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June 16, 2020

June is for educators what December is for the rest of the world. And this academic year was certainly not what anybody expected! What worked in your program, and what “new year’s” resolutions would you like to set for next year’s program? How can Y4Y resources help you achieve those goals? To get those creative juices flowing, start by exploring Y4Y’s tools for continuous improvement, such as the SWOT Analysis Worksheet, Sample Evaluation Guide, the Continuous Improvement Process Diagram and Planner. Then, plan for a deeper dive into those areas that need particular attention.

Here are the top 2020 New Year’s resolutions set by Americans, and their translation into 21st CCLC-speak:

Exercise More

How well are you incorporating physical activity into your program? Have you caught Y4Y’s archived Showcase webinar, Expanding Quality Health and Recreation Opportunities? A summary of the resources presented is also available. Start with a good stretch: Reach out and connect with your community using Y4Y’s Mapping Community Assets tool. Get the heart pumping with engaging project-based learning. A wealth of ideas were presented during the May webinar series, and resources were shared to the discussion board. Looking for a little muscle mass? The Y4Y course on strategic partnerships offers important steps to building a stronger program and the importance of teamwork. Don’t forget the cool-down.

Save Money/Stick to a Budget

Do you know that as many 21st CCLC programs have unspent funds as those that end the year on the crumbs of their annual funding? The key to a successful fiscal year is staying right on target. Step 1: Know your grant! Step 2: Catch session 1 of the New Leaders Academy Webinar, which gives an overview of what expenditures are allowed in your program. Step 3: Go deeper and take Y4Y’s Managing Your 21st CCLC Program course. Step 4: Get out Y4Y’s Sample 21st CCLC Budget Worksheet and start the new program year fresh as a crisp Benjamin.

Don’t forget to share the importance of fiscal responsibility with your students and their families. Y4Y offers a Click & Go and an online course on financial literacy.

Eat More Healthily

“Garbage in, garbage out.” Although this expression came from the computing industry, we have come to appreciate that our bodies need the right fuel to work best, and so do our 21st CCLC programs. Nothing fuels a healthy program like the right staff! Y4Y’s Human Resources course will help ensure you recruit and retain the right folks for the job. Safety is also at the center of your program’s health. Be sure to check out Y4Y’s Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan Click & Go to safeguard the health of your program and your students.

Get More Sleep

People who set a resolution for more sleep recognize they’re trying to do too much, and probably not performing efficiently or effectively in the process. Achieving this goal often means improving self-management and decision making. These skills are at the heart of Y4Y’s course on social and emotional learning, along with self-awareness, social awareness and relationship skills. The role of your 21st CCLC program in the lives of your students extends well beyond academic support. Research tells us they’ll need social and emotional tools to be well-adjusted and to truly succeed as adults. The good news is, you can weave this theme through activities you’re already doing in your program. Look to Y4Y’s Logic Model Template, Delivery Methods, and other tools to achieve this worthwhile goal without spending time you don’t have, or worse still, time you’re stealing from other important areas. Like SLEEP!

Focus on Personal or Mindful Growth

One of the greatest luxuries of out-of-school time is the space it creates for individual attention and care. Your program can be a haven for students’ social and emotional growth — a safe space where they can explore who they are and who they want to be. Some might say you’re nourishing not just their minds, but their hearts and energies. Y4Y’s course on Creating a Positive Learning Environment can help you ensure that students feel supported. Appreciated. Special. Safe. For best practices that promote the “energy wellness” of your program and your students, also take a look at Y4Y’s Click & Go on Trauma-Informed Care. It can help in those instances where the hearts in your care need a little extra nurturing.

Tip: Planning to bring new staff on board? If they’re new to 21st CCLC programs, Y4Y’s Introduction to 21st CCLC course can help them get up to speed! Don’t forget Y4Y’s ready-to-use tools you can use to train your entire staff, whether they’re 21st CCLC novices or veterans, on a variety of topics, including project-based learning, financial literacy, college and career readiness, and more! Happy New Year!



June 3, 2020

At the intersection of 21st CCLC programs and the U.S. census lives an ever-reliable old gent who goes by the name of DATA. By now you’ve discovered that “data” is in Y4Y’s top 10 list of favorite terms. That’s because it’s so important to advancing your program’s work. Likewise, long ago, when the U.S. framers wrote the Constitution, so important was the idea of collecting data on its citizens that the basis for the census was written into Article 1 of this founding document.

