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October 1, 2020

Students with disabilities may face unique learning challenges during school closures or conversion to virtual programming. A recent webinar from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) shines a bright light on Resources and Practices to Support Back to School and Continuity of Learning for Children With Disabilities. While these resources are directed at school-day educators, 21st CCLC programs might find them useful — especially those on supporting families of students with disabilities. No time to watch the archived webinar? Y4Y has you covered! Here are some highlights:

Consider sharing with families the CEEDAR Center’s Virtual Toolkit and Family Guide to At-Home Learning, available in English and Spanish. The center recommends six strategies for helping students of all ages who struggle with at-home learning: model, provide clear directions, provide support, help the student stay on task, give specific feedback and use goal setting. The family guide has helpful tools and examples for each strategy.

The High-Leverage Practices in Special Education website shares best practices for addressing student behaviors in face-to-face, online and hybrid environments. High-leverage practices are those that are foundational to effective teaching and can be used regularly with students of all ages and abilities. These practices are intended to complement, not replace, data-driven interventions. The site includes unedited clips of teachers implementing “R.U. Asking” (a problem-solving strategy) and including checks for understanding and opportunities to respond throughout instructional time to keep students engaged.

In the OSEP webinar, University of Northern Colorado professor Todd Sundeen addresses concerns affecting educators with limited access to educational technology in rural communities, which represent one in nine U.S. students. He tells about families taking extreme measures like sitting in their cars in school parking lots to access the building’s broadband internet for their children. He advocates collaborating with parents to ensure they’re included in all conversations, following up with students who aren’t participating virtually, providing parents with learning opportunities on how to best support their children’s learning, and making sure that funding structures provide full access to technology and adequate internet access.

The National Center on Improving Literacy offers evidence-based strategies for serving students with literacy-related disabilities, who are more likely than their peers without disabilities to regress during distance learning. The center advocates explicit and systematic instruction focused on the five “big ideas” of reading: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Recommendations include providing students with disabilities with additional intervention time, using small-group or one-to-one intervention three to five times a week, and following academic intervention charts from the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII). You can access implementation toolkits, ask-an-expert and other resources through the center’s website. Be sure to check out Kid Zone, a source of online literacy games and activities for students who need intensive literacy intervention.

Karen Erickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill addresses remotely serving students who are medically vulnerable and/or have complex disabilities. Some of these students may be physically unable to interact with technology or have other barriers to engaging for necessary lengths of time. As a result, family engagement and support among each other has become essential in the virtual environment. Teaching assistants grew into new supportive roles, such as preparing students for their day with short recorded videos. Ms. Erickson says strategies at Project Core have been invaluable to families helping their children navigate new formats for learning. She also points to Tarheel Reader and Shared Reader as helpful resources for reading. Above all, she says, focus on routine. Be flexible and responsive, and share resources generously with families.

A new guide is available from the Center on Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS). Returning to School During and After Crisis describes how a multi-tiered systems of support framework can support students, families and educators during transitions back to school. The center urges educators to focus on the basics — the smallest number of things you can do well to support student learning. Your connecting, screening, supporting, teaching and monitoring should work to creative a positive, predictable and safe learning environment that fosters students’ social, emotional, behavioral and academic growth. The segment of the webinar that discusses this guide features New Jersey’s PBIS implementation efforts.

The National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII) presents a process of intensive intervention that’s based on experimental teaching. It integrates data-based decision making across academics and social behaviors. NCII focuses on explicit instruction (I do, we do, you do) sequencing, progress monitoring and collaboration. Visit the center’s website for videos and webinars from educators implementing these practices remotely.

Lynn Fuchs of Vanderbilt University reinforces the importance of explicit instruction for students with disabilities, offering an eight-step method for online teaching strategies. Packaged explicit instruction interventions are available at the Vanderbilt University website. Similar resources are also available at the NCII website to address the performance gaps that students with disabilities are likely to experience in a virtual environment.

The state of Michigan, in recognition of the avalanche of information and resources directed at educators attempting to navigate during the pandemic, offers a simple guiding philosophy: Focus on routines. Teaching and using routines, both social and academic, has been shown to foster a positive climate and increase student success. These routines become even more powerful in a climate of uncertainty such as now, as they provide a safe, predictable and supportive environment where students know what it takes to be successful and can develop the skills to be so. Michigan makes sure the resources shared with special educators reflect this spirit of simplicity. The resources for teams may have the greatest relevance to 21st CCLC programs.

Lise Fox of the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations offers insight into resources for early education professionals and families. You might want to share these resources with families who have preschool-age children. The center emphasizes social and emotional wellness for students, families and staff.

The OSEP webinar concludes with a panel discussion featuring three professionals who offer their experience and advice on implementing successful re-opening strategies for students with disabilities. The panelists reinforce the value of communicating with families. Nobody should have to stumble around in the dark, trying to find their way through such uncertain times, least of all students with disabilities. Feel free to forward this post to others who might find this information useful!

