The Power of After-School

Ashley Garrity Blog Posts 11 Comments

By: Pete Hutchison, YES Program Director

Today’s educators are being confronted with a rising amount of pressure to achieve, and this achievement is being measured through standardized testing.  The admirable goal of this testing is to, in part, identify and develop interventions to address the large learning gaps that exist among today’s students.  Unfortunately, as more and more schools find themselves in a position of having to focus on test results, it appears to me, that these gaps are actually widening.

After-school programming represents a valuable avenue to provide students with opportunities to learn in alternate styles.  After-school programs can provide students with different teaching styles and also provide educators with opportunities to use their creativity when teaching.  While during the school day teachers must fit their lessons into a prescribed amount of time and in a structured physical environment where there is little room for experimentation by either the teacher or the student, in an after-school environment teachers have the flexibility to utilize different learning environments, as well as give students a chance to experiment in a safe setting.

This flexibility also allows for two foundational teaching platforms. First, empowerment theory is the basis for the Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES) program.  The young people involved in YES are given the opportunity to lead community development projects from planning through evaluation.  It is through empowerment that the life skills imparted to each participant are taught.  Due to the tight school day schedule it is neither practical nor feasible to employ an empowerment based model.  Secondly, YES employs experiential educational opportunities for the participants.  The many activities in each unit of the curriculum have been designed to be hands-on learning opportunities, different from the prevailing methods used in classrooms during the day.  These two philosophical styles allow the creation of an environment where students have opportunities to experiment and fail, as well as succeed, with no worries of repercussions from the teacher.  It is the belief of the PRC/MI that young people must be able to feel safe enough to fail in order to enjoy true growth and mastery of the 21st Century Skills we are trying to impart.

Additionally, after-school programming can be a vehicle to bring outside adults into the school setting.  Due to the limited amount of time during the day, bringing in parents and community members often becomes counterproductive.  In contrast, the flexibility of the after-school environment not only allows, but actually encourages, this type of intergenerational relationship building.  Because of the strengths gained by the students through intergenerational relationships, we are incorporating these types of opportunities into our interventions, and evaluations are showing growth among both the young people and the adults.  It also provides an opportunity for both young people and adults to learn how to relate to one another.

It is for all of these reasons (and more!) that we are using after-school programming to operate many of its youth centered interventions.  It is also for these reasons that we see the power of after-school for teaching today’s young people.

Comments 11

  1. Implementing an after-school program to involve students in community-based projects is important because it offers students real-life experiences that can not be taught inside of the classroom. I have participated in after-school activities as a student and am grateful for the experiences to not only make a difference in my community by fundraising, and performing in extracurricular events but interact with other students as well. These types of programs create camaraderie between students and provide that extra support that may not be available at home. Students are also able to express themselves in a safe environment which can help them stay out of trouble. In my experience of being part of an after-school program, students had time to complete school work in addition to mingling with other students and becoming involved in special club projects. These types of programs really do make a difference in a community by actively engaging young citizens to participate in community events. In California, standardized testing is also an area of concern for students. Sometimes teachers teach curriculum that is to be expected on state-wide educational proficiency tests and this may dull the curriculum or create an unfair advantage to students who are better test-takers. I personally am comfortable with scantron exams, however I know that other students may dread the thought of this type of testing. Besides helping keep young teenager off of the streets, after-school programs are a creative outlet for children who like to experience things in a hands-on manner.

  2. After-school programs are a great way to provide an informal, and perhaps even an unorthodox approach to education. Just as unique as each person is, so is his or her way of learning. The classroom setting may work for many however it does not work for all. Thus programs such as after-school programs allow children to learn, away from what they perhaps may consider to be the hostile environment of the classroom. After-school programs are a great supplementary feature for education and can involve the community, and at the same time keep the youth busy and out of trouble. Overall I feel that after-school programs are generally a great success and participation should be highly encouraged.

  3. In addition to the increasing student-teacher ratios in classrooms, there is an immense pressure on teachers to have their students score high on standardized tests. I think the pressure on the teacher leads to some students falling behind as teachers struggle to get through all the material that will be on the test. After-school programming can give individual students the additional help that they need to fully understand the material the teacher covered in class. After-school teachers can use different teaching styles and methods to get the student to understand the material, unlike a teacher where there isn’t really time to tailor the lesson plan to each student. I believe that after-school programs are important for student success. These programs allow students to get more individualized teaching in an environment that is not graded and is designed to help them understand the material. After-school programs also give students access to programs that do not fit in a typical school day, preparing them for real-life situations. Supplementary programs give students access to adults outside of the classroom, giving them more role models and adults that they can turn to for advice. I think that all students should be involved in after-school programs so that they get interaction with other adults, learn things other than the standard curriculum, and build confidence in their abilities.