Surely our forefathers couldn’t have imagined what our country looks like today. The sheer numbers and diversity we boast, and the technological advances we’ve made, astound many of us who are actually living it! The U.S. Census Bureau has tapped into modern computational power to carry out the spirit of the law the founders intended — collecting, analyzing and publishing a variety of useful statistics and online tools.

Take the Census Bureau’s “Statistics in Schools” initiative, for example. Visitors to this online resource can learn how data from the census drives school funding nationwide. They’ll also find activities to help students understand statistics in general. Information compiled by geographic region can help students see similarities and differences between their region and other parts of the country. What areas have the highest average ages, or the lowest? How does the average family size differ by geography? There are many of these questions you can have fun exploring in person or virtually with your students. Your findings can be a springboard to meaningful discussions about social, cultural and economic issues that affect them.

As your 21st CCLC program wraps up the current school year and looks to the next, you can also use the current census “buzz” to excite your staff about the power of data within your own program. If you have staff members who are new to data-based decision making and need an easy place to start, try introducing staff to the Three Types of Data you’ll needed in your program. Summer is the ideal time to improve training on this subject. Check out the Y4Y Training Starters on Data Collection and Logic Models as you put your team back together for the fall. Go even deeper with Y4Y’s archived webinar series, Telling Your Story Through Data: A Deep Dive Into Process.

Wherever you are in your quest for data, Y4Y has the tools you’ll need to look beneath those numbers and make your program the best it can be. Go ahead. Make data work for you and your students. There’s a 99.9% chance the U.S. founders would approve!



May 19, 2020

The ability read, write, speak and listen plays a vital role in helping us communicate and understand a full range of thoughts and emotions. Y4Y’s recent webinar series, “Literacy for Frontline Staff,” covers critical steps in arming your 21st CCLC program with strategies for improving students’ language and literacy skills. The three-part series can be viewed in the Y4Y archive. Guest speaker Meredith Fraysure shares her experience as an elementary teacher, literacy-based STEM curriculum developer and 21st CCLC program evaluator. Short on time? You’re in luck! Here’s a summary that hits the highlights.

Prepare for Liftoff

The afterschool environment has benefits and challenges in presenting literacy learning opportunities. Students may be mentally exhausted at the end of a school day, especially if they’re English learners, yet it’s the perfect environment for low-pressure, fun and engaging activities. Meeting students where they are and using a tailored, small-group setting is best.

Keep in mind that low-income students may have few books at home, and they may be exposed to a more limited spoken vocabulary than peers from more affluent families. Those who struggle with the basics of reading are less able to access academic content, and poor reading skills can also impact areas of living such as understanding basic health-related information. In fact, Ms. Fraysure says the greatest challenge for young readers is taking that step from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” These concerns drive initiatives to improve student literacy. Building their skills and confidence inspires students to explore areas of interest and even passion, producing competent and knowledgeable citizens. Fostering a positive relationship with books that interest students is a good place to start.

Reading, of course is only one element of literacy education. Here’s a description of all four elements:

Reading is the process of simultaneously extracting and interacting with written text, and involves phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension.

Speaking is the communication of thoughts and ideas.

Writing addresses how we structure language.

Listening refers to how we actively filter information and respond appropriately. Owing to the brain’s ability to effectively create white noise, this can be a greater challenge for some brains than others.

Always Start With Data

Data are at the heart of all you do in 21st CCLC programming. You’ll look for quantitative data about literacy through statewide assessments and school-day assessments, including benchmarks, unit tests, reading assessments and progress monitoring tools. Without a doubt, your most successful activity designs will be well coordinated with the school day, especially around qualitative data about each student. Invite your students’ school-day teachers to share a list of student literacy needs and a “wish list” of supports your program might provide. To help you collect important needs assessment data, Y4Y offers tools such as a Literacy Focus Group tool, Comprehension Checklists and a Reader Questionnaire for Students.

