What do afterschool programs do for our youth?

They support academic achievement.
Research reveals that quality afterschool programs improve school attendance, engagement in learning, test scores, and grades. Studies have shown that non-academic activities such as sports, recreation, music, and dance can have a positive impact on academic achievement as well.

boy-baseballThey build motivation, confidence and pride.
The interactive, fun, coaching atmosphere of afterschool programs lends itself to building motivation and confidence in students. Afterschool leaders share stories about how students may start out disengaged, but after time they are transformed and proud of what they have accomplished in their afterschool classes.

They create positive peer and adult relationships.
Afterschool offers social and developmental outcomes. Programs focus on developing trust and building relationships, which is a major hurdle for many students. Positive peer and adult relationships carry into the school day and home life. Yet many students struggle with sound relationships.

They heighten personal health, fitness and safety.
Students are not always safe afterschool. Personal health and safety are compromised when there is a lack of effective adult supervision. Afterschool adopts a whole-person approach to developing students. Personal health habits are taught and reinforced, physical activity is encouraged, risky behaviors are addressed, and safety measures are promoted to students.

guitar lessonsThey develop important life skills.
There are plenty of inventive opportunities in afterschool to develop critical life skills. These skills include teamwork, attitude, cooperation, courtesy, collaboration, patience, problem solving, respect, persuasion, decision making, self-control, positive thinking, communication, conflict management, listening, and organization. CVAF is committed to training afterschool leaders how to teach life skills to their students in a variety of ways.

They foster career, vocation and college readiness.
Countless examples arise from students throughout the Central Valley who indicate that their afterschool programs have inspired them to explore a career, vocation or college track they had not otherwise considered. Programs in robotics, music, dance, arts, technology, community service, film making, fashion & beauty, math, cooking, flight academy, computer graphics and animation excite students in new ways.

They help students make school and community connections.
Any time we help students connect what they learn at school to how they can apply it in the community, we take one step further in equipping them to become good citizens, better workers and future community leaders. Service learning and community outreach is an element of many afterschool programs. Kids do want to make a difference.

They inspire discovery.
Afterschool can inspire discovery in different ways from the regular school day. Students can discover new skills and interests, new people, new dreams, and new ways of looking at life. Hopefully, they will discover a passion for lifelong learning in the process!

The Learning in Afterschool Project is promoting five core learning principles that should define afterschool programs. These learning principles are strongly supported by recent brain research, afterschool research, and the growing science of learning. They are also well aligned with the 21st century learning skills and workforce skills that young people will need to succeed in the years ahead, as well as efforts to increase young people’s interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Each of the learning principles cited below supports each other and provides an important framework for afterschool programming. Further, there are a number of exemplar afterschool programs that strongly draw upon and demonstrate the Learning in Afterschool principles. These learning principles include:

  • Learning that is Active: Learning and memory recall of new knowledge is strengthened through different exposures – seeing, hearing, touching, and doing (1). Afterschool learning should be the result of activities that involve young people in “doing” – activities that allow them to be physically active, stimulate their innate curiosity, and are hands-on and project-based. Hands-on learning involves the child in a total learning experience, which enhances the child’s ability to think critically. (2)
  • Learning that is Collaborative: Knowledge should be socially centered, as collaborative learning provides the best means to explore new information (3). Afterschool programs are well positioned to build skills that allow young people to learn as a team. This includes listening to others, supporting group learning goals, resolving differences and conflicts, and making room for each member to contribute his or her individual talents. Collaborative learning happens when learners engage in a common task where each individual depends on and is accountable to each other.
  • Learning that is Meaningful: Young people are intrinsically motivated when they find their learning meaningful. This means having ownership over the learning topic and the means to assess their own progress. Motivation is increased when the learning is relevant to their own interests, experiences, and the real world in which they live. Community and cultural relevance is especially important to new immigrant youth and those from minority cultures. Rather than learning that is focused on academic subjects, young people in afterschool can be helped by applying their academic skills to their areas of interest and real-world problems. Also, when learning involves responsibility, leadership, and service to others, it is experienced as more meaningful.
  • Learning that Supports Mastery: Young people tell us they are most engaged when they are given opportunities to learn new skills (4). If young people are to learn the importance and joy of mastery, they need the opportunity to learn and practice a full sequence of skills that will allow them to become “really good at something.” Afterschool activities should not promote the gathering of random knowledge and skills. Rather, afterschool learning activities should be explicitly sequenced and designed to promote the layering of skills that allows participants to create a product or demonstrate mastery in a way they couldn’t before. Programs often achieve this by designing activities that lead to a culminating event or product that can be viewed and celebrated by peers and family members. For older youth, many programs are depending on apprenticeship models to assist youth in achieving a sense of mastery.
  • Learning that Expands Horizons: Young people benefit by learning opportunities that take them beyond their current experience and expand their horizons. Learning about new things and new places promotes a greater sense of potential of what they can achieve and brings a sense of excitement and discovery to the learning environment. Meeting new people can expand social networks in ways that create new opportunities. Afterschool programs have the flexibility to go beyond the walls of their facilities. They can use the surrounding community as a classroom and bring in individuals and businesses that young people may not otherwise come into contact with.