What specifically is meant by "afterschool program"?
Quality afterschool programs are community-driven, expanded learning opportunities that support developmentally appropriate cognitive, social, physical, and emotional outcomes. In addition, these programs offer a balanced program of academic support, arts and cultural enrichment, recreation, and nutrition. Afterschool programs can run directly after school, or during evenings, weekends, summer vacations, and holidays.
It is important to define what afterschool programs are at the outset, as the recent growth in the field has been guided by three commingling philosophies, rather than one unifying vision of how children's time should be spent. These philosophies are referred to as "youth development," "school-age child care," and "extended day programs" or "expanded learning programs."
Providers of afterschool programs tend to be schools or community-based and faith-based organizations. Programs can be housed in various environments where students feel safe and are usually run by schools, community-based organizations, churches, synagogues, or mosques.
For the purposes of this workshop, we will use the term afterschool program to refer primarily to afternoon programs that begin when the regular school day ends and are housed in either a school or a community organization. It is important to keep in mind, though, that the recommendations for developing quality programming in the afterschool hours apply equally well to other out-of-school time programming.
What ages are served by afterschool programs, and what kinds of activities do they offer? This workshop focuses on those programs serving elementary, middle, and high school students. The range of activities these programs offer is quite broad, and varies from state to state, and in urban, suburban, and rural environments. In general, though, quality afterschool programs can be said to create a safe, healthy, and stimulating place for school-age
1 children and youth
2, while providing opportunities for participation in some or all of the following activities:
In addition to the above activities, quality afterschool programs also provide the children and youth they serve with:
- academic skill-building and homework help
- sports and recreation
- exploration of special interests such as art, music, theater, dance, computers and technology, crafts, games, etc.
- unstructured play
- volunteer work and community service, also known as service-learning
- homework and remedial help
- cultural activities
- college and job preparation and community internships (for middle- or high school)
- ongoing relationships with caring adults
- an environment that strengthens social skills and character
- healthy snacks and/or meals to meet students' nutritional needs
- safe and well-designed indoor and outdoor spaces