New Jersey School-Age Care Coalition - the Network for New Jersey's Afterschool Communities
Quality Standards

Self-Assessment Rubric: Indoor and Outdoor Environment

Performance Levels
Rate your afterschool program in each of the indicators using the following system:

  • Performance Level 1: Needs Improvement/Standard Not Met
  • Performance Level 2: Some Progress Made/Approaching Standard
  • Performance Level 3: Satisfactory/Meets Standard
  • Performance Level 4: Excellent/Exceeds Standard

A quality afterschool program should strive to meet Performance Level 3 on all quality indicators.

Indoor and Outdoor Environment
The program's indoor and outdoor environment are set up to facilitate youth development, play, and learning, as well as program success more generally.

Indoor Environment:

1. The indoor space is welcoming and youth-centered

a. The space is clean and organized.

  • Performance Level 4: Program youth and staff generally clean up messes immediately, and the space is always very clean at both the start and the end of the program session. The space is organized such that youth are always able to find and access the materials they need. The appropriate amount and type of space is allotted to different types of program materials or physical zones.
  • Performance Level 3: The space is always very clean at both the start and the end of the program session. However, program youth and staff may not clean up messes immediately. The space is organized such that youth are almost always able to find and access the materials they need. The appropriate amount and type of space is generally allotted to different types of program materials or physical zones; however, some space could be allotted in a way that would better match program and youth needs.
  • Performance Level 2: The space is generally clean at the start and the end of the program session. However, the space is not well-organized. Youth are often unable to find and access the materials they need. The appropriate amount and type of space is not generally allotted to different types of program materials or physical zones; there are numerous examples of ways in which space could be allotted to better match program and youth needs.
  • Performance Level 1: The space is not clean or well-organized.

b. The space is well-lit.

  • Performance Level 4: All program spaces are well-lit, with the possible exception of spaces that are intentionally dim in order to create a relaxing effect. The lighting used is generally high-quality.
  • Performance Level 3: All program spaces are well-lit, with the possible exception of spaces that are intentionally dim in order to create a relaxing effect. The lighting used may not be high-quality.
  • Performance Level 2: Most program spaces have sufficient light, but there is significant program space that does not have sufficient light. The lighting in the program space is generally low-quality.
  • Performance Level 1: Most program space does not have sufficient light. The lighting in the program space is generally low-quality.

c. Equipment is appropriate for the size of the youth in the program.

  • Performance Level 4: All program equipment and materials intended for youth to use is well-matched to the sizes of the youth in the program.
  • Performance Level 3: Most program equipment and materials intended for youth to use is well-matched to the sizes of the youth in the program.
  • Performance Level 2: Some program equipment and materials intended for youth to use is well-matched to the sizes of the youth in the program. However, it is common for youth to be unable to find equipment or material that is the right size for them.
  • Performance Level 1: Most program equipment and materials intended for youth to use is not well-matched to the sizes of the youth in the program.

d. The space reflects the interests of the youth. (Note: This may not be possible, depending on the degree of control the program has over this.)

  • Performance Level 4: Program staff frequently ask youth about their interests and periodically update the program space to reflect these interests. This may include design features such as posters, as well as adjustments to how the space is organized to best accommodate popular activities.
  • Performance Level 3: Near the start of each year, program staff assess youth interests and update the program space to reflect these interests. This may include design features such as posters, as well as adjustments to how the space is organized to best accommodate popular activities. However, the administration rarely adjusts the program space to reflect shifting youth interests during the school year.
  • Performance Level 2: The program space reflects common interests among youth in the age group and population that attend the program. However, these are not necessarily the greatest interests of the individual youth who attend the program.
  • Performance Level 1: The program space does not reflect the interests of the youth.

e. The space displays the work of the youth. (Note: This may not be possible, depending on the degree of control the program has over this.)

