Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts (NRD)
Every Nebraska Natural Resources District (NRD) offers a variety of programs for students grades K – 12.
Contact your NRD to find out more about the educational programs in your area.
Papio Missouri River NRD teacher newsletter lists summer camps and education programs. Papio is based out of Omaha.
They also have the Groundwater Festival every year. Staff in Sidney are available to provide presentations in classrooms, and work with the local 4-H programs to assist with their projects. South Platte NRD offers scholarships for the Range and ACE camps each year, and have had an increasing number of applicants over the last few years.
Tri-Basin NRD’s school programs are listed below:
- Each April, we collaborate with Lower Republican, Nebraska Extension, Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, NRCS, Kansas Extension, and the Corps of Engineers to host the Water Jamboree. This is a 2 day water festival for 5th grade students from south central Nebraska and north central Kansas. Over the 2 days, we educate about 550 students through hands-on sessions on all aspects of water, such as conservation, recreation, safety, and wildlife.
- Each September, we host the Rainwater Basin Conservation Day for 8th grade students in our district. This event is held completely outdoors at Sacramento-Wilcox Wildlife Management Area. Students rotate through sessions about plants, trees, GPS, insects, wetlands, geology, water resources, and migratory waterfowl. We usually have about 150 students at Conservation Day.
- We also offer classroom programs at the request of our district’s teachers.
Join by Computer: To join from a PC or Mac computer click on the following web address:
Join by Smart Device: You can join the meeting using a smart tablet or smart phone by opening the Zoom application (first time users must download Zoom from the apple or google store), select “join meeting” and enter the meeting ID number: 701 467 8551
Join by Telephone: Dial 646-558-8656 and when asked, enter the Meeting ID: 701 467 8551
Data Collection and Evaluation
It is important to develop an evaluation design in the planning stages of your program. Evaluation is an on-going process that you will use to identify program strengths and needs, and make continuous improvements. Evaluation involves collecting data pertinent to your program goals and analyzing that data to determine if your program is achieving those goals. This section will assist you in setting up a plan for evaluation.
The 21st CCLC Evaluation Guidebook and copies of statewide reports can be found here. Current Nebraska 21st CCLC grantees can access evaluation information on My21stCCLC>Content>Evaluation.
- Meet with your Management Team to design your evaluation plan
- Identify individual(s) to provide evaluation support
- Understand the reporting requirements of your grant (if applicable)
- Review your program goals and decide what questions you need to answer
- Select an evaluation design and determine your methods of data collection
- Develop an on-going evaluation plan based on the continuous improvement process model including how to use the data collected for program improvement.
Design Your Evaluation Plan
Afterschool Evaluation 101: How to Evaluate an Expanded Learning Program, Erin Harris, Harvard Family Research Project, is one resource that can be used for developing an evaluation plan. This document will walk you through the early planning stages, help you select the evaluation design, the data collection methods best suited for your program, and help you analyze the data and present the results.
Identify Individuals Who Will Be Able to Provide Evaluation Support
- Recruit a qualified evaluator (or individuals to provide evaluation support). You will want the evaluator to be involved in the development of your evaluation plan. Check with your local school district to see if they have contracted with an evaluator for other programs. That evaluator might be able to evaluate your program as well. Local universities might also have experienced evaluators.
- Determine the evaluator job responsibilities.
- Budget for the local evaluator’s compensation. Some districts have an in-house evaluator who will provide services as an in-kind contribution. Other programs hire an external evaluator and allocate funds needed for ongoing evaluation.
- Conduct interviews with evaluator candidates. evaluator interview questions
Review Goals and Choose Indicators
- The management team should review and confirm the goals established by the planning committee. The program could identify one goal or several goals, depending on program needs.
- Discuss how the program’s activities will contribute to reaching these goals.
- Identify indicators for each of the program’s goals. An indicator is a quantified measurement that can be taken repeatedly over time to track progress. Your group could brainstorm many indicators before deciding on one or two to measure.
