those skills) are desirable as you’re choosing adults to interact with your students.
  • Consider the possible challenges around adult literacy when it comes to your family engagement efforts.
  • Helping your students understand the rubric used to measure their literacy progress is an important step in implementing with fidelity. Unlike math, where an answer is either right or wrong, literacy skills can seem mysterious to students. There can be multiple ways to write a good (or bad) paragraph, for example. Providing a rubric with clear measures can remove some of the mystery (and anxiety) for students.
  • When your organization is mindful of these steps in literacy programming, success is the final stop in your literacy tour. That means it’s time to celebrate!

Enjoy your worldwide tour of all four components of literacy — reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Your specific literacy activities might be developed around any or all of these components. Whatever you decide, the Y4Y Literacy course offers course tools to help you address student needs. Explore them all! Program directors and site coordinators are also encouraged to check out the Coaching My Staff section of the course.

The Y4Y Literacy course, like a good book, can be like a worldwide adventure. Be sure your passport is up-to-date, and let Y4Y help you explore the world of literacy so you can bring the very best ideas home to your students.



March 18, 2020

It doesn’t take a microscope to find good summer STEM programming ideas at Y4Y. Perhaps you wanted to attend Y4Y’s Summer STEM webinar series in January but simply couldn’t fit it in your schedule. Well, don’t worry: Y4Y recorded the entire series with you in mind! It guides 21st CCLC program directors and practitioners through nine steps to plan ahead for a summer filled with enriching, engaging, real-life opportunities for students. Making sure young brains stay “turned on” during those “off months” while school’s out will help them retain what they’ve already learned — and provide new experiences for students to build on when school starts up again.

The webinar series has three objectives: (1) Engage in the steps for planning, designing, implementing and assessing a summer learning program; (2) Develop strategies to implement components of a successful science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program; and (3) Identify Y4Y resources that assist with STEM in summer learning.

Providing summer enrichment experiences is especially important to students from low-income families served by 21st CCLC programs. With each year of education, there’s a growing gap in learning between students from lower-income families, who often have limited access to enriching experiences, and their middle- and higher-income counterparts, who usually have more opportunities to visit libraries, museums and interesting vacation locales during out-of-school time. Those with more opportunities are less likely to experience a loss of academic skills and knowledge (sometimes called the “summer slide”). The impact is seen not only in students’ reading and math scores, but also in their future career interests and prospects. In fact, only 16% of graduating U.S. seniors are proficient in math and have an interest in a career in STEM.

In addition to closing learning gaps and reducing the summer slide, 21st CCLC summer STEM programming has the power to truly inspire excitement in STEM areas by offering hands-on, authentic learning opportunities free of the time constraints that classrooms operate under. Activities that are real, active and local will be most meaningful to students and carry the longest-lasting benefits.

Y4Y’s Summer STEM webinar series will stimulate your thinking about what’s possible and how to plan for it. For example, you’ll be asked to draw a simple figure to represent each of the STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Webinar leaders explain that this activity mirrors how you can set students up for success by meeting them at the most elemental level of STEM understanding, and building from there.

The webinar walks you through nine crucial steps to intentional program development:

Step 1: Build a Program Team

Now is the time to think about how best to use the staff you currently have, and where you might consider making additions to your program for the summer. Keep communication the centerpiece of your staffing as you develop programming and clarify roles and expectations. What new partnerships can be forged to fill remaining or anticipated holes in optimal STEM activities? A great tool to use during this step is the Y4Y Program Team Communication Process Form.

Step 2: Assess Needs and Map Assets

A needs assessment will always bring you right to data’s doorstep. Remember the universal 21st CCLC data sources: school-level data, student-level data, and student voice and choice. Reflect not just on the data, but also on what could be behind it. For example, if school-level data show a considerable disparity in state assessment scores among ABC Elementary third-graders, does a break-out show that one classroom outperformed others? If so, that classroom teacher may be the perfect resource to help you develop summer STEM activities to close learning gaps. With student-level data, review the Next Generation Science Standards to gauge where your students are. Use this as your starting point to meet them with summer STEM activities. Finally, don’t forget those student voice surveys, available in Y4Y’s 21st CCLC Data Tracking Packet. Knowing how to tailor projects to student interests is the best insurance policy for engagement.