  4. I agree that after-school programs are very beneficial. This allows for the children to make friends and feel comfortable in an environment where there is little pressure. They can be involved in creative and different learning techniques and environments, which will let them connect with kids and find a common ground with them. This idea of hands on method allows for first hand experience. In a classroom there is a lot of pressure and assignments tend to feel forced. If a kid is introduced to new learning styles they will find ones they like and excel. After school programs also keep kids out of trouble and off the street after school. This prevents them from possibly joining a gang or getting in trouble. These programs are also a good way for parents to get involved and help children with their schoolwork.
    I agree with this article but I do not think all schools have after school programs that are so diverse because of a lack of funds.

  5. Such a great idea! After-school programs help students engage with other students to find similarities and become more social within particular groups. The interaction that students receive in such programs are not always available in schools or at home, so it’s a positive way to keep students involved in allowing themselves to be challenged. It is beneficial in the long run for students to have a common ground of having basic communication skills that are translated in fun ways through after school-programs. Not only does this affect students in positive ways, but it also prevents the youth from becoming involved in gangs or juvenile activities that may lead to criminality. Activities provide students with hands on learning and experimentation that challenges their minds and furthers education. I truly believe more parents should become involved with after-school programs and expand the possibilities of what such programs can do for the youth and their communities.

  6. After school programs are very beneficial to all type of students. It helps them find their strongest and weakest points and allows them to interact with others. It builds their confidence levels of doing something out of their comfort zone and teaches them that failing is ok but as long as you don’t quit and keep trying till you get it. After school programs also teach them how to approach certain things they may not be too sure of. It’s just a great learning experience and fun for all. Everyone likes doing hands on activities because it gives them a sense of how it could or should be done. It also teaches them to work as a team and builds their communications skills alongside other skills they may need help developing.

  7. After school programs are a huge benefit to all students. It builds a community, friendships, and a way to learn that isn’t the traditional classroom setting. Everyone is different, and even though the classroom is the most used for of teaching education to our youth, it definitely does not work for everyone. After school programs allows for a variety of different ways for students to learn and also have fun while doing it, weather its just reading in a peer group and discussing afterwards, or getting physical with a hands-on approach to education. This no only opens up many opportunities for students, but creates stronger bonds, self confidence, and self worth to all participating. After school programs are under utilized and I believe it would benefit students greatly to have this access to other ways of education and social interaction in a positive environment.

  8. I personally work with elementary aged children in an after school program. My job site aims to help children who lack the resources that are needed to gain a proper education. Most of our students need help academically and we ensure that our students get the resources that are needed to continue their education. Programs are a great idea because the whole community gets involved. We have meet families that claim that the program have opened opportunities for their children to stay out trouble in their community. Getting the parents involved with programs can also contribute to the bond that parents/guardians can create on their children. I believe that getting involved in a child’s life is extremely important because it can prevent involvement of deviant crimes in the future.

    So far my job has brought me much fulfillment because I know that I have been able to give

  9. I agree with what the author is saying, after school programs are a positive experience for kids. If these students join programs they will keep busy but at the same they will be learning skills that will help them later on in life. They will socialize more with students and that will help them come back to those programs. The more they keep busy the less time they will have to negative behavior. After school programs will help these students create a positive future for themselves.

  10. Through the analysis of available educational programs, one will see that after-school courses are very beneficial to the learning process of children. As the author imparts, the additional time and flexibility offered to instructors of these programs allows a less by-the-books approach and calls for a more interpersonal, hands-on style of teaching. Through personal experiences, I realize the value of reinforcing newly learned concepts through practical methods and face-time with instructors. After-school programs allow children to utilize an increased application of learned structures. In order to see their children excel and truly commit to education (and conventional success through strong social bonds), parents should definitely utilize this asset.

  11. After school programs are great because of the opportunity to fail. In school, testing is the way the assess everything. These test don’t completely evaluate students which give the students the impression they are failures. After school programs allow them to fail but to change that failure. Its a great way to push students to do all kinds of things. One thing that really shows the true accomplishment of after school programs is its involvements of the family. Many children lack this involvement.