For example, a program goal might be to improve academic performance. One strategy would be to improve homework completion for participating students. To reach this goal, your program would likely offer homework help as an afterschool activity led by certified teachers or qualified volunteers. Your indicator will be to increase the number of completed assignments and the quality of those assignments, as reported by classroom teachers. Be sure the indicator is relevant to the goal, and the data necessary to analyze the indicator can be collected.
There are various ways to collect data. Your method of collecting data will depend on your indicator. Here are some common ways to collect data:
- Attendance should be taken at the immediate start of the program each day. Preferably, enter attendance data electronically each day to keep up on data entry. Also, back data up and save hard copies of all attendance files. Monthly Attendance Record
- Surveys can be given to a range of stakeholders such as community partners, parents, students, program staff and school staff. Survey Tips
- Interviews, like surveys, can be given to a range of stakeholders. Interviews provide the opportunity to ask for additional information and understand program details.
- Information and reports from the school district can provide essential information for evaluating your program (student demographics, grades, test scores, attendance records). Be sure all staff practice confidentiality with student information.
- Miscellaneous information can provide a different snapshot of your program for your evaluator. Save newsletters, meeting minutes, pictures, staff journals, activity calendars, student portfolios and other projects.
- Observation methods can address important issues such as program environment, safety and wellness, program administration, relationships, interactions, professional development opportunities, program activities, student engagement, program sustainability and program/school/community/family partnerships.
Tips for an On-going Evaluation Plan
- Develop an evaluation calendar for the year. This will help your program stay on track for your evaluation activities such as data collection, deadlines, written reports and other grant requirements.
- After the evaluator processes the data and completes summary reports, review this information with the management team. Discuss whether or not the program was successful in reaching identified goals. As a group, decide on future goals and strategies to reach those goals as part of the continuous improvement process.
- Inform stakeholders of the outcomes from the evaluation. Discuss future goals with program staff. Review results with community partners. Inform parents and staff about any changes based on evaluation results. Share success stories with the community.
Environment and Programming
Creating the afterschool environment and providing unique programming is an important part of designing and implementing your afterschool program. By now, you developed a mission statement and specific goals, hired staff, and began recruiting students. You are now encouraged to use creativity in achieving the identified program goals.
Afterschool programs should not be considered “more school”. Rather, consider afterschool an opportunity to enhance learning through engaging experiences that are not typically offered during the school day. Programming should reflect the interests of the students. Consider community partner’s expertise, interests, and resources in the process. Overall, make sure your program meets the needs of the families and reflects the diversity of the population in your community.
The Nebraska State Board of Education adopted a Position Statement regarding Expanded Learning Opportunities on October 6, 2017. This position statement articulates their belief that in order to prepare future generations of Nebraska youth for success in life, Nebraska’s schools, families and communities must work together to provide multiple opportunities for healthy growth, development and academic success. Quality Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) programs build on, support, and enhance learning during times when students are not in school (before and after school, weekends, and summer) and are, therefore, a critical component of Nebraska’s educational landscape and one that should be intentionally supported and developed in communities across our state.
The ELO Quality Framework includes the following:
- Administration with sound management and well-developed systems
- College/career awareness and readiness
- Community-school partnerships and resource sharing
- Diverse, prepared staff including certificated educators
- Engaged learning
- Family engagement
- Intentional programming aligned with the school day program
- Ongoing assessment and improvement
- Participation, access and support during transitions
- Safety, health and wellness.
Consider these ten indicators of quality as you work with your leadership team to create a meaningful and engaging learning environment for students during the afterschool and summer hours.
It is crucial for students to experience a consistently safe and positive learning environment, during both the school day and afterschool program. In order to achieve this goal, it is important that there are clear expectations regarding student behavior across all learning environments. It is recommended afterschool staff and volunteers participate in the schools’ ongoing professional development focused on supporting positive student behavior so they are aware of, and implement, policies and procedures utilized during the school day. For students to be safe and successful, it is recommended you follow the school’s procedures when using the playground, restroom, cafeteria, gymnasium, media center, and all other locations where the program is implemented. By teaching students positive behavior skills, you will not only increase learning, but also the development of important social skills that will be used in and outside of the school setting.
