After School Programs
Today’s world is a very different environment for children than even a time as recent as 20 years ago. Today, nearly 80% of school-age children have mothers who work jobs rather than staying home full time. This is due largely to the fact that most families are finding it harder and harder to survive on a single income, forcing both parents to work in order to support their children.
One effect of this change is the amount of time children spend before and after school without parental supervision (20 to 25 hours per week in many cases), often “hanging out“ during the hours between school‘s end and their parents‘ return home from work. More often than not, this valuable time is wasted parked in front of the television, playing video games, or worse yet- out in the community causing trouble.
In an effort to curb after school delinquency and rising rates of juvenile crime, as well as bolster slipping academic scores, many community leaders and educators have chosen to promote organized after-school programs. Such programs can offer a variety of subjects and activities including art, music, theater and sports.
As many of these subjects have been undercut and, in some cases, removed completely from regular public school curriculums, after school programs are frequently the only exposure a child has to organized creative and physical expression. Students taking part in such programs experience greater creativity and intellectual stimulation, social development and stay out of trouble during the after school hours.
In an age where creativity is a key factor in every professional field, a knowledge and understanding of music and the arts is more important than ever.
After school programs focusing on these subjects can strengthen creative impulses while also helping children focus on other basic yet highly necessary life skills such as teamwork, persistence, discipline and responsibility. It has also been proven that learning the core concepts of art and music can enhance traditional subjects such as mathematics and reading.
By coming to an understanding of the nature of notes and meter, for example, a child is also being exposed to fractions in a fun and stimulating manner that may be missing from the traditional classroom. Since after school programs provide the potential for learning in a pressure-free, exciting, fun environment, students are much more open to the learning process and become more involved in the concepts they are exposed to.
The children are kept engaged by a variety of projects and stimulated by the potential for expressing themselves, which builds devotion to the program and in turn to studies in general. The creativity gained from taking part in after school programs has the potential to effect a child for the rest of his life.
By learning to express themselves through art and music, children are exposed to new and innovative ways of interpreting concepts, thoughts and feelings.
One of the most valuable contributions of after school programs to a child’s development is that they come to see learning as fun. Suddenly, productive and creative endeavors take on the same or greater relative value than their previous, less beneficial pass-times of TV and videogames.
In this way, creative and artistically focused programs have shown to have far greater overall benefit than after school programs which merely offer homework help or academic tutoring.
This method of “stealth learning” integrates concepts of higher education in unexpected ways such that, for example, children taking part in an art lesson involving drawing different figures are actually learning geometry- or kids taking part in putting on a play are learning both reading comprehension and the values of public speaking.
Language skills also strongly benefit, particularly in areas with culturally diverse backgrounds. Students who speak English as a second language are able to become more comfortable with speaking in a social setting, when exposed by way of an art or music lesson. In this way, students that gain a love of learning are far more likely to attend normal school regularly, pay greater attention, get better grades and be less likely to drop out.
According to a study recently undertaken by the American Music Conference, high school students who have been given the opportunity to study music consistently score higher on the SATs than students who have not, on average scoring 57 points higher on the test’s verbal section and 41 points higher in math.
Children also benefit socially from taking part in after school programs. Sports programs emphasize teamwork and group-level planning, self-confidence and caring relationships.
The same is true about music programs, which also teach children to play as a group and cooperate with others, and art programs which can stress combined creativity and the values of diversity. All of these elements can have a huge effect on a child’s social and emotional development, and the skills they learn during group interactivity in an after school program are vastly different than in a purely academic school setting.
Class groups are smaller, more casual, and united in a common bond. Kids face less pressure and are more likely to develop a positive attitude toward a common goal. There is also greater potential to form a mentoring role with program directors, as art, music and sports are all very hands-on activities that require a great deal of teacher-pupil interaction.
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