After-school Programs Promote Children's Development
In 1999, the National Research Council Board for Children, Youth, and Families and the Forum on Adolescence held a workshop for policy makers, researchers, and practitioners to examine research on (a) the developmental needs of children aged 5 to 14 and (b) the types of after-school programs that they need. The workshop participants discussed ways that after-school programs can be designed to provide school-age children with oppportunities:
- To develop competence in a number of developmental domains
- To develop cross-cultural skills
- To learn from older youth and to mentor younger children
- To interact successfully with peers
- To establish close bonds with caring adults
- To contribute to their communities
The experts agreed that school-age children need a variety of skills to move successfully from middle childhood to adolescence. They also recognized that after-school programs may help children explore different areas of interest in which they can exercise their talents and achieve competence. Finally, they concluded that successful experiences in a wide range of out-of-school programs can give school-agers a positive sense of themselves and a healthy appreciation of others (Gootman, 2000).
In the past several years, there has been a dramatic increase in the level of state and federal funding for after-school programs. For example, the U.S. Department of Education funds the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program. The focus of this school-based program, authorized under Title X, Part I, of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is to provide learning oppportunitites for school-age children in supervised, drug-free environments in public school buildings. Other sources of funding for after-school programs have also been increasing, including the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative (Gootman, 2000).
The National Research Council established the following recommendations to guide new after-school programming:
- Programs need to be designed to address age-related stages of development.
- Programs need to incorporate the kinds of activities that will build physical, cognitive, emotional and social competencies.
- Programs need to incorporate academic experiences that will encourage a positive attitude toward learning.
- Programs need to address the challenges faced by school-age children in their daily lives.
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