When the public, officials, and child advocates examine after-school care, they quickly focus on the benefits that after-school programs offer. Urban community based after-school programs and suburban community based after-school programs have many similarities yet many differences as well. They are many issues to examine while discussing the benefits of urban and suburban community based after-school programs. Five main issues that are very important when discussing community based after-school programs are funding, play versus academics, developmentally appropriate planning, what parents want, and self-care versus after-school care. Examining urban and suburban community based after-school care programs is important because after-school programs of any kind need to be well planned, safe, appropriately funded, and have everything that parents want for their children.
The increasing emphasis on student achievement and mastery test scores has many community based after-school programs struggling with the demand to improve academics and offer homework assistance, while also offering a well-balanced program that provides plenty of opportunities for play and social interaction.
The best way to combine academics and play is by using project-based activities. Project based activities are activities that stand between play and academics and combine the best of both.
Project based activities can provide more intentional and planned learning experiences, while still offering types of play. Play is typically internally shaped by the child, while project based activities are externally shaped by program leaders. These activities are open-ended, challenging, and experimental and can build on children's learning in a creative way, thus maintaining the positives associated with play, while also helping children develop new skills and learn new information.
Children enjoy these project-based activities so much that while they are involved in the planning, designing, and collaboration of the activity, it may look like play to an adult. As in play, children will get excited...