The best after-school programs capitalize on the advantages that after-school hours offer compared to the school day . . . these advantages include a greater opportunity to actively involve youth, project-based activities that can extend many weeks and are not constrained by school-day class schedules and the use of the surrounding community as a resource and a place to carry out activities.
– Bob Granger, William T. Grant Foundation
This is Part 1 of our new Quality Matters series exploring how high quality before and after school programs impact child development and how Kids’ Country ensures its programs meet research-based quality indicators.
There is solid evidence about the positive impact high quality after school programs have on children, families and schools. Youth who participate in such programs, especially over a period of years, experience greater self-confidence and have better grades, work habits, task persistence, and social skills. Deborah Lowe Vandell, founding dean of the School of Education at UC Irvine, writes, “Strong programs foster an orientation of being open to novel experiences, of being interested in others and the world, of being inquisitive and creative, and, ultimately, of becoming lifelong learners…”
But what makes a high quality out-of-school program? According to Professor Vandell, research shows high quality out-of-school programs do the following:
- cultivate positive relationships between children and staff,
- build positive relationships among the children,
- offer a blend of academic and developmental skill-building activities,
- promote high levels of student engagement, and
- provide appropriate levels of structure as well as opportunities for autonomy and choice.
For 30 years, Kids’ Country has met these indicators of quality and many more, offering exceptional out-of-school learning opportunities for Kindergarten to 5th grade students at 13 (soon to be 15) elementary schools in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. Kids’ Country is the only accredited out-of-school program in the area. We work closely with the Council on Accreditation (COA) to ensure each of our sites meets the highest standards of program offerings, physical environment, parent and student engagement, health and safety, among other quality indicators.
Integrating academic and developmental skill-building activities
Our before and after school programs are designed to enrich each child’s world view and are taught by our committed on-site teachers and our team of working artists and curriculum specialists. Partnering with parents, schools and curriculum experts, Kids’ Country ensures that our programs support new academic initiatives such as Common Core and 21st Century learning tools such as Design Thinking.
Kids’ Country is committed to offering an array of STEAM activities (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) at each of our sites, which build academic and developmental skills, including problem solving and decision-making skills. Our student-initiated clubs give children the autonomy to follow their passions. Our popular intramural sports, edible education, mindfulness, and anti-bullying programs foster students’ social emotional development, building teamwork and collaboration and empathy for others, and help children maintain positive relationships with each other and their teachers.
We also offer an impressive number of Enrichment classes in 8-week sessions throughout the year taught by our staff artists and Curriculum Partners like Brian Shields of the technology company UpTempo Group who introduces children to cutting edge technology through his Webmasters, Graphic Design, and 3D Printing classes.
Finally, because homework time is vital to many of the Kids’ Country families, a variety of resources are available to support children in completing their homework.
For Kids’ Country, quality really does matter and we are always working to ensure your child has the best resources available for their academic and personal development.
Watch for a number of Quality Matters blogs over the coming months when we dig deeper into how Kids’ Country meets these quality indicators and share some of the ways we commit to continuous improvement.