To better understand the elements of literacy and reflect on what to assess, try these tools from the new Y4Y Literacy course: Developmental Stages of Reading, Literacy “I Can” Progression Ladders, Literacy Anchor Standards and Phonemic Awareness Continuum. You don’t need a background in literacy to use these tools or to help students improve their skills.

Let’s Get SMART

With your data at the ready, your 21st CCLC program will develop literacy SMART goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable achievable, relevant and time bound. You’ll develop  goals that apply to the program on the whole, and a separate set of goals for the literacy activities that you’ll design. Use Y4Y’s Activity and Program SMART Goals tool to ensure that your goals are addressing the literacy needs of your students on the whole and day-to-day.

Keep these tips in mind as you design literacy activities based on your SMART goals:

  • Building “reading stamina” is an important goal for early readers. Be honest with students about why it’s important, especially as they switch from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Studies show that just 20 minutes of independent reading each day, of a student’s chosen material, makes a tremendous impact on academic achievement.
  • Your middle schoolers may already find themselves behind in reading, which means being behind in other subjects at school as well. Don’t ignore the social and emotional component of building reading skills. Now more than ever, it’s critical that students have a voice in what they’re reading. Fostering a love of books is one of the best things you can do for young people at this age!
  • Reading aloud to students at all grade levels has importance when it comes to literacy. Listening, after all, is one of the four building blocks of literacy, and hearing books means a different mode of appreciating the way language is structured.

Let Your Activities Soar

Your next step is to design and facilitate literacy activities aligned to student needs. Use strategies to increase the time students spend reading and writing after the school day.

The Third Dimension

When intentionally designing literacy activities in an afterschool setting, consider three dimensions:

Logistics: Think about what your students’ needs and goals are. Then consider how to use available resources, time and space to address those needs and goals.  

Literacy elements: Decide which element of literacy – speaking, reading, writing or speaking – you’ll focus on during each activity. Most activities will involve one or more of these elements, and that’s a good thing!

Explicit or embedded instruction: Now we’re really cooking! Is your activity an academic intervention (meant to help students catch up) or an academic enrichment (where you have the luxury of helping your student get ahead)? Generally, intervention activities include explicit instruction, whereas enrichment activities tend to use embedded instruction. Let’s dive a little deeper into intervention vs. enrichment activities.

Intervention Activities

Let’s say your program has discovered that you need to help students meet individual academic goals. Your activities are going to be explicit, or in other words, designed specifically to target needs and teach the elements of literacy. For example, if you have students who struggle with decoding words and reading fluently, an intervention might be to set up four literacy centers that focus on high-need reading skills. These centers might include an online learning program, a small-group literacy game, an independent practice activity and a small-group instruction center. Students could rotate through these centers in very small groups, doing activities at each center that are designed explicitly to build a single literacy skill.

The keys to intervention activities? Explicit design and small groups.

Enrichment Activities

When your 21st CCLC program is poised to enrich the academic achievement of students, you are more likely looking for activities with embedded literacy learning. This can often be done by adding one or more literacy elements to an activity you’re already doing.

Some examples of enrichment activities might be asking students to interview each other during snack time or allowing students to follow through on their voiced preference to start a newsletter that involves research, writing, and using an online platform to tell about your program.

It’s much easier to embed literacy components into large-group activities than it is to modify small-group activities. If your program is more geared toward enrichment, you likely focus your attention on large-group activities already. If your program logistics don’t always align perfectly with students’ literacy needs, don’t lose sight of the fact that even small gains matter in the lives of the students who need them the most. Check out Y4Y’s Embedding Literacy in Enrichment Activities Training To Go for ideas and guidance on training staff.

Do I Have to Read the WHOLE Book?

Ms. Fraysure shared some of her favorite large-group, embedded learning activities around single chapters of favorite children’s books. This best practice entices students to finish books on their own after they’ve had a taste of a story — especially when they’ve become invested through the chance to do something fun. One example is to have students read Chapter 19 of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Ms. Fraysure asks students to visualize the elaborate machinery described when the characters first enter the candy-making room, then build their own “Rube Goldberg” machine. We’ve all seen a Rube Goldberg machine: they’re those multi-step contraptions that use a complicated process to perform a simple function. Using only items found in the room, students can employ concepts of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as they work collaboratively and dive into all four elements of literacy with this fun activity.

