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.

 

Where Has Summer Gone?

group shotWhere Has Summer Gone?

They say; “Time flies when you’re having fun.” Time has been flying by. Here in Baltimore County we have already made it through our 4-H Day Camp, 4-H STEM Camp, and the Baltimore County 4-H fair. Despite the HOT weather 4-H Day camp was a blast. The kids enjoyed activates where they learned about animal science, dissected owl pellets, learned about animal tracks and even learned how to cast the tracks. They got to wrap each other up in toilet paper and pretend to be mummies. But that’s not even the best part yet. The campers enjoyed a trip to the Nature Center where they learned about Native Americans. Wednesday a Magician came and put on a magic show then taught the kids how to do some magic tricks on their own. On Friday the entire camp took a field trip the Science Center in Baltimore City. At the Science Center they got to explore the world of science. They ended their trip with a 3-D movie all about the Humpback whales. The movie left everyone in awe of these magnificent creatures. Once Day Camp ended we had the weekend to rest up because the whole next week was used to get ready for STEM Camp! This was my first year at STEM camp, and I really did not know what to expect.

However, on Monday July 6th I jumped right into my first day at STEM camp. We discussed the Scientific Method then used what they learned to do some fun science experiments. On Tuesday they built the Mindstorm Lego robot in the morning then worked on programing them in the afternoon. Wednesday morning they built their rockets and that afternoon they finished programing their robots. Thursday morning was the big rocket launch. Thursday afternoon and Friday morning was introduction to GPS/GIS mapping and GPS data collection. To end such a great week the kids enjoyed a pizza party and watched the LEGO Movie as well as Big Hero 6 on Friday. I have to say I was sad to see both camps end for the summer I had such a wonderful time and I know the kids did too. However, camp had to end so fair could begin and fair is my favorite part of summer.

At the 2015 Baltimore County 4-H Fair, families and visitors were treated to the opportunity to observe animal exhibits including swine, sheep, alpaca, cat, dog, beef, dairy, goat, horse, poultry, and rabbit. As well as indoor entries including, sewing, food, crafts, art, family life, flowers, science and more. Friday was a day filled with Day care centers that came to tour our fair. Without all the wonderful tour guides who volunteered Friday, the day wouldn’t have ran as smooth as it did. Tour groups were able to enjoy a tour of the fair spend time in AgroLand, where they learned about agriculture, and even had reading time with a BCPL Librarian. The day turned out great not to hot and the rain held off. The 2015 Fair included numerous special events the public could participate in including a Picnic Super, Cake Auction, Quarter Auction, Dog Agility Demo, Livestock Sale and Pancake Breakfast. This was also the first year all the animals were in the same building. This was a great change to the fair. 4-Hers where able to get to know each other better and they worked well together when it came time to clean up the fair.

Even though camp has ended and the fair is over, work is never done. The 4-H office is still busy planning the next event.

Article by: Jennifer Coroneos