  • Performance Level 4: At any given time, there is at least one display of youth work at the program. The display of youth work generally changes every 1-2 months. All program youth have some sort of work or accomplishment displayed at least once during the school year.
  • Performance Level 3: At any given time, there is at least one display of youth work at the program. The program may not change the display during the school year and/or some program youth may never have an example of their work or accomplishments displayed.
  • Performance Level 2: The program sometimes displays youth work, but this is not a consistent feature of the program space.
  • Performance Level 1: The program never displays youth work, despite having the necessary control over program space.
  • NA: The program does not have the necessary control over program space to display the work of youth.

f. Youth can safely access materials, such as books and games, independently.

  • Performance Level 4: Youth never have difficulty accessing materials, such as books and games, safely and independently. The only materials youth cannot access independently are those that require supervision during use.
  • Performance Level 3: You can generally access materials, such as books and games, safely and independently. However, youth sometimes have to ask staff for help accessing materials, even if those materials do not require supervision during use.
  • Performance Level 2: Youth can sometimes access materials, such as books and games, safely and independently. However, youth often have to ask staff for help accessing materials, even if those materials do not require supervision during use.
  • Performance Level 1: Youth can rarely access materials, such as books and games, safely and independently. Either youth have to ask staff for help accessing materials, or they can access materials themselves, but this process is not safe.

2. There is adequate indoor space for activities

a. Space is large enough to accommodate all youth and activities.

  • Performance Level 4: The program is always able to provide adequate space to accommodate all youth and activities. Activities rarely require adjustments due to program space. Youth never feel crowded.
  • Performance Level 3: The program is generally able to provide adequate space to accommodate all youth and activities. Activities occasionally require adjustments due to program space. Youth occasionally feel crowded.
  • Performance Level 2: The program space is not as large as desired to accommodate all youth and activities. However, the program adjusts activities and organizes the room(s) to maximize use of the space there is.
  • Performance Level 1: The program space is not large enough to accommodate all youth and activities.

b. There are appropriate spaces for the different kinds of activities offered, and single multi-purpose rooms are divided into defined spaces. For example, there is a large space for sports or dance, quiet and well-lit space for homework, and relaxing soft space.

  • Performance Level 4: The space provided for each of the different kinds of activities offered is appropriate. Single multi-purpose rooms are divided into defined spaces. There is a large space for sports or dance, quiet and well-lit space for homework, and relaxing soft space.
  • Performance Level 3: The space provided for each of the different kinds of activities offered is generally appropriate. Single multi-purpose rooms are divided into defined spaces. The space for gross motor activities is the largest, and the space for homework is the quietest. There is a place designated for youth to relax, but it may not follow the principles of soft space.
  • Performance Level 2: Single multi-purpose rooms are divided into defined spaces. The space provided for some program activities is appropriate, but the overall program space could be better organized to provide more appropriate space for the different kinds of activities offered.
  • Performance Level 1: The program does not provide appropriate spaces for the different kinds of activities offered. Single multi-purpose rooms are not divided into defined spaces.

3. There is adequate space for storage

a. Storage space is lockable.

  • Performance Level 4: All storage space is lockable, and the program uses high-quality locks.
  • Performance Level 3: Storage space for valuable or personal equipment, material, or belongings is lockable. The program uses all functional locks.
  • Performance Level 2: Some storage space is lockable, but there is some storage space for valuable or personal equipment is that not lockable.
  • Performance Level 1: No storage space at the program is lockable.

b. There is space for program materials and equipment.

  • Performance Level 4: All program materials and equipment that should be stored to ensure security, protection from deterioration, or cleanliness have designated storage space.
  • Performance Level 3: Most program materials and equipment that should be stored to ensure security, protection from deterioration, or cleanliness have designated storage space. However, there are some materials and equipment that should be stored that do not have designated storage space.
  • Performance Level 2: Some program materials and equipment have designated storage space. However, there are many materials and equipment that should be stored but do not have designated storage space.
  • Performance Level 1: There is no storage space for program materials and equipment that should be stored to ensure security, protection from deterioration, or cleanliness.

c. There is space for staff to store personal items.

  • Performance Level 4: Staff have sufficient space to store personal items securely.
  • Performance Level 3: There is some space for staff to store personal items securely, but it is not sufficient.
  • Performance Level 2: There is some space for staff to store personal items, but it is not sufficient or always secure.
  • Performance Level 1: There is no space for staff to store personal items.

d. There is space for youth to leave jackets and backpacks.

