Making Use of the After School Window for Wellness
By Tamara Fyke
According to the Afterschool Alliance, 6 in 10 parents are more concerned about their children’s emotional wellbeing than they were before the pandemic. Friendships and social connections are of utmost concern. They are looking for safe and affordable opportunities for their children to engage with their peers. However, for every one child enrolled in an afterschool program, there are three waiting. Youth.gov states that high-quality afterschool programming supports positive youth development – socially, emotionally, cognitively, and academically – reducing risky behaviors. Now is the time for schools to be innovative about the afterschool programming they can offer their students and their families. But what do you need to get started?
To begin, determine your budget. Many school districts have out-of-school time funds that can be used to pay teachers, purchase food and materials, and provide transportation. Your budget will also let you know how many educators you can hire and how many students you can enroll in the program as well as how long the program can run, such as all school year, one semester, or six weeks. If funds are not available, consider seeking donations from local businesses or partnering with local non-profits, even faith-based organizations.
Designate an afterschool coordinator. This individual needs to have a passion for afterschool time learning as well as the ability to organize and manage the program. Administrators can provide necessary support. This undertaking requires commitment from the entire leadership team.
If you are starting an afterschool program staffed by your school-day educators, survey your staff and students. Ask the staff who is willing to lead afterschool time initiatives and what hobbies or interests they have that they would like to share, such as gardening, cooking, running, writing, and more. Knowing availability and interests, create a paper or digital survey for student responses. Offer programming based on top responses. This will create buy-in from everyone involved.
Plan your schedule, considering snack time, tutoring, and special interests. Which rooms are available? Can some activities be for the whole group and others for small groups? Are those groups created by age level or interest? What are your rotations?
One of the greatest benefits to afterschool programming is increased social-emotional learning (SEL), including prosocial behavior, intrinsic motivation, better concentration and higher sense of self-worth (Youth.gov). Therefore, integrate intentional and explicit SEL instruction into your programming through opening rituals, SEL curriculum, restorative discipline, and play. Have fun!
Caring is taking the time to let others know they are important and being concerned for the well-being of others. By creating an environment where students are seen, known, valued and loved, you are creating a community of care for them and for their families which will reap benefits for many years to come.
About the author
Tamara Fyke is an educator and social entrepreneur with a passion for kids, families, and urban communities. She is the creator and author of Love In A Big World, which provides mental health, SEL, and wellness curriculum and content. During quarantine, Tamara created MusiCity Kids, an online educational show for kids ages 6-12 that addresses health, movement, character development, STEAM, and more.
This article was originally published by The Learning Counsel, a research institute and news media hub focused on providing context for the shift in education to digital curriculum.