Online Professional Learning and
Technical Assistance for
21st Century Community Learning Centers



March 10, 2023

elementary students running under parachute outside in the summerDo you remember that self-improvement promise you made to yourself at the beginning of the year? Or the follow-through that may or may not have petered out by now? Perhaps you made multiple New Year’s resolutions, and maybe one mentioned overcoming procrastination. Hey, we get it — it’s only March, but it’s been a busy year already, and it’s difficult to find time to plan for the long term. However, procrastination now will only lead to more stress later. So do yourself a favor: Don’t wait until the last day of school to start planning your summer learning program! For bite-size learning that will get you summer-ready in eight weeks or less, try Y4Y’s Quality Program Quickstarters (QPQs). Topics include everything from building a program team to mapping community assets. The countdown to summer starts now!

Pick a Card, Any Card

You can choose from five QPQ’s. If deciding where to start feels like picking a card at random from a street magician, fear not! Let us break it down for you:

  • Spring is the perfect time to start thinking about who you want on your team this summer. Building a Program Team walks you through the steps for gathering key stakeholders, managing communications, and working together effectively.
  • There are plenty of resources in your community waiting to be uncovered. Locating and securing them is one of the most important things you and your program team can do to help meet the needs of students and families. Community Asset Mapping shows you how.
  • Needs shift over time as new students and families enter your program, schools enact new programs and priorities, and community circumstances change. Reassessing those needs should be part of your yearly checklist. Haven’t gotten to it yet? Check out Conducting a Needs Assessment.
  • Maybe you’ve already assessed student and family needs. Intentional Activity Design builds your understanding of how to design activities that address those needs. Purposeful design helps everyone reach their goals.
  • Once you’ve put in the work, you’ll want to spread the word about your amazing program! From tailoring your message to reach a specific audience to discovering tools that’ll help you do so, Marketing and Outreach provides practical guidance on taking your program to the masses.

Yep, There’s a Tool for That

A Y4Y motto is “We never provide a key strategy without also providing a tool to help you get it done.” That’s why each QPQ comes with a curated list of Y4Y tools to send you on your way. Here are some “fan favorites” (one from each module):

  • There are a myriad of methods and channels for communicating with and providing feedback to program staff. The Effective Workplace Communication Training to Go is a downloadable, customizable PowerPoint that shows how it’s done!
  • Asset mapping is a helpful process, but you may be wondering where to begin. Try the Community Resource Map tool. It breaks down potential resources into distinct groups.
  • To properly conduct a needs assessment for your summer program, you need input from students and families. The Y4Y Family Engagement Survey provides the right start.
  • The Intentional Activity Design Planner provides a template for an activity plan based on SMART goals. Not sure what SMART goals are? No worries: It’s covered in the module.
  • A good social media campaign can help you recruit students and community partners to your summer program. The Five W’s of a Social Media Campaign easily lays it out!

With each QPQ module, you’ll gain vital information (and tools) that will set your summer program soaring. Don’t wait — if you devote just a little time each day, a daunting task suddenly seems much more manageable. Ready, set, go!


February 7, 2023

clip art of family standing around large computer monitor with an image of a lock on the left side of the monitorDo you remember the days when students had to visit a bricks-and-mortar library in person to do research? Remember that old relic called a card catalog? Fortunately, thanks to the internet, students’ access to knowledge is no longer limited to a small number of books gathering dust on local library shelves. Today’s students were born into a world where the internet is ever present, ever evolving, interactive, and full of diverse people and ideas. These characteristics make the internet an incredible learning tool. They also make it difficult for young people to navigate it wisely and safely. You can help students avoid possible problems now and later (you know the saying: “Once it’s online, it lives forever”) by following these pointers for internet safety — and encouraging families to do the same.

Attack of the Killer…Television?

Perhaps as you enjoyed a favorite show after a long day at school when you were younger, a family member chided, “T.V. rots your brain!” While your brain wasn’t actually rotting, the sentiment wasn’t totally misguided. A slew of problems come with too much screen time:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Loss of cognitive ability
  • Impaired social skills
  • Weakened emotional control or judgment
  • Delayed learning in young children
  • Lower self-esteem

It’s important to limit screen time regardless of age, especially while a child’s brain is still developing. When families manage screen time for children and teens, it’s also important for adult family members to lead by example:

  • At dinner time, instead of turning on the T.V., swap stories about things that happened during the day and have real conversations.
  • When there’s downtime, though you may be tempted to catch up on social media, pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read or take a walk outside. Show children that a screen isn’t the only way to be entertained.

Y4Y’s Tips for Families: Managing Screen and Study Time provides ideas you can share to help families strike a healthy balance between phones and productivity.