  • Performance Level 4: There is sufficient space for youth to store jackets and backpacks so that they do not interfere at all with the regular program space.
  • Performance Level 3: There is designated space for youth to store jackets and backpacks, though this storage space may interfere somewhat with the regular program space.
  • Performance Level 2: There is designated space for youth to store jackets and backpacks, but this space is not sufficient, and the jackets and backpacks generally interfere with the regular program space.
  • Performance Level 1: There is no space for youth to leave jackets and backpacks.

4. There is a written contingency plan

The administration has a written contingency plan accommodating as many of these standards as possible, in the case that the program is temporarily displaced.

  • Performance Level 4: The administration has a written contingency plan in the case that the program is temporarily displaced. This contingency plan addresses all of the standards and elements in this section.
  • Performance Level 3: The administration has a written contingency plan in the case that the program is temporarily displaced. This contingency plan addresses all of the standards in this section, though it may not address all of the individual elements associated with each standard.
  • Performance Level 2: The administration has a contingency plan in the case that the program is temporarily displaced, and this place addresses the indoor environment in the temporary space. However, this plan is not written and/or it does not address all of the elements in this section.
  • Performance Level 1: The administration does not have a contingency plan in the case that the program is temporarily displaced that addresses the indoor environment in the temporary space.

Outdoor Environment:

1. Youth spend enough program time outdoors

Youth have at least 30 minutes outdoors for every 3 hour block of time. (Note: Exceptions may be necessary due to the weather, the special health needs of an individual youth, or circumstances that make the program unable to provide safe outdoor space. Programs should find other ways to access the outdoors in these situations. For example, the program may provide safe group transport to, and supervision at, a local public park.)

  • Performance Level 4: Youth have at least 30 minutes outdoors for every 3 hour block of time in the program. Weather-related exceptions are only for storms or for temperature extremes below freezing (with wind chill) or above 85 degrees. There may be exceptions due to the special health needs of an individual youth. There also may be exceptions due to circumstances that make the program unable to provide safe outdoor space. If the later case extends beyond two weeks, the program seeks an alternative such as using a local park.
  • Performance Level 3: Youth generally have at least 30 minutes outdoors for every 3 hour block of time in the program. The program makes weather-related exceptions for any precipitation, not just storms. The program makes exceptions for temperature extremes that sometimes still fall within the safe range of 32 degrees (with wind chill) to 85 degrees. There may be exceptions due to the special health needs of an individual youth. There also may be exceptions due to circumstances that make the program unable to provide safe outdoor space. If the later case is a permanent situation, the program seeks an alternative such as using a local park.
  • Performance Level 2: The program provides regular outdoor time, but this is less than 30 minutes for every 3 hour block of time.
  • Performance Level 1: Youth never or infrequently have outdoor time at the program.

2. There is a variety of outdoor spaces, equipment, and materials

a. There is access to a variety of outdoor spaces. For example, there is access to open space to run and protected space for quiet play and socializing.

  • Performance Level 4: The outdoor space includes open space to run, protected space for quiet play and socializing, and at least one additional type of space for outdoor physical play, such as a climbing structure or a basketball court.
  • Performance Level 3: The outdoor space includes open space to run, protected space for quiet play and socializing.
  • Performance Level 2: The outdoor space includes at least two different types of terrains or structure.
  • Performance Level 1: The outdoor space includes just one type of terrain or structure.

b. There is access to a variety of outdoor equipment and materials.

  • Performance Level 4: The outdoor materials and equipment are varied enough that most youth can find the appropriate equipment for an activity that appeals to them most of the time. Staff and youth can identify at least thirty different outdoor activities that are possible with the materials and equipment at the program.
  • Performance Level 3: The outdoor materials and equipment are varied enough that most youth can find the appropriate equipment for an activity that appeals to them most of the time. Staff and youth can identify at least fifteen different outdoor activities that are possible with the materials and equipment at the program.
  • Performance Level 2: Staff and youth can identify at least five different outdoor activities that are possible with the materials and equipment at the program. It may be common for youth to be unable to find the appropriate equipment or materials for an outdoor activity that appeals to them.
  • Performance Level 1: All outdoor equipment and materials are for similar activities.

c. Small and large equipment and/or materials for outdoor play are age appropriate and developmentally appropriate.

