November 23, 2022

The Red Apple of Yesteryear
In the days of yore, children skipped hand-in-hand to the one-room schoolhouse, sometimes towing logs if it was their turn to start the fire that morning. Younger and older students sat together while the only teacher in the building led the lesson, complete with a red apple on her desk. While the American education system has gone through quite the metamorphosis since then, the heart of it still beats strong, and that’s definitely something to celebrate! American Education Week is the week before Thanksgiving — this year, it takes place Nov. 14‑18. This is the perfect time of year to recognize the progress that’s been made in public schools throughout the country and the people who’ve made it possible. Y4Y tools for supporting English learners, including students with disabilities, and aligning with the school day can help you continue the great American tradition of expanding access to quality education for all!

Queuing “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang

Thankfully, there are many ways to get your students celebrating American Education Week, whether you do it now or later in the year. Each day is themed:

  • Kickoff Day on Monday allows students to study the history of the holiday. Take this opportunity to have a conversation with students about why they’re thankful for their education. A poem or short essay would be a great way to exercise their creative writing skills!
  • Tuesday’s Family Day theme is the perfect time to welcome families into your out-of-school time environment. What are some of their education memories? What subject(s) interested them, and did that influence their current careers? Your students can host a discussion circle with a Q&A session.
  • Education Support Professionals (ESP) Day on Wednesday is all about honoring the professionals who make the school day — and quality out-of-school time — possible. Bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, clerical workers, health providers, librarians, and technical experts are integral to a child’s overall education, and ESP Day allows their valuable work to be recognized by the students they serve. Encourage your students to write a thank-you letter to an ESP who’s impacted their lives.
  • Thursday’s Educator for a Day is geared toward immersing students and business and community leaders in the decisions and responsibilities that educators face each day. Community members may act as “educator assistants” or join a video call to educate students by giving a presentation about their career or teaching a skill they use on the job. Another idea: Ask students to “dress the part” for their desired career and act as an educator about what the career entails.
  • The week closes on Friday with Substitute Educators Day, which shines a light on the significant role that substitute teachers play throughout the school year. In the wake of a substitute teacher shortage, it’s more crucial than ever to recognize that the school day would be impossible without their work. A handwritten note and/or drawing from your students addressed to substitutes would go a long way in appreciating their hard work!

This Is Where We Come In!

The purpose for celebrating American Education Week is to spotlight teaching and learning. Your out-of-school time program can bring students into the celebration and nurture an “attitude of gratitude.” Expressions of gratitude benefit both givers and receivers. Warm some hearts this season!


November 23, 2022

There are countless ways (no pun intended) to help students experience math as something interesting and useful instead of boring and irrelevant. And it doesn’t always require elaborate planning. You can use what you already know to create Mathbuster Moments “on the fly” to bust through students’ dislike or fear of math. How? By watching for ways to bring fun math experiences into whatever’s happening in your program right now. Here are some ideas:

  • Student Interest Survey: Students are interested in music. Let them pick a favorite song, have them search for the score (musical notation) online, and teach the relationship between the song’s rhythm and quarter notes, half notes, and so on.
  • Student Choice: If you present a “problem of the day” or a math project, provide options and let students choose.
  • Movement: Have student teams use various units of measure (e.g., feet, yards, meters, steps, pencils) to describe the length of a wall or fence line. Challenge them to invent a new measure and explain its pros and cons.

Here’s an example that involves number lines, a concept that students learn and apply to different situations in math classes (and everyday life), beginning as early as third grade.

Crash course on number lines: A “real number” is any number that can be plotted on a number line. It can be a whole number or a fraction, and either positive or negative (or zero). Every real number can be associated with its own point on the number line. Here’s what a number line looks like:


What you already know: You use number lines every day, but you might not call them that. Examples are rulers, tape measures, some bathroom scales, thermometers, barometers, and measuring cups. Many measuring tools use the “number line” concept, especially if they don’t have a digital display. Number lines don’t have to be horizontal. For example, the number line on a measuring cup is vertical — and the measurement marks show only the positive numbers, not the negative numbers. The bottom of the cup is the “zero” on this number line.

What you can do: Explain the concept of “number lines” the next time you use a measuring device during an activity, like:

  • A measuring cup when you’re cooking
  • A ruler during an art project
  • A thermometer to see if it’s warm enough to sprout seeds in your classroom window
    Note: The negative numbers are visible on a thermometer (to indicate “below zero”), but not on a measuring cup.

Make it relevant: If a student says, “Our family’s going on a road trip,” blow their minds with this travel trivia:

  • Watch for the green mile markers the next time you travel an interstate. They show the number of miles from where the interstate route enters the state you’re traveling in.
  • The counting always starts at the state line in the south (for north-south routes like I‑95) and in the west (for east-west routes like I-90). So if you cross a state line, the point where you enter a new state is like the zero on a number line. The mile marker numbers get larger as you travel east or north.
  • Each interstate exit is numbered according to the nearest mile marker.
  • The interstates that run east and west are even numbers, and most end in zero, from I‑10 in the south to I-90 in the north. The interstates that run north to south are odd numbers, and most end in 5, from I-5 in the west to I-95 in the east.

