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August 21, 2018

According to the National Science Foundation, humans have somewhere between 12,000 and 70,000 thoughts each day. Sad to say, up to 80 percent of those thoughts are negative — but we can do something to change that. Educators hear a lot about positive youth development, character education, positive behavior interventions, social emotional learning and positive program climate. Programs that formalize these practices can contribute to building confidence, resilience and happiness for the youth we serve. With or without a formal program, you and your out-if-school time program can immediately implement practices that will start harnessing the power of positivity.

Positive Self-Talk

In Kathryn Stockett’s book, The Help, a little girl learns this mantra: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” This is exactly the kind of positive self-talk we want to encourage in our students. How often have you heard a student say, “I’m not good at…” or “I can’t…”? Make a conscious effort to help them rephrase those thoughts more positively: “I’m getting better at…” or “I’m learning how to…” When you take the time to restate something in a positive way, you help a child train their brain to think more positively. You might ask students to develop a positive mantra for the program and individual mantras for themselves. Devote a quick minute each day to repeating those mantras and further developing their positive self-image.

Gratitude

Students can get caught up in the game of comparison: someone else has fancier belongings or is more skilled at a sport. Help students realize their natural abilities and identify their strengths. Consider having students start gratitude journals. Processing thoughts for a few minutes a day can build important cognitive skills, and capturing them in a journal develops writing skills. You could start a gratitude sharing practice during snack time. Ask students what they are thankful for that day or what they are looking forward to in the program. Helping students learn to identify and focus on positive things in their world builds a positive world view.

No Complaining

How many complaints do you hear in a typical program day? It’s time to issue a no complaining challenge! We can help students — and ourselves — learn how to respond more positively and effectively to whatever life throws at us. In his book, A Complaint Free World, Will Bowen describes his complaint-free challenge. He uses a 21-day cycle, during which participants wear an arm band and move it from one arm to the other each time they complain. This creates a physical reminder to think more positively. You might have your students create positivity friendship bracelets and try the same challenge. The goal is to keep the bracelet on the same arm for a full 21 days. Students can remind each other not to complain and help each other rephrase thoughts to be more positive.

Norman Vincent Peale said, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” You can help students change how they view themselves and their world, and lower the percentage of negative thoughts in their day. Try one of these positivity practices and watch the impact on your students and the overall climate of your program. For a ready-to-use professional learning session on positive youth development, download this Y4Y Training to Go. For a quick one-page reference, also grab The 5C’s of Positive Youth Development.



July 16, 2018

How is your summer program going so far? Are students engaged and attending? Retention can be a real challenge this time of year, when you don’t have the automatic incentive of school attendance to support program attendance.

Two keys to retaining students in summer and out-of-school time are family engagement and student engagement. Ideally, you already have some engagement strategies in place. For example, if you’re going to have an attendance contract with incentives for compliance, that needs to be set up at the outset. If you decide to have a parent liaison — a tactic proven to improve retention — you need to recruit a volunteer or part-time staff member well in advance. Here are more ways you can add to your retention toolkit if your current strategies aren’t enough.

Family Engagement

The younger the student population, the more family engagement matters. Here are some ideas for keeping parents and caregivers involved.

  • Pick up the phone. Call families of children who’ve missed more than a day or two. Let them know their child’s participation is important to the child and to the program.
  • Send materials home. Keep families engaged by showcasing what their children are doing. Suggest “conversation starters” about an aspect of program content that families can discuss together, followed by simple activities the whole family can do at home — find examples here.
  • Set up a family meeting. Involve whole families in program content with a fun, active event.
  • Recruit family members to help with programming. It’s not too late to get family members who aren’t at work during the program day to help with field trips, games, art activities, reading aloud or any activity where you could use an extra (untrained) adult.
  • Make a “good news” call. Boost retention by calling families to report children’s academic or behavioral gains.

Student Engagement

Keeping young people involved in program content and activities is important no matter the age group. It’s especially vital for high school and older middle school youth, whose parents have less influence over their attendance and who juggle other priorities that compete with program attendance. 

These ideas for engaging students are long-term strategies, but now’s a great time to start!

  • Set up a culture of high expectations. An environment in which students hold one another accountable will go further than any number of reminders from adults.
  • Get students involved in authentic work. You’ll get built-in motivation from project-based learning that delivers products with tangible benefits for the students or the community. Use this checklist with students and staff to gauge participation levels.
  • Tap into the power of peer groups. Students are more likely to show up when they know their group needs their creativity and input — and will miss them if they’re gone.
  • Support staff to build strong relationships. The quality of youth-adult relationships is an important factor for getting young people to come back. Try using positive youth development approaches and other ways to create a positive environment.

