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October 24, 2018

Looking back on his childhood, nature writer Paul Gruchow lamented not knowing that his town’s leading banker wrote an important book about Minnesota’s native prairie. “I can only imagine now what it might have meant to me — a studious boy with a love of nature — to know that a great scholar of natural history had made a full and satisfying life in my town,” he wrote.

Too bad no one at Gruchow’s school (or afterschool program) invited the banker to share his passion for botany with local students. But chances are, they weren’t even aware of it!

Until you go looking, you may not realize how much knowledge and talent is around you. Maybe the district Title I coordinator is also a Master Gardener. The high school Spanish teacher could be a yoga instructor. Maybe your local insurance agent goes rock climbing on weekends, your son’s coach bakes special event cakes and the school secretary paints landscapes. Thrills and skills with student appeal may be just down the hall and around the corner. Here are tips on finding and recruiting local experts to enrich your program.

Three Places to Look

  • Institutions and organizations: Government agencies and universities often have outreach offices or participate in community service events. For example, agricultural extension offices offer programs and experts to interest young people in citizen science and develop skills they can use throughout their lives.
  • Social networks: What interests and hobbies do your friends mention in their profiles or posts? What local groups or clubs have an online presence? If your students are interested in astronomy, you or an online friend probably knows someone who knows someone who does star parties.
  • Everyday life: Every person you know or meet — at school, work, church, the gym, local businesses, community events, family reunions — is a potential contributor. Keep your eyes and ears open.

Two Ways to Recruit

  • Personal contact: If you learn the local banker is a botanist, why not make your pitch: “Hi! This is Ms. Talent Scout, and I work in our local 21st CCLC afterschool program. I just heard that you wrote a book about local plants. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to share your knowledge with our students. Could we talk sometime soon?”
  • Call for volunteers: Maybe you’re looking for expertise in a specific area, like photography or financial planning. Or maybe you could issue a general invitation for students’ family members and others in the school or community to share their knowledge, skills and interests. Either way, put out the word in newsletters, bulletin boards, social networks and word of mouth.

Be Prepared If a Local Expert Says Yes

  • Offer a variety of formats and time frames, ranging from a single event to a series of activities to one-on-one mentoring. Both you and the person you recruit might want to “start small” before committing to long-term involvement.
  • Be prepared to support local experts, once they get involved. Watch for ideas in an upcoming Y4Y blog post! 

Ready to get started?

Y4Y’s student interest inventories (one for elementary students and another for secondary students) can help you identify topics. But remember: Bringing in an outside expert is also a good way to introduce new ideas and spark students’ curiosity. As Paul Gruchow wrote, “Curiosity, imagination, inventiveness expand with use, like muscles, and atrophy with neglect.”

 



October 24, 2018

Some days, planning and running a 21st CCLC program can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t have to do everything alone! Community partners can add resources and expertise to your tool box and provide diverse experiences for students, ranging from drug and alcohol prevention to dance lessons. It’s important to build partnerships thoughtfully, however, so they benefit everyone involved.

Map your community assets.

Start by listing your program needs and your current resources. Then expand your list by brainstorming additional community resources available through institutions, organizations, businesses and individuals. This process is called asset mapping. Be sure to involve others! Ask colleagues, parents, friends and youth for ideas. A staff member’s spouse might work at a local bank that provides financial literacy activities for all ages. A parent who works in the science department of your local university might know about resources for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) activities. Expand your search to the online community if you can’t find local assets related to a program need.

Identify and recruit potential partners.

Potential partners might include schools and universities, libraries, museums, businesses, nonprofit organizations, professional societies, government agencies, media outlets, clubs or special interest groups, family members and other individuals. Brainstorm all possibilities before prioritizing the list and recruiting partners who are willing and able to work with your program to address a specific topic or need.

Communicate and collaborate with partners.

