Everyone wants to find their tribe, children included. A strong after school program can offer the opportunity to meet people outside the confines of the formal classroom. Also, it can be a safe space to practice skills, whether they are social, educational, or emotional, which is critical to the development of a successful adult.
After school activities fill in the gap between the end of the school day, typically around 3 pm, and the end of the workday for parents, some two or three hours later. Parents and schools should set expectations for these programs and measure their value with actionable metrics to bring to the school board or another governing body to justify the expense.
Many programs run by the school district make use of the same school building the children attend classes. There is no need to bus children to a different facility, and some of the same teachers they have for class may be available as resources for homework.
Academics have become the measuring stick families use when determining where to buy a home and where to look for a job. In fact, The National Association of Realtors found that 53% of parents who are buying a home consider neighborhoods based on the quality of the school districts. Schools with weak academic records find themselves receiving students from families who do not care or engage with their children about school or who cannot seek education elsewhere.
After school programming provides support for the children who might otherwise struggle with schoolwork or go home to an empty house to attempt to do their homework on their own. The US is a nation in need of educated workers. Those children who receive no support will be hard-pressed to find gainful employment.
Present material in new and fun ways
How do you think a child learns the fastest - through working problems or through using calculations to reach a goal? If you are honest with yourself, you feel the same way. Sometimes it’s difficult to learn a concept out of context.
A math student may comprehend the use of an equation to get from the question to the result, but there is no motivation beyond answering the question correctly. What if that same student can use an equation to calculate the height a ball will bounce in the gym or predict the behavior of a stack of blocks?
The visual learner, in particular, will find the ability to apply tools learned in class to a project that results in a tangible asset.
Sometimes, children benefit from hearing the same information from more than one person. One science teacher presents material that part of the class understands but a few are still puzzled. Bring in a different teacher with a new approach, and you may see the lights come on in those who were struggling.
Supervision and safety
Remember the concern over so-called “latchkey children?” An after school program resolves the issue of children going home to stay alone until an adult gets home from work.
Children of the same age often have differing levels of maturity. One may be perfectly capable of going home, doing homework, and beginning the evening meal. Another may not be able to resist the call of the video game hooked up to the television or cannot be responsible for operating the stove or other appliances.
Neighborhood safety varies as well. In places where gangs are prominent, or there is no place for children to play or work in safety, an after school program provides safe haven along with schoolwork assistance. Children who have no other tribe to engage will find one that may not model the type of behavior parents would prefer. The after school program brings together students of varying ages and educational attainment, where they can forge bonds over their schoolwork instead of wandering the streets or sitting at home with no stimulation beyond the television.
Implementing or improving an after school program
If your community has no after school program, the implementation must be proceeded by learning how the neighborhood currently functions and the interest such programs would hold. You can learn from other programs around the nation and determine whether these needs are fulfilled somewhere else.
In other words, is there a market for an after school program?
If you already have an after school program, you cannot allow it to remain static. Monitor participation in each activity to see if it is sustainable. If only three students participate in a drawing activity, you may have larger attendance at a broader-based class such as art, where different projects expose the variety of media available to create art.
There is always something that could use tweaking, and you also want to monitor how new activities are working, where bottlenecks occur between school and after school, as well as the type of tutoring is needed.
If they know about it, they will come. Students, and parents, need to know what is on offer and when in your after school program. Childcare management software makes it possible to create a calendar of activities with as much detail as you desire, have students or parents sign up for specific activities, and pay any fees online.
You can use the same application to monitor attendance to ensure the activity is worth the expense.
The software can also help with logistics. Which rooms are available and what type of activity would fit in them? Do you need a section of the gym to offer a class requiring a lot of physical room but others use it for basketball every afternoon? Use a calendar application to block off time in the gym for something other than basketball. Offer a yoga class or put together races to provide some variation and introduce students to new activities.
An after school program can be a successful adjunct to the school day. It provides somewhere for students to hang out until it is time for an adult to be home and help with classwork, counseling, and social behavior. Students who take advantage of after school programs are nearly a quarter less likely to have a disciplinary incident and experience a decrease in risky behavior. They are 60% more likely to attend school and decrease their absence rates.
Use childcare management software to track and trend metrics showing improvement in grades, attendance, and behavior. When it is time to apply for funding, you will have no trouble showing the people with the purse strings how your after school program made a difference for the better.