If one of your program goals is to support student academic achievement, consider providing time for students to work on, or complete, homework assignments. Your management team should make decisions regarding homework help based on the needs of the students and families who attend the school and live in the community. As a member of the management team, the building principal can advise the team regarding academic support needed including the amount of time, level of support, and students’ learning goals.
Staffing decisions will depend on your program needs, budget, resources and goals. Some programs utilize certified teachers for homework assistance. The benefit of using teachers is the experience they have in teaching students, along with their knowledge of grade-level learning objectives. Other programs utilize non-certified school-day staff such as paraeducators. These staff members will also be familiar with the homework assignments and the students in the program. Another option is to work with community partners, parents or volunteers for homework support. These adults offer unique perspectives and different teaching styles.
It is important to have adequate space and resources for students. Be sure to have a quiet area for students to read or work independently. Other students may be required to complete work in small groups. Your homework area should have proper lighting, desks, tables, and chairs. The media center is a great space for homework help activities. You can also consider using classrooms, the gymnasium or cafeteria. Students will also need easy access to items such as computers, paper and other writing supplies, and calculators.
When students are finished with homework assignments, have a variety of materials and activities available to support learning goals and objectives. Allow students the opportunity choose activities such as reading books or magazines, writing on topics of their choice, board games, computer games, art work, or puzzles.
Helpful resources for planning homework support include:
- homework conversation starter
- homework space
- homework activities guide
- homework agreement tool
- homework planning log
- homework logs,
tutoring receipts or
homework sharing tools
- homework staff self-assessment tool.
Developing the afterschool environment and providing unique programming is an exciting part of building your afterschool program. By now, you have developed a mission and specific goals for the afterschool program. Remember to use creativity in achieving those goals. Afterschool programs should not be considered “more school”. Rather, consider afterschool an opportunity to enhance learning in fun and engaging ways that are not typically offered during the school day. Programming should be flexible enough to take into consideration the interests of the students. Also, consider your community partners’ resources in the process. Overall, make sure that your program reflects the diversity of the population you serve.
The flexible nature of afterschool makes it an ideal place to incorporate the arts. Your program can provide clubs that engage students in a variety activities based on their interests. For example, consider offering a music club, led by your school’s music teacher or a musician from the community. Students will be enthusiastic about the club and can participate in performances for parents and community members. Students could also participate in a dance club. A dance club is a great way to learn about other cultures and also promote physical activity. Other professionals could provide lessons on traditional art, painting, drawing, jewelry making and pottery. Students can go on field trips to local museums and theaters to continue learning outside of the school.
Global learning is a great area to explore in the afterschool program. Students can gain valuable knowledge of other countries and cultures. They can also grow in their communication skills and respect for others. Global learning can be incorporated through literacy activities, technology activities, project based learning, guest speakers, field trips as well as planning your own special events.
Health and Physical Activity
Afterschool is an ideal time to explore health and wellness topics. Put health and wellness knowledge into practice through healthy nutrition choices and physical activities. Afterschool is a great place to host walking clubs and yoga classes, for both students and family members. Another idea is to invite local health and wellness experts from your community for presentations. For example, invite doctors, dentists, nutritionists, counselors, coaches to teach students about healthy lifestyles. Your local 4-H Extension expert is also be a great resource for information and support.
The afterschool program provides additional time for students to engage in literacy activities (reading/writing/speaking/listening). This informal learning time is perfect for giving students of all ages time to read books of their choice, time to write on topics of their choice, time to talk about what they are reading and writing, and time to learn through speaking and listening. If your program has access to the school’s library, students will have access to a wide range of reading materials. You might also consider partnering with the library in your community to bring additional literacy activities to your students. Consider offering an afterschool writing club where students can write, and talk about their writing, including stories or poetry, alone or with others. You can also invite family members to write alongside their children. The afterschool environment is also an excellent time for students to conduct in-depth investigations on topics of their choice, and develop literacy skills as they share what they have learned with others (e.g., research, prepare presentations, present information to family or community members) through project-based learning or service learning opportunities.
