The Importance of Afterschool Programs

By Jennifer Coroneos, Baltimore County 4-H Program Assistant

We all know that afterschool programs are important. It is without a doubt that afterschool programs can boost academic performance, reduce dangerous behaviors, and provide safe, structured environments for the children who participate in such programs.  There are scholarly journal articles that confirm the benefits of afterschool programs.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret.  There is something that is even better than just your ordinary afterschool program. “What is it?” You may ask… 4-H Afterschool Programs!

I know I know… Yes, there are 4-H Afterschool Programs. 4-H isn’t just this club program for farm kids, although I know that misconception is out there. Grant it, historically, 4-H was a youth program introduced to connect public school education to country life. Building community clubs to help solve agricultural problems was the first step. But, 4-H has evolved over time and changed. (Stay tuned for a blog next month all about my perception of the change in 4-H.)

Our Afterschool 4-H Programs provide a supportive setting for youth to reach their fullest potential and are designed around the eight Essential Elements and Experiential Learning. Without getting too much into it, the elements are categorized as belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. Experimental learning puts the focus on the learner and enables them to process through several stages.  Our programs are all about doing, reflecting, and applying.  By using these designs, our afterschool programs provide an opportunity for youth to engage in hands-on activities during after school hours.

In Baltimore County, these programs are typically held at schools, Police Athletic League (PAL) Centers, recreation centers, libraries, and community centers.

One of our most well-known Afterschool STEM Programs is the Afterschool Harford Hills Elementary School STEM Club. The club meets after school from 3:20 pm to 4:30 pm on Tuesdays from March 21 – May 2, 2017. Topics include drones, electronics, plant science, physics, and so much more.

Our STEM programs goal is to introduce kids to mathematics and the sciences, in hopes of getting them excited about these subjects. The exposure to science, technology, engineering and math can lead to better efforts in school courses and less lost days due to skipping because the child may be more interested.  By giving youth the opportunity to explore diverse interests, you give them the chance to discover what they are passionate. Once children find an activity that they enjoy, succeeding in the activity could ultimately build their confidence and self-esteem. Mastering new skills can help build confidence in children. By participating in after-school activities, they can strengthen their self-esteem in a relaxed setting as their activities provide the opportunity to be successful in something that they are passionate.

 

4-H Afterschool in Dundalk

By PAL Staff and UME 4-H VISTA

On October 3rd, The Dundalk PAL Center held an afterschool program session called “The End is in Sight!” This is a team building leadership activity where youth had to work together to get to the opposite side of the room—with many restrictions on the methods of getting there. Initially, all the groups struggled with getting to the other side of the classroom. In some groups, everyone wanted to be the leader and this resulted in no progress being made. However, after learning from their mistakes and getting a couple of pointers from the PAL Staff, one group was able to complete the task successfully!

After performing the task, the group had some time for reflection. One member exclaimed, “I liked trying new things!” Another said, “I felt it was a strategy game.” The members also showed signs of understanding what tasks were necessary to successfully complete this challenge. “They [the winning group] recognized their mistakes so they started over,” one student said. Overall, this was a very interesting session. Knowing that the children learned from this activity made it all worthwhile!