You can probably think of other math skills and concepts you know about and can share with students, like comparison shopping, estimating how far you’ll go if you take 10 big steps, measuring the dimensions of a room, and recognizing patterns in art and nature. Download the Y4Y Mathbusters Handbook for more ideas. Then challenge yourself to create a Mathbuster Moment this week. You might just surprise yourself!


November 23, 2022

Math is often considered the most universal language on the planet. Nearly as universal (or so it may seem) is the fear of math. Trust us — Y4Y gets it! That’s why we’re proud to introduce our newest course, Math Without Fear, designed to put educators and students alike at ease if they experience math anxiety. After all, math is essential to so many professions — and dreams!

Math Anxiety: The Silent Villain

Think back to the last time you did a math assignment or took a math test. Did you take one look at the first problem and notice your heart started beating faster? Perhaps your palms became sweaty, your stomach suddenly felt uneasy, or your mind went blank. If these symptoms sound familiar to you, it’s likely that you’ve experienced math anxiety. Math anxiety in children and adults is a very real and serious issue, and it can inhibit success in a multitude of areas. With this in mind, we’re overjoyed to dedicate an entire Y4Y course to overcoming math anxiety, along with tools to bust math myths and fears — for yourself, your peers, and students!

The Mathbuster MUSTs 

There are many tools you can use to take charge and put math anxiety in its place, from deep breathing to debunking myths like “mistakes mean you’re not good at math” and “boys are better at this than girls” and “being anxious about math means I don’t have math ability.” MUST is an acronym for the four main tools mathbusters use to fight math anxiety and nurture a can-do attitude:

  • M is for the messages students get about math and their ability to learn it.
  • U is for understanding math concepts and how thoughts and emotions affect learning.
  • S is for skills that help you learn and use math — and manage anxiety, if it’s an issue.
  • T is for thrills because students need positive experiences to help them discover the magic and satisfaction of math in a way that’s meaningful to them.

It Starts With Awareness

Believe it or not, awareness of math anxiety within yourself and your students is one of the most valuable strategies “mathbusters” can have in their tool kit! You can use the Y4Y Math Anxiety Self-Assessment/Autobiography tool to gauge your own level of math anxiety before inviting students to do the same. Research indicates math anxiety is contagious, so if you have it yourself, you can pass it along to your students without even knowing it. If you do have it, don’t despair! The Y4Y Math Without Fear tools will help you take a deep breath and discover that doing math is not only possible — it can even be enjoyable!

Plant the Seed — and Watch It Grow!

One of the most empowering aspects of overcoming math anxiety is fostering growth within your students. There are ways to boost students’ confidence through enrichment activities, homework help, and tutoring. Helping students realize the many ways they already use math in their everyday lives can make it seem less intimidating. Fun experiences in your relaxed program environment can develop students’ conceptual understanding (“know-why”) to complement the math procedures (“know-how”) they learn in school. It isn’t surprising that a good deal of math anxiety stems from a fear of the unknown, so learning ways to demystify math will put you and your students on a rosier “math path.”

Let Us Help You Open Those Doors

Math is integral to understanding so many real-world concepts. For too long, metaphorical doors have been deadbolted due to math anxiety. The good news? With the strategies in Y4Y’s Math Without Fear course and supplemental tools, you and your staff have the power to pick that lock, throw those doors wide open, and lead students to a world of opportunities.


November 17, 2022

Inviting key stakeholders to your 21st CCLC program team helps you include diverse people and perspectives as you make important decisions about how to serve children and families. There’s another benefit as well: Having a strong team of advisors reduces stress at work by providing access to fresh ideas, expertise, and resources so you can reach your goals. Not sure how to build a strong team? Y4Y’s new Quality Program Quickstarter (QPQ) module, Building a Program Team, covers the basics, like identifying and recruiting the right team members, managing communications, and working together effectively. When people with a purpose unite to make a difference, energy goes up, stress levels go down, and the future looks brighter than ever!

Superheroes, Assemble!

This brand-new QPQ explains that having the right program team can help ensure that your program’s values are realized. It’s important to decide what focus or initiatives will be at the forefront of your program and what school-day staff (and other partners) can help. For example, if your program wants to improve family engagement, it makes sense to include one or two family members as well as community members who understand families’ needs and interests. The best way to master something is to practice it, so this QPQ has plenty of opportunities to practice various scenarios, double-check your knowledge, and test your understanding. There are ideas in this QPQ for various initiatives and stakeholders who can support each one, so take your pick!

