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January 19, 2017

The right trainings don't just broaden skill sets – they help your staff achieve their full professional and personal potential. But finding time to incorporate professional learning into your program can be a challenge.  Fortunately, Y4Y can help.

Our Trainings to Go tools allow you to develop a professional learning strategy that matches your staff's needs. These guides include everything you need for a productive learning session: slides with customizable content, handouts and a suggested script outline. Most lessons take about an hour to complete, and provide practical, hands-on tips for integrating new ideas into daily activities.

In each of the Y4Y courses you’ll find Trainings to Go that target topics important to your program. Do you want to be more active in promoting understanding of STEM topics for your students? Try the STEM Every Day Training to Go. Are you hoping to make new strategic partnerships in the coming year? The Recruit Partners Training to Go is for you. Want to make literacy skills a priority in your program? Start with the Five Components of Reading Training to Go.

Whether it starts with a resolution for the New Year or a reality check with yourself and your staff, professional learning belongs on your to-do list. Spend a little time now to plan professional learning events for your program. The benefits to staff and students will more than repay the effort!



May 13, 2016

So, you finished your first school year as a new subgrantee of the 21st CCLC grant — whew! Now what? Start by giving yourself a pat on the back, then applaud your success and smile. For some of you, though, it’s on to the summer program!

To look at your successful first year, you might start by focusing on how you were able to engage the participants in their setting. How were your classes, clubs, programs, activities? By providing a wide variety of activities, 21st CCLC programs foster social skills, build and enhance communication, and support the intellectual development of participants. Your and your colleagues can ask this question: “Did we provide exceptional opportunities for both academic and social growth?” Gather some information to answer this question by working as a group to complete the Follow-Up and Supervision Checklist available in the Y4Y Tools.

After assessing the participants’ experience, take a look at the staff experience. Ask this: “As professionals, did we take full advantage of our abilities to meet the goals and objectives of our program?” The Y4Y tool on Determining Program Needs can assist with this particular exploration. 

Your talented team members have knowledge and skills that can help you offer powerful and engaging programs, so you can capture the imaginations and interests of every participant. These abilities help to create activities that align with program goals and objectives as well as important college- and career-ready learning standards. 

When 21st CCLC practitioners guide young people through hands-on activities that include the opportunity for conversation and learner-centered study, you embed the potential for positive development. This first year, you brought to life new topics of interest and facilitated learning that occurs outside of the formal school setting. One result is a fun and expressive learning experience that impacts everyone involved. For more about the benefits of active learning, see the Project-Based Learning Research Brief and look into the Project-Based Learning course.

So celebrate the scholarly standards and enrichment activities! Move forward, and continue to prepare. Summer is right around the corner, and everyone is ready for it. 

If you are new to the 21st CCLC world, please explore these Y4Y resources as you work to provide a high-quality program this summer and during the coming school year:

Guidance for New Programs Webinar for Replay

Follow-Up and Supervision Checklist

Program Implementation Planner

Summer Planning With Y4Y (Coffee Break #2) Webinar for Replay



April 21, 2016

The end of the school year, with its exams and project deadlines, can be stressful for students and can definitely impact the quality of their out-of-school time experience. They may get frustrated, tired, discouraged or apathetic. When that happens, you might find it hard to engage them in program activities. Here are some surefire tips to provide support during this important time so students can try their best during the school day and in your program.

Recharge

Food: Students burn a lot of energy taking tests and finishing projects! Help teach kids healthy eating habits so they they have the energy they need to get through their day.

Fitness: After a long day of sitting, students may walk through your door with pent-up energy and emotions. Offer a mix of organized sports and recreation time at the beginning of your program so students can get blood flowing to the brain. Integrating movement such as dance or drumming into academic activities can also energize students and enhance learning; you can see these activities in a short video from the Y4Y Aligning With the School Day course.

Positive Affirmation: During stressful times, students may have negative feelings about themselves and their abilities. Encourage them by creating positive message packets, individualized for each student with study tips and small treats. You might also try having students create motivational messages for one another — for example, they could gather in small groups to create cheers or chants that get them fired up for the next day. Positive affirmation is important all the time. Learn more about it with the 5C’s of Positive Youth Development from Click & Go 2.

