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Working Together to Support Out-of-School Time Learning
Addressing the Risks and Rewards of 3-6 pm


The bell rings, signaling the start of afterschool for a half million children in the Central Valley. For too many this time is unsupervised, marked by the risks associated with boredom and unstructured time.

The risky behaviors: bullying, drugs, gangs, alcohol, sexual activity, pornography, crime, suicide, and other self-destructive activities.

Project-based Learning Ignites the Freedom of Discovery in Students

Video Project


The afterschool hours signal freedom to most children. They are free to move around, explore and socialize with peers after seven long hours of school.

Project-based learning (PBL) in an afterschool environment gives children the freedom to do all these things while learning valuable skills and real-world knowledge.

PBL is an instructional strategy that asks learners a driving question, and then tasks them to produce an artifact, or project, best representing what they have learned. Participating in a project – designing, building, researching, helping, entertaining, or otherwise solving a problem and creating something new – is attractive to children of all ages. It encourages students to be masters of their own learning while allowing them to “move around” physically, socially and intellectually.

Boiled down, PBL is learning by doing.

“Expanded learning programs have the advantage of not being restricted by the same policy demands of the regular school day.  As such, expanded learning programs have more flexibility to implement project-based learning as part of a high-quality program design,” said Michael Funk, director for the After School Division of the California Department of Education.

Funk adds that he is excited about the opportunity for programs that practice PBL to partner with the regular school day “in this new era of Common Core Standards and facilitated learning.”

Merced Union High School District Students Explore Careers Afterschool



According to the California Department of Public Health, Merced County ranks in the 90th percentile for poverty and juvenile crime. Poverty and juvenile crime are linked to higher high school dropout rates.

Students who drop out are three times more likely to be arrested and eight times more likely to be incarcerated. But Merced Union High School District (MUHSD) has implemented a plan to beat the odds, which includes relevant afterschool strategies.

MUHSD offers six funded high school afterschool program sites that currently serve 900 students. The programs are characterized by student-friendly offerings, strong promotion, inspiring instruction, and educational relevance. One important element of the program is career and technical education (CTE), which exposes students to and prepares them for a wide range of careers.

Three examples of CTE incorporated into Merced’s afterschool classes include the Solar Energy Club, Code Blue and Lego Robotics.

“The Solar Energy Club provides students with the opportunity to explore the jobs relating to solar energy,” said Ivan Perez, an assistant coordinator at Yosemite High School. “Our students attend a continuation school and it is very difficult to get them to stay after school, but they have shown a high interest in the Solar Energy Club. Students are seeing it as an introduction to green jobs.”


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