Monday, August 23, 2010

A Successful Afterschool Program

School is beginning! The first day is in process. What key things need to happen this afternoon to ensure that the after-school program is a success? My advice is to focus on safety, relationship building, and fun. If you can pull this off on day one, your program is off to a great start. Remember that kids don’t have a “routine” established for the after-school program on the first day. You have an opportunity to influence them and let them know that this is the routine. Take a little extra time with opening so kids can experience it to the fullest. Note: It will take several times for them to remember how to respond to an attention getter, so take your time. Set a precedent for involvement and checking in.

Really work to build relationships and learn names. Be very intentional in introducing every student to every other student. Have them participate in activities that insist that they use names repeatedly. Have them interact in team building activities like Group Interview, Friends for Life, or Group Juggle. From day 1, minute 1, you want youth to be looking for common ground, things they experience in much the same way day after day, and ways that they are similar yet different. Youth must practice the understanding that being uniquely you and highly valued, is the way of after-school.

Have a variety of activities that are hands-on and engaging. Young people need to laugh in your program and be happy that they are participating in the program. From the beginning, teach young people that Having Fun is never at the expense of another youth. So laughter needs to be at the situation not at a person. Consider games that get kids on their feet and moving, have a joke telling contest (do it in partners first, then squares, and finally a share out). Find out what kids are interested in to help guide the remainder of the week.

It is important in day 1 that you find a balance between firm and fun. On one hand you are establishing precedence—this is how we are going to do things here, and engaging and appealing activities that let youth know that you value the things they are interested in.

Not so usual celebrations…
August 23rd is Ride the Wind Day. Although this is not a sanctioned holiday, perhaps it should be. This is the day to be carefree, to hang-out, to take advantage of a dwindling summer. Catch a breeze and soar high above. Spend the day relaxing and leave your worries behind you, if just for a small amount of time. Experts recommend that you spend this Ride the Wind Day:
• Trying out parachuting
• Flying in a plane
• Soaring on a hang glider
• Going for a ride on a sailboat or motorcycle and if all else fails
• Kick back and enjoy yourself.

Activity for Kids
Have youth create a collage in the colors of summer—red, yellow, orange, green. They can do this with chalk, picture from the magazine, or colored pencils. The collage can be impressionistic—focusing on color and light, or a snap shot of summer life, or simply an action packed picture of a favorite summer activity.

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