The Hidden Benefits of After-School Programs

At Moorelands Kids, we often talk about how our after-school programs help kids stay connected to supportive peer communities, boost their confidence, learn new skills, and gain good role models. These are all key factors of Positive Youth Development, a framework that both our after-school and camp programs are built on.

But after-school programming can offer more than just benefits to youth development and learning. These programs serve a greater social purpose — they provide a unique opportunity for youth to extend their learning beyond the school environment. Moorelands equips kids with important protective tools that mitigate risky behaviours, and we open doors that help narrow achievement gaps in high-school completion, post-secondary enrolment, and career attainment.

Opening Doors Through STEM Engagement

According to a 2015 study from Let’s Talk Science and Amgen Canada, 70% of parents feel that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education is important for their child’s development and learning.1

The first step in educating youth in STEM is to drive interest and create opportunities for quality learning. After-school programs, particularly those that specialize in skill-building and STEM activities, can offer more learning time, additional help, hands-on activities, and practical tools to help young people build STEM skills outside of the classroom.2 This regular participation in STEM-related after-school programs helps narrow achievement gaps by increasing interest in STEM.

These positive STEM attitudes create engaged youth with an interest and desire in pursuing a future in science, technology, math, and engineering fields. This is a key factor in opening new pathways for youth who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields such as youth from low-income households, which according to the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, is negatively correlated with STEM enrollment at the high school level.3

In providing STEM-focused activities to underserved youth, we aid in diversifying STEM fields in high school, university, and in industry. Furthermore, our after-school staff also provide kids with the opportunity for homework help in all subjects, reinforcing the importance of academic achievement and ambition. Students have the ability to supplement their learning and become competitive candidates for additional schooling or careers in all subjects.

Increasing Social Capital and Connection

According to research conducted by the Search Institute, strong relationships between youth and adult role models are key to Positive Youth Development.

The Search Institute determined that youth who are in programs like ours have higher social and emotional competencies such as responsibility, decision-making, social and self-awareness, and self-management. On average, youth who were involved in after-school programs reported having stronger relationships with adult role models than their peers who were not involved in after-school programs.4 After leaving our programs, children and youth apply their toolkits to become well-socialized and productive members of society who can foster good relationships wherever they are.

Prevention, Intervention, and Keeping Kids out of the Justice System

A typical school day in Ontario ends just after 3 p.m., yet the average eight-hour workday in city centres such as Toronto ends between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. This leaves a significant gap in supervision for youth not involved in an after-school program or other childcare.

According to Public Safety Canada, between 3 and 6 p.m. are peak hours for crime amongst youth, with 42% of all youth crime occurring at this time of day.5 Additionally, research shows that youth who are not involved in safe, structured activities after school are more likely to engage in risky behaviours that may lead to involvement in the youth justice system.6 For youth who live in poverty, this likelihood is greater.

After-school programs can provide a secure environment during these critical hours. In addition, skill-building programs such as those offered by Moorelands Kids can help kids build confidence and self-esteem, prioritize physical health and wellness, foster relationships with positive role models and build strong social connections with peers. These factors can help keep kids out of the juvenile justice system.

Career Development Opportunities for Parents

For parents, unaffordable and inadequate childcare after school can often hinder their ability to find and keep reliable work. After-school programs meet an important need for parents who cannot finish work until well past school dismissal. In addition, after-school programs give parents peace of mind that their child is safe and supervised while they finish their workday.

This opportunity gap was significantly widened during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a 2021 report by Statistics Canada, more than one-third of low-income families found it difficult to access or afford childcare in their communities. Due to this, parents in low-income families were more likely than higher-income parents to postpone their return to work after the pandemic.8

Creating Equitable Access to Intentional Programming

According to research from Statistics Canada, traditionally underserved youth and marginalized groups such as youth from low-income households, single-parent households, immigrant families, and youth of colour systemically have less access to out-of-school care and childcare.9

It is also important to note that there is a wide discrepancy in the quality of out-of-school care that is available and accessible to these groups. Often, parents are forced to choose childcare based on cost rather than value or quality.9

Moorelands Kids’ subsidized after-school programs fill a gap caused by financial barriers, giving underserved youth an opportunity to take part in highly intentional programming focused on leadership development and skill-building, without the burden of costly fees.

Giving the Next Generation the Tools they Need

Subsidized after-school programs such as those offered through Moorelands allow families who would otherwise lack access to observe the benefits of added care, supervision, and connection in their kids’ lives. Our after-school programs, BLAST, LED, and VITAL, allow us to build supportive spaces for the youth of all ages, introducing them to valuable skills and helping open doors for their future. Moorelands is focused on bridging the opportunity gap for the next generation, so they can continue to share our vision for a brighter future in Canada.

Sources

  1. Finding STEM in your child’s future. Amgen Canada. (https://www.amgen.ca/stories/2022/03/finding-stem-in-your-childs-future)
  2. From quality to outcomes: a national study of afterschool STEM programming. Allen, P., et al. STEM Educational Journal (2019). (https://stemeducationjournal.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40594-019-0191-2)
  3. High school math and science success drives university STEM enrollment. Dooley et al. Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (2016). (idealhealth123.com) (https://heqco.ca/pub/understanding-the-stem-path-through-high-school-and-into-university-programs/)
  4. The Developmental Assets Framework. The Search Institute. (https://www.search-institute.org/our-research/development-assets/developmental-assets-framework/)
  5. A Statistical Snapshot of Youth at Risk and Youth Offending in Canada. Public Safety Canada. (2012). (https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/ststclsnpsht-yth/index-en.aspx)
  6. From Risk to Opportunity: Afterschool Programs Keep Kids Safe When Juvenile Crime Peaks. StrongNation.org. (2019). (https://strongnation.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/693/4af605ed-7f54-4d11-81fe-ce6ec893b106.pdf?1571194834&inline;%20filename=%22From%20Risk%20to%20Opportunity:%20Afterschool%20Programs%20Keep%20Kids%20Safe%20When%20Juvenile%20Crime%20Peaks.pdf%22)
  7. Sex, drugs, risk and resilience: analysis of data from the Canadian Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study. Phillips, S., et al. European Journal of Public Health (2018). (https://academic.oup.com/eurpub/article/29/1/38/5090536)
  8. Providing and Using Childcare in Canada. Statistics Canada (2021). (https://www.statcan.gc.ca/o1/en/plus/216-providing-and-using-child-care-canada)
  9. Use of Childcare Before and After School in Canada. Kingsbury, M., and Findlay, L.Statistics Canada (2021) (https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/36-28-0001/2021008/article/00004-eng.htm)
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