As an afterschool and expanded learning professional, you have a lot going on in your day-to-day life.
As you try to juggle the million little things that come up throughout your day, you’re also trying to pay attention to best practices in the field. You’ve probably heard about the importance of being “intentional” and “planful” in your program design, but what exactly does that mean? And why is it important?
There has been a shift in the focus of our field over the past decade and many stakeholders (funders, policymakers, community partners) are increasingly looking for outcomes – academic, social and emotional, career, etc. It’s no longer good enough for programs to simply offer a safe place for young people to spend their time outside of the regular school day. Instead programs need to set goals and make sure that programming addresses and meets those goals.
The great news is that many of you are already doing these things in your programs!
The next step is making sure we’re speaking the right language in order to articulate the great things our programs do for young people. One way we can do that is to make sure we are very clear about how our activities are connected to learning standards – your state’s learning standards and/or the Common Core.
As you and your colleagues develop sessions and individual activities, make sure you are tying them to the learning standards they will need to meet during the school day. Are the youth you work with struggling in math? Be sure to incorporate those skills into your activities. For example, young people who are working on fractions during the school day can practice those skills during a cooking activity in the afterschool program. For younger youth who are working on simple addition, incorporate adding games into your activities.
To start generating ideas for incorporating school day instruction into your afterschool activities, gather together in your program for this distinct purpose. As Dr. Andi Fletcher wrote about in her blog post, A Modest Proposal, it is important to create learning communities among our staff members for these kinds of activities. I know I can be a lot more creative in planning when I am able to bounce ideas off of other people. Give your staff the time and space to do that and the young people in your program will benefit as well.
How do you incorporate learning into your afterschool and expanded learning activities?
Breakfast? Yogurt with cinnamon, agave, chia seeds, raisins, and granola. Plus coffee, of course!
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