Step 3: Set SMART Goals

Be sure to consult your school-day sources on the sorts of growth benchmarks they use so that your SMART goals are consistent with your data. To brush up on SMART goals (that is, goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound) see Y4Y’s Activity and Program SMART Goals tool. Summer offers a lot of latitude in planning activities, and you’ll be off to a great start when you align with students’ school-year STEM learning and build from there. Make the most of the elbow room and reach for the stars. Don’t forget the Y4Y 21st CCLC Data Tracking Packet to help you bring student voice and choice into your goal setting.

Step 4: Logistics: Map Your Resources

Bring all your assets to the table and think about what you can achieve. What does your schedule look like? What does your facility look like? What materials are at your disposal? What about current and potential partners? What does “STEM-expert staffing” look like, and what changes can or should be made now while you have the luxury of (a little) time? A good thing to keep in mind around resources is back-up planning. If you suddenly don’t have access to the usual space, is there somewhere else you can still carry on the day’s activity with just a few tweaks? Outdoors can be a great option in summer, depending on where you’re located. What about substitute materials? And is there good cross-team communication in case you have to make staffing substitutions? Take all of these factors into consideration as you do your logistics planning.

Step 5: Intentionally Design Activities

Time to get creative! First, you may want to give thought to the best framework for your STEM activities. Does a club structure make sense? Theme weeks? A party planning format? Next, remember those key elements of activity design: real, active and local. Many colorful resources are available to help connect students to STEM principles. For example, computational fairy tales relate familiar stories to computer science, which can whet students’ appetites for STEM learning. Check out the Learn More Library in the Y4Y STEM course, especially resources like Get the Math that draw a clear relationship between real-life activities and numbers. Y4Y’s STEM Activity Center Planner and STEM Program Goals are good tools to get you thinking about other activity structures and types.

Step 6: Motivate, Engage and Retain Students

Over time, your program will build a reputation, which will help you draw in more students each year, but getting a strong start can be challenging. For summer STEM programs, especially, keep in mind that attendance may not be mandatory, and student buy-in is crucial. Teacher referrals are a great place to start, but you can also ask current and prospective students to help recruit their friends. This way, they’ll feel a commitment to each other in attending. Expand on that principle by giving students voice and choice in your planning of activities to give them a sense of ownership, and offer them leadership roles throughout the summer. Finally, the foundation of any strong 21st CCLC program is a positive learning environment. Y4Y offers a brand-new course on how your organization can leverage all aspects of positivity to energize students and staff.

Step 7: Engage Families

A summer STEM program may be a unique opportunity to engage families in new and exciting ways. You know the challenges such as scheduling, transportation and language barriers that any 21st CCLC program may face. Y4Y’s Understanding and Overcoming Challenges to Family Engagement tool can walk you through solutions, with flexibility at the heart of your efforts. Moving into the realm of proactive engagement in summer STEM could include take-home experiment kits, having families upload photos of their in-home experimenting, or skill-based or enrichment group events that build on the whole family’s understanding and excitement about STEM, such as a STEM-focused game day. Solicit input and leadership from parents throughout the program to expand their sense of ownership. Guest speakers from any job or profession — whether they’re retail cashiers, restaurant managers, bricklayers, nurses, lawyers, electricians or sanitation workers — can provide firsthand examples to show how STEM basics impact every job and every profession.

Step 8: Celebrate and Reflect

Celebrations can and should be an ongoing part of any 21st CCLC program. You might highlight a learner of the week, month or summer. Naming a family of the week, month or summer could encourage family engagement and boost student excitement for their STEM learning. A culminating event allows any program to end on a high note, and a summer STEM event could be extra special. Offer students the chance to put on a science fair or tech expo, stage a good old-fashioned barbeque, or maybe some combination with STEM-focused, carnival-style games. Broaden the tent and get those partners involved!

Step 9: Assess and Continuously Improve

Good analysis is key to the continuous improvement cycle, so be sure to consult solid resources as you strive for the best in your program. Special education teachers excel at offering a myriad of growth metrics to determine student progress. Y4Y’s STEM Follow-Up and Supervision Checklist will help you focus on special staffing considerations for summer STEM initiatives, and Y4Y’s customizable Activity Observation Checklists will help you examine and fine-tune activities. Above all, collect as much feedback as you can from your participants and families because program improvement depends so much on shared ownership.