 


October 1, 2020

Like so many people around the world, your program staff may be looking for ways to make the most of social distancing. Citizen science has enjoyed a tremendous uptick as people turn to the outdoors for many more types of experiences. Citizen science is an exciting addition to STEM programming, but where should you begin? Review the basics of Y4Y’s Citizen Science course to make the right project choices and fit them into your program schedule. Armed with a list of criteria that matter to you, you can make a SMART perusal of reputable online resources.

As time permits, you and your staff can mine other Y4Y citizen science tools to make the most of your program’s offerings.

Not sure where to start your project hunt? In 2016, Y4Y compiled an annotated list of citizen science resources, and many are still active. Here are some other projects that are hot today:

  • The Cornell Lab of Ornithology notes that through its eBird webpage, “your sightings contribute to hundreds of conservation decisions and peer-reviewed papers, thousands of student projects and help inform bird research worldwide.”
  • NestWatch, also hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “is a nationwide nest-monitoring program designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds. Participating in NestWatch is easy and anyone can do it.”
  • SciStarter is a clearinghouse of “science we can do together.” To locate the perfect project, visit its Project Finder, enter a word or phrase in the Search box, and include your location, the kinds of environments available to you, and the age group of your scientists.
  • National Geographic’s iNaturalist webpage “helps you identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over a million scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What’s more, by recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature.”

Remember, citizen science does more than expose your students to STEM activities. Young people get to experience firsthand what it’s like to “act locally and think globally” as they contribute to national or international projects to help achieve a greater goal. Citizen science reinforces the notion that we are citizens not just of our city or town, but of the planet.

 


October 1, 2020

A creative way to get students excited about literacy is to get them excited about words. A new word can be like a smooth rock you’ve found while walking along a stream: You turn it over in your hand, get to know its surface, and put it in your pocket where you keep coming back to it through the day, reminding yourself of its existence and thinking about what you might do with it. Bring literacy to light in your 21st CCLC program with these fun ideas to get students forming their own collection of words.

  • The “Hello Kitty” phenomenon drove home just how enchanted adults and children alike can be by small packages. Gift each student with a tiny notebook and pencil like you might find at any dollar store, and urge them to carry their “word treasury” in their pocket like they might that special stone.
  • Brainstorm together where and when students might hear a new word. You can make it a friendly contest to see if students can “find” a word that nobody in the program has heard before. No cheating! It has to be in the dictionary.
  • Speaking of the dictionary, Merriam-Webster has a new online feature called “Time Traveler” that allows users to enter a year and discover all the words that were first documented that year. Your students might not even realize that until 2007, “ginormous” wasn’t a word, but a combination of “gigantic” and “enormous” introduced in the beloved holiday film Elf. This feature alone could provide hours of fun!
  • Check out the Frayer chart in Y4Y’s literacy course to take your word mining to the next level. Students will get to know their new treasure word by learning its definition and characteristics and examples.
  • Remember that half the value is in the fun. So much about 21st CCLC programs is about forming new habits and perspectives that can last a lifetime. By instituting the practice of treating new words as gems, you’re building curious minds and lifelong readers. The more you concentrate on the game of it, the more buy-in you’ll get.

Be sure to check out Y4Y’s Literacy course for more tips on implementing literacy into your program, along with tools to help with activities and family events. Literacy is the key to so much in life. Bringing it to light opens endless opportunities for your students.

 


September 28, 2020

This election season marks 100 years of the vote for women. What actions did Susan B. Anthony and her contemporaries take to achieve this goal, and how can 21st CCLC students continue that legacy of working toward equality, whether for themselves or others? Drawing on basic lessons and tools in the Civic Learning and Engagement Course, discover how your students can take up the torch of civic action today and work toward equity for all.

Consider these eight strategies set forth in Y4Y’s Civic Learning and Engagement Implementation Checklist, and how remarkably they track with the suffrage movement!

Strategy 1: Identify and Engage Stakeholders

As early as 1850, the suffrage movement had a strong alliance with the abolitionist movement.

Whatever priorities you settle on for your civic learning and engagement activities, there will be partners in your community that share your common goals. These may be educators in your school district or at your local university. What about nonprofit organizations in your area dedicated to ensuring equity? These potential partners are probably just as eager to form partnerships as your 21st CCLC program is. Sit your program team down to discuss who those potential partners could be. Don’t be afraid to involve families in this search — they may already have community connections you haven’t established. Y4Y’s Involving Community Partners Checklist can guide these efforts.

Strategy 2: Define Needs, Goals and Assets

In 1848, the first Women’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. “The Declaration of Sentiments,” written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, set a long-term agenda for suffragists.

There will be many elements that factor into your needs and goals. Is your civic learning and engagement primarily intended to meet the social and emotional needs of your students? To support learning in their school day? The Y4Y tool for Brainstorming Civic Engagement Topics can help you systematically weigh the needs of your students and your community to direct you toward worthy initiatives.

