On Thursday, October 24, I hope you will join EDC and me in celebrating the 20th annual Lights on Afterschool. Every year, the Afterschool Alliance leads afterschool programs and champions across the U.S. in celebrating the vital role that afterschool programs play in keeping kids safe, inspiring them to learn, and helping working families. It’s a great time to shine an especially bright light on afterschool educators—the quiet superheroes who make a difference in the lives of children and youth every day—and think about how we can support them.
At EDC, Tony Streit, Wendy Rivenburgh, and I support afterschool educators year-round through YouthLearn, an initiative that helps educators engage young people in inquiry-based learning projects that connect to issues they care about. Nationwide, we train afterschool professionals to use this approach and guide them in using the following four strategies:
- Create positive learning environments where creative ideas, self-expression, and peer-to-peer sharing can flourish. In our materials for afterschool educators, you’ll find writing prompts to help encourage young people to engage in creative and expository writing about issues they care about. You’ll also find team-building and collaborative activities to help youth share their thoughts and explore topics of interest together.
- Lead structured brainstorming activities using Target Mapping and Webbing with youth. When you use these techniques instead of a general brainstorming session, youth must be more specific with their questions and think deeply about how they will find answers to those questions.
- Make connections to young people’s experiences outside of the program. Community Asset Mapping is a great way to draw on youths’ knowledge of their communities. Have youth draw a map and identify their community’s resources, such as people, organizations, businesses, and public spaces. Next, create a more dynamic map by going out and interviewing community members and adding photos and stories to the map.
- Reflect on learning experiences through journal writing, one-on-one interviews, and group discussions. Build in reflection throughout projects to help youth develop it as a habit of mind that will deepen and enrich all kinds of formal and informal learning.
These strategies fuel exciting afterschool learning and cultivate skills—collaboration, communication, and creative thinking—which give youth a head start to success in postsecondary education and careers. Interested in learning more? Please contact me to share your questions, as well as your own afterschool work!
Kate Goddard, associate project director at EDC, puts youth development at the center of her work, designing and supporting programs that elevate inquiry and creativity as a tool of youth empowerment.