Afterschool and Community Learning Resources: School, Family, and Community Connections. For the International Middle Schooling Conference. Adelaide, South Australia by Terry Peterson, Director of the Afterschool and Community Resource Network, University of South Carolina and College of Charleston
Young adults typically need a lot of connections to caring adults and community institutions even though they show in all kinds of ways that they want less .
Many of these young people want the independence and responsibilities of adults, but are often not equipped to fully handle these changes.
Quality afterschool and summer programs have the potential to make positive connections for young adolescents These connections and extra time can be used to better equip them to handle independence and responsibility.
We must always realize that our children, whether we want to recognize it or not, are almost always smarter than we think.
Many young people in the united States and other countries do not have access to such programs and partnerships during the typical afterschool hours or summers.
By all means not all young adolescents are involved in some type of crime… There is another group that basically goes home and “ zones out .” - Deborah VanDeil, University of Wisconsin
We in America are starting to get reports of the data from these 21 st Century afterschool and summer programs for middle grade students.
Highland Park, Michigan: 40% drop in juvenile crime in their neighborhood after program implementation Chattanooga, Tennessee : Drop in absenteeism from 568 days per year to 135 days in one school and 148 to 23 days in another school
Bayfield, Wisconsin: Middle school students no longer hang out near the local liquor store, but rather they hang out at the afterschool program completing homework, doing special projects, and playing games. Plainview, Arkansas: An abstinence program implemented within the afterschool program resulted in no pregnancies within the graduating class of 2000, as compared to 6 pregnancies in 1998.
In fact the ingredients for successful afterschool programs almost jump out at you in the visit. They must be engaging . They must be enriching .
Successful afterschool programs for middle school students must also have many partnerships with many community sectors.
Engaging and enriching afterschool and summer programs combined with a lot of connections and caring adults is a winning combination .
All types of sectors can be assets in helping develop successful afterschool and summer programs for middle school students that are community linked.
What sectors have potential in developing these programs and opportunities? They are numerous…
Senior citizens and grandparents
Employers and employees
Artists, cultural groups, and museums
Colleges and college students
High school students
Senior citizens and grandparents automatically bring a certain level of respect and history to an afterschool and summer program .
Examples : A knitting circle lead by elderly women that teach both the practical skill of knitting, and how to have a roundtable discussion . Senior citizens that introduced the art of making mountain music instruments, and taught students how to play them .
Employers and employees are a great source of people connections, but also worksite experiences for adolescents .
Job shadowing in all types of for-profit and non-profit groups is a good way for young adolescents to get a sense of real adult work and possible careers In Charlotte, North Carolina the chamber of commerce has encouraged all employer members to volunteer in local afterschool programs.
This partnership, on a Friday night, sponsored a “Science Night Stay Over” in the school. Kids performed open-heart surgery…….. on pigs, and learned how to do CPR. It was so popular that they are planning 3 nights next year
Artists, cultural groups, and museums offer an array of people and experiences for middle school students in afterschool and summer programs. This age group is really “turned on” by the creative connection
“ Arts enable us to serve the diverse learning styles and rates of our students ” - middle school teacher in South Carolina
Examples: In Philadelphia, mural painting is now offered in 23 afterschool and summer sites involving 1,000 children ages 8-15 in art and community development. In Salvador Brazil, one afterschool program uses drumming and another uses fashion design as a way to reengage homeless, street children into a positive connection with society.
Another afterschool center offers a variety of creative learning opportunities for middle school students through the arts, from dance to visual and performing arts. The martial arts are mixed in, too.
College and University students can be a major source of mentors and tutors for afterschool and summer programs. More advanced students can also serve as team leaders.
The traditional way is soliciting volunteers, tapping into the college student’s sense of community service. A recent initiative in the United States is AmeriCorps , which buys a year of service from a future college student to be involved in service projects.
A third way, which is also growing, is through a new feature in our college work-study, financial aid program. An interested afterschool or in-school tutoring program can receive 10-12 hours of a college student’s time at no cost to the elementary or middle school.
An Example: One program used college students in a game of “College Jeopardy” to cleverly create awareness and readiness for college among middle school students who, in the past, had not gone to college.
High school students provide another good source of tutors and assistance in afterschool and summer programs.
Members of a high school Spanish class became tutors for middle and elementary students who recently arrived from Spanish speaking Central and South American countries
High school students who are interested in creative writing are partnered with middle school students afterschool to strengthen their writing skills
There is another source of connections that is often underutilized for making connections and that is the middle school student him or herself doing community service
Students can give back to the community through service projects. In one middle school, the students helped build and found the books to stock a library in a community center in an isolated area of town
Many middle age working people have limited education and really have to learn computer skills to survive. Middle school students serving as assistants in beginning computer classes for older adults provides a positive to serve and learn across the generations.
These types of partnerships and experiences not only show how to connect with young adolescents, but they also help develop a set of skills that are going to be more and more needed in the 21 st Century.
Learn how to work in teams and develop civic responsibility.
Prepare to go to some technical training or college beyond high school
While the regular school day should help develop these skills as well as the basics…….. Afterschool, weekend, and summer programs are particularly well suited . They have the flexibility and community and other connections that are so important to make it happen .
Hand is Time magazine’s 2001 Middle-School-of-the-Year In the United States
The school is now so popular and getting such good achievement results that people are moving into the neighborhood.
“ Hand Middle School keeps hours of a convenience store from 6am to 10pm.” Time magazine
“ It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream .” - Dr. Benjamin Mayes
Be Connectors …. Bring families, schools, and community and youth groups together to provide our young people with 21 st Century skills and transform our schools, with community partners, into 21 st Century Community Learning Centers.
“ I slept and dreamt…that life was a joy . I awoke and found…that life was duty. I acted and behold…duty was joy.” - Tagore, Indian poet