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 (Beckett et al., 2009).
Different types of afterschool activities include:
Academics and Enrichment
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. The U.S. Department of Education’s You for Youth site provides strategies for connecting afterschool activities to the school day.
Community Service Projects
Community service projects provide an enriching experience for youth that connect them to their community and instill feelings of empowerment. Furthermore, these activities can provide valuable work experience, particularly for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds (Spring, Dietz, & Grimm, 2007). 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 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 (Afterschool Investments Project, 2006). Such activities can help youth make better nutritional decisions and promote physical activity while increasing self-confidence and emotional well-being.
Beckett, M., Borman, G., Capizzano, J., Parsley, D., Ross, S., Schirm, A., & Taylor, J. (2009). Structuring out-of-school time to improve academic achievement. Institute for Education Sciences. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/PracticeGuide/10 (PDF, 98 pages)
Spring, K., Dietz, N., & Grimm, R. (2007). Youth helping America. Leveling the path to participation: Volunteering and civic engagement among youth from disadvantaged circumstances. Corporation for National and Community Service. Retrieved from http://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0406_disad_youth.pdf (PDF, 32 pages)
The Afterschool Investments Project. (2006). Promoting physical activity and healthy nutrition in afterschool settings: Strategies for program leaders and policymakers. Retrieved from https://www.researchconnections.org/childcare/resources/13558/pdf