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July 19, 2021

Many programs are concerned that creating a more inclusive program means having to give up some favorite activities, but this isn’t the case. Discover in your program how inclusion means addition, not subtraction.

Located in Boston, the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) developed the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. The idea is to build enough flexibility into goals, assessments, methods and materials to minimize barriers and maximize learning for all students. By adopting UDL in your program, you can address your students’ diverse cultural and linguistic needs; disabilities; and differences in privilege — not with numerous, complicated initiatives, but a single overarching program design approach, summarized in this brief video. Greater equity is the result.

Consider the basics of the UDL guidelines, and what this design approach means in your 21st CCLC program for adding opportunities for inclusion of students with disabilities, without subtracting any opportunities from students without disabilities. In all you do, you should provide multiple means of the below elements.

Engagement — The “Why” of Learning

In your program, you’ll be able to offer multiple “why” choices by

Representation — The “What” of Learning

In your program, you’ll be able to offer multiple “what” choices by

  • Taking advantage of any existing documentation that can help you develop viable choices. Y4Y’s tool for interpreting common Individualized Education Program (IEP) sections can help.
  • Expanding activities with Y4Y’s tool that steps you through a sample opportunity to implement UDL.
  • Understanding a range of abilities from a neurological development standpoint, as addressed in Y4Y’s Developmental Stages of Reading Tool. The full Literacy Toolkit offers expert guidance that can help you apply UDL to literacy.
  • Remaining faithful to your needs assessments as established in your RFP and each program year. Y4Y’s Mapping Needs to Activities tool can guide you to address the academic subjects requiring your program’s focus, and the depth and breadth of that need. Just as a high rate of English learners in your program will drive fundamental literacy activities, a high rate of learning disabilities in your community impacts other types of academic supports.

Action & Expression — The “How” of Learning

In your program, you’ll be able to offer multiple “how” choices by

  • Considering universal accessibility to make program activities authentic and relevant to each student. Check out Y4Y’s Environmental Checklist to get you started.
  • Embracing group work that gives everyone an important role and plays to each student’s strengths. Y4Y’s Selecting Student Roles for Group Work can help.
  • Recognizing the value of project-based learning (PBL) as an instrument for student-driven achievement at many levels. Y4Y’s PBL Diagram and Classroom Facilitator Packet can set you on this path.
  • Adopting the design thinking process in your STEAM enrichment activities. This process expands on PBL by putting students behind the wheel of problem discovery. This accommodates more complete inclusion by promoting both agency and collaboration. Learn more about this approach with Y4Y’s Design Thinking Framework: Project Planning Template.

Horace Mann said, “Every addition to human knowledge is an addition to human power.” When you add inclusion by way of UDL, you’re adding to your program’s power. The only things you’re subtracting are feelings of exclusion and isolation.



July 19, 2021

There are many moving parts to your program. Here are some quick and easy ways to support your staff and keep a light but steady grip on your program and its success.

Your Best Resources Are Your Human Resources

The term “human resources” is so common that we don’t often stop to think about the meaning. If your program isn’t doing everything in its power to invest in staff, it’s guaranteed that you’re not getting the most you can out of your greatest asset. There are many ways you can invest in staff. Here are just a few:

  • Provide direct benefits. Many programs are revisiting their funding, budget and payroll structures with added funds from the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER III). Passing some of that funding on to staff directly demonstrates that their nose-to-the-grindstone grit and perseverance throughout the pandemic hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated.
  • Support professional development. Making full use of free resources like Y4Y’s dozens of Trainings to Go and online courses means offering staff paid time to hone their knowledge and skills. Increased personal investment in your program and improved job performance are sure to result.
  • Create opportunities to recharge. Students aren’t the only ones in the process of recovery. As the old saying goes, you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip. Many 21st CCLC educators feel like root vegetables right now. A year of virtual programming has permanently blurred that line between home and work, making it all the more difficult to recharge at home. Now that programs are back in person, leadership needs to insist that staff give themselves the quiet or family time they deserve. As your program is able, you can even build on this effort by offering staff activities around socializing, mindfulness or whatever they express an interest in doing together as a team.
  • Delegate and empower. While the above offer ways to give something to your staff, don’t underestimate the ways your staff and your program can benefit from taking—with the right kind of framework. Take staff’s thoughts, ideas and advice about new policies or activities. And take their offers to show initiative on projects or committees. The good news is: This kind of taking also builds confidence, rapport, skills and passion in your greatest resources.