On a smaller scale, younger students might look at Dr. Seuss’s “Sneetches” and present their ideas on how the machine might be applying stars to the bellies of these memorable characters. To illustrate how creatively children can think, Ms. Fraysure shared that one of her students proposed that the machine, in fact, is uncovering existing stars!

BDA

The before-during-after (BDA) framework is a great tool to keep in mind as you intentionally design reading activities. Check out Y4Y’s BDA Lesson Planner for practical steps to meet the objectives of making predictions, learning new vocabulary, demonstrating comprehension, participating in discussion, responding to text in a meaningful way, and developing work skills through collaboration and listening to others.

More Ideas for Literacy Activities

  • Check out Y4Y’s Guided Oral Reading Tool to improve students’ fluency.
  • Stage a readers theater. Speaking is an often-overlooked literacy skill, especially in younger students.
  • Use fun repeated reading exercises such as trying out different voices.
  • Arrange a writers workshop to hone skills in prewriting, drafting, revising and editing, and publishing and production.
  • Journal! Let students start out with pictures that help them develop the practice of communicating their thoughts and feelings, then work their way up to a broader use of language.
  • Use rich language to describe a painting or a piece of music with no lyrics.
  • Write a reflection on a science experiment.
  • Have students talk about how they used math in their everyday lives the previous day.
  • Do you have a mix of native English speakers and English learners? Build confidence through hands-on activities that help level the playing field, allowing them to pair with each other if they’d like so that they can better communicate in a team project.

You don’t have to totally revamp your 21st CCLC program or become a certified English language arts teacher to be successful at improving students’ literacy skills. You can accomplish a lot if you’re willing to scaffold learning and support the school day. If you’re trying a new strategy, don’t be afraid to ask for instructions to be simplified to be sure you’re implementing right.

Nail the Landing

To “nail the landing” in your literacy routines and activities, there are three things you can do: engage families in literacy, implement literacy activities with fidelity, and assess the impact of activities.

An Engagement in the Family!

You’re all too familiar with the barriers families face in engaging with your 21st CCLC program, yet we know how critical program engagement is to getting families’ support at home too. Parents and guardians might have limited access to transportation, multiple jobs, cultural or language barriers, younger children to care for, socioeconomic concerns or even their own scars and lack of confidence around literacy. To overcome such barriers, be consistent but accommodating and flexible in your expectations, and work to build trust with students’ adult family members. Don’t forget that adults like to have fun too!

One great family engagement idea is to host a grocery store scavenger hunt with sponsorship from a local merchant. Families get a clipboard with a list of inexpensive items that the store could donate as charity to your program. Maybe the items are presented in simple riddle form. Throw in some math, asking how much it would cost to buy three pounds. What would your total be at the end? The whole family activity takes less than an hour, but families come away with a better understanding of your role in their child’s life, quality time spent with their child, and maybe some free food. Some programs have developed partnerships with supermarkets willing to provide program snacks through the year.

How about a Living Wax Museum event? First, students research a public figure, past or present, and take notes so they can portray that figure in a Living Wax Museum. When the event starts, students “get into character” and take positions around the room. Families move from student to student, asking questions about the character each student portrays. It’s an opportunity for students to read, write, speak AND listen!

Themes are always winners. Camping, a picnic theme, or a cultural fair that celebrates the different backgrounds represented in your program all offer opportunities to have some fun and engage families.

Ms. Fraysure offered clever solutions to common barriers to successful family engagement. Are parents heading into second-shift jobs at pickup time? Try a before-school breakfast (with support from your grocery store partner). Another idea is to engage parents on their “home turf” by starting a lending library. Each week, a student takes home a different bag with a book and journal inside. Families are asked to read it together and jot down what their family discussed about the book. Or you could offer a “How It Works” seminar for families, perhaps given by a community college partner, to explain the literacy tools your program uses and how they can impact students’ lives.

Measure Your Success

The success of your family engagement efforts needs to be measured just like your in-program efforts. Walk around at events and get a sense of family response, directly and indirectly, by asking and observing. Do you see an increase in engagement at pickup after an event? Watch for signs, big and small, that you’ve earned families’ trust. Don’t forget: Y4Y offers customizable tools that can help, like the Family Engagement Follow-Up and Supervision Checklist and Family Satisfaction Survey.