The Perfect Match

Once you identify your program team, the next step is to assign roles to make your team as effective as possible. Think about it: You carefully selected a team of experts and advisors to make your program plans happen. The last thing you want to do is leave ’em hanging. They know their stuff, so take advantage of this by assigning roles that honor their experience and expertise and engage them in the decision-making process. (By the way, this is a good approach to use with your program staff as well!)

The Buy-In

It can be difficult to attract stakeholders, especially school-day leaders, who already have multiple commitments. However, there are ways to communicate to school-day leaders that you value their time and expertise, and that you believe their participation is integral to the success of your program — and students. The Building a Program Team QPQ will give you the skills to efficiently communicate your needs to your potential partners.

Once you have your team, keeping them effectively engaged will require some planning. You’ll get an in-depth look at how to prepare and host meetings, maintain ongoing interaction, and develop task timelines to minimize chaos and maximize productivity. Additionally, there are a variety of ways to communicate with your team, such as one-on-one meetings, emails, phone calls, and group meetings. The best communications plan is the one that fits your team.

Reaping the Rewards

With the right team, you can take your program to new heights. If you assemble a team of superheroes and tap into their specialized powers, you and your students will reap the rewards: more energy and ideas, culturally sensitive practices, an enriched learning environment, and less stress. Bonus: Your students will surely take notice, too!


November 17, 2022

“October” and “scary” go hand-in-hand, whether you’re talking about Halloween or horror movies. One thing that doesn’t have to be scary, though? Encouraging your students to create a mental health tool kit! This tool kit can equip your students with ways to manage stress and anxiety while also reminding them of daily habits that are essential to mental as well as physical health and well-being.

It’s the Journey, Not the Destination

Mental health among children and young adults is a growing concern for parents, and it has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five adolescents ages 12-17 have experienced a major depressive episode, and seven in 10 parents agree that the pandemic has taken a toll on their child’s mental health. It’s important to teach your students that attaining and maintaining good mental health is an ongoing process. It’s seldom a smooth road; it’s more akin to a journey with a few stop signs, roadblocks, and detours. The good news is that with the right map, the road is drivable, and the journey is achievable! What would this “map” look like in real life? Let’s explore.

Getting Introspective

Start with these guiding questions to help students focus on their thoughts and feelings:

  • Think of a time when you felt stressed or anxious.
  • How did your body respond to this feeling? Maybe your heart rate increased, your mouth or throat became dry, or your hands felt clammy.
  • Have you noticed certain events that cause you to feel this way? Perhaps it’s presenting to the class, meeting strangers, or taking an exam.

Once your students can pinpoint their feelings, symptoms, and potential triggers, it’s easier for them to handpick tools that can deescalate the situation. There are a multitude of ways to de-stress, and it can look different for everyone! Have your students try the following strategies:

  • Breathe in, breathe out: Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Take a deep breath in for four counts. Then exhale slowly through the nose for four counts. Pay attention only to the rise and fall of your belly and chest.
  • Music therapy: If you’re able to, listen to a song that makes you feel calm or happy. Many music streaming services have playlists specifically designed to curb anxiety.
  • Muscle relaxation: Stress and anxiety often cause pain and tension in certain muscles, so tensing and releasing those muscles can provide relief. Try squeezing the muscles in your face, shoulders, hands, legs, and toes for 10 seconds at a time and then releasing, making sure to breathe through it. The goal is to pay extra attention to how loose your muscles feel after the exercise.

Can your students think of other exercises or strategies to alleviate stress? Ask for ideas, and try them out as a group! Students can decide individually which ones belong in their personal tool kits.

Supplementation Minimizes Frustration

Along with healthy exercises that can decrease feelings of stress and anxiety, arm your students with strategies they can use in their everyday lives to keep stress at bay. Engage students in an open conversation about things they already do to lessen stress, and also discuss activities and behaviors that might not be helpful. Here are some topics you may cover:

  • Physical activity is a proven stress reliever. Need some ideas for incorporating it into your program? Y4Y’s Health and Wellness Click & Go can get the ball rolling — literally and figuratively!
  • Do your students’ parents or guardians limit screentime (maybe to the student’s dismay)? Research shows that this can actually fight off anxiety symptoms over time, making it a perfect tool for students to include in their mental health tool kits. Express to your students that, while they may not love time away from their devices, it’s important to let their minds focus on other stimulating activities.
  • Something as simple as combing your hair and brushing your teeth can be supplements in a mental health tool kit. Keeping up with your personal hygiene is a little reminder that you deserve attention and care!

I’ve Got the Power!

Let your students know that having a mental health tool kit packed with handpicked strategies that work for them is a powerful thing. It gives them the confidence and  know-how to regulate their own feelings and emotions. Model key strategies for your students. The next time you or your staff are feeling overwhelmed, doing something as simple as a breathing exercise can show your students that destressing doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s something that we can all benefit from, so why not start young?