Importance of After School Activities in Low Income Schools

Importance of After School Activities in Low Income Schools


  • Estimates suggest that more than 7 million children in the United States are without adult supervision for some period of time after school.

 

  • After school programs are more than settings for academic development, but rather allows for enrichment and free play in all aspects of life. Free play is an important part of our social, physical, and cognitive development. Without free play there is a loss of fundamental motor skills, creativity, innovation, socialization, and imagination.

 

  • After school programs have defined themselves in terms of protection, care, opportunity for enrichment, and play while simultaneously defining themselves in terms of socialization, acculturation, training, and problem remediation (Halpern, 1995).

 

Why the Growing Interest? (According to Halpern, 1995)

1. The belief that public spaces such as streets and playgrounds are no longer safe for children's out-of-school time.

2. A sense that it is stressful and unproductive for children to be left on their own after school.

3. A concern that many children need more time and individual attention than schools can provide to master basic academic skills.

4. A conviction that low-income children deserve the same opportunity as their more advantaged peers to explore expressive arts, sports, and other developmentally enriching activities.

 

Endless Opportunities

Depending on the specific program, students have many different opportunities to become involved.

 

  • Play
  • Sports
  • Rest
  • Socialize
  • Physical fitness
  • Educational activities
  • Homework
  • Enrichment activities
  • Religion studies

 

Increases Academic Development and Effort

After school programs give children the opportunity to work on their homework and study material in a safe and comfortable environment. Children who attend after school programs spend more time working on academics and extracurricular activities than those who attend an informal care setting. Research has shown that students (3rd grade) who spend more time in after school programs also had better relations with peers, better grades, and emotional adjustment in school (Posner & Vandell, 1994).

 

Physically Active and Healthy Lifestyle

Many after school programs offer the ability for students to engage in physical activity and a healthier lifestyle. Physical activity has many benefits especially for school aged kids. Some of these benefits include: higher self esteem, improves mood, boosts energy, promotes better sleep, combats health conditions, and controls weight. While physical exercise is important, programs also offer healthy snacks and an education for a healthy lifestyle. An education on proper nutrition and healthy habits is a lifelong lesson that children can begin carrying out.

 

Fewer Emotional and Behavioral Problems 

Often times a relationship is developed between peers and adult roles within after school programs. These relationships help to nurture emotional and behavioral skills, while also focusing on good character traits. Research states that students participating in after school programs show a reduction in risky behavior, aggression, and shyness (Brown, Corrigan,Higgins-D'Alessandro, 2012) / (Eccles & Templeton, 2016).

 

Increase Social Skills

After school programs allow students to develop their interpersonal skills with both peers and adults. Here they get the chance to interact with students from different environments as well as ages. In a study done by Durlak & Weissberg, 2007, those who participate in afterschool programs that promote personal and social skills benefit across all three outcomes of feelings, attitudes, and behavioral adjustment. Lastly, many of these programs immerse children into an environment where they can feel comfortable and experience new things while working with others.

 

Options for After-school Programming 

Many organizations and communities provide opportunities for students and families to engage in after school activities. They provide a range of different services and experiences for these students. Many of these organization work specifically within low income districts and within the inner city and low-income communities. These organizations can be divided into three groups: Government programs, non-government organizations, and religious organizations. These categories have been created based on how they are funded and what resources they provide their communities. Below are several examples of these types of organizations. Similar programs can be found locally or could be created to support the specific needs of a community.

 

Government Programs: Paid for through tax dollars, these programs provide enrichment for students who may be left out or forgotten. These programs are typically locally or privately run, but use Title 1 grants to operate, lowering the costs for those participating. Funding for these programs have been cut over the years, but private organizations and donations have come together to help continue some of these programs. For example:

  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers: This is a government program that works to provide resources and funding to different local organizations. They are funded through the Federal Department of Education and provides funding specifically for enrichment purposes, especially in high poverty or low-income school districts. For more information: https://www2.ed.gov/programs/21stcclc/index.html
  • National Endowment for the Humanities: This government endowment gives funding to different and and humanity programs. While not directly designed to support after school activities, some of their funds do trickle down into local music and art programs. For more information: https://www.neh.gov

 

Non-Government Organizations (NGO): These programs are privately funded and paid for by groups not associated with any government organizations. Their private funding gives them a little more freedom to operate outside of government regulated spending, but usually carries a cost for those who wish to participate with them, though they do not actively work for a profit themselves. Many NGOs operate within foreign countries to promote education for those who may lack the opportunities abroad. For example:

  • Touching Lives: Touching Lives is an NGO providing academic enrichment to children in Grades four and up. Available in the United States, these organizations provide academic assistance to struggling students in a wide variety of subjects. They also work to promote hard work and values to push students to reach for the highest of aspirations. For more information: http://touchonelife.org/projects/education/after-school-program/
  • Smart Camp: Smart Camp is a service provided by Sai’s Angels Foundation, an organization operating out of India. This organization believes in a flipped classroom that promotes student activities instead of teacher lectures. Smart Camp works to provide academic enrichment within a 21st Century classroom while teaching life skills and a value-based education. For more information: https://www.saisangel.org/smartcamp---after-school-enrichment

 

Religious Organizations: Different religious groups offer after school programing for members of their congregations or for the communities they are located in. These programs are funded by the church or religious group and typically involve religious teachings within their day-to-day activities. For example:

  • End Times Sabbath Worship Center: A religion-based enrichment program operating out of Orlando, Florida. This organization provides daily learning activities such as fun experiments based in the physical and mental needs of the child. They also have bible readings and teachings included within their daily programs. For additional information: http://www.etswc.org/religious-organization-after-school-program

 

Additional Resources:  

  • Afterschool Alliance: An overarching organization that works to promote the importance of after school programing. They work to be an effective voice in not only the promotion of after school programing, but the need for quality programming within these organizations. For more information: http://www.afterschoolalliance.org
  • Youth.gov: A government website that provides information for strengthening effective youth programs, including after school programs. They provide additional resources and access to funding grants for local organizations. For more information: http://youth.gov
  • National Afterschool Association (NAA): NAA works as a professional organization that provides research-based best practices for out-of-school time. They work closely with educational researchers to find the best way to utilize after school programs. They host a yearly national convention to promote after school programming and have 30 state affiliates that help promote local organizations with each state. For additional Information: http://naaweb.org/about-us
  • Ohio Afterschool Network: Working specifically for the state of OHIO, OAN works to address issues in a wide range of social and economic areas, such as food insecurity, truancy, academic success, college and career readiness, youth crime and violence and health and wellness. Many states have very similar networking organizations. For more information: http://www.ohioafterschoolnetwork.org/
  • Youth Service America: This national organization does studies and provides students the opportunity to engage with service outside of the classroom. While not directly an after school organization, they operate several programs in which students can participate outside of the classroom which give students the same benefits as many other after school programs. For more information: http://ysa.org
  • National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS): This organization works to promote safe athletic opportunities for all students. NAYS works with local sports organizations to provide a safe, helpful environment for students participating in out-of-school sports. Many of these sports programs operate like after school programs. Students benefit in similar ways to the other academic programs with these sports programs. For more information: https://www.nays.org/about/about-nays/faqs/

There are many other local organizations that provide similar resources and opportunities for students to engage in after-school programs. These programs are either under the umbrella of the larger organizations listed above or they share similar goals as these listed organization. For more help finding responsible organizations to be a part of, contact local school members or other members within your community for more details concerning local opportunities.