An after school program gives students a safe place to stay when parents can’t pick them up right after school. As the director, you want the program to be as high-quality as possible so the kids get the most out of it. Even if the program is good, there is always room for improvement. Here are some ways to better serve the students and parents in your after school program.
Assess the Current Program
Before you can make any improvements to the program, you need to identify the areas that could use some work. Take a critical look at all aspects of the after school program, including the planning, activities, staff and administrative aspects. If you are too close to the program, ask for an outside person to come through. This might be a teacher in the district or a community member who has experience in this type of program.
Another way to get input on the program is to ask the students and parents. Put out a suggestion box or ask for feedback. Or create a survey that asks questions on specific areas that you’re considering working on.
You might not have much control over where your after school program is held, but you can make the best of the environment. Check the environment for safety first. Limit access to the area so unauthorized people can’t have contact with the kids. Make sure everything in the area is in working order. Change the layout to give the kids plenty of space to move around and do the activities you plan.
The activities you plan for the program have a big impact on the experience for the kids. You could put out a few toys and games and let the kids play, but they won’t get much out of it. Instead, plan engaging, fun activities with an educational connection. For example, you might plan a fun science experiment for the kids to do.
Keep the activities interesting by changing them often. You might leave out a bead craft project for a few days and then switch it out with something different. Give the kids choice in the activities they do.
Your staff is another key factor in the success of an after school program. Ideally, you want staff members who have experience working with kids. No matter what the past experience, training your staff members helps get everyone on the same page so they can provide a quality experience.
Staff members should interact with the kids, not just watch them. They should make the kids feel comfortable in the after school program and create a supportive environment. If you have staff members who fall short of your expectations, do some additional training. Set goals for the employee so she knows what she needs to do to improve.
Have you gone to the community for support of the after school program? Having community members behind your program can give you additional resources to improve the quality of the program. Reach out to local businesses and community leaders to introduce them to your program. Give them ways they can help support your mission to provide a safe, educational after school experience for the students.