October 10, 2019

Emergencies happen, and it’s your job to be ready when they do. Natural and human-caused threats to safety can take many forms. A sudden thunderstorm may knock down power lines and flood roads, or a family dispute may leave the home and enter your program site. Prepare now to respond to an emergency by making sure you have a targeted, up-to-date safety plan and training to support it.

The new Y4Y Click & Go, Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan, offers guidance and tools to help. Here are a few highlights from the mini-lesson, podcasts and tools; consider what you already know, and explore to begin your next steps.

Look for an existing safety plan. Most schools and community organizations that regularly host activities for children and families have safety plans in place. You need to know whether and how your 21st CCLC program is included in the host organization’s plan. Start by using the Safety Plan Meeting Request to get a copy of the plan and connect with the site’s safety leader.

If necessary, adapt or update the safety plan to your situation. Perhaps the out-of-school time program is new and wasn’t included in the host site’s plan. Work with the site safety leader to determine how your staff and students should respond to various situations. Use the Site Coordinator Safety Checklist to make sure you consider important areas and procedures, such as using a fire extinguisher, locking and unlocking doors and windows, sheltering in place, and evacuating your space.

Create and implement a Training and Practice Plan. Train staff members and practice safety procedures with them and with students. This will help to reduce chaos and confusion during an emergency and will reduce anxiety for everyone, families included.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Stay in regular touch with the host organization’s safety leader, so both sides know if anything about a safety plan needs to change. When you practice safety procedures, ask to be sure everyone understands their role or knows whose lead to follow. Use the Communication With Families About Safety tool to guide set-up of contact procedures during an emergency.

Get set to become “emergency ready” with the Y4Y Safety Click & Go.



October 10, 2019

“Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself. After you become a leader, success is about growing others.” As a 21st CCLC program leader, you no doubt see the wisdom in this insight from business leader Jack Welch. After all, supporting and acknowledging your team’s professional growth benefits your program as well as individual staff members. It also helps you retain staff because it shows you’re invested in their success and treasure their contributions.

Y4Y’s new online Human Resources course walks you through nine key strategies you can use to manage and develop your staff. It covers everything from hiring to training to building a positive work environment to managing staff performance. Here are three tips you can start using right away:

Help staff members find their sweet spot. If Natalie loves to plan, enlist her to help plan the next Family Literacy Event or Citizen Science Experience. Once she’s had success, provide opportunities for her to grow her skills and use them in new ways. For example, ask her to lead a planning team, create an event planning checklist for staff, train others in event planning, or join a strategic planning session. If these tasks seem to take her out of her comfort zone, provide encouragement and support. Helping her find the “sweet spot” between current and potential abilities will help her grow.

Provide feedback to focus and inspire your staff. Let’s say Natalie loves planning so much that she offers to help students plan their culminating project presentations. As you observe her interact with students, you hear her say things like “Let’s do it this way” and “Here’s a better idea.” Should you call her aside and say, “Natalie, you’re making too many decisions for students instead of letting them make their own. I’d like to see you improve in this area.” Or should you say, “Natalie, I’d love for our students to develop their project planning and decision-making skills. Would you be willing to team with Linda to plan some coaching strategies to help students learn and practice these skills?” Which feedback is more likely to inspire and support Natalie in changing her approach? For most people, the second approach works best. See the Coaching My Staff section of Y4Y’s Human Resources course for ways to coach your staff (especially site coordinators) to program gold!

Recognize good work. Use formal and informal strategies to tell staff members their contributions are noticed and valued. For example, during employee reviews, be specific and give examples of what employees do well. Implement an employee recognition system to spotlight effort, innovation, problem solving and results. Recognize individual and team efforts. See Y4Y’s Employee Retention Training to Go for ideas you and other program leaders can use to keep staff engaged.

For more ideas on ways to treasure your staff and help them grow, see Y4Y’s new Human Resources course. To share your own ideas and success stories, leave a comment below. 



