CampDepot.com Home About Us Contact CampDepot.com Disclaimer CampDepot.com Home Parents & Campers Home Job Seekers home Educators Home Special Connections Home Register!

Setting up an After-School Program
Importance of After-School Programs
Using Camps and After-School Programs in Teaching
A Great Math Program
Educators' Links
Kids' Links

 

 


Here you will find articles on how to help students get the most out of after-school programs and camps. We welcome your contributions. Please send your articles to articles@CampDepot.com. We reserve the right to edit or reject any submission.


Working for Children and Families:
Safe and Smart After-School Programs

Today, millions of children return to an empty home after school. When the school bell rings, the anxiety for parents often just begins. They worry about whether their children are safe, whether they are susceptible to drugs and crime. In response to this pressing concern, many communities have created after-school programs to keep children and youth out of trouble and engaged in activities that help them learn. Recent polls have found overwhelming adult support to personally ensure access to after-school programs for children in their community.

However, a chronic shortage of quality after-school programs exists. According to parents, the need far exceeds the current supply. One recent study found that twice as many elementary and middle school parents wanted after-school programs than were currently available.

After-school programs provide a wide array of benefits to children, their families, schools, and the whole community. This report, jointly authored by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, focuses exclusively on the benefits children receive in terms of increased safety, reduced risk-taking, and improved learning.

First and foremost, after-school programs keep children of all ages safe and out of trouble. The after-school hours are the time when juvenile crime hits its peak, but through attentive adult supervision, quality after-school programs can protect our children. As this report shows, in communities with comprehensive programs, children are less likely to commit crimes or to be victimized.

After-school programs also can help to improve the academic performance of participating children. For many children, their reading and math scores have improved in large part because after-school programs allow them to focus attention on areas in which they are having difficulties. Many programs connect learning to more relaxed and enriching activities, thereby improving academic performance as well.


Helping Children to Succeed

Children, families, and communities benefit in measurable ways from high-quality after-school and extended learning programs. As an alternative to children spending large numbers of hours alone or with peers in inadequately supervised activities, well-planned and well-staffed programs provide safe havens where children can learn, take part in supervised recreation, and build strong, positive relationships with responsible, caring adults and peers. Communities fare better when their young people are occupied in meaningful, supervised activities after school. After-school programs have helped reduce the juvenile crime rate. Adolescents are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as tobacco use, when they have after-school programs to go to. Children watch less television (which has been associated with aggressive behavior and other negative consequences). Finally, injuries and victimization decline in communities previously plagued by crime.

After-school programs also contribute to raising children's self-confidence as well as academic performance. Both teachers and parents report that children who participate in after-school programs develop better social skills and learn to handle conflicts in more socially acceptable ways. Children indicate that they have higher aspirations for their future, including greater intentions to complete high school and attend college. Participants in programs that focus on helping children prepare for college have gone on to do so in impressive numbers.

Families able to enroll their children in good programs indicate that their children are safer and more successful in school. These families also develop a greater interest in their child's learning. In addition, children develop new interests and skills and improve their school attendance. Both children and school systems benefit from after-school programs, which lessen the need to retain children in grade due to poor academic progress and to place children in special education.
In many cases, communities have come together to improve the availability of after-school programs. Partnerships among schools, local governments, law enforcement, youth- and community-based organizations, social and health services, and businesses have resulted in a number of high-quality after-school programs. These partnerships foster a greater volunteer spirit and provide opportunities for parents to increase their parenting skills and participate in program activities.


Creating High-Quality After-School Programs

From school to school, neighborhood to neighborhood, and community to community, every after-school program is different. Successful programs respond to community needs: Their creation is the result of a community effort to evaluate the needs of its school-age children when school is not in session.

Even so, certain characteristics are indicative of exemplary programs in general. First and foremost, good after-school programs set goals and have strong leadership and effective managers who carry them forward and plan for long-term sustainability. Quality programs hire skilled and qualified staff, provide them with ongoing professional development, and keep adult-to-child ratios low and group sizes manageable.

While many programs offer homework support and tutoring, successful programs ensure that academic-linked activities are fun and engaging. Parents often want computer, art, and music classes, as well as opportunities for their children to do community service. Thus good after-school programs reflect a commitment to promote knowledge, skills, and understanding through enriching learning opportunities that complement the school day.

Good after-school programs reach out to the families of children in the program, keeping them informed of their children's activities and providing opportunities to volunteer. Building partnerships with the community only serves to strengthen the partnerships with families and the program as a whole. Communities that are involved in after-school programs provide volunteers, establish supporting networks of community-based and youth-serving organizations, offer expertise in management and youth development, and secure needed resources and funding for programs.

These partnerships share the common goal of helping children grow up safe and smart. Linking the after-school program with children's learning experiences in the classroom improves children's academic achievement. Toward this end, there are a number of strategies that can be incorporated into an after-school program. Coordinating what's learned during the regular school day with after-school activities and establishing linkages between school day teachers and after-school personnel can go a long way toward helping students learn.

From the very start, effective programs use well-planned, continuous evaluations to judge the efficacy of their efforts based on established, accepted goals for the program. Evaluations typically gather information from students, parents, teachers, school administrators, staff, and volunteers that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as measuring students' academic progress, making improvements in program services, and identifying the need for additional resources.

This article appeared as the introduction to a report published jointly by the United States Department of Education and the United States Justice Department.  For the full report, go to http://www.ed.gov/pubs/parents/SafeSmart/.