Once you connect with a potential partner, you’ll want to create a compelling shared vision. How will students benefit? How will the partners benefit? How will the larger community benefit? At a kickoff meeting, discuss your shared vision for why the partnership matters, and define roles and responsibilities. After that, schedule weekly or monthly check-in meetings. Include partners in program events such as end-of-year celebrations, and publicly acknowledge their contributions.

Use free Y4Y resources to help you build and strengthen partnerships.

The Y4Y Strengthening Partnerships course will help you learn how to identify partners, develop an effective memorandum of understanding, establish a shared vision, and communicate roles and responsibilities. The Y4Y Mapping Community Assets tool from the Summer Learning Initiative webpage can help you think about what your community has to offer. 

 



October 24, 2018

With a new program year under way, and your activities up and running, it’s a good time to check on staff professional learning needs. If you’ve hired new staff or made big changes in activities or partnerships, ask, “What’s one thing you’d like to learn that would help you feel more comfortable or confident in your role?”

Staff needs and responses are likely to vary from one person to another. Encourage everyone to register on Y4Y and explore what’s there. Also, be ready to point to specific Y4Y resources that can help address their needs.

Meeting staff members’ individual short- and medium-range needs. If someone says, “I wish I could do more to support students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs),” you could point to Topic Guide 8 in the Y4Y series of implementation guides on inclusion. If several people say “I’d like to facilitate project-based learning more effectively,” you might suggest that they do the Y4Y Project-Based Learning course together. For staff who are new to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, the Y4Y Introduction to 21st CCLC course could be helpful.

Aligning your program’s professional learning plan with staff needs. Consider staff responses to the “What do you need?” question as you review your upcoming professional learning events. For example, if you’ve scheduled an in-house literacy seminar for March, but staff identify it as a pressing need in September, you might want to hold the seminar earlier than planned.

Working toward long-term staff and program goals. You can inspire and motivate staff members to think about their individual long-term professional goals. Y4Y provides professionalization resources that can help 21st CCLC staff members develop a plan to help them reach those goals. Having a more skilled and qualified staff will, in turn, help your program reach its goals.

Enrolling in an online course or pursuing a formal certification program might take some staff members out of their comfort zone. Program leaders can offer coaching, support and reassurance that professional learning is the key to greater satisfaction and success.

 



September 17, 2018

According to the Pew Research Center’s “Teens, Social Media & Technology Report 2018,” 97 percent of teens and 69 percent of adults use some form of social media. How can your program effectively harness the power of social media?

Getting Started

Before you start planning, do this:

  1. Check to see what social media policies and procedures your organization or district requires you to follow. There may be guidelines on which platforms are allowed or what process to use for getting platforms or content approved.
  2. Be clear about your purpose for using social media and how it will help you reach your goals.

Social Media Platforms

Let’s look at the most popular social media platforms and their possible uses.

Facebook is used by 68 percent of adults and 51 percent of teens ages 13 to 17. Teens from low-income families are more likely to use Facebook than those from higher-income families. It can help you connect with stakeholders and share photos, videos and messages, and engage in online discussions. You can create a public page or a private group, depending on your purpose and needs. Facebook Live videos have increased in popularity, and may be useful for broadcasting events or activities live (recordings can be posted to the program page). Take time to read the various account and privacy settings, such as the option to approve comments before they post to your page.

YouTube is used by 85 percent of teens. Posting and discussing videos can be a great way to market your program and to highlight activities and events all year. When uploading videos, consider YouTube’s three privacy options. Public means anyone can view the video, and it will appear in general search results. Private means only those you invite (up to 50 people) can view the video, and all viewers must have a YouTube account. Unlisted means only those with the video link can view it, and there are no account requirements or viewer limits. Think about what privacy level is right for your program.

Snapchat has grown exponentially, with 69 percent of teens using the app. A picture or video snap or message sent to a friend or group will disappear once viewed, while stories, pictures or videos available to all your friends will disappear after 24 hours. Some 21st CCLC programs have used the app for marketing or communicating with teens. It’s important to monitor the account closely.

