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  1. Youth Topics
  2. Afterschool Programs
  3. Afterschool Activities

Afterschool Activities

Afterschool activities can vary widely depending on factors including age, background, and the community of participating youth. Research on afterschool programming finds that the most effective activities adapt to individual and small group needs. Furthermore, programming should be as engaging as possible, incorporating hands-on activities and connecting with students’ interests and experiences.1

Different types of afterschool activities include:

Academics

These types of activities are intended to build on and enhance student learning outside of class time. They can take the form of more traditional instruction, complete with assessments, or more interactive activities intended to actively engage youth. These activities should be well aligned with what students are learning during the school day. These could be summer learning programs, reading or math afterschool enrichment. The U.S. Department of Education’s You for Youth site provides strategies for connecting afterschool activities to the school day.

Specialized Skill Development

These programs have activities that are built on promoting specific skills related to a specialty topic such as sports, arts, science and technology, youth development, and more. Typical program activities provided include soccer, drama, videography, poetry, coding, homework help, and arts and crafts activities. These activities are provided by content experts and lead to specific outcomes in terms of young people gaining specialized skills.

Community Service Projects

Community service projects provide an enriching experience for youth as they connect them to their community and instill feelings of empowerment. Furthermore, these activities can provide valuable work experience, particularly for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.2 The Corporation for National and Community Service provides resources to help plan community service projects for afterschool programs, including the Resource Center for Volunteer and Service Programs and the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse.

Field Trips

Field Trips are an exciting way to enrich a child's life outside of the normal classroom environment. They can include trips to museums, parks, zoos, aquariums, or any other local attraction that youth might find engaging and interesting. If there are no suitable locations in your area, many federal sites, such as the Smithsonian and the National Zoo, offer virtual tours and other online resources that could be enriching for your program.

Physical Activity and Nutrition

Afterschool programs are in a unique position to improve youth health outcomes, as they often serve populations most at risk for adverse health outcomes and occur at a time of day when many youth are traditionally inactive.3 Such activities can help youth make better nutritional decisions and promote physical activity while increasing self-confidence and emotional well-being.

Resources

STEM in Your Program: Curriculum and Activities
This webpage from Afterschool Alliance provides information and resources on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum and activities for afterschool programs, including resources from 4-H, NASA, and many more.

References

1 Beckett et al., 2009
2 Spring, Dietz, & Grimm, 2007
3 Afterschool Investments Project, 2006

Other Resources on this Topic

Youth Voices

Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).