The afterschool setting is the ideal place to help students develop math skills through everyday games and activities. For example, students of all ages can practice math as they play simple board games and card games. Students can practice math while participating in a cooking club through measurements in recipes. Students can plan and plant a garden, measuring spaces and mapping out the placement of plants and flowers. Sports games and physical activities also offer a unique way to incorporate math into the afterschool program. Visit with school-day teachers to learn about math learning objectives and the concepts students are working on at each grade level. Brainstorm how to practice these skills afterschool in real-world situations.
The afterschool program provides a great opportunity to explore science concepts. Students can be engaged in exciting, hands-on activities that will build their understanding of scientific concepts. Consider using project-based learning to apply scientific principles to real life situations. By offering a science club, students can explore numerous types of science projects. Also, students can organize a science fair to display finished projects and invite parents and community members to attend. Consider community partners to work with students as they engage in science activities. Your local 4-H Extension group is a great resource for providing science expertise and needed materials. High schools and postsecondary institutions might also have individuals who would be interested in leading science clubs in your program.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics)
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is an interdisciplinary and applied approach to teaching and learning that utilizes hands-on, in-depth, problem-based learning. It is an excellent vehicle for engaging students attending afterschool programs because of the open-ended, flexible scheduling options afterschool allows. Examples of STEM content include robotics, wearable technology, green schools, gardening, and astronomy.
The use of technology will attract students to the program. Students will be enthusiastic about unique opportunities such as photography, music composition, movie making, robotics, and geocaching. Technology can also be used for interactive learning as students communicate with others throughout the world. For cross-curricular learning, allow students access to safe sites to explore content related to global learning, math, science, and other content areas.
Recruiting and Retaining Students
Once you have hired a program leader and staff, decided on a program focus and schedule, and provided staff orientation, you will be eager to get students registered to attend the program. Recruiting and retaining students may be challenging, depending on your community and the age of students you are serving. Below you will find helpful ideas to bring students to your program and keep them coming.
- Back to school events are a great place to visit with families. Set up a table with informational flyers, photos and registration forms. Designate a staff member to meet and greet family members. Consider having students get involved in this process, also. Students can share information about the afterschool program with families and other students, developing leadership and communication skills in students of all ages.
- School registration events are also a convenient time to provide information. Families new to the school will appreciate finding out more about the afterschool program that is available.
- Host an afterschool event. For example, each year thousands of programs across the country celebrate the importance of afterschool by hosting a Lights On Afterschool event. Visit http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/loa.cfm to learn more about Lights On Afterschool, receive free planning tips and posters, and to register your event.
- Community partner events are also a great way to make connections. If your program has developed a partnership with a community organization, find out if they have any upcoming events that you can participate in. For example, partner with the local YMCA to host a family fitness event, or a community center to host a health fair.
- Consider hosting a table during parent-teacher conferences as this is a good time to connect with families. The program director should be available at these conferences to provide information and encourage participation. Provide teachers with flyers and enrollment forms, also, to distribute directly to family members. Teachers can encourage family members to register students in need of academic support or who would benefit from the enrichment activities.
- Recommendations from school staff can be used to recruit students. Classroom teachers can encourage students to participate, especially those teachers involved with the afterschool program. Administrators and teachers may be aware of students in need of mentoring or academic support. Counselors can refer students who could benefit from additional socialization with friends or students who need a safe place to be.
- If your program serves elementary students, contact preschools and head start program directors. These directors can provide information about the afterschool program to working family members searching for quality learning experiences afterschool.
- Students do a great job of recruiting other students. Have students create flyers, bulletin boards, make announcements using the school’s technology system, write articles to put on the school website, etc. Consider offering a special day when participating students can invite a friend to accompany them to the afterschool program.