For more ideas on this important topic, be sure to check out Y4Y’s Employee Retention Training to Go.

That’s a Great-Looking Staff. Whatever Will You Do With Them?

Moving beyond your methods for valuing and keeping the staff you have, good 21st CCLC management also means having a program culture and policies in place that allow them to realize their full potential. How will you work as a cohesive team to achieve optimal outcomes?

  • Centralize. Has one member of your staff chased down access to online resources to align with the school day? Has she shared that access with her peers? Has another forged a partnership in the community for his high school students’ tech club but hasn’t had a chance to tell your sister sites about it? Are student files, program policies and schedules in SharePoint or a central, protected website so that any information that might be needed is appropriately accessible to everyone in your program? You can all work more efficiently and effectively by pooling your information and making access simple. Centralizing can also benefit your program fiscally. You might get bulk discounts from partners, or have materials you no longer need but another site can use.
  • Communicate. Many of the concerns around centralizing can be addressed when you implement adequate communication methods. Debriefs provide an excellent opportunity for in-the-moment “what worked, what didn’t” conversations, which are essential to continuous improvement. Weekly team meetings that share important and not-so-important updates and solicit contributions from every member will ensure no resource goes unused. An open-door policy by leadership and opportunity for anonymous feedback are critical. Not only will both parties benefit from an easy mode of exchange; the policy will reassure staff of their value.
  • Continuous improvement. Your program is bound to enjoy some degree of improvement with efforts to invest in staff, centralize information and resources, and communicate generously. But don’t skip those management steps and choices that tie continuous improvement into the fiber of your leadership. Follow up on those passions of staff to discover how you can support progress. Put structures in place that channel all feedback, even when roadblocks are encountered, into a “lessons learned” program bank. And, of course, offer everyone, including your top employees, constructive suggestions and opportunities to improve their practice. Maybe they’d like professional development in an area of need in the program or in a topic of interest to them. Check out the Y4Y Professional Learning Feedback Survey as just one example of a tool for using staff feedback for your continuous improvement.

Strong 21st CCLC management means loosening your grip enough to give staff the freedom to be effective while holding them fast to shared goals for your students. Now is a great time to brush up, or to bring along new leadership, on basic strategies with Y4Y’s Human Resources and Managing Your 21st CCLC Program courses.  



July 19, 2021

Is your health and wellness the first thing you let go of in your personal life when things get hectic? Is it also the first thing to give way when you need a little more space or time in your 21st CCLC program? Look to Y4Y’s Click & Go resources so that by partnering with school-day professionals, you’re committing to everyone’s well-being.

Consider New Risk Factors

The long-term effects of the pandemic will take years to fully document, but here are some concerns you might already have about your students:

  • Possible infection by COVID-19, including unknown lifelong health risks
  • A more sedentary lifestyle for a full year
  • Food insecurity, which could mean hunger, unhealthy attitudes about food and/or even higher processed food consumption than before COVID-19
  • Neglect or trauma in the family, which adds to their Adverse Childhood Experiences score (ACES), also bringing with it lifelong health risks (see Y4Y’s Background on Trauma Research Brief or Mini-Lesson: An Introduction to Trauma-Informed Care).

In other words, the time is right to focus on student health as an important aspect of their overall recovery.

Exercise Is Important, But Not All Important

Naturally, a generous dose of good old-fashioned running around or playground time is a go-to in your 21st CCLC program. When weather permits, those outdoor activities that allow for student choice, teamwork and physical exercise are irreplaceable. But some obstacles to your “plan A” for student health and wellness might include limited time, a program space that is not conducive, weather that drives you indoors, and possibly student mask wearing, which some students might find troubling during physical exercise. For these reasons and many more surrounding their future wellness, you can look to weaving in mindfulness exercises for students to address many of the same health considerations that exercise does.

Follow the Evidence

Chances are, your school district is well aware of the proven health benefits of mindfulness. Dozens of controlled studies indicate that active, routine participation in mindfulness or meditation can do the following:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Slow cognitive decline in older people and improve mental clarity and focus at all ages
  • Reduce cell aging
  • Improve immune response
  • Help to counteract psychological pain

These strong arguments for introducing your students to routine mindfulness exercises are sure to sway your school-day partners if they don’t already have a formal initiative in place. Or, maybe a wellness initiative exists, but little or no emphasis is given to mindfulness. Your program’s efforts will have greater impact if you collaborate, so Y4Y developed a microlearning Click & Go with easy-to-follow guidance to either tap into existing efforts or start a new ball rolling. Important tools to get you started are the Quick Guide to Initiating a Partnership and the Conversations Starters tool. Like any other collaboration with the school-day, your program’s voice at the policy table will amplify results — in this case, boosting students’ health and wellness recovery.