Instagram allows users to post pictures or videos with captions, and viewers can comment. There is also the option to broadcast live. You can set an account to be private (must approve friends) or public. Currently, 72 percent of teens and 35 percent of adults use Instagram, which makes it a viable option for marketing and communication. Individuals must have an Instagram account to view material on this visually focused platform.

Twitter remains consistently popular with adults and teens. Tweets can consist of photos, videos or text, but text is limited to 280 characters. Hashtags (words preceded by a # sign) can be used to categorize tweets.

Many platforms work well together, so you can cross-post items to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or share links to YouTube videos. Several free online services will automatically cross-post for you.

Safety Measures

Don’t forget these three important safety measures:

  1. Post from the program or organization account — never from your personal account.
  2. Make sure you have a signed, current media release on file for anyone mentioned by name or pictured in a photo or video.
  3. Monitor your posts as well as user posts and comments to make sure your messaging is consistent and user posts and responses are appropriate.

“See” you online!

 



September 17, 2018

Whether you’re an old hand or just had your first experience with summer programming, you know the best time to start planning for next summer is now. Here are some ideas from 21st CCLC sites that participated in the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative and used a planning process designed to produce high-quality programming.

Market your program to build interest before summer begins.

In Kansas, a summer program for elementary school students once struggled to enroll students in what was described as a “summer school” focused on academics. Using strategies from the Summer Learning Initiative, staff decided to call the program a “summer camp” instead of summer school and created a fun “summer safari” theme. They emphasized engaging, hands-on learning experiences that build students’ academic skills. The program sent personalized invitations to the students who would benefit most from participation, and followed up with phone calls. For the summer 2018 program, they were at capacity with a waiting list, and parents were calling to ask if their child could get into the program. The program director attributed this success to the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative’s marketing and intentional student recruitment strategies.

Offer activities that keep students engaged throughout the summer.

Incorporating student voice is essential to creating a summer program that students want to attend. A high school program in California provided a variety of opportunities for student input. For example, the site coordinator turned his office into a resource center and encouraged students to stop by to talk. The program also used student surveys. Staff members set up an outdoor canopy during lunch to conduct informal focus groups with students. The site coordinator said these efforts to incorporate student voice improved program quality.

Some programs used educational field trips that were connected to their learning goals and program themes. For example, a program in New Jersey with a theater theme took students to local performing arts centers for learning events, then had them write about their experiences in a journal. Structured experiences like this provide real-world learning opportunities that motivate student attendance and engagement.

"They don't have to be here — they want to be here." 

State Coordinator, California

Your work’s not over when summer ends.

Once your program ends, taking the time to learn from your successes and struggles can help you make improvements the next time around. Summer Learning Initiative participants created continuous improvement plans that included performance measures and measurement tools. They assigned staff, targeted groups for assessment, and set time frames to help them determine if they met their goals. Comparing actual outcomes to intended outcomes will help you understand the effectiveness of your program. Analyzing data and discussing lessons learned can help you make adjustments that will lead to greater satisfaction and success for staff and students.

For example, a program for high school students in Oregon struggled with student attendance — until staff members decided to incorporate more student voice and offered engaging science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) activities that matched student interests. A program in Kansas learned that many students were struggling during the school year, so the staff tried a new approach for the summer, using project-based learning to target specific skills and content. Students and teachers alike enjoyed the hands-on activities, and the program director reported increases in staff capacity.

"This helps them see different ways to teach. It's making them better teachers."

Project Director, Kansas

Summer Learning Initiative resources are free and available on Y4Y.

Even if you’ve never helped plan a summer learning program, you don’t have to start from scratch! Visit the Y4Y Summer Learning Initiative webpage to watch short videos of Initiative participants and download the tools they used on. You can learn more about the steps for planning and implementing high-quality summer learning experiences by exploring the resources on that page and ones in the Y4Y Summer Learning course.