Speaking of Measuring…

How will you know if you’re you implementing your literacy programming with fidelity? Keep those program and activity SMART goals close at hand throughout implementation. Be sure to “read the room” along the way, communicating consistently with your site coordinator or program director, especially when you’re trying something new. For the program to succeed, YOU need to believe in it too, which you will if you have a voice.

Fidelity has four measures:

  • Adherence – Did you follow the steps of the activity design plan?
  • Dosage – Did you spend as much time on the activity as was intended?
  • Engagement – Did the students fully participate and show interest?
  • Delivery – Did you engage students enthusiastically and guide them appropriately?

When you know going into an activity that these are the ways success is measured, you have a higher chance of implementing that activity with fidelity. Here are three additional strategies that will ensure that you successfully meet your program and activity SMART goals: (1) Create a decision-making process to guide your implementation. (2) Establish evaluation routines so that you’re making real-time observations and adjustments as needed. (3) Create guidelines for families’ progress — because 21st CCLC programming is a true success only when families play a big role in your outcomes.

Y4Y’s Implementing With Fidelity Guide is the perfect resource for addressing the right questions as you implement literacy activities in your program. Also check out the Continuous Improvement Planner to stay true to your SMART goals. Finally, be sure to check out the Discussion Board created for Y4Y’s three-part virtual series on literacy, where many more links and resources are housed.



May 19, 2020

If you work in a 21st CCLC program, you give of yourself daily for the noble purpose of helping young people reach their full potential. With widespread school closures this spring due to COVID-19, you kept giving — calling and texting students to check in, creating activity kits for delivery with school lunches, hosting Family Fun Hours and virtual story times online — while trying new ideas and technologies to keep students engaged. Decades from now, many will have good memories of a difficult time because of your efforts.

But there’s one thing you might not be doing well: Taking care of yourself. Y4Y shared a few tips for self-care during an April 1 webinar on supporting staff and families during school closure when you’re working from home:

  • Stay active (mind and body).
  • Get dressed each day.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Connect with others.
  • Make time for yourself.
  • Be realistic.

At first glance, these ideas might seem pretty basic. They are! In fact, they’re the “infrastructure” of self-care. But just because something is basic doesn’t mean it happens on its own. The basics deserve your attention, and you deserve the basics.

If the idea of taking a day or an hour for yourself seems foreign, here’s something to keep in mind: Just because it’s called “self-care” doesn’t make it “selfish.” In fact, the opposite is true. If you allow yourself to become depleted, you won’t be able to support others.

Give yourself the gift of time. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Tip: Check the Y4Y Discussion Board for the April 1 webinar and click on “How to Practice Self-Care” for a graphic that will remind you to let go of the things you can’t control, like predicting what will happen or the amount of toilet paper at the store.



April 20, 2020

On March 12, Y4Y hosted a Showcase webinar to spark ideas around the ways 21st CCLC programs can advocate for student wellness. This idea has all-new meaning in light of the pandemic currently gripping the nation. The webinar synopsis below will get you thinking about wellness when your program reopens. It also includes resources you can share with families to support exercise and wellness right now, even though you’re not meeting in person.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Y4Y Technical Assistance team was joined by the following specialists in this field:

Daniel Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Carri Russell, Social and Emotional Wellness, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley

Jordana Lorenzo, LMSW, Program Manager for Healthy Schools and Community Programs, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Heather Erwin, Ph.D., Department Chair and Professor, University of Kentucky, Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion

Showcase Goals

One in three children in the U.S. is overweight or obese. Y4Y recognizes that promoting well-being and success in life demands a “whole child” approach. An important way afterschool programs can help students meet academic standards is by increasing engagement in physical health. Studies demonstrate that maximizing physical activity, not just in designated gym or recess times, but also throughout classroom time, improves academic performance. What can your 21st CCLC programs do?

  • Promote exercise and healthy food choices in ways that are fun and engaging.

  • Build quality health and recreation activities specific to your students’ needs.

  • Integrate movement into your current program without sacrificing academic goals.

To facilitate these goals, the webinar

  • Identifies resources for national standards on healthy eating and physical activity.

  • Shares best practices for effective activity facilitation.