Practicing Proper (N)Etiquette

Netiquette doesn’t mean saying “please” and “thank you,” although that’s still important! Netiquette refers to practices and behaviors that help people interact safely and effectively in online spaces. When children are in the digital world, we can’t always be there to monitor what they (or others) are up to. With trolling, bullying, and other unethical behaviors becoming commonplace on the internet, it’s crucial that students know that they’re responsible for their own behaviors and responses — and that’s a powerful thing! Along with Y4Y’s Online Safety and Netiquette Training to Go, here are some important values to teach students:

  • Protect privacy — Never share important information with strangers online, even if they feel like “friends.”
  • Protect passwords — Set strong passwords and get in the habit of changing them regularly.
  • Steer clear of online bandits — To protect yourself from online stealing and viruses, make sure you know the difference between a shady site and a reputable one.
  • Keep your cool — If you encounter online bullying, it’s easy for emotions to run high. Instead of fanning the flames, the best thing to do is to report harassment (or any other behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable) to a trusted adult.

The internet can seem like a scary forest with monsters lurking at every turn. As adults, we’re well aware of the dangers. In fact, it’s easy for us to become Web Worriers. But ignoring the online world isn’t the answer. Instead, we can arm young people with the right tools and knowledge to help them avoid dark places and find a wonderland full of possibilities. The virtual age has just begun. The sooner students know how to navigate it, the sooner they can become Web Warriors!


February 7, 2023

an image looking down of a young school age girl doing homework It’s early enough in the new year that you may be living off the momentum of that new planner you bought and the gym membership you signed up for. In years past, these promising practices may have fizzled out instead of becoming regular habits. No doubt, you had every intention to color-code your meetings and conquer that rowing machine once and for all — not only for yourself but also to set a good example for your students. After all, it’s no secret that young people watch and imitate their adult role models’ behaviors. Feeling the pressure? Relax! Here are some insights and ideas you can use yourself (and share with staff and students) to prep for success.

Designers, Let’s Get to Work!

Before we “walk the runway” to a better role modeling career, let’s explore why resolutions and goals often fall by the wayside. The research is there, so it’s no big secret.

First, instead of being centered on what you want to be doing, your goals of the past may have been based on what you think you should be doing. Ever heard of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation? Intrinsic motivation involves doing something because it’s personally rewarding to you. Extrinsic motivation involves doing something because you want to earn a reward or avoid punishment. Think about the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for your current job. You might do your job because you get a paycheck (extrinsic) and because you have a passion for helping students succeed (intrinsic). Both are valid reasons to do your job! Both can motivate you to get out of bed, get dressed, and show up at work each day. But sticking to that routine will be easier and more meaningful if intrinsic motivation is in the mix.

Second, make sure your intrinsic motivation, whatever it may be, is attached to goals that are SMART enough to help you follow through and stay focused. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound. The “A” in the middle is important because when you write a goal that’s achievable (like “walk a mile before noon every day this week”) instead of impossible (“climb Mount Everest this year”), you feel hopeful and encouraged about pursuing that goal. This applies to your staff and students as well. The “T,” which stands for “time bound,” adds a sense of urgency. Maybe you’ve heard it said that “a dream is a goal with a deadline.” It’s true! Try having staff and students write their SMART goals on sticky notes and stick them in visible places, either in the program environment or in a personal space of their choice. These reminders can help them pursue their dreams. Check out Y4Y’s tool on writing SMART goals for concrete guidance.

Down the Catwalk We Go

Managing your time is a crucial part of forming productive lifelong habits. Research shows that people who practice good time management techniques are more productive, have more energy for things they need to accomplish, and feel less stressed. Time management looks different for each person because everyone is unique, so it may take some “shopping around” to find what works for you! Try out these tips in your everyday life, and provide support to help your staff and students to do the same:

  • Know how you spend your time. Keep a time log and identify your most time-consuming tasks. Where is most of your time devoted? Are you investing your time in the most important activities?
  • Set priorities! Not all the tasks on your to-do list are equally urgent or important, but without order, it can feel like they are. Ranking your tasks in order of urgency and importance helps you say “no” to extraneous activities and give a starting point to your day.
  • Use a planning tool to help you keep to your schedule. Technology is a wonderful thing! Whether you prefer visual or audio reminders, there are plenty of programs to help you stay on task and on schedule.
  • Y4Y can help. From our Effective Homework Time Training to Go, which can keep homework time engaging and effective, to our tool on Creating a Home Learning Nook for a more productive learning experience, we’re behind you 100% in your efforts to model good habits and instill them in your students.


February 7, 2023

clipboard with paper saying Emergency Preparedness ChecklistCan you imagine boarding a plane where the flight attendants don’t give their safety spiel? Or attending a concert in a huge stadium with no EXIT signs? Pretty unlikely, right? Emergencies do happen, and it’s best to be prepared. Luckily, over time, humans have developed protocols in case of emergencies so we can enjoy our everyday lives safely. The same should apply to your out-of-school time program. If it’s been a while since you looked at your program’s emergency preparedness plan, this is your friendly reminder to revisit it! Y4Y’s Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan Click & Go illuminates the path to clear roles and expectations when responding to various emergencies. As Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

Welcome Aboard “Flight Y4Y,” With Service to “Preparedness”

The Click & Go mentioned above can help you reflect on how well your current emergency preparedness plan prepares your staff and students for safety threats, whether they’re human-caused emergencies or natural disasters. Have you been effectively wandering around in the dark, trying to figure out where to begin? The U.S. government’s five mission areas for national preparedness “break it down” and make it simple:

