Approaches to Learning

As a collaborative network, UC Links pursues various approaches to after-school learning. These approaches explore effective uses of digital and hands-on resources, both in and out of school. Each UC Links site offers activities that reflect both university and community interests, especially those related to local culture, language, and educational concerns.

UC Links connects underserved pre-K-12 youth with undergraduate mentors in ways that actively engage their minds, promote academic preparation, and spark enthusiasm for higher learning. Through cross-site collaboration, university and community people share ideas.

Examples of UC Links Program Approaches

UC Links after-school programs provide academic preparation and enrichment for underserved youth throughout California, while preparing university students for future careers and professional training. Below are examples of various kinds of activities that take place at UC Links program sites.

The Certificate in After-School Education (CASE)

The Certificate in After-School Education (CASE) was established to ensure that future leaders of after school programs are knowledgeable about high-quality practices. CASE programs provide K-12 youth with a variety of academic, enrichment, and recreational activities at the five sites. Through CASE, UC Links supports undergraduate participation in after school programs at several school and community organizations. CASE combines classroom instruction and supervised fieldwork across a sequence of courses offered through UCI’s School of Education. CASE students gain basic knowledge of child development; core knowledge in theory, research, and evaluation of after-school programs; and practical skills in working with local youth and developing after-school programming. The majority of CASE students report that their favorite experiences involve the required fieldwork and their involvement in children's development. Site program directors reported key benefits to having CASE undergraduates in their programs, including: improved instruction, lower student-to-staff ratio, better program organization, improved behavior of children, and the presence of positive role models.

Change 4 Good

The Change 4 Good Program, organized and directed by Professor Regina Langhout (Psychology, UC Santa Cruz) is an afterschool program in Santa Cruz County. The program has integrated technology literacy skills with writing, reading, visual art, and problem-solving in children and youth's community action research projects. Undergraduate mentors help the children and youth identify local issues, collect their own data, analyze the results, develop findings and recommendations, and present them to community representatives and decision makers. In one activity, children and their mentors photographed local mural art and discussed what the murals depicted. They also took pictures of their own hopes and dreams for their school, to help decide what to depict in their own school mural. They collaborated on writing narratives about their photographs, corrected grammar and spelling, sorted their pictures and narratives into themes, and created poster and power-point presentations about the art and life of their community. They also turned a visit to the UC Santa Cruz campus into a related learning activity. There, discussions of a mural depicting immigrants to the United States helped the children connect their stories about their own community to a broader understanding of their place in the larger world around them. The students then created a mural on a school wall that illustrates the link between their home and school communities. As a result of mentoring the younger students, many undergraduates develop new instructional skills and pursue professions related to teaching and youth development.

La Clase Mágica

La Clase Mágica (LCM), organized and directed by Professor Olga Vásquez at UC San Diego, is one of the oldest group of programs in the UC Links network. In 2012-13, program leaders initiated a new curriculum plan that focused on storytelling. Each quarter the undergraduates and children had to develop projects which spoke to ideas of “Who am I,” “My Community,’” and “My World.” The children were encouraged to share their stories through multimedia literacy projects such as bookmaking, PowerPoint presentations, photos and videos, game creation, and cooking. Undergraduate fieldnotes reflect the children’s excitement and creative motivation, as they came up with new ways to share stories. A group of older children at one site decided to interview “their future selves.” They recorded their voices on radio equipment, developed scripts and interview questions, and imagined their future selves and potential. The curriculum projects were called “Mi Arte, Mi Voz” because the children were discovering their personal voices as they shared their lives with the undergraduates. As a culmination of their work this year, LCM hosted the first annual Mi Arte Mi Voz fieldtrip event at UCSD, where the children’s art projects were displayed on campus. Over 150 children from LCM and their neighbors participated. The program provided life skills learning, empowered participants to share and create in an educational environment, engaged them in multiple literacies and technology skills, and gave them the opportunity to envision their future learning in productive ways.

Science, Technology, Engineering, Executive functioning, Arts (including language arts), Athletics, and Math (STEEAAM)

In the East Bay Collaborative for Underserved Children, Professor Glynda Hull and her UC Berkeley team have organized multimedia after school programs at several local private schools. Activities offered in the afterschool space engage students in hands-on, collaborative and active learning through programs such as Reader’s Theater, Brick Lab, Vex Robotics, and Space2Cre8. 

Professor Hull and her research team have designed and researched student learning on the online and private social network site called Space2Cre8. Space2Cre8 members make digital stories about their own histories, experiences and personal reflections, which they share with youth across the network in local and international settings. Through this program, students build a more comprehensive understanding of story construction and filmmaking, develop literacies for communicating with their global peers, and they make stories with the latest technology, such as Virtual Reality. 

Whittier College Fifth Dimension

The Whittier College Fifth Dimension Program, originated by Professor Donald Bremme, and directed by Katherine Lazo, is housed in the Whittier Boys and Girls Club. It is one of the most enduring programs based on the original Fifth Dimension model. The program is a multi-activity, after-school environment in which kids and Whittier College undergraduates play and learn together with computers and telecommunications that are organized to promote children's overall cognitive and social development. Like other 5th Dimension- inspired programs, it is based on principles of cultural-historical activity theory. Play and learning unfold through educational computer games, telecommunications tasks, and Internet investigations that require reading, writing, mathematics, and logical problem solving. All are represented in a fanciful activity system organized in a maze and overseen by “the Wizard.” Children who participate in the Fifth Dimension work closely (often one-on-one) with the Whittier College students, who are known as Wizards’ Assistants (W.A.s). The Whittier Fifth Dimension also serves as a site for teacher education, research, service learning, mentoring, and leadership development.

Y-PLAN (Youth- Plan, Learn, Act Now!)

Y-PLAN (Youth-Plan, Learn, Act Now!) was created by Dr. Deborah McKoy, Executive Director-Center for Cities and Schools at UC Berkeley. Y-PLAN offers a civic-led work-based learning experience and professional development curriculum designed by UC Berkeley's Center for Cities and Schools. Following a flexible, yet defined 5-step process of critical inquiry, students use the community as a text for learning -- building young people's knowledge and skills for college, career, and citizenship while creating healthy, sustainable, inclusive, resilient, and joyful communities.  As one example, Y-PLAN students studied transportation barriers and opportunities to Richmond's South Shoreline. Together with city planners, students created, distributed and analyzed over 600 community surveys and presented recommendations to the City on ways to improve accessibility to the South Shore. This project showed the Y-PLAN "double bottom line" -- positive outcomes for both young people and cities. As a student explained, "My experience during the Y-PLAN was amazing because I got the chance to show what I was actually capable of and to see how classrooms work together as a team to get hard jobs done. It was amazing to see how many people showed up at the presentation that were actually interested in what we had to say."  For the City of Richmond, Y-PLAN is a long-term investment in the city's future. A representative of the City Manager’s Office, recalling the meeting where students made their presentation to city officials, stated “I was really impressed with them, and the recommendations they made were really on point; nearly everything they wanted is in the latest design…. We want students to be invested in this community so they see the longevity, and come back after college to make this a better place.” Y-PLAN has been in more than a dozen cities and several countries. Check out the Y-PLAN Website (link is external) to see examples of past projects, view videos of Y-PLAN in action, and access digital tools to plan and implement city planning projects in your own community.