September 16, 2019

Y4Y learned from Texas 21st CCLC program director Johanna Friedel that there are certain questions she hears from new grantees each year. If you’re the captain of a 21st CCLC program just unfurling your sails, you might have some of the same questions. Here are common questions and answers, with links to Y4Y tools that will help you navigate the waters.   

Q1: How do you recruit your staff?  

See the Identifying and Recruiting High-Quality Staff overview. You can download and customize Y4Y’s Sample Job Descriptions to post on professional sites or disseminate to organizations from which you envision hiring (such as local teacher unions or the education department at a nearby university). Y4Y also has suggestions for Getting Members on Your Program Team  

Q2: How do you structure your afterschool time?  

Consult the Effective Homework Time Training to Go to consider the role of homework time in your program. You can use the Align for Success Click & GoIntentional Activity Design Planner and Intentional Activity Design: Mapping Needs to Activities tools to start shaping your activities blueprint. 

Q3: Who’s in charge of my budget? How do I determine what percentage should be allocated to staffing, overhead, transportation, supplies, field trips, training and snacks?  

Grantees should refer to their approved grant proposal for specifics on budgeting. Consult the Sample 21st CCLC Budget Worksheet for direction on how to best allocate any funds with flexibility. 

 Q4: How and when do my staff receive training? Who’ll train my staff? What basic compliance trainings will they need at the beginning of the year? 

Use the Y4Y Training Guide and Template for guidance on training basics. This guide will be helpful whether you’re planning and conducting the training yourself, working with a partner or having staff attend training offered by a third party. As you consider basic compliance trainings, you’ll need to know the requirements of your educational partners and the institution that provides physical space for your program. Many training tools are available on the Y4Y site. Open the drop-down list under “Learn” and go to “Train Your Staff” for advanced trainings you can customize and use as your program grows and flourishes. Another way to support staff members’ ongoing professional development is to connect them with professional learning resources (see Y4Y’s Professionalization Resources page). 

Q5: What basic materials for students do I need at the start of the program year? 

The materials you’ll need will depend on the program activities you do. Leave sufficient budget for materials specific to the activities that will take shape as you intentionally design activities, including science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics (STEAM) projects you may offer. Consider community partnerships as a potential source of materials. Y4Y’s Sample Procurement Packet includes a supply request form, a supply and equipment tracking form, and a partner memorandum of understanding. 

Q6: Where can I find basic forms that will help me structure my program, such as enrollment forms, transportation forms, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), lesson plan forms, supervision and observation forms, student incident reports and a staff handbook? 

Y4Y offers a library of downloadable, customizable forms. The tools in Y4Y’s Managing Your 21stCCLC Program course are a good place to start. Don’t hesitate to reach out to other programs through the Y4Y discussion board. The board for the August 2019 New Leaders Academy has ideas from some veteran program leaders as well as new grantees. A template and tool for drafting MOUs is among the Y4Y Strengthening Partnerships course tools. 

Q7: What will my year-at-a-glance calendar look like?  

Y4Y’s Program Planning Timeline tool can assist you in broad-strokes program planning. To see an example of a timeline with a detailed breakdown of tasks, visit the Sample Annual Task Timeline 

Q8: What data do I have to collect for my state and the federal government? 

The Implementation Strategies section of the Managing Your 21st CCLC Program course addresses many aspects of data reporting. Your state coordinator is your best resource for learning everything that’s required of you to maintain funding.   

Q9: What are the roles and responsibilities for my executive staff, site coordinators or managers, family engagement specialist and for me as a program director? What are the responsibilities for my frontline staff and child care workers? 

It’s an excellent idea to have roles as well developed as possible as you build your program. Y4Y’s Sample Human Resources Packet provides standard role descriptions that you can customize to fit your budget and the people you hire. It can be tempting to rest more or less responsibility with employees based on their demonstrated abilities, but bear in mind that, in the event of turnover, your hiring practices need to have solid alignment with the descriptors you decide on.  

Q10: What are the responsibilities of the parents for the program? 

As you know, family engagement is a centerpiece of 21st CCLC programs. The Y4Y Family Engagement course helps program leaders consider many aspects of programs’ critical relationship with students’ families. The Sample Calendar (Family Engagement) offers a glimpse of what that might look like throughout the year.