  • Discusses how to promote healthy behaviors through your program schedule.

Let’s Dive In

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation offers a health index and an assessment tool specifically designed for afterschool programs. This is the place to start thinking about what your students need, which might be very different from a program in another region. Here’s a great opportunity for student choice! Y4Y’s Elementary and Secondary Student Interest Surveys can be customized with a range of activities that will keep your students moving. Don’t assume all boys love basketball and all girls love to dance. Connect with the school-day gym and classroom teachers and counselors to play off what they already know works and doesn’t work to get your students moving.

In It Together

The Alliance and many successful programs they serve take the approach of the “whole school, whole community, whole child” model, which ensures there’s an entire team behind your efforts. Ms. Lorenzo described a healthy afterschool initiative in South Florida made possible through a partnership between the City of Miami Gardens, a community organization called Concerned African Women, and afterschool programs. Currently 30 sites are participating, and there are plans to expand. The site faces the usual program challenges like staff turnover. But sustainability, wellness and solid training are built into the organization to handle these challenges seamlessly. With the goal of teaching kids to grow up healthy, sites each receive a budget of $3,000 for what they need most, whether that’s more nutritious food or space to move, for example.

Lucky for your 21st CCLC program, you don’t have to do a lot of guessing at what kind of goals are realistic around wellness. In 2011, the YMCA of the U.S.A., the National Institute of Healthy Out-of-School Time and the University of Massachusetts at Boston partnered to develop the Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) standards. The four content areas of these standards are quality, staff training, program support and environmental support. Guidance is offered on how to measure and improve your efforts.

Healthy living is a goal for the long haul, and staff can model that by not being daunted by setbacks or slow progress. Teach students that incremental goals are meaningful and that positive changes, however small, are a victory. Practitioners have been delighted to discover the huge impact that initiatives around lifelong wellness have had, not just on students, but also on staff and parents. Adults show they’re taking seriously the responsibility to support students’ learning and suggestions by making their own better choices.

An effective community framework is set up and maintained through a steady stream of positive messages at home. Keep that multigenerational goal in the forefront of your mind and your planning. You know your families best: What kind of simple recipes or activity ideas can you send home to reinforce your program goals? Establishing this consistent information stream will be all the more valuable during school closures. Don’t forget that social media platforms can be a great place to get families engaged and keep them engaged. You can centralize your communications and celebrate individual and group achievement. It’s also a good opportunity for your partners to watch your program shine! Those relationships may need leveraging from time to time, so a running advertisement of your success is a helpful tool.

In fact, partnerships are key when it comes to wellness initiatives. Mr. Hatcher mentioned a STEAM program in DC that’s hosted by a children’s hospital and implemented by local libraries. A program in Ohio partnered with a hunger alliance. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation developed a set of healthy out-of-school roadmaps aligned with national physical fitness standards, one of which focuses on building program and social supports in the community. Make local experts your friends, such as professionals at the health department. They probably need your program as much as you need them, and can get you in touch with even more great professional resources in your area. Y4Y’s Strategic Partnerships course offers even more ideas on identifying community partners and recruiting them into your program.

Experts Agree

Dr. Erwin researches and teaches the practice of maximizing physical activity in our youth. She advocates for all student programs, including school-day academics, to carve out time for students to play games or engage in some form of physical activity. The benefits are undeniable. A well-known study encouraging at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, with aerobic exercise three of those times each week, demonstrated participants had a reduction in diabetes and cancer, strengthened muscle and bone, and better overall mental health.

Studies have shown that intermittent physical activity also improves information retention and attention. Students who are coming to school healthier are in a better frame of mind to learn. A new initiative shows that walking while learning content has yielded positive results. And a benefit of free play is the development of social skills. These are all great arguments to keep kids moving.

But how can programs find the time in an already jam-packed day? Talk with school-day teachers about ways to incorporate physical activity into what they’re already doing. They might make content homework an active assignment. Even if not assigned that way, afterschool programs can have students do their homework actively. For example, they might use a standing desk, sit on a stability ball or take frequent activity breaks. Another possibility is to make interactive lessons require a physical response, like “jump up whenever the teacher mentions the name of a continent.” Students could stretch into geometry shapes with their bodies, or act out different learning about animals. Teachers and staff can be creative with transitions — for example, by taking a longer route or performing a crazy walk.