If you haven’t already built these retention tactics into your program, what can you add today? What can you put on the planning list for next year?



June 20, 2018

Many site coordinators describe feeling frantic as they wrap up the school year and sprint into summer trying to get things ready at the last minute. Sound familiar? Y4Y can help: Over the past two years, 40 programs across seven states have engaged in structured planning to increase the quality and intentional design of their summer programs and end the summer sprint. Now, you can use their process and learn from practitioners like you across the nation.

The Summer Learning Initiative section of the Y4Y website presents a seven-step process for planning a high-quality summer program. Starting the September before, you will follow a path that begins with building your program team and concludes with reflecting on successes and ways to continuously improve. And, believe it or not, the planning process will have you completely ready for summer before the school year ends!

You can start by downloading a comprehensive Program Implementation Planner to support your planning process. The planner will keep you organized and on schedule while helping you capture important details. It’s also useful for orienting new program leaders, and for getting a head start on planning future summer learning. (Try using it in Google Sheets to achieve a truly collaborative team experience.) As you scroll down the page with the Planner, look for the helpful Sample Planner and and the User Guide, and listen to a podcast that will walk you through the planner tab by tab.

Y4Y’s Summer Learning Initiative section describes each planning step in detail, offers downloadable tools and resources, and provides engaging videos to give you a peek into the experiences and programs of the participating sites. If you missed the Summer Learning Series of webinars, you can access the recordings to help launch your planning. To avoid the dreaded last-minute sprint, start now, and you’ll spring into next summer feeling stress-free and ready for a season chock full of exciting learning!

Seven Steps to a High-Quality Summer Program

  1. Build Your Planning Team
  2. Conduct a Needs Assessment
  3. Set SMART Goals
  4. Plan Your Logistics
  5. Intentionally Design Activities
  6. Intentionally Recruit Students
  7. Continuously Improve Your Program


May 21, 2018

Your 21st CCLC program can demonstrate success with two major indicators: student growth and student/family satisfaction. You can define both indicators in your continuous improvement plan and collect data to determine progress. When you recruit students and family members at the start of a new program session, you want to demonstrate that students will love the program activities, and that your program nurtures the whole child.

How do you accomplish that? The answer is simple: use data.

Yes, numbers can seem dry and boring. But, when you collect the right information and connect the dots across data points, magic happens — you tell a story! The U.S. Department of Education’s Y4Y technical assistance team is ready to help you weave your data into a compelling narrative with a showcase webinar and three-part web series that kicks off on June 14. Attend these sessions and you will be able to show the world that your program delivers academic enrichment with safe, supportive relationships and smiles all around.

Showcase Webinar:

Data! What is it Good for? Absolutely EVERYTHING! 

June 14, 2018, 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Join the U.S. Department of Education's Y4Y team to learn how to do the following:

  • Identify the components of a logic model and use the model to plan with the end in mind.
  • Describe the steps of the continuous improvement process.
  • Brainstorm strategies for reaching out to present and potential partners using program and outcomes data.
  • Use Y4Y tools and resources to support telling your story through data.

Register now.

Follow-Up Web Series, Dates TBA

This three-part web series will dive deeply into the following components: planning with the end in mind, interpreting data to make decisions, and crafting a story with your data.

Virtual Session 1: My Data Path

Planning with the end in mind transforms your data collection from haphazard and compliance-based to purposeful and meaningful. In this session, learn how to illustrate a plan for program outcomes using a logic model. With the model and other Y4Y resources, learn to build a clear path toward desired outcomes. This session will prepare you to do the following:

  • Use data to set SMART goals to plan intentional activities.
  • Use tools to collect needs assessment and outcome data.
  • Develop a logic model.
  • Implement with fidelity.

Virtual Session 2: Drawing Conclusions From Data

In this session, learn how to interpret outcome data and make timely, informed decisions. Consistent monitoring and responsive adjustments will ensure an authentic and positive story that describes successes and challenges. This session will prepare you to do the following:

  • Reflect on goals and understand why they were or were not met.
  • Plan for improvement if necessary.
  • Complete a reflection chart.

Virtual Session 3: Crafting a Compelling Narrative

Compelling and effective storytelling techniques will be paired with data analysis to translate a program’s progress into a captivating narrative. This session will prepare you to do the following:

  • Describe the successes and challenges you faced in reaching your goals.
  • Use Y4Y tools to develop your narrative.
  • Present your story in a compelling narrative.


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!