Expanding Learning for Students Afterschool
Expanded learning opportunities, or ELOs, provide safe, structured learning environments for students outside the traditional school day. Expanded learning comes in many forms. Programs might offer tutoring, community service, organized sports, homework help, or art and music classes. While the activities can vary widely, the key to ELO programs is their focus on building connections to the learning that happens during the school day through strong relationships between afterschool and school staff. School and afterschool staff share class curricula. they may also share data about students progress so that afterschool programs can help students address specific challenges.
According to NJSACC Executive Director Diane Genco, ELO programs "complement instead of compete" with the learning that happens in the classroom. For example, if students are learning about weather during the day, their afterschool program could reinforce this knowledge through hands-on projects, crafts, and outdoor activities that focus on weather.
The ELO model has received growing interest from education reformers and policymakers. Most notably, US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan is has spoken frequently about the role afterschool can play in improving student outcomes. Recently, the National Afterschool Association signed on to "A New Day for Learning", an initiative that redefines learning for the 21st century (link) by expanding learning opportunities beyond the school day and outside of traditional school environments. Attention to expanded learning can lead to funding opportunities and new tools to strengthen programs and improve student outcomes.
Here in New Jersey, there are many afterschool programs that already utilize the ELO model including Lakewood Afterschool (profiled in this newsletter), Carteret Middle School, Roselle Public Schools, and Citizen Schools. At their core, all afterschool organizations are expanded learning organizations. Afterschool programs have always helped young people build new skills, find opportunities for leadership, and supported their social and emotional development. Over the next year, NJSACC will continue its focus on expanded learning by offering trainings throughout the year as well as at our annual conference and by highlighting successful ELO programs in NJ in this newsletter.
We want to hear from you! If you have ideas for how NJSACC can better support ELO or if you would like to share your experiences with expanded learning please email us at email@example.com.