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Beyond School: After-School Programs Bring the World to Young People

by guest blogger Alexis Menten

Across the country, afterschool programs are looking at global learning as an approach to engage youth, enhance quality, and advocate for the value of learning beyond school. Alexis Menten, Executive Director, Program Development, shares more on this growing movement.

A Value-Add
Afterschool Alliance recently released America After 3PM, a report showing that afterschool programs are a burgeoning movement in American education. In 2014, 10.2 million children participated in an afterschool program, an increase of 15% from 2009. Today, nearly 1 in 4 families have a child enrolled in an afterschool program. However, the demand is even greater: In 2014, approximately 19.4 million children not currently in an afterschool program would be enrolled in a program if one were available to them, according to their parents.

One of the main reasons why afterschool programs are so popular and essential is because they help expand the horizons of young people beyond what their schools and families can provide. In order to accomplish this, a growing number of programs include global learning as a core component. The America After 3PM survey showed that 76% of parents with a child in an afterschool program agree that these programs provide "opportunities to learn about various cultures, countries, languages, and global issues," and 77% agree they help children gain "workforce skills, such as teamwork, leadership and critical thinking."

What is driving afterschool programs to take a global approach? Global learning enables afterschool providers to embed academic and 21st century skill development within activities that engage young people's natural curiosity about the world and their place in it. In terms of policy and advocacy, it helps afterschool supporters articulate the value of these programs in the context of workforce development and the new Common Core State Standards.

States Take the Lead
Several states have incorporated global learning into their standards and core competencies for afterschool staff and youth, statewide policies, and advocacy efforts. For example, the 21st Century Community Learning Center program in Ohio, which the state administers as part of the largest federal funding stream for afterschool programs, has three objectives: student reading and mathematics achievement, positive youth development, and parent and family engagement. Because of the advocacy of the Ohio Afterschool Network, global learning became an approved activity for programs to meet these objectives. Furthermore, the Global Scholars Diploma currently being piloted in Ohio names extracurricular activities, including those organized by schools as well as community groups, as one of the several pathways available to students to demonstrate the required competencies.

Other state examples include:

A National Movement
National and international youth-serving organizations are also taking up global learning. As part of their Achievement Gap initiative, the YMCA of the USA has identified global learning as one of nine core components for their Afterschool Signature Program, a pilot involving YMCAs across 30 cities in 19 states. This builds on several years of YMCA's global services and the Global Centers of Excellence, now comprised of 47 YMCAs across the country that prioritize global service, community engagement, and diversity and inclusion.

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts is also taking on global competence as a means to promote global citizenship and leadership development among the young girls who participate in their programs worldwide. 4-H recently launched a new global citizenship curriculum for afterschool programs called WeConnect. National conferences in the afterschool field, such as the National AfterSchool Association, National Summer Learning Association, Foundations, Inc., BOOST Collaborative, and others, feature global learning workshops or strands focused on this topic. And afterschool providers like Global Kids, World Savvy, and New Global Citizens continue to grow their programs and expand nationally.

This growing national movement demonstrates that afterschool programs are uniquely suited to offer global learning. These programs design learning around youth interests and passions, providing opportunities for hands-on and experiential learning that links youth to other individuals and organizations in the community (museums, libraries, cultural institutions, and businesses, to name a few). Building off the school day, afterschool programs offer activities that schools struggle to fit in, such as service learning, internships, field trips, and others—activities that contribute to academic achievement as well as youth development. All of these elements are contributing to growing opportunities for global learning in afterschool programs.

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