Ready to Implement

Luckily, simple mindfulness exercises require little training for staff to lead. As an added bonus, when staff engage in these activities, they reap the short-term reward of being more patient, compassionate educators and the long-term health benefits noted above. But be sure to get staff on the same page at the outset. Y4Y’s Staff Health and Wellness Self-Assessment and Self-Assessment on Personal Views of Health and Wellness will help. Also see Y4Y’s Best Practices for Mindfulness tool.

Although practicing mindfulness can help you learn how to let things go — an argument, disappointment, anxiety or even grief — the practice itself is something your program should keep a tight grip on. And be sure you’re giving students the tools they’ll need to do likewise throughout their long, healthy lives.



May 20, 2021

Did you know that intentional support doesn’t have to be active? Your English learners’ brains may be taxed throughout the school day by the mental effort of learning new content in a foreign language. Consult Y4Y’s new course, Supporting English Learners, for ideas on how you can let language learning “simmer” in your students’ minds by using fun and engaging activities.

Social vs. Academic Language

Let’s say you’re planning a trip to France. Are you more likely to be learning phrases like “May I please have butter with my bread?” or “Wouldn’t Kant be amused by the juxtaposition of this graffiti on a city beautification billboard?” The bread-and-butter sentence is an example of “conversational” language — words and phrases people might use in everyday life. It uses a simple sentence structure and concrete nouns. It places a low cognitive demand on listeners. Another name for it is “social language.” What about the second sentence, the one about Kant? While the musings of a legendary philosopher might come up in conversation, even some native speakers might pull out the dictionary to look up “juxtaposition.” That sentence is an example of “academic language,” which uses a more complex sentence structure and abstract nouns (things you can’t see, hear, touch, feel or smell). Unless you’re helping an English learner prepare for a vocabulary test, stick with “bread and butter” words when you’re giving instructions or having a casual conversation.  

Context-Embedded vs. Context-Reduced

Another consideration when supporting English learners is how much context you’re offering for English vocabulary building. Context-embedded language offers visual clues, gestures, facial expressions or specific locations to help learners use their prior knowledge and intuition. Providing context isn’t exclusive to social language exchanges. For example, a lesson in geography can be presented with a whole host of visual clues, yet a social conversation about an experience of being bullied could be challenging. So, be sure you’re offering plenty of context. Visuals, visuals, visuals!

Cultural Competence Is On You

You can offer English learners greater ease in communicating when you recognize that it’s the responsibility of your staff to understand the cultural norms your students bring to the program every bit as much as it is for students to learn the norms of your program. Here are some elements of cultural competence, with examples that show the importance of that cultural competence:

  • How they use symbols. The @ symbol can be used in Spanish to include male and female. Amig@s means friends of both gender.
  • How they problem-solve. Perfectionism in the Japanese culture could make it emotionally challenging for a student with this heritage to embrace the “freedom to failure” that we advocate in problem-based learning projects.
  • How they communicate nonverbally. Indian head-nodding can be agreement, but a student from this culture might nod along to give the impression of understanding or agreement out of an internal pressure to appear polite even when confused.
  • How they learn. Some African cultures have demonstrated their concern for children through strictly adhered-to rules, so these students may be uncomfortable questioning new authorities, even on noncontroversial topics.
  • How they resolve conflict. Girls from many parts of the world may not be as experienced as boys in advocating directly for themselves in uncomfortable situations.
  • Their ways of knowing. Verbally passing wisdom between generations is part of most cultures, especially tribal cultures, and your staff should honor this mode of knowledge building.

