By: Andrea Miotto, new 4-H VISTA intern
Hey, 4-H’ers! I hope you’re staying warm out there. This is your friendly neighborhood VISTA volunteer, Andrea, with a question for you: how do you spend your time between school and dinner? As I’m working to expand 4-H’s afterschool programs, I’ve come across some surprising news: Participating in fun and interesting programs between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m. can make you a better student in school!
The Afterschool Alliance, a nation-wide organization working to expand afterschool opportunities to all kids, says that “afterschool and summer learning programs are locally-designed school and community solutions that help kids learn and grow, keep children and teenagers safe, and support families to balance work with home.”
Kids who participate show increased achievement in reading and math grades; higher scores on standardized tests; fewer days absent from school; lower risk of dropping out of school; greater classroom participation; and higher motivation toward learning.
Besides 4-H, young people find these afterschool opportunities in schools, community centers, churches and temples, daycare businesses, and organizations including Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Y. In fact, 4-H often teams up with groups like these to offer the 4-H projects you might already know about from 4-H clubs—things like robotics, healthy living, crafts, livestock, and STEM—to more kids. Other 4-H afterschool programs are independent and stand on their own.
Some 4-H afterschool programs are short-term courses, lasting a few weeks, while others might meet for months or a year. Just as in 4-H chartered clubs, afterschool programs rely on dedicated adult and teen volunteers to bring to life fun new learning experiences.
Here’s something to think about: how could you be spending your time between the time you get home from and when you eat supper? Could you be learning an exciting skill? Getting new information about something you care about? Or even helping someone in your school or community?
Like my last post, I’ll leave you with a few ideas about serving others from the publication “366 Community Service Ideas for 4-H and Youth” by the Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County:
- Bring toys, books, craft supplies, or games to sick or injured children at a local hospital. You could even work with classmates, teachers, school counselors or your principal to collect toys. Tip: Make sure you contact the hospital you have in mind ahead of time to see what supplies are most needed and what rules they might have about visitors.
- Why not craft a hand-made thank-you card for someone who works hard, helps out a lot, and might be under-appreciated at your school, gym, afterschool program, community center, parent’s workplace, doctor’s office or church? This could be a person who stays “in the background” doing jobs like scheduling appointments, cleaning, gardening, or fixing things. Folks like these don’t always get the recognition they deserve!