- Middle and high school students have many options for ways to spend their time when not in school. When recruiting and retaining older students, be responsive to their interests and needs. Afterschool is a good time to develop career awareness skills, connect students to community organizations, and get them involved in service learning projects. Be sure to hire staff who make the program fun and interesting so older students want to attend on a regular basis.
Promoting the Program
- Advertisements are essential for getting information out to students, families, and the community. Promote the program in the local newspaper or radio stations. Share your success stories with the community.
- Posters or bulletin boards in the school building can highlight fun and enriching activities offered by your program. Consider having students create posters or bulletin boards for special events. Be sure to include photos of students engaged in afterschool activities.
- Utilize the schools morning announcements to share information with both students and teachers. If you offer full days of programming when school is out and during the summer, recruit students to participate.
- The school website is a great place to share information with families. You can post information and enrollment forms as well as photographs and videos. If your program has a photography, technology or writing club, have the students assist in creating an afterschool website.
- Use the school newsletter to share success stories, facts about afterschool, and information about upcoming events.
- If the school has a Facebook page or twitter account, consider promoting the program using these, or other, social media.
- Overcome barriers to participation. For example, provide late transportation for students, if needed. Allow all families the opportunity to participate regardless of their ability to pay.
- Make enrollment forms available online through the school or program site. A Sample Student Registration Form is available (Adapted from Beyond the Bell Toolkit).
- Reach out to all families. Make information available in additional languages to assist in reaching diverse families in the community whose primary language is not English.
- Hire staff who care about the students, who can serve as mentors, and are able to build positive relationships with students.
- Promote positive youth development opportunities. Invite experts to lead clubs or activities, or advise the program on strategies and activities that build student competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring.
- Make the program fun! The program should look and feel different than the school day. Both students and staff should enjoy activities and each other.
- Promote student leadership and involvement. Give students a voice in the clubs and activities offered. Provide students with a choice of activities in order to promote interest and engagement.
- Provide opportunities for in-depth learning through project-based learning and service learning projects. Students can engage in unique learning opportunities by connecting with others in the program and in the community, and through community improvement projects.
- Survey students to determine interests using a written survey, through interviews, through focus groups, or day-to-day conversations. To get started, use or adapt this example survey: Student Preference Survey (Adapted from Beyond the Bell Toolkit).
- Provide enrichment opportunities that are unique and not offered through the regular school day, but reinforce school day learning objectives.
- Talk to family members and students each day. This is an informal way to ask them how things are going and request any feedback that might help improve the program.
- If a student stops attending the program, interview the student or family to identify the reason(s) for leaving. When possible and appropriate, work with your Management Team to resolve the situation.
- Be responsive to the changing needs of students, families, school, and community.
- Survey students, family members, school staff, and program staff on a regular basis. Use this information to continually improve your program.
Staffing the Program
Strong leadership is essential for a successful afterschool program. After your planning committee has developed a vision for the program, the focus will shift to program leadership. It is important to put together a team to oversee the leadership of the program. This team, typically called a Management Team, should include leaders from the school and partnering organization(s), including members of the planning committee.
One of the first tasks of the Management Team should be to hire a program director. The following steps will assist the committee in the development of the program director’s position description and the hiring process:
- Appoint the program director’s supervisor. This person (or persons) should be involved in the steps outlined below. This supervisor will also review the program director’s job performance.
- Establish the program director responsibilities.
- Determine the qualifications necessary to fulfill job responsibilities (e.g., education level, certifications, experience). The vision of your program will guide you in this step.
- Develop a job description. This may include desired qualifications, responsibilities, supervisor, length of employment, salary range, and instructions for applying for the position.
- Launch the search for the candidate. Consider recruiting through community partners, the school district/lead organization, newspaper advertisements or internet advertisements.
- Determine 8-10 program director interview questions. It is recommended you have more than one person on the interview committee. For school-based programs, the principal should have a role in this process. Use the same questions for each interview. Be sure to allow the candidates an opportunity to ask questions.