Remind

Fun Review Strategies: Sometimes students struggle because they are overwhelmed by what they don’t know or what they don’t remember. You can help students feel confident about what they do know, and help them remember important concepts, strategies and skills for the next day. Rather than having them sit quietly and review study materials, prepare interactive games such as Jeopardy or Bingo. Or, try a free online gaming platform like Kahoot to review concepts or skills. If science or math testing is coming up, consider using the Y4Y STEM Vocabulary Builder to refresh student understandings of concepts and processes. Make it fun by splitting into teams and using the terms to play charades or a Pictionary-style game.

Family Engagement: Because families are so important to student attitudes and well-being, help students by sending testing tips home through emails, newsletters or other methods. Tell family members they can contribute to student success by making sure students get enough sleep, exercise and healthy food before coming to school.  For more strategies on communicating with families, check out this video from the Y4Y Family Engagement course. 

Reflect

Circle Time: Sometimes students just need to vent about their mistakes or frustrations, and it can be powerful to hear from other students who have similar feelings or who provide encouragement. Creating space for students to share feelings will help them process their stressful experiences and learn from peers. To get everyone on the same page, use the Group Discussion Guidelines tool from Y4Y.

Active Reflection: This strategy is recommended in the Y4Y Project-Based Learning course, and it can be useful in a variety of situations. Adults can reflect with students to share experiences and thoughts about ways to cope with stress.

Individual Reflection: Provide a silent chalkboard or journaling station where students can express feelings nonverbally before or instead of talking in a group.

Don’t Forget . . . 

Students aren’t the only ones who might feel stress during the end of the school year. Be sure to take some time for yourself as well. Recharge by taking a walk after dinner. Remind yourself that the extra effort you make on behalf of young people can make a positive difference in their lives. Reflect on your experiences and feelings by journaling or talking with colleagues. Taking care of your own physical and mental health might be one of the best things you can do for the students you serve.



March 16, 2016

Teaching and learning are so complex that reducing them to “thinking + doing + differentiation = improved learning” oversimplifies things. Still, it’s a useful formula for moving students to higher levels of learning. Let’s look at how attention to thinking, doing and differentiation can improve learning in out-of-school time.

Thinking. Bloom’s Taxonomy names six levels of thinking. From lowest to highest, they are remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. All levels are important, but students generally have fewer opportunities to call on the higher levels. This is where your 21st CCLC program can step up to the plate. (Download and listen to our 10-minute podcast, Using Bloom’s Taxonomy in Afterschool). To actively engage students in ways that call on more mental muscle, try project-based learning. Growing a flower garden and using the blooms to create bouquets for a community event will produce knowledge, skills and attitudes in a way that “book learning” alone can’t match.

Doing. Wait a minute, you might say. Creating is doing, so why is “creating” listed above as a level of thinking? Glad you asked! The technical answer is that Bloom’s Taxonomy actually calls the six levels “learning domains” instead of “levels of thinking.” So creating is a “learning domain.” But a more useful answer is that acting on what you know makes it real. For example, memorizing and understanding tips on parallel parking is not the same as applying that knowledge. You have to apply the tips behind the wheel before you or anyone else can analyze and evaluate your performance. Application of knowledge yields new understandings that can, in turn, improve performance (“next time, I’ll pull up farther before I back into the parking space”). Hands-on, minds-on learning creates a feedback loop that engages the whole child and keeps the learning going. 

Differentiation. The students in your program probably vary in age, interests and skill levels. You can adjust content, activities or the environment to ensure that every child stays engaged and benefits from participation. For the flower garden project mentioned earlier, a raised garden bed could accommodate the needs of a wheelchair-bound student. If a student is just starting to learn English, pairing him or her with a bilingual student can help. Here are some simple ways to meet diverse needs: Survey students about what they would like to learn and do, use pictures in addition to verbal instructions, give options for doing an activity (“work alone or with your group”), and create quiet spaces and activity areas where students can choose to go if they finish early or need a break. Activities should stretch students’ minds and abilities, but not overwhelm them. Observe what does and doesn’t work for each child.

In short, to facilitate learning for all students, make sure you can answer “yes” to these questions:
•    Do the students in your program have opportunities to analyze, evaluate and create? 
•    Are they asked to apply what they have learned? 
•    Do the content and activities keep them challenged but not overwhelmed?
These questions are relevant for all content, but they are a natural fit for activities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Get inspired by a 2-minute video (from the Y4Y STEM Learn More Library) and see students and teachers describe what excites them about hands-on science.



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.