Connecting Academic Achievement and Youth Development

All Day and All Year

Creative afterschool programs can strengthen academic achievement. Photo: Asia Society

Afterschool programs do not have to be an afterthought. As the education field considers how to best restructure the learning day and year for the benefit of youth, all kinds of education programs can benefit from a global approach.

Research indicates that sustained participation in afterschool and summer programs can both improve academic outcomes and social and emotional development. To be effective, programs must provide high-quality and intentional programming that offers both academic support and engaging enrichment opportunities that help young people apply knowledge to real-world settings. The afterschool field’s use of experiential, hands-on activities makes learning holistic, authentic, and meaningful. A global approach provides the opportunity to achieve the basics while engaging young people in projects they like to do, whether around science, the arts, or civic participation.

School and afterschool leaders can start by considering the strengths of their programs and how to approach them in a global context. Whether your mission after school is academic enrichment, career development, literacy, informal science, social and emotional skills, creativity, sports and health, or some combination of these, decide how the wider world relates to the entire educational experience of the participants in your program. Assess your current mission and goals to see where you can broaden your approach to connect to the 21st century skills and global literacy you want young people to achieve. Explore how the global literacy goals of your afterschool or summer program might link to the school day. There are several possible approaches to consider.

A seamless connection between school and afterschool can heighten global learning. School and afterschool educators can share consistent goals, expectations, and practices. Curriculum maps and regular planning sessions can help educators align content to maximize impact for the benefit of youth. For example, if students are studying a particular period of world history during the school day, afterschool educators can create experiential learning opportunities that explicitly connect contemporary issues to historical background.

Complementary but separate roles between school and afterschool programs can support the acquisition of skills. Some afterschool programs may have an international focus where the school itself does not. Nevertheless, afterschool programs can still use global activities to reinforce skills covered during the school day. For example, if children are preparing for a language arts test, the program can concentrate on reading and writing using books with an international focus.

A focus on enrichment objectives distinct from the school day can use the arts, languages, media and technology, sports, and play to create opportunities to develop 21st century abilities, which can include everything from effective cross-cultural communication to collaborative teamwork, from creativity and innovation to critical thinking skills.

Summer programs can offer immersive experiences and extended investigations of places, people, and global issues that connect to learning throughout the year. Summer is also an ideal time for in-depth exposure to world languages, community action projects, and travel.

Young people need a range of educational experiences that help them expand their horizons – beyond themselves to their communities, and from their communities to the world. A focus on global literacy both during and after school can help advance academic achievement, social and emotional development, and civic engagement, providing young people with the critical skills they need to succeed.