Afterschool Program Staff
Once the program director is hired, he/she will lead a team effort to recruit, hire and supervise the program staff. The team may consist of representatives from the school, partnering community organizations, community members, and family members.
The following checklist will assist in organizing the process:
- Recruit qualified staff members to work in the afterschool program. Your recruiting efforts will vary depending on the size of your program, type of programming, and budget.
- School staff are excellent recruits for the afterschool program. Seek out staff with a great reputation with students for being caring, fun and engaging. These staff will draw students to your program. Also, seek staff based on the type of program you have. The program might benefit from having the art teacher or physical education teacher lead enrichment clubs. Consider recruiting classroom teachers or reading specialists to assist with tutoring or homework help. If you have students with special needs, the paraprofessionals who work with the students during the school day might be excellent resources.
- Staff from community organizations might be interested in working in the program. For example, the local librarian might be interested in offering reading or writing programs afterschool. Or, staff from the city park and recreation department might be available to lead recreational programs during the afterschool or summer program.
- College students would also make excellent program staff. Students studying education could assist with homework help or tutoring. You could seek students from specialized departments based on your programming needs. For example, students in the fine arts department may be able to offer music clubs or dance programs.
- Develop a job description for program staff that will include qualifications, program staff responsibilities, hours, wages and instructions for applying for the position.
- Develop a policies and procedures manual for all staff, developed in collaboration with the school and partnering organizations. Topics might include schedules, required paperwork, recruitment, hiring practices, wages, employment laws, attendance/absences, cell phone usage, benefits, leave, holidays, vacation, breaks, attire, staff development, job descriptions, employee conduct, evaluations, resignations, promotions, safety procedures, drug-free and tobacco free policies, communication systems, discrimination/harassment prevention, and complaint procedures. You may want to refer to the school district manual for guidance and to ensure alignment.
- Determine 8-10 program staff interview questions. It is beneficial to have more than one person on the interviewing committee. Use the same questions for each interview. Be sure to allow time for the candidates to ask questions.
- Provide an orientation for new staff and create and implement plans for ongoing professional development.
Volunteers are an excellent way to enrich your afterschool program by providing additional adults who develop can relationships with students, provide unique educational opportunities, and allow connections to the community.
- Similar to hiring staff, it is important to recruit qualified volunteers. Seeking the assistance of family members, school staff, retirees, or other qualified individuals is a great way to recruit volunteers for your program.
- Develop a volunteer job description so you can be clear on what the role will entail. It is important for volunteers to know what they are committing to as they are sharing a valuable resource: their time and efforts. There are many types of volunteer activities in afterschool: assisting with snack time, homework help, board games, cards, playground supervision, as well as leading academic activities or enrichment clubs. Make sure that your volunteers are qualified to perform the tasks they are assigned to complete.
- Interview volunteers. While they are not paid staff members, an interview will help you learn about their background and interests. It will also offer the candidate an opportunity to ask questions. This will ensure that the candidate is a good fit for the position.
- Provide an orientation and professional development opportunities for volunteers. You can modify your staff orientation and professional development or include volunteers in the same process, if applicable.
- Document volunteer time. Although volunteers are not paid for work, you may use the information when applying for grants requiring matching funds.
- Appreciate your volunteers. This can include positive feedback, thank you cards, and recognition certificates. Get students engaged in the appreciation efforts. For example, students could write thank you cards or assist in planning and leading an appreciation event.
This organization is committed to improving educational experiences for children and youth. Foundations, Inc. supports those who enhance the lives and prospects of our most vulnerable children.
You for Youth: Online Professional Learning and Technical Assistance for 21st CCLC’s
This site will help you connect and share resources with colleagues, provide professional development and technical assistance opportunities, and offer tools for improving your program practices.
There are many reasons to provide afterschool programs. Afterschool programs support students’ academic achievement, promote positive behaviors, support working families, and impact the quality of the community.