  • Prevention — Preventing a threat or incident from occurring in the first place
  • Protection — Active actions to safeguard students, staff, families, and more from threats
    Tip: Use Y4Y’s Communication With Families About Safety to support your efforts.
  • Mitigation — Increasing your program’s ability to lessen the impact of an emergency
    Tip: A great way to mitigate threats is by practicing what you’d do in the event of one. This may include tweaking your host organization’s lockdown drill to better fit your program. Use Y4Y’s Lockdown Drill Modification Example as a guide.
  • Response — Stabilizing the situation once an emergency has already transpired, or will surely transpire, like establishing an evacuation plan
    Tip: Take inspiration from Y4Y’s Evacuation Steps tool.
  • Recovery — Restoring the learning environment through human and physical support

Please Review the Safety Card in the Seat Pocket

As you consider how well your current emergency preparedness plan addresses each of the five mission areas, consider these key questions:

  • Are you duplicating resources from your host organization?
  • Should the host organization’s plan be adjusted to fit your program’s needs?
  • Do you need help connecting with your host organization’s safety lead?
    Tip: Y4Y has a tool for that! Use the Safety Plan Meeting Request Letter/Email to get in touch with your organization’s safety lead.

Ready for Takeoff?

Remember, the pilot can’t have a successful journey without a flight crew, so it’s crucial to get your staff involved in the training and implementation process! From establishing a calendar that lets staff know what safety drills you’re doing (and when) to planning for training, drills, and practice, there are plenty of ways to include your staff in this ongoing process. It’s not only crucial, but it’s sustainable, too! The chance for emergencies will never be zero since you won’t have clear skies all the time. But if you follow the guidance in Y4Y’s Developing and Implementing a Safety Plan Click & Go, you’ll be set for safe travels no matter what lies ahead!


January 4, 2023

At first glance, it may be difficult to understand how creativity and the arts have a place in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Some students, especially those drawn to creative activities, may think STEM simply isn’t for them. That’s too bad, because creativity in STEM is the only way innovations come to fruition! Experiences that help students connect the dots are essential to growing new innovators.

Robotic Science — Without the Fun

Think back to the science classes you had in school. Did they mostly consist of robotically memorizing vocabulary words and formulas and watching passively as the teacher did weekly experiments at the front of the room? Or did you do exciting group science projects throughout the community on topics that interested you? What was great? What was missing? How did those classes make you feel about science — and about yourself? Be sure to pull from your own experiences, from boring to good to great, to help you design engaging STEM activities for your students. Remember: A basic need for children is to express themselves and be creative — so use that to your advantage!

Metaphorically Speaking…

According to Dr. Ainissa Ramirez, author of Save Our Science, creativity is less of a skill and more of a metaphor. This means that, just as metaphors create a link between two seemingly unrelated ideas, creativity in STEM consists of finding unlikely connections between two different concepts. For example, light waves aren’t actually waves, but they behave as such. Newton discovered how celestial bodies, the planets, and gravity were all interconnected, all because of a fallen apple. Dr. Ramirez explains that we “need to create scholars that can link the unlinkable. These scholars must be willing to try many combinations before finding the right answer.” Fostering creativity (connection-making) in STEM can give your students the superpower to think creatively in the career field of their choice! For example, a unique advertising campaign, an engaging website, and an aesthetically pleasing building all require a creative spark in addition to specialized skills and knowledge.

Somewhere Over the (Creativity) Rainbow

Now that you know how beneficial creative thinking through STEM can be, let’s explore the Y4Y courses that will get the gears turning for your staff and students:

  • Citizen Science gives students the opportunity to collaborate with professional scientists on real-world problems by gathering and analyzing data through hands-on research.
  • Math Without Fear allows students and staff to build math knowledge, skills, and understanding in ways that can be applied to real-world situations like baking and driving.
  • With Y4Y’s STEAM course, staff can dive into the interdisciplinary evolution of STEAM (STEM plus the arts) and its many benefits.

Here are some ways to encourage creativity:

  • Create a stimulating physical environment, one that’s inclusive and allows for a variety of arrangements to encourage collaboration, problem-solving, creativity, and communication.
  • Host a “task party.” This idea is based on a term coined by conceptual artist Oliver Herring. Let children think outside the box by having each student (a) write down a creative task, like “Write a poem about snails” or “Fold paper into a new shape”; (b) place their written task in a bucket; and (c) draw a different written task out of the bucket. Students can practice making connections and thinking creatively by completing the selected tasks in a given amount of time.
  • Combine maker activities and STEM lessons. This can help students create and invent while learning STEM fundamentals. If you want the rundown on creating a makerspace, Y4Y has a Click & Go to help you out!

Plant the seeds of creativity and watch the STEMs (and your students) grow!


The documents posted on this server contain links or pointers to information created and maintained by other public and private organizations. These links and pointers are provided for the user’s convenience. The U.S. Department of Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of this outside information. Further, the inclusion of links or pointers to particular items is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse any views expressed, or products or services offered, on these outside sites, or the organizations sponsoring the sites.