Strategy 3: Prepare for Civic Learning and Engagement Activities

From 1866-68, when members were able to refocus after the Civil War, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton formed the American Equal Rights Association (AERA) and began publication of a weekly newspaper, The Revolution, to re-formalize their structure and message.

Just as team-building and leadership were crucial in the suffrage movement, so, too, do you need to foster these in your program to succeed in civic engagement. A good place to start is the Y4Y tool on Team-Building Activities.

Strategy 4: Set the Foundation for Civic Learning and Engagement Activities

In 1869, national suffrage was divided on logistics: The National Women’s Suffrage Association replaced the AERA and continued to press for a constitutional amendment, while the American Woman Suffrage Association worked on a smaller scale to affect state constitutions.

One goal can have different pathways to achievement. When you establish your foundation for civic learning and engagement activities, you’re giving thought to the learning approach that best suits your students and to logistics such as budget, schedule and materials. Look to the Y4Y Committee and Club Planning Worksheet to ensure that your efforts are defined early.

Strategy 5: Intentionally Design Activities

Susan B. Anthony and many like her remained unmarried throughout their lives just to ensure their rights around property ownership and autonomy. To further their cause, many were arrested, tried and jailed for voting illegally.

Intentionality demands SMART goals. Y4Y’s Service Learning Toolbox and Intentional Activity Design: Mapping Needs to Activities tool can help you shape the best activities to achieve your civic learning and engagement goals. They’re unlikely to be as drastic as the activities of the suffragists, but tailored to impact the lives of your students and their community in a constructive way.

Strategy 6: Use Best Practices for Student Engagement

The Progressive Era played out from the 1890s through 1925. The increasingly public role of all women brought the suffrage movement to the front and center of American politics.

The women and men of the suffrage movement understood that engagement was key for their mission to maintain momentum through adversity. How will you keep your students engaged in their civic initiatives? You’ll map their knowledge and wonders on relevant topics, and capture and account for student voice and choice in all you do, especially as you foster student interest in promoting equity in the world around them.

Strategy 7: Implement With Fidelity

In 1915, Mabel Vernon and Sara Bard Field collected over half a million petition signatures around the country, but states like New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania continued to reject women’s suffrage. In 1917, dedication to the movement even led to hunger strikes by jailed picketers.

Implementing with fidelity is doing what you said you’d do, and that’s exactly what leaders of the suffrage movement did. You have all your pieces in place to implement an engaging and impactful experience for your students to play an active role in shaping their community. Y4Y’s Implementing With Fidelity Guide can help you ensure that your adherence, dosage, engagement and delivery are all on target.

Strategy 8: Celebrate and Sustain Your Initiatives

In 1919, the 19th Amendment was finally passed, and it was ratified on Aug. 26, 1920. Women legally cast their ballots across the country for the first time in the 1920 general election. But the fight for women’s rights had only just begun.

The success of the suffrage movement is a perfect illustration for your students to appreciate the slow rate of progress, but the importance of persevering. Your 21st CCLC initiatives in civic learning and engagement, on a smaller scale, should have successes to celebrate, but leave your students wanting more. More learning. More equity. More engagement. More success.

 


October 10, 2019

Emergencies happen, and it’s your job to be ready when they do. Natural and human-caused threats to safety can take many forms. A sudden thunderstorm may knock down power lines and flood roads, or a family dispute may leave the home and enter your program site. Prepare now to respond to an emergency by making sure you have a targeted, up-to-date safety plan and training to support it.

The new Y4Y Click & Go, Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan, offers guidance and tools to help. Here are a few highlights from the mini-lesson, podcasts and tools; consider what you already know, and explore to begin your next steps.

Look for an existing safety plan. Most schools and community organizations that regularly host activities for children and families have safety plans in place. You need to know whether and how your 21st CCLC program is included in the host organization’s plan. Start by using the Safety Plan Meeting Request to get a copy of the plan and connect with the site’s safety leader.

If necessary, adapt or update the safety plan to your situation. Perhaps the out-of-school time program is new and wasn’t included in the host site’s plan. Work with the site safety leader to determine how your staff and students should respond to various situations. Use the Site Coordinator Safety Checklist to make sure you consider important areas and procedures, such as using a fire extinguisher, locking and unlocking doors and windows, sheltering in place, and evacuating your space.

Create and implement a Training and Practice Plan. Train staff members and practice safety procedures with them and with students. This will help to reduce chaos and confusion during an emergency and will reduce anxiety for everyone, families included.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Stay in regular touch with the host organization’s safety leader, so both sides know if anything about a safety plan needs to change. When you practice safety procedures, ask to be sure everyone understands their role or knows whose lead to follow. Use the Communication With Families About Safety tool to guide set-up of contact procedures during an emergency.

Get set to become “emergency ready” with the Y4Y Safety Click & Go.