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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.



September 11, 2015

The levels of excitement and chaos may seem to rise out of control when the school and program years get started. Not to worry, because Y4Y can help you “nail” the right combination of both elements to engage students and take advantage of their desire for free exploration. You create the framework through project-based learning, then tap gently to facilitate student learning and development.

Real-Time Virtual Learning

Your peers across the country have made Project-Based Learning the most popular course on Y4Y. Because of that, the Y4Y project team continues to work on new ways to extend your professional learning around this effective strategy. We call our newest offering a real-time virtual learning series; our first cohort started September 1 and will complete their experience on September 25. Virtual cohort members agreed to attend at least three of four live webinars, to participate in online discussions, and to conduct offline activities and explorations. The series will provide certificates of completion to cohort members who meet the participation requirements.

If you missed the enrollment window for “Project-Based Learning: Hands On, Minds On,” we can let you know about future real-time virtual learning events. Give us your e-mail address, and we promise to be in touch.

Here’s a glimpse into the first week’s webinar, where discussion included ideas about how to incorporate student voice into project planning. Activity leaders may start the process with a student brainstorming session that defines which topics students want to explore. If you don’t regularly give students opportunities to conduct such sessions, the “Planner for Brainstorming” tool on Y4Y will help you establish a structure, conduct the session and reflect on results.

Focused Podcast

As you begin a project and help students form work teams, you’ll consider how to group students. The first podcast produced for the learning series is titled “Who Are They?” It discusses how personality types play out in team settings, and can help program staff think about creating teams and assigning tasks in ways that help students develop both social and academic skills and knowledge. 

Online Course

If your program wants to help students grasp the big ideas of school-day academics and develop the 21st century skills they need to succeed in college and career — while you also create a fun and engaging environment for learning — try project-based learning. Research shows that this instructional approach, also called inquiry-based learning, helps students master core content, increases motivation to learn and improves attitudes toward learning. Get more details about these and other benefits in the Project-Based Learning Research Brief, one of the tools in the Y4Y course.

You may choose to start project-based learning through one of its close cousins, such as service learning or civic learning and engagement. Projects in these areas can connect students to their community and civic life in fun and fulfilling ways.

Wherever you start, look to Y4Y for learning resources and helpful tools. Most of all, get ready for the controlled chaos of busy teams of students who get totally engaged in pursuing answers to their driving questions.

 



September 8, 2014

The new Literacy module was designed with the needs of your program’s youth foremost in mind. It helps you explore how crucial literacy is to learning and suggests how you can incorporate literacy activities into your programs in ways you may not have considered before. 

For example, after you learn about the Five Components of Reading and about the Six Developmental Stages of Reading in the Introduction to Literacy, you can choose from a variety of tools to put these ideas into practice.

One such tool is the BDA Lesson Planner, which will assist you in the fifth component of reading, Comprehension. The lesson planner guides you through the steps necessary to help your students think about what they are about to read “before” they start, to read actively “during” the exercise, and to summarize and synthesize what they read “after” they finish.  BDA – Before, During, After.

In addition to the lesson planner you’ll also find a BDA Training Starter, and even a completed Sample BDA Lesson to help you create your own. Take a look at the new Literacy module today and see what ideas you can find to help support and enhance the literacy skills of the youth in your programs.



March 24, 2014

Last month we were proud to announce in this space the release of new content on the Y4Y portal pertaining to drug and alcohol prevention resources for your program staff. The Department of Education partnered with the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in the Executive Office of the President to guide the creation of this new content.

A vast amount of information is now available from the Tools page, including links to many excellent websites that contain information, definitions, statistics, trainings, and activities to help your staff learn about and address this sensitive subject with our youth. Just click the link in the sidebar to access the Drug and Alcohol Prevention resources.

For example, you can access the Above the Influence website where among many other things you can find a comprehensive list of almost two dozen substances that your youth may be encountering. Some of the substances on the list may have familiar sounding names, but others may be less well known to you: things like bath salts, GHB, and salvia, among others. Along with detailed descriptions of each substance, its risks and effects, you’ll also learn about the nicknames many drugs have.



December 9, 2013

It’s that time when it seems everyone is looking back over the past year and composing their Top Ten lists for 2013 – books, movies, songs, even best and worst dressed lists! Here at Y4Y we’d like to take this opportunity to look at the top ten most downloaded resources from our Tools section.

As you know the possibilities run the gamut from checklists to training starters, from diagrams to worksheets, and they could span any of our five major topic areas and beyond. So without further ado, here they are: Y4Y’s Top Ten Most Downloaded Tools of 2013!

1. Training Guide and Template 
2. Project Planner
3. Core Elements Diagram
4. 21st Century Skills in Action
5. Homework Contract
6. Homework Sharing Tool
7. Practitioner Tips 
8. Project-Based Learning Diagram
9. Alignment Strategies Worksheet
10. STEM Vocabulary Builder

If you see any of your favorites on there – congratulations, you helped them make the list! If you want to investigate any of them further just click on the links above or explore the Tools section on Y4Y, where you’ll find all these and more – over 150 total! If you need a helping hand finding anything, remember you can type a phrase into the Search field at the top of any page for quick and easy access.