Developing and Hosting Educational Afterschool Programs
By Vanessa Spero, Florida 4-H
Afterschool programming can be a rewarding and excellent way to increase the outreach of your program in your community.
When planning a new afterschool program, it is important to look closely at the needs of the families in your community and then establish
goals for your program based on those needs.
Afterschool programs can help nurture students with positive lifelong skills as well as provide youth with more opportunities.
Start your research on what the strengths and needs of your organization and community are. These will help dictate the direction of your offered programming.
Once the needs are addressed, offering a menu of options will give your program a sense of diversity. Thinking ahead about events and lesson plans will help prepare afterschool programs in meeting the overall goal.
Send out surveys asking families what kind of activities they are looking for in an afterschool program. For example, afterschool tutoring, hands-on art projects, healthy living, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), or leadership are a few ideas to think about.
Keep your surveys short and direct. Short answer or yes/no questions will be the better option in hopes of more participation.
Who will supervise your programs? Will it be your faculty and staff? Volunteers? Perhaps both. The deciding factor should be who would best educate and nurture youth in a caring way serving as a positive role model.
Selecting curricula with youth and staff in mind
You will want to select curriculum that your youth and staff will enjoy and have the capacity and manpower to implement. Engaging youth in ways that will potentially get them involved in their communities as well serve as an “eyeopener” to their future. Ideas include community service projects and service learning projects.
Promoting your program
Promoting your program doesn’t have to be difficult. Simple efforts such as promoting on your school’s website and social media can help get the word out. Fliers sent home with students, automated text messages and emails are great promotional tools.
Inclusion and recognition
If youth development is your main goal, then providing a sense of belonging, mastery, independence and generosity should be your main focuses. 4-H addresses these essential elements through Positive Youth Development.
Remain flexible in finding ways for youth to participate. Incorporate journaling and report techniques to allow youth to see their self-improvements in the selected subject or project.
Certificates and award banquets at your site will allow youth to feel a sense of inclusion and accomplishment.
Overall, there are many facets to developing a quality afterschool program. These are just some brief topics, ideas and considerations.
Information adapted from “School-Based 4-H Programming Series: Setting Schools Up for Success,” written by Vanessa Spero, Florida4-H. Florida 4-H is the youth development program of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension. With a focus on leadership, community service, STEM and healthy living, 4-H uses a learn-by-doing approach to help nearly 200,000 Florida youth ages 5-18 gain the knowledge and skills they need to be responsible, productive citizens. To learn more, visit florida4h.org.