By Sam Piha
During this past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have an even greater appreciation of the informal learning environment in afterschool (sometimes referred to as expanded learning). We know that afterschool is not in competition with classroom learning, rather it is a complement. Afterschool learning has several advantages, which are described below.
Time to Learn: Some learning requires more time than can be allowed in a classroom setting, especially in middle and high school, where youth move from class to class. This learning involves projects that require extra time to plan, to work within a larger team, to analyze problems and persevere until solutions are found. Some learning requires reflection on important lessons that were gained and the opportunity to share and be recognized for one’s accomplishments. This sharing may come in the form of a presentation, a play or a recital, an art exhibition or service project, which may allow children to be acknowledged in ways they never experienced during the school day. Afterschool programs have flexible schedules that can allow young people to immerse themselves in a single program activity for the entire afternoon, if needed. In other cases, young people can participate in projects that build over several weeks or more. These kinds of projects promote important skills such as goal setting, project planning, teamwork, time management, and self- assessment.
Active Learning: The learning environment in afterschool is often less formal than in school. Children are allowed to learn by doing and learn as part of a larger team. This approach is very attractive and motivating to young people who may be struggling in the traditional classroom setting.