Research has confirmed academic benefits related to participation in afterschool programs:
- Better attitude towards school
- Higher education aspirations
- Less tardiness
- Lower drop-out rates
- Better performance in school (measured by test scores and grades)
- Greater on-time promotion
- Improved homework completion
- Improved engagement in learning
The hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. are the peak hours for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sex. Afterschool programs can:
- Reduce juvenile crime and violence
- Reduce drug use and addiction
- Reduce other risky behaviors (smoking, alcohol abuse)
- Reduce teen pregnancy
- Boost school success and high school graduation rates
- Reduce the prevalence of obesity
Support for Working Families and Communities
Afterschool programs not only benefit students, but they also benefit families and communities. The following are positive outcomes for parents with children in afterschool program:
- Less stressed
- Fewer unscheduled absences
- Improved productivity at work.
Web Resources Supporting the Benefits of Afterschool for Children/Youth, Families, Schools and Communities
Afterschool Alliance is a national organization dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of afterschool programs. Their vision is to ensure that all children and families have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs.
American Youth Policy Forum contains research on out-of-school time programs and how they are effective in improving youth skills and outcomes.
Coalition for Community Schools defines the concept of a community school and the positive results achieved in successful community school programs.
Harvard Family Research Project contains information on strengthening family, school, and community partnerships. It also specializes in early childhood care and education, promotes evaluation and accountability, and professional development resources.
National Institute on Out-of-School Time includes publications and research based facts on how quality afterschool programs can help young people, both academically and developmentally.
Let’s Get Started!
Congratulations on your commitment to students and families as you begin the planning process. There are numerous benefits associated with starting an afterschool program. The Harvard Family Research Project has documented the positive outcomes of afterschool and summer programs in the areas of academics, social/emotional, prevention and health and wellness. Getting started requires a significant amount of planning and preparation. This section will provide information to assist you.
Forming a Planning Committee
In order to strengthen your efforts in developing the program plan, it is important to form a planning committee. Members of the planning committee will work together to bring knowledge, experience, and a variety of perspectives to the planning process. It will also create buy-in from stakeholders. The associated groups, including the school, will also have a greater interest in the program’s success. In addition, this group will be important in expanding access to resources necessary to develop and implement the program. The size of your community will influence how many planning committee people needed. Potential planning committee members may include parents, school administrators/teacher(s), local government representatives, park and recreation officials, representatives from area postsecondary institutions, business leaders, or other community members. Once you identify and invite committee members to participate, your first meeting can be scheduled.
Considerations for Organizing a Planning Committee
Once you have identified planning committee members, schedule regular planning committee meetings. Your committee members may have busy schedules, therefore, setting the meeting times and dates ahead of time will be important. Consider the schedules of your committee members when setting meeting times and dates. For example, school administrators and teachers will need to meet after school. You may also want to avoid busy times of the school year, such as the first few weeks of the school year or during assessment dates. Prior to each meeting, send out a brief reminder and agenda. Start and end the meetings on time and follow the agenda. Designate a person to take notes during the meeting. Encourage all committee members to voice their opinions. Be sure to delegate responsibilities as needed. After the meeting, send a brief summary of any decisions and follow-up items. Be sure to thank committee members for their time and efforts that will ultimately benefit students and families in your community.
The first task of your planning committee is to assess the needs of your students, families, school, and community. First, the team should review any recent needs assessments completed in your community or school. You may also want to develop and administer your own.
Information from the needs assessment should help your planning committee identify community needs, needs of families, identified needs of school administration and educators, and students. The results of your needs assessment will move you in the direction of the next step, building a vision.
Building a Vision
Based on the results of the needs assessment, the planning committee should collaborate to build a vision for the program. The following questions may be useful for discussion:
- What are the anticipated program goals and objectives, based on results of the needs assessments?
- Who will the program serve?
- How will the program be structured?
- How will you integrate your program into the school’s vision and mission, if applicable?
- Where will the program be housed?
