Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to Keep Your After-School Program Fresh

 This is a great time to think about fresh activity ides for the thousands of after school programs all across the country that serve K12 students.  The goal of many after-school programs is to improve the student’s enthusiasm for learning.  There are 21st Century grant programs, GEAR Up, Upward Bound, Talent Search, Boys and Girls Clubs , YMCA and the YWCA to name a few. All of these programs make a significant contribution to the growth and development of young people.  Many older students get involved in taking on leadership responsibilities within their respective organization. Successful after-school programs always have fresh ideas that come from staff and students.

One of the goals of every program should be innovation.  There must be creative ways that students are doing programming that ties into the learning that occurs at school. These are some of the best programs. For example participating in a robotics competition can help students with math, physics and computer programming.  Some students participate in science bowls that occur all around the country or speaking competitions with Toastmasters.  There is a world full of great opportunities for the after school student.  It is important to get the students involved in the activity decision making. They can often come up with unique activities.
Get all of your after school participants involved in brainstorming sessions.  A great brainstorming session can help your programs to better meet the needs of the participants.  Give each of the small groups a sheet of note paper and a marker and give them an opportunity to make a list of activities.  Put each list on a wall and give everyone stickers that they can put beside ideas that they favor.  The brainstorming session will become an exciting opportunity to change the direction of some of your activities. Here are ten things that you can do :
1.      Visit other after school programs to see what they are doing
2.      Get support from companies in your area that have games and resources
3.      Join social networks like Pinterest and pursue after school pins
4.      Involve your students in learning unique sports (golf, tennis, lacrosse)
5.      View Youtube videos for unique activities
6.      Invite in experts to show your students how to do something (i.e. chef, crafts etc.)
7.      Organize your own best student grade competition
8.      Visit a historical site in your city that your participants rarely visit
9.      Attend a national conference
1.  Form and advisory board

Always look for fresh ideas. They can be found on the internet in magazines and newspapers. Most publications have a list of weekend activities. Sometimes it is good to give your students different experiences that are away from your program's location.  It is a great way to explore your own city. You will be amazed to find out how many students have never visited your local historical sites.  
The growth of a successful after school program depends on the creativity of the staff and students. You can give out an easy survey to get feedback about your services and activities. If possible consider creating a volunteer position for a graduate student from a local college.  Students need to know that their after school program is more than something to pass the time while they wait for a parent to get home. It is an opportunity to excel and prepare for a successful future. Dr Stephen Jones is an educator and author of the seven Secrets of How to Study at