  • Performance Level 4: Staff in charge of outdoor materials and equipment acquisition apply knowledge of theory and research into what types of materials and equipment are appropriate for different ages and different developmental stages. Most youth in the program easily find outdoor equipment and materials that are well-suited to their age and developmental stage.
  • Performance Level 3: Outdoor materials and equipment are age-appropriate. Outdoor materials reflect the range of developmental stages of youth in the program, but outdoor equipment may not.
  • Performance Level 2: Outdoor materials and equipment are generally age-appropriate, but they do not reflect the range of developmental stages of youth in the program.
  • Performance Level 1: Much of the outdoor materials and equipment is not age-appropriate.

3. Storage for outdoor equipment and materials is convenient for children and youth

a. Youth can access equipment and material easily.

  • Performance Level 4: Youth never have difficulty accessing outdoor equipment and materials safely and independently. The only materials youth cannot access independently are those that require supervision during use.
  • Performance Level 3: You can generally access outdoor equipment and materials safely and independently. However, youth sometimes have to ask staff for help accessing materials, even if those materials do not require supervision during use.
  • Performance Level 2: Youth can sometimes access outdoor equipment and materials safely and independently. However, youth often have to ask staff for help accessing materials, even if those materials do not require supervision during use.
  • Performance Level 1: Youth can rarely access outdoor materials safely and independently. Either youth have to ask staff for help accessing materials, or they can access materials themselves, but this process is not safe.

b. Storage for outside equipment and materials is close to outdoor play area or readily accessible.

  • Performance Level 4: Storage for outside equipment and materials is immediately next to the outdoor play area, or else the program uses a materials and equipment cart to bring these outdoors.
  • Performance Level 3: Storage for outdoor equipment and materials is close enough to the outdoor play area that staff and youth can access materials while outside without impacting adult-youth ratios.
  • Performance Level 2: Storage for outside equipment and materials is relatively close to the outdoor play area, but it does impact staff-youth ratios when staff or youth access materials while outside.
  • Performance Level 1: Storage for outside equipment and materials is far from the outdoor play area and not readily accessible.

4. Staff are actively engaged with children playing outdoors

a. There are both staff-directed and youth-directed outdoor activities.

  • Performance Level 4: During every full-length outdoor session, there are opportunities for both youth-directed and staff-directed play and activities.
  • Performance Level 3: Every week, youth have the opportunity at least once to participate in youth-directed outdoor activities and at least once to participate in staff-directed outdoor activities. However, youth don't have both options on a daily basis.
  • Performance Level 2: Youth have occasional opportunities to participate in both youth-directed and staff-directed outdoor activities, but generally outdoor activity offerings consist of just one type or the other.
  • Performance Level 1: Youth never have the opportunity to participate in youth-directed outdoor activity, or, alternatively, youth never have the opportunity to participate in staff-directed outdoor activity.

b. Staff encourage youth engagement outdoors using a variety of strategies, including peer support and nonverbal communication such as with objects, actions, and pictures.

  • Performance Level 4: Staff use both verbal and nonverbal communication strategies to encourage youth engagement outdoors. Nonverbal strategies include use of objects, actions, and pictures. Staff also enlist peer support to encourage youth engagement outdoors.
  • Performance Level 3: Staff use a variety of strategies to encourage youth engagement outdoors. However, these strategies may not be varied enough to include peer support and nonverbal techniques such as use of objects and pictures.
  • Performance Level 2: Staff seek to encourage youth engagement outdoors, but they do not use a variety of strategies.
  • Performance Level 1: Staff do not seek to encourage youth engagement outdoors.

c. Staff maintain adequate supervision of youth while outdoors.

