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September 21, 2017

You’ve worked hard to make your 21st CCLC program feel like a second home to children and youth. So how do you ensure that their families feel the same way? Try the three R’s of family engagement: Be a resource, be a refuge and help families refuel! 

These tips and the linked tools can help you put family-friendly practices in place right away. Also be sure to visit the Y4Y Family Engagement course!

 

Be a Resource

- Assess family needs. When family members pick up students, ask them to complete a brief survey or have a brief conversation to learn about areas where they need help. 

- With your program team, map community assets. Find agencies and organizations that target unmet needs. 

- Set up a family information center. Offer brochures and application forms for free or low-cost services, such as food pantries, housing support and children’s health insurance. Put information and forms where family members will see them when they pick up their children. 

- Hold an evening or weekend information fair. Invite students’ families and people from the service agencies and organizations to come learn about one another. Be prepared to help family members complete applications or schedule appointments. 

 
Be a Refuge

- Start by welcoming families, learning their names, using translators if they speak a language other than English, and doing other things to build trust.  

- Help families learn about the school system. Families want their children to do well in school, but cultural or personal factors may make them reluctant to approach school personnel. Help families understand education jargon, how the school system works and how to get help for challenges their children face. 

- Make connections to the school day. You see family members several times a week, so you can show parents what students have done on their homework, and suggest ways family members can help continue the learning at home. Make an opportunity for a casual, friendly introduction to a school-day teacher or principal. 

- Offer a safe space. Work with your facility manager or a local partner and local law enforcement to offer a community recreation space that adults can share with children. 

 
Help Families Refuel

- Nurture social and emotional connections. Hold regular (perhaps monthly) events such as coffee hours where families, program staff and school-day staff can get acquainted in a relaxed setting.

- Create opportunities for physical activity. Arrange for occasional yoga, dance or exercise classes that welcome all family members, including seniors and those with mobility issues. 

- Feed the intellect. Tell families about free or low-cost adult education and job training programs in the community. Connect parents and students to workshops about college financial aid and testing.

- Recognize financial needs. Coordinate with schools and local employers to hold a job fair, so family members can learn about local work opportunities. Provide information about housing support, unemployment benefits and other programs that help to meet basic needs. 

 

A Word About Respect

In all that you do, treat students and their families with dignity and respect. Take time to hear their voices, and to understand their strengths as well as their needs. Whenever possible, schedule program events at times that are convenient for families, and coordinate with school-day activities and community events. Respecting others never goes out of style. In fact, it might be considered the fourth R of family engagement — resource, refuge, refuel and respect



September 21, 2017

A new school year has started, and your students are that much closer to making decisions about the future. You can help them be ready!

Did you know that when ACT analyzed 2016 test results, it found only one in four U.S. high school seniors are college and career ready?By focusing on a mix of academics and employability skills,2 your 21st CCLC program can provide fantastic opportunities for students to learn and apply knowledge and skills, interact with others to identify and solve problems, and develop workplace skills such as communication and resource management — all skills required for college and career success. Y4Y is here to help you kick-start your efforts! Here are three things you should know before diving in:

1. College and career readiness has importance for all age groups — yes, even the youngsters!

In elementary school, responses like “I can do that!” and “Let me try!” are common as students engage in hands-on activities. These attitudes will serve them well as they get closer to entering college and careers. So give them opportunities to work and play with ideas and materials related to various careers (for example: robots!). 

Consider using career stations for grades K-5. For grades 6-12, use the Y4Y Exploration Toolkit to help students explore careers that match their interests and strengths. 

2. Projects offer a powerful way to prepare students for college and career success.

This is all about tapping into young people’s natural excitement and curiosity to help them gain academic and 21st century skills connected to possible college and career paths. Try these project ideas to start: 

- Service learning. Connect youth to projects that have positive impacts on local communities.

- The arts. Give students opportunities to work with teaching artists, to connect with local arts organizations, to lead or join a project team, and to showcase what they learn (in music, theater, dance or visual arts) for the larger community.

- Citizen science. Students can support real projects by becoming citizen scientists and using the skills professional researchers use, such as observing and recording data. For example, they can help map the surface of Mars by joining NASA’s Be a Martian project.  

Use Y4Y’s Tips for Programs for more ideas.

