An analysis of 73 afterschool studies concluded that afterschool programs using evidence-based approaches were consistently successful in producing multiple benefits for youth, including improvements in children's personal, social and academic skills, as well as their self-esteem. (The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, 2007)
In the PJA Afterschool Department, we work diligently to go above and beyond our primary goal of providing safe spaces for youth during their out-of-school time. Our programs give us access to more than 300 children for up to 23 hours a week which breaks down to a seemingly infinite number of daily opportunities to support building social emotional learning skills through mediation and reflection, promote inquiry and growth mindset with enrichment-based programming, and create meaningful relationships with families and children that can last for up to 8 years, and sometimes much longer. As such, we recognize that developing and sustaining the skill sets necessary for this kind of meaningful work requires ongoing growth and learning on our part. This is why, as a department, we make finding high-quality professional development a top priority, and require 3 additional hours of Professional Development Training annually to the state’s 15.
In keeping with this priority, each November our twenty-three teachers, Site Directors, aides and admin trek down to Salem for the annual Oregon Afterschool Conference at Chemeketa College. We gather with hundreds of colleagues from across the state to share best practices and participate in educational workshops. This year’s sessions were held on such varied topics as The Benefits of Play in Afterschool, Connecting with ELL (English Language Learner) Families, Partnerships to Support Healthy Schools and Communities, Equity in Afterschool, Neuroscience and Mindfulness, and Building Resilience Through Trauma-Informed Practices. Our program teaching teams intentionally diversify their workshop enrollment in order to maximize the breadth of areas covered, ensuring that a wide variety of ideas and practices are brought back to their programs.
The conference’s Keynote Speaker, Dr. Kendra Coates, specializes in SEL (Social and Emotional Learning) and Growth Mindset practices and shared her insights on the role of afterschool professionals as it applies to this work. Her opening presentation tied beautifully into and expanded on our study of Carol Dweck’s “Mindset Theory” in our department book club last year. As a department, we have come to understand that the most powerful way to instill self-confidence, resilience in the face of adversity, and a lifelong love of learning in children is by supporting SEL and the development of a growth mindset. We are excited to continue our professional development journeys with SEL and GM as they pertain to the afterschool environment, and to find opportunities to integrate evidence-based practices into our programs in meaningful ways.
As the saying goes, it takes a village. As Afterschool professionals, we value and celebrate our role within the “village”: helping to support the development of happy, healthy, skilled and lifelong learners. We look forward to continuing to utilize the knowledge from our various trainings and building in evidence-based practices so that we can do our part to help our communities continue to learn, grow, and thrive!