Physical activity is a must for marketing your program to your community. Not only are families eager for their children to get their wiggles out, but you may be in competition with sports or other programs that keep up with your students’ energy level. Don’t think of incorporating physical activity into your program as a barrier. Simply make it part of the culture. Soon, finding ways to effortlessly keep kids moving will be second nature in all your planning. Dr. Erwin urges professionals to work smarter, not harder.

More Success Stories

As Director of Social and Emotional Wellness at the Boys & Girls Club of Tennessee Valley, Ms. Russell presented her thoughts on what matters most when incorporating healthy practices into your 21st CCLC program environment. She said centers need to emphasize teamwork, persevere, put relationships first and model self-control to be successful. Some crisis management will always go into afterschool programs. Just remember to support kids every day, and the tough days won’t seem so tough.

How can sites support their staff members around building social and emotional skills in students? “Ready Set Action” through the Pear Institute is one example. This Harvard-designed program is offered in one-hour increments to make it easy for staff to help students design a healthy life for themselves. A typical session includes check-ins to gauge students’ highs and lows, maybe using simple physical action to express those highs and lows. Then, students engage in fast games where they incorporate teamwork and problem solving, all of which reinforce focus and self-control. Soccer for Success is another resource that offers great ideas, like Circle Up – an activity that emphasizes team-building opportunities. A cool-down might include shaking up a jar of glitter in water and watching it settle to the bottom — reinforcing the mind-body connection. Resources like these build in mindfulness and arm students with the coping skills they’ll need in school and in life.

The Boys & Girls Club has discovered that being active together and feeling good together nurtures relationships. Students can further build their confidence by taking a leadership role, however small, in their afterschool activities. The broader the approach to physical activities, the more likely programs are to give each student an opportunity to shine. Not everyone will view themselves as athletes, but with the right mix of activities, different and perhaps unexpected leaders can emerge.

Learn more about this program and the resources they use at the Boys & Girls Club website.

Support Your Staff and Students

Be sure staff members are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to run activities effectively. For example, do they know the rules of the sport they are supervising? Institute routines for consistency, such as rules about student help with cleanup. Offer activities that are fun for staff as well as students — enthusiasm is infectious! Consider providing staff with the modifications and adaptions in advance that will allow ALL students in your program to be successful. Try something new, even if it means modifying for one or all students, like having everyone do seated yoga or volleyball to accommodate a student with a disability. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) is an invaluable resource if your program is looking for ways to be more inclusive. When offering student choice, bear in mind that a list of activities to choose from as opposed to open-ended suggestions means you can be thinking about possible modifications and have them at the ready. It also allows for variation in the physical fitness of your students. Around that central concern of childhood obesity and fitness, a real consideration may be students who are uncomfortable participating in physical activities. Remember to start small. Focus on wellness, not weight. Getting up and getting moving is task number one.

Staff retention is greatest when you set staff members up for success, and ensure positivity and enjoyment. Work with them to define healthy choices for themselves, and empower them to convey that message to students. Everyone’s load can be lightened when students are asked and expected to interact in a substantive way. Never assume students are too young to have responsibility or to be leaders. Rather, responsibility makes tasks more meaningful to them. The positive climate you’re building will carry over to family engagement.

Encourage and support self-care among your staff. You might ask them to take turns bringing ideas about self-care to the group, or hold staff meetings outdoors or have a walking meeting if weather and circumstances allow.

The Audience Speaks

Participants in the webinar were asked, “How are you incorporating healthy eating into your programming?” Popular ideas included planting gardens (which inspires students to participate in the process of growth and fosters an attraction to healthy, fresh food); partnering with local grocery stores, farm-to-table restaurants, or farms; food festivals with donated produce for students and families to sample; and cooking demonstrations and activities.

When asked “How has your program modified activities to increase student participation?,” webinar participants’ clever responses included having older students design an activity and then teach it to younger ones; offering different expertise levels for activities and letting students select the level at which they feel most comfortable participating. Hands down, the most common response was simply “Provide student voice and choice!” Check out Y4Y’s customizable Student Interest Survey to make sure student voice is heard loud and clear.