3. Families want to know about low- and no-cost ways to help children succeed in school and beyond.

Nature walks, snack preparation, trips to the library, late-night talks about the trials and tribulations of playing team sports — through simple activities like these, families can help their children explore their world. Every day offers hidden opportunities to use and practice reading, math and other skills! Tell families about simple things they can do to prepare their children for college and career success. 

Use Y4Y’s Tips for Families for 10 practical ideas to share with families.

As a 21st CCLC practitioner, you can use program activities to help young people see and imagine career possibilities, understand how to prepare for those careers, and gain and practice skills they will need to pursue their dreams. Y4Y is here to help. Start with the tools linked in this blog, and be sure to visit the Y4Y College and Career Readiness Course.

References:
1. ACT. (2016). The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2016. Available at https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/CCCR_National_2016.pdf 
2. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career and Technical Education. (n.d.). Employability Skills Framework: What Are Employability Skills? Available at http://cte.ed.gov/employabilityskills/index.php/framework 


July 10, 2017

You probably know about the Coaching My Staff section of every Y4Y course. It contains training materials that address key topics within the course. The materials are ready to use as is or customizable to your needs. Here’s a quick introduction to what’s available if you haven’t tried them yet.

Training Starters

Each Training Starter is a two or three-page Word file (also available in PDF) that provides prepared content you can customize, and helps you organize and manage the event. The template includes a set of objectives and important information to include during the training — this is structured to use as a script or as a jumping-off point for the content you want to deliver. You can determine how to open the training and introduce the topic, then wrap up and close the session. 

Trainings to Go

Trainings to Go are hour-long training plans that include a PowerPoint, handouts and training guides. These materials can be downloaded and used as is; they provide all the information for a fully developed learning session on a specific topic area. You can invite participants, print handouts and set up a meeting space, then follow the prepared presentation. If you want to expand or customize the content, you can revise the PowerPoint version to fit your needs. A PDF version of each training is also available.

Find the Training Materials

You can get to topic-specific materials by three routes:

1. On the Y4Y home page, in the navigation area select Train Your Staff from the Learn tab. From this landing page, select a course topic to go to a page that has links to topic-specific Trainings to Go, Training Starters and Tools. 
2. On the Y4Y home page, in the navigation area select Courses from the Learn tab. From the Courses landing page, click on the topic you want to address. When you reach the Course landing page, scroll down to find and click on Coaching My Staff. This landing page presents a short overview that suggests steps for designing your training events. The Training Starters and Trainings to Go materials are located and described within this part of each course. You can also access the materials from the Resources tab within the lesson screen.
3. On the Y4Y home page, in the navigation area select Course Tools from the Resources tab. On this landing page, click on the topic you want to address. When the list of tools for that topic opens, you can find the Training Starters and Trainings to Go under the Train heading
 



July 10, 2017

Summer has started and before you know it, the staff will be preparing for the next school year. No doubt you have plans in place for fall activities, and have done some intentional design to target student needs. Now it’s time to identify and target staff needs.

You may have collected some data in the spring to determine what types of professional learning would be most valuable. A staff survey, ongoing program observations and requests from individual staff members can all inform your training plan. You’ll also want to look at the delivery strategies, activity types and general knowledge areas your staff needs to master. This list suggests some possibilities:

Delivery Strategies

• Project-based learning
• Blended learning
• Service learning
• Themed learning

Activity Types

• Academic learning
• Academic enrichment
• Family engagement
• Recreation
• Health/nutrition

Knowledge and Skill Areas

• College and career readiness
• 21st century skills
• Positive youth development

Don’t let this list overwhelm you — you don’t need to do them all! Your returning staff members may already have expertise in some areas, and introductions to topics for new staff can be refreshers for continuing staff. To further support new staff, you might identify experienced staff to act as mentors or leaders in specific areas. However, if you want to use a strategy such as blended learning or project-based learning for the first time, or at a deeper level than before, you might make it a focus of your fall training. 

Be sure to include the “evergreen” topics. For example, academic enrichment — the practice of purposefully incorporating academic skills and knowledge into many types of activities — deserves ongoing emphasis. If your students need to learn and practice math skills in fun, relevant ways, embedding those skills in citizen science, art, music, recreation and other activities can be powerful. You want your staff to understand how to make this happen.