What “Passive Support” Looks Like

Your program probably isn’t teaching English to students who aren’t native speakers. Rather, you’re supporting their learning and engagement. So what does “passive support” look like in the context of your program? As we’ve covered here, you’ll focus on social exchanges with lots of context and visual cues, and be sure your knowledge of their cultures allows them the greatest space for growth. Within these parameters, consider activities like these:

  • Bilingual Mad Libs. A universal favorite that often leads to belly laughs, these side-by-side fill-ins can help students build vocabulary and exercise their understanding of parts of speech. Talk with your school-day partners and design them yourself based on current curriculum. Don’t forget to allow for a generous side of silliness!
  • Bilingual Board Games. Bingo is a favorite, but the sky’s the limit! No budget for game purchases? No problem! When students design the games themselves, they’ll have even more fun. This could mean adapting donated English-only games (partner with your local Goodwill store or ask your elementary school to hold a game drive), or a quick internet search for DIY board games could give you dozens of ideas for helping students build their own from scratch.
  • Icebreakers. What are icebreakers, after all, but communication devices! Try a guessing game like “I Spy”, or maybe a group drawing. Each student adds a new element to a drawing and explains in English what it is and why they added it.
  • Show and Tell. Another childhood favorite, your students have the opportunity to research and rehearse what they’ll tell their peers about a cherished object or photo.
  • Scavenger Hunt. Whether virtual and your students have to search out URLs, or in person and they’re looking for three dogs in a row in your program space, scavenger hunts are a lot of fun. If you’re worried about fierce competition, offer different kinds of winners besides “first” to finish. Most creative answers? Most collaborative? Most independent?

However passive this kind of support, you can still be intentional, being mindful of your needs and goals. Consult the Y4Y Supporting English Learners Intentional Activity Design Planner to organize that process.

Young Minds

Remind your students that we spend the first part of our lives learning so much because that’s when our brains are most ready for the learning! A new language is no exception. Help your ELs understand, too, that knowing multiple languages will give them a life-long advantage in understanding linguistic concepts. Finally, give yourself a big pat on the back every time you sneak in that passive support on their journey.



May 20, 2021

Through the pandemic, 21st CCLC programs across the country learned just how valuable cooking lessons can be. Many plan to carry them on indefinitely. Discover point by point all of the skills and knowledge that you can build in your students with a good old-fashioned afternoon in the kitchen.

  • Build literacy skills. Reading a recipe expands your students’ vocabularies. Depending on the difficulty level of your selection, students might learn to distinguish between chop, mince, dice and cube. Putting these terms, and their differences, on their brain’s back burner can be an introduction to nuance. We know that extensive vocabulary building actually broadens thinking, self-expression and ultimately success. Check out the Y4Y Literacy Everywhere tool for more tips.
  • Exercise math skills. Cooking is a "textbook" lesson for working with fractions (e.g., “mix 1/2 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda”).
  • Learn about real-world science. Again, depending on the age of your students, there are concepts in chemistry and physics to explore in cooking. We’ve all heard the story about how the first chocolate chip cookies were supposed to be chocolate cookies but their baker misjudged how the chocolate would behave in the oven.
  • Collaborate. Too many chefs in the kitchen? No such thing in your 21st CCLC program! But each student needs to understand her or his role in each task, take turns and play to their strengths. The STEAM tool for Selecting Student Roles for Group Work is easily adapted to the kitchen.
  • Develop healthy eating habits. Preparing a simple soup in the kitchen instead of popping open a can means using fresh ingredients. You can also help students develop the habits of reading labels on packaged foods and making healthy choices. Does the recipe give the option of substituting whole milk for cream? How does the fat content compare? Every ingredient is a potential research project in healthfulness. Be sure to partner with school-day professionals for consistent messaging and to see what gaps they may be seeking to fill. For tips, see the Y4Y Click & Go on Health and Wellness: Partnering With the School Day.
  • Plan, budget and shop. Cooking is a great opportunity to exercise the planning process. Instead of starting your cooking lesson with a pile of ingredients and the needed equipment, start it with a recipe and a conversation around what you have and what you’ll need. Now that you can shop online together, go back to that cream soup and ask: how does the cost of cream compare to milk?
  • Honor history and cultures. Just as each ingredient is a research opportunity in healthfulness and cost, each recipe is a research opportunity in history and culture.

As your students increase their comfort in the kitchen, you can make recipe selection a group activity, honoring student voice and choice. Every parent of a picky eater knows that a dash of voice and thick slice of kitchen help can increase a child’s interest in the resulting product! Or, rather than seeking agreement for each recipe selection, if your program is small enough, you might assign each student a week to bring in their own favorite recipe from home. Beef up your family engagement and invite a family member to come in to help.

Afterschool educators across the country warmly invited students into their home kitchens (virtually) throughout school closures in a resourceful effort to keep them engaged. Just imagine how well loved those in-person cooking activities will be when students can take in those savory aromas from a delicious pot of soup simmering on the back burner while all their learning simmers in their bright young minds.