Benefits of Afterschool
School is a critical component in the lives of children and youth, but it takes up less than 20% of their time. Because parents are often still at work when the school bell rings, there is a significant amount of time every week when children are potentially unsupervised. According the latest America After 3PM—Missouri report, almost a quarter million Missouri children and youth are unsupervised after school each day. Afterschool programs help fill a gap by keeping kids safe after school is out and before their parents return home from work.
Besides just security and safety, there are many benefits that children can reap from participation in afterschool programs. Afterschool programs offer opportunities for physical activity, homework help, snacks or meals, and a variety of other enriching activities, including STEM learning opportunities, arts exploration, and other hobbies. Participation in quality afterschool and summer learning programs are also associated with better grades and conduct in school, reducing participation in risky behaviors like crime, experimentation with sex and drugs, and improving youth’s social emotional skills.
The academic benefits of participating in afterschool can be huge. As Deborah Lowe Vandell points out in her brief, Afterschool and the Achievement Gap, afterschool programs cannot only help children to improve academically, but it can almost completely minimize the achievement gap by the time students reach high school graduation.
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Beyond what happens in K-12, afterschool and summer learning programs can play an instrumental role in preparing the workforce of the future. Afterschool provides a unique platform for career exploration and skill development through its flexible, project-based learning environment, working with other youth and adult members of the community in groups, large and small, practicing leadership skills, and an opportunity to apply content learned in the school day to real world situations.
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Finding childcare is one of the toughest dilemmas parents face, as well as one of the most critical household expenses. If parents are worried about where there children are and what they are doing when the school bell rings, it can be reflected through less productivity in the workplace. According to the America After 3PM—Missouri Report, 73% of Missouri parents agreed that afterschool programs help give working parents peace of mind about their children when they are at work, and 70% agreed that they help working parents keep their jobs. It is clear—Afterschool programs are an essential service for families with children that aren’t able to be there immediately when the school day ends.
Afterschool can also be an exciting way to engage parents in their children’s learning. Because programs meet outside of the school day, parents may find themselves more available to attend and participate in activities sponsored by their children’s afterschool program than the traditional offerings during their workday. This can be a critical component for engaging parents, and has the advantage of helping to bridge the gap between children’s lives outside and inside of school.
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“Children and youth who participate in well-implemented programs and activities outside of school are poised to stay enrolled longer and perform better in school than their peers who do not attend such programs.” – Council of Chief State School Officers
Because teachers only see children for 20% of their days, experiences outside of the classroom can have significant impacts on the work they are able to do in the classroom. That is why collaboration and cooperation between school day teachers and afterschool professionals is critical to children’s success.
Quality afterschool programs can actually assist school day teachers with their work by helping children with their homework and giving them extra one-on-one mentoring or tutoring for difficult subject areas, improving attendance and behavior in the classroom, increasing children’s interest and engagement in education, and helping to bridge the gap between school day teachers and parents. Participation in quality afterschool and summer learning programs are also associated with better grades and conduct in school, reducing participation in risky behaviors like crime, experimentation with sex and drugs, and improving youth’s social emotional skills, all of which translate to more engaged students in the classroom.
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The safety of children and support of working families are top concerns for community leaders, which is why quality afterschool programs can be an essential solution to both problems. Afterschool programs can help to develop youth into responsible and engaged community members, through service learning opportunities, chances to connect with adults and mentors, and participating in activities through partnerships with other community-based organizations.
Positive enrichment opportunities through afterschool and summer learning can also lead to less juvenile delinquency, better engaged students, and more productive citizens which all translate into better communities. There are also opportunities within afterschool programs to bridge the gap between schools and other community-based organizations (CBOs). In many cases, schools partner with CBOs to provide additional services for before-, afterschool and summer learning. These strong partnerships can help to ensure that community services are better coordinated to better serve the population’s unique needs.
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If parents are worrying about their children’s safety and security after school, then managers are losing productivity in their workforce. From the America After 3PM—Missouri Report, 73% of parents agreed that their child’s afterschool program gives working parents peace of mind, and 70% agreed that the program actually helps working parents to keep their jobs.
Afterschool programs also play a critical role in preparing our future workforce. Over 70% of Missouri parents surveyed in the America After 3PM—Missouri Report felt that their afterschool programs was giving their child career skills for the future. Afterschool and Workforce Development: Helping Kids Compete (2011) decribes how afterschool programs are able to do this through more flexible, project-based learning than the traditional classroom, and allowing children to explore new subject matter and career possibilities, through mentoring, internships, job-shadowing, and other forms of community involvement.
“The extra learning time, and time to develop leadership, teamwork and problem-solving skills, are essential to ensuring that today’s youth are prepared for tomorrow’s workplace.”
Afterschool programs with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) offerings are of particular importance as we move further into the 21st Century, and businesses are recruiting employees with 21st Century skills. Afterschool and summer programs give youth extended opportunities to explore STEM subjects and careers, and to apply theories learned in the classroom to skills they can use in their careers and to compete in the global economy.
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