Whether you plan to dive deep into a topic, or brush up on existing knowledge and skills, here are some tips for how to prepare for effective learning events. Y4Y and other resources that can help are listed at the end of this article.

Tip 1: Know Your Needs. Review your observation notes for areas where you need to build capacity. Then, survey your staff to find out which areas they want to know more about. Shape your learning event around the results and provide time for introducing and practicing the high-priority skills. 
Tip 2: Use Your Experts. You and your staff have built knowledge and skills you can introduce to new staff members. Share leadership of training with your in-house experts. 
Tip 3: Include Your Partners. Your school and district partners have knowledge about delivery strategies and activity types. Your community-based partners can help you think about ways to integrate academic enrichment into the arts, recreation and other activities they lead.

Resources

The Magical Mathematics of Music. See illustrations that show the mathematics behind the sounds we hear.
https://plus.maths.org/content/magical-mathematics-music 

Music and Math. Go here for lesson ideas to help students use music to understand mathematical concepts.
http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/music-and-math.html 

Maths and Sport: Millennium Mathematics Project. Get activities, video challenges and more to help students explore connections between sports and math.
http://sport.maths.org/content 

Intentional Activity Design Diagram. Customize this tool to look at staff wants and staff needs to design powerful professional learning experiences.

Y4Y Courses. Get ideas and video examples to use during your training from any or all these courses: Citizen Science, Project-Based Learning, College and Career Readiness, and STEM.
 



June 8, 2017

How can you make your program appealing to students, families, school and community? As you compile data for your end-of-year report, add a narrative story that “sells” your program, and it will help you take a step toward long-term sustainability.

Look at these examples and decide which approach has more power to demonstrate the value of your 21st CCLC program activities. Then start crafting your own and share it with your stakeholders!

Example 1. Oakville Afterschool Program

During the past school year, the Oakville program served 45 students from the first through fifth grades during the fall term, and 53 students from the same grades in the spring term. Most students attended at least three days every week, with perfect attendance by 10 students in the fall and 11 students in the spring. All students participated in the Homework Help activity, and most took part in the Readers Theater, where they focused on four different stories. Other activities included Chefs Club, soccer, jazzercise and chess. See the tables on the next two pages for data on student attendance and participation by our community partners and staff members. 

Example 2. Oakville Laughing and Learning Together

This school year, our OLL Together students and staff worked on literacy, math, team building and healthy living — and everyone got their homework done, too! Thanks to our new Student Ambassadors program, enrollment grew from 45 students in the fall to 53 in the spring — our kids love to make new friends! 

Readers Theater helped students practice important elements of literacy, such as plot, comprehension and motivation. When students produced Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, we asked science teachers to help with understanding the environmental theme. Everyone enjoyed playing with rhymes and meter when we wrote an original chapter about our Oakville environment (see the script on our Facebook page).

Our Chefs Club learned to prepare holiday dishes from different cultures. Our families provided recipes from American, Hispanic and Vietnamese traditions, and students practiced measurements and fractions as they worked in teams to test the recipes, develop the OLL Holiday Cookbook and prepare a December feast for families (see the photos on Facebook).

The local Youth Stages Art Company supported our production of The Lorax, helping our students get into costumes and characters in an authentic setting. Feel the Beat, a community dance group, provided our Monday and Wednesday jazzercise sessions, and sometimes our young musicians helped us keep the beat with their drums. From our University partner, men’s and women’s soccer players came on Thursdays to coach soccer. Our team especially enjoyed their day at the University playing on the “big” soccer field and touring the campus.

Our students told us, “This year was awesome!” We know they meant it, because they had great attendance (see enrollment, attendance and other data later in this end-of-year report). Thanks to our school partners, we could identify and target specific language, science and mathematics skills that needed to be strengthened — and we built those skills into activities that students wanted. Thanks to our families, we could help students learn more about other cultures and build friendships. Thanks to our community, we could encourage arts learning, good exercise habits and team skills — and give our young people a look at life on a college campus.

We agree: This year was awesome!

Reflection and Resources

So, what worked for you? Although the second example took more time to construct than the first, do you think that extra time would likely produce extra support?

Here are some Y4Y tools to help you strengthen your activities so your end-of-year report says “awesome”!