Extracurricular Activities & Programs
This article presents an overview of activities and programs that are not part of a school's curriculum, or mandated instruction. Extracurricular activities are activities and programs that are not part of school's curriculum, or mandated instruction. They can be anything from computer clubs to music lessons and do not necessarily take place in school buildings. Usually a fee is charged for those who voluntarily participate and programs are commonly run by non-certified staff. With a growing need to keep all children safe during non-school hours and a greater emphasis on school achievement, extracurricular activities began to be offered in school buildings and became known as "after-school" programs. Additional funds from public and private sources are available to schools and communities to set up no-fee programs that keep children safe and engaged in healthy activities. Programming usually includes an academic component, such as help with homework, but also focuses on recreation and enrichment activities that are separate from the regular school day.
Keywords 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC); After-School Programs; Community School; Curricular Connection; Extracurricular; Latchkey Children; Out-of-School Time (OST); Voluntary
Extended Learning: Extracurricular Activities
For as long as schooling has existed in the United States, there have been extracurricular activities, originally defined as activities that were not part of school day instruction. Examples of the most common early extracurricular activities were school yearbook production, sports programs and debate clubs. These endeavors were voluntary, usually without cost to participants, and commonly took place on school grounds under adult guidance.
Boy Scout, Girl Scout and 4-H Clubs are other familiar examples of extracurricular programs that do not necessarily take place in schools and usually have little or no cost to participate. Another traditional category of extracurricular programming is provided by non-profit or for-profit organizations such as YMCAs, YWCAs, dance studios, and providers of music lessons, all of which commonly charge a participation fee.
In the 1980's, the number of latchkey children attending U.S. schools grew to more than five million (Riley, 1998). The increase in the number of children who went home to empty houses was a result of the societal rise in two-income and single-parent households. Many of these children were from culturally diverse backgrounds, lived in low-income communities, and often lacked financial or transportation resources-or personal interest-to take part in traditional extracurricular activities. The need for quality child care and after-school activities-alternative to watching television and taking part in risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse-became paramount for parents and communities (Miller, 2003).
The National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) was a pioneer organization in bringing national consideration of and concern for the requirement for school-age care, using school buildings to provide after-school supervision and extracurricular activities. The organization was instrumental in encouraging school administration and communities to consider the benefits of changing school-day schedules and school structure in order to keep children safe and engaged in healthy out-of-school time activities. Cost to the community (since not all students would voluntarily participate) and staffing (since union contracts often specified hours and fees for school staff) were challenging issues to be addressed.
Using School Facilities after School
The idea to use school facilities to provide safe and healthy after-school-hour care and supervision had already been proven possible as early as the 1930's. In Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of the community school concept, Charles Stewart Mott, who was instrumental in the formation of General Motors, provided financial support. Schools remained open long after normal hours so that automotive shift workers could participate in non-work activities such as intramural sports and adult education classes. The fundamental premise of the community school concept was that, since school buildings belonged to the community, the entire community, not just its children, should benefit from them (National Center for Community Education, 2007). For several decades, the C. S. Mott Foundation has been a major advocate and supporter of school-based extracurricular programs, especially for children in low-income communities.
During the Clinton-Gore administration, several publicly-funded out-of-school time initiatives were begun, the most prominent of which is the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Initiative (21st CCLC), which allows federal funds to every state for school-based after-school programs. Under this initiative, a Community Learning Center is defined as a funded program that operates within a public school building and offers educational, recreational and social service programs for students and community members of every age and is administered by the local educational agency in partnership with a community organization (U.S. Department of Education, 2000).
In 1997, the C. S. Mott Foundation joined in a private-public partnership with the U.S. Department of Education to support 21st Century Community Learning Centers. The partnership became a catalyst for a nationwide after-school movement which has grown rapidly since then. The Mott Foundation supports a national public awareness campaign through the "Afterschool Alliance,” a collaboration of public, private and nonprofit groups dedicated to augmenting resources for after-school activities (Little, 2004).
There are many organizations that bring value to the field, sponsor research and disseminate best practices information for the after-school industry. The Harvard Family Research Project and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation are noteworthy amongst the many organizations that have had long-term involvement. Along with NIOST, the web sites of both organizations are valuable resources for research and evaluation information related to after-school programming.
Schools remain the most common place to provide after-school programs because of space availability, equipment (chairs, tables, books, art supplies), and because the participants are in the same location as it is. Local youth organizations often vouch for and offer services in return for the utility of school space. For example, many school-aged child care programs run by the YMCA/YWCA, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and the Boys and Girls Clubs are based in schools. “Many schools are expanding beyond the instructional needs of students and transforming their space into full-time community centers. School-based community centers provide safe, drug-free, supervised and cost-effective after-school, weekend and summer activities for youth and their families” (Davis, 2001, ¶ 24).
New Focus on Academic Achievement
Although the early purpose for school-based extracurricular programs was to keep children safe and engaged in healthy activities, greater emphasis on academic performance motivated school districts to find ways to use after school hours to improve academic skills (Shumow, 2001).
While many extracurricular activities continue to be available from both public and private-sector organizations, after-school programs focused on academic achievement are now the most usual form of extracurricular programs, especially in low-income communities. General features of these programs include small adult-to-participant ratios, community involvement, family participation, and focus on curriculum-enhancement activities that support academic achievement.
In general, “after-school programs are defined as those that provide safe, structured activities that take place in school buildings in the hours after school and offer activities to help children learn new skills or improve academic skills. Activities cover topics such as reading, math, science and the arts” and often use computer technology that is available in the school (National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, 2001, ¶ 4).
After-school programs “expand learning time for students by providing tutoring along with activities that reinforce academic work from the regular school day. Programming can also develop team-building and leadership skills” (Peterson, 2005, ¶ 16). Other components, often no longer part of the regular school day, include exploration of college and career possibilities and engagement in art and music projects. Service learning activities, included in many programs, increase civic responsibility and self-discipline which is mutually beneficial for the students and the communities in which they live (Peterson, 2005).
Three Types of Programs
To meet the needs of a range of students and communities, after-school programs implement various strategies but generally are categorized as three types:
• School-Age Child Care
• Youth Development Programs
• Educational After-School Programs (Miller, 2001).
School-Age Child Care
These programs are sponsored by child care chains, community education groups, grassroots...
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