  • Performance Level 4: Staff maintain adequate supervision in order to be aware of any potential problems for youth in the outdoor physical or social environment. They actively engage with youth during outdoor time to ensure that youth are physically safe, that outdoor activities support the development of youth’s physical and social skills, and that youth have generally have positive feelings about outdoor time at the program.
  • Performance Level 3: Staff maintain adequate supervision in order to be generally aware of potential problems for youth in the outdoor physical or social environment. They intervene as needed to ensure that youth are physically safe and that youth generally have positive feelings about outdoor time at the program.
  • Performance Level 2: Staff supervise youth while outdoors well enough that they can generally intervene to maintain the youth’s physical safety. However, they are not generally aware of potential problems for youth in the outdoor social environment.
  • Performance Level 1: Staff do not maintain adequate supervision of youth while outdoors. They are not generally aware of potential problems for youth in the outdoor physical or social environment and are not able to intervene as needed to ensure youth safety.

5. The program enhances an appreciation for nature and the outdoors

a. There are opportunities to discover nature.

  • Performance Level 4: While outdoors, staff encourage and support youth-directed exploration of nature and also provide frequent opportunities for staff-directed exploration of nature. Nature and outdoor themes are frequently woven into a wide variety of programming activities, including as STEM, literacy, and the arts. When the outdoor space is in an urban environment, staff proactively help youth to discover elements of that space that are not human-built.
  • Performance Level 3: While outdoors, staff encourage and support youth-directed exploration of nature and also provide occasional opportunities for staff-directed exploration of nature. Nature and outdoor themes are sometimes woven into other programming activities, such as STEM, literacy, and the arts.
  • Performance Level 2: While outdoors, staff encourage and support youth-directed exploration of nature. However, there are not generally opportunities for staff-directed exploration of nature. Nature and outdoor themes are rarely women into other programming activities.
  • Performance Level 1: Youth generally do not have opportunities to discover nature while at the program. Staff generally do not encourage or support exploration of nature.

b. The program links outdoor play to experiential learning. For example, programs may incorporate gardening, nature journaling, and outdoor STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities.

  • Performance Level 4: Outdoor play at the program incorporates experiential learning, for example through gardening, nature journaling, or outdoor STEM activities, on a weekly basis.
  • Performance Level 3: Outdoor play at the program incorporates experiential learning, for example through gardening, nature journaling, or outdoor STEM activities, on a monthly basis.
  • Performance Level 2: Outdoor play at the program occasionally incorporates experiential learning, for example through gardening, nature journaling. However, this may only happen a few times through the program year.
  • Performance Level 1: Outdoor play at the program does not incorporate experiential learning.

c. Staff sometimes move traditional indoor activities outside, weather-permitting. Examples are snack, arts and crafts, and reading/stories.

  • Performance Level 4: When the weather outside is comfortable, the program regularly moves traditional indoor activities, such as snack, arts and crafts, and reading/stories, outside. Youth become accustomed to this routine and come to expect it.
  • Performance Level 3: When the weather outside is comfortable, the program sometimes moves traditional indoor activities, such as snack, arts and crafts, and reading/stories, outside.
  • Performance Level 2: When the weather outside is comfortable, the program sometimes extends outdoor time. However, this does not generally include moving traditional indoor activities outside.
  • Performance Level 1: The program never moves traditional indoor activities outside. The program rarely extends outdoor time, even when the weather is comfortable.

d. The program brings the outdoors indoors, especially when outdoor play is impossible. Examples are bringing in a bird's nest or shells, tending to a plant, and even opening windows.

  • Performance Level 4: Program staff regularly look for opportunities to offer nature-based activities inside. This occurs almost every program session during which outdoor play is impossible.
  • Performance Level 3: Program staff are aware of opportunities to offer nature-based activities inside. This often occurs during program sessions when outdoor play is impossible.
  • Performance Level 2: Program staff occasionally offer nature-based activities inside. This occasionally occurs during program sessions when outdoor play is impossible.
  • Performance Level 1: The program never brings the outdoors inside, even when outdoor play is impossible.