- How will the program be funded?
- How will the program be evaluated?
Building a vision will keep you focused as your team begins planning. Keep in mind that the planning process is on-going and your team will want to continually making adjustments as the program evolves. For this reason, it is recommended that the planning committee meet on a regular basis. The vision may change over time to meet the evolving needs of the school, community, families, and students.
Quality Program Development
There are various types of afterschool programs and a variety of program schedules. Quality programs often provide a wide variety of activities to meet the interests of diverse student populations. Your planning committee should consider many different options as the potential program schedule is drafted. Most programs include time for homework assistance, physical activity, a healthy meal or snack, and enriching program activities that are aligned to school day learning objectives.
TheNebraska State Board of Education approved a Policy for Expanded Learning Opportunities in September 2013. Expanded learning opportunities build on, support, and enhance learning during times when students are not in school (before and after school, weekends and summer) and are, therefore, a critical component of Nebraska’s educational landscape and one that should be intentionally supported and developed in communities across our state. Quality expanded learning principles include the following:
- School-community partnerships and resource sharing
- Engaged learning
- Family engagement
- Intentional programming aligned with the school day program
- Diverse, prepared staff including certificated educators
- Participation and access
- Safety, health, and wellness
- Ongoing assessment and improvement.
It is recommended you participate in the applicable USDA nutrition programs to receive supplemental funding for the cost of meals/snacks. Consider offering a daily, nutritious meal or snack that meets the requirements of the USDA National School Breakfast/Lunch Program (NSLP), Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) or Summer Food Service Program (including meal supplements) based on their hours of operation. (Participation is required if you administer a 21st CCLC program.) Meal/snack recommendations are as follows: 1) before-school (daily, nutritious breakfast), 2) only afterschool (daily, nutritious snack), 3) both before and afterschool (daily nutritious breakfast and snack), and 4) non-school days (daily nutritious breakfast, lunch, and/or snack, dependent on hours of operation). For applications, technical assistance, or information regarding any of these programs, including the After School Meals Program, contact Nutrition Services, Nebraska Department of Education, at 800-731-2233 or 402-471-2488 or their web site.
Costs and Funding Sources
The planning committee will need to consider the costs of running an afterschool program. Many programs rely on grants to support program costs. The following websites provide information regarding available grants and other resources for funding afterschool programs
21st Century Community Learning Centers Program (Nebraska)
Provides information on the Nebraska 21st Century Community Learning Center program, a federally-funded competitive grant program that supports establishment of community learning centers targeting schools in which at least 40% of the students qualify to receive free or reduced-cost meals.
Provides a funding database, grant writing tips, expert advice on funding issues, sponsorship ideas, and resources on partnerships.
Provides information and links to over 1,000 grant programs, articles, reports and information on planning strategies.
This site includes an online calculator to determine the costs of a variety of options for high-quality out-of-school time programs.
Provides federal funding sources, grant writing tips and information on how to finance and sustain your program.
Helpful Resources for Starting an Afterschool Program
Afterschool programs keep students safe and provide students with a place to learn, develop skills and build relationships with professional staff and fellow students. Afterschool programs give students the opportunity to also explore other interests, hobbies and engage in fun activities. Students have additional time to learn and grow outside of the school day. These additional opportunities help support academic achievement and social development. They also provide families and communities with an additional way to connect with students and get involved in their education.
This website is designed to assist schools and communities in the creation of their afterschool program. This website includes ideas, tips and additional resources to assist with the planning process from the beginning stages of development to the final product: a safe, fun learning environment for students and families.
If you are a current grantee of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, you can find additional resources under the My 21 CCLC tab.
21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant Program
Nebraska Department of Education
301 Centennial Mall South, P.O. Box 94987
Lincoln, NE 68509-4987
Fax: (402) 742-2371
21st Century Community Learning Centers Website
Jan Handa, Coordinator
Phone: (402) 471-0876
Kim Larson, Professional Development
Phone: (402) 471-4824