Note: Please note that the more general expectations included in CYD-OST 8 also apply to the activities addressed in this core concept. For example, activities should accommodate children and youth with differing needs and abilities, as addressed in CYD-OST 8.05; engage children and youth in active learning experiences, as addressed in CYD-OST 8.04; reflect the cultures and interests of children and youth, as addressed in CYD-OST 8.04; include opportunities for meaningful choices and decisions, as addressed in CYD-OST 8.09; and allow sufficient time for practice and improvement, as addressed in CYD-OST 8.06. See CYD-OST 8 for additional expectations regarding programming and activities.
Research suggests programs striving to improve academic outcomes must include an academic component in order to achieve their goals. However, literature also notes that it is still important to combine academic programming with a variety of other fun and enriching activities in order to engage children and youth and encourage the achievement of positive outcomes. Out-of-school time programs may also try to provide exciting and new interactive, hands-on, or experiential ways for youth to apply what they have learned in school. Helping children and youth strengthen their social-emotional skills and abilities, as addressed in CYD-OST 4, can also support their ability to succeed at school and work.
Programs implementing this supplement may have different goals and provide different types of programming, and it is important to note that they are by no means limited to providing “traditional” instruction in these areas. Some programs may provide instruction designed to help students improve basic skills in particular subjects, but other programs may provide enrichment activities focused on building specific skills or increasing exposure to certain fields. For example, a program might engage students in social studies through projects designed to increase civic engagement, or a program might engage students in math through activities designed to encourage financial literacy. Some programs will offer activities that cut across different academic areas, or that integrate the arts into academic areas (e.g., STEAM or STREAM activities), and other programs may use academic content areas primarily as a vehicle for developing the interdisciplinary skills that are relevant across both academic and other content areas, such as skills related to critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. As noted in CYD-OST 8.01, out-of-school time programs offer an excellent opportunity to help children and youth develop these “21st century skills.”
The program supports academic engagement and learning by:
designing activities that complement, extend, and expand school-day learning;
enabling children and youth to learn through active engagement with relevant academic concepts and materials;
incorporating real-world applications that make learning meaningful and help children and youth see how academic content relates to their lives and the world;
drawing connections between the program’s area of focus and other academic content areas; and
helping children and youth understand how their experiences and learning at the program connect to content covered at school.
Note: As referenced in the Note to CYD-OST-AESD 1, the practices addressed in CYD-OST 8 will also help to support academic engagement and learning. For example, activities should reflect the interests and preferences of program participants, as addressed in CYD-OST 8.04 and 8.16, and personnel should play an active role in supporting engagement and learning, as addressed in CYD-OST 8.05, 8.06, 8.10, and 8.14.
Note: Collaborating with school day personnel, as addressed in CYD-OST 7.04, can help the program to: (1) ensure that activities complement, extend, and expand school day learning, and (2) ensure that program participants’ needs are met.
When the program is designed to promote interest and build skills in reading and language arts, activities enable program participants to:
access a variety of text sources and types;
make choices regarding what they wish to read;
engage in independent reading;
take part in read alouds;
participate in discussions that encourage analysis and reflection; and
engage in writing exercises that include opportunities to formulate and develop ideas.
In addition to building literacy skills, programs should strive to foster a life-long love of reading and writing by helping children and youth explore and discover what they like to read and write. Special strategies may need to be employed if English is a second language for any of the children, youth, and families served by the program.
NA The program does not focus on literacy and language arts.
Note: Please note that the more general expectations included in CYD-OST also apply to literacy and language arts programming. For example, programs should: (1) partner with literacy-rich institutions to access needed resources and deliver quality programming, as addressed in CYD-OST 7.01 and 7.03; (2) provide guidance to families regarding ways they can help to develop their children’s literacy skills, as addressed in CYD-OST 6.02; (3) ensure that programming reflects and supports the interests, experiences, and cultures of children and youth, as addressed in CYD-OST 8.04; (4) ensure that personnel provide children and youth with feedback designed to promote improvement (e.g., regarding their writing), as addressed in CYD-OST 8.05; and (5) provide opportunities for children and youth to share their ideas and completed work (e.g., their writing) with others, as addressed in CYD-OST 8.08 and 8.15. Programs should also consider utilizing a project-based approach to building literacy skills (e.g., engaging children in writing a book), as addressed in CYD-OST 8.11.
When the program is designed to help children and youth develop and deepen interests, skills, and understanding related to science, technology, engineering, or math, activities enable program participants to:
ask questions and define problems;
plan and carry out investigations;
analyze and interpret data;
develop and use models;
construct explanations and design solutions;
engage in argument from evidence;
use mathematical and computational thinking; and/or
obtain, evaluate, and communicate information.
Different programs may focus on, and enable children and youth to perform these practices within, different STEM domains. Domains include: 1) physical science; (2) life science; (3) earth and space science; and (4) engineering, technology, and/or other applications of math and science. Concepts relevant across these domains include: (1) patterns, (2) cause and effect, (3) scale, proportion, and quantity, (4) systems and system models, (5) energy and matter, (6) structure and function, and (7) stability and change.
Note:Please note that the more general expectations included in CYD-OST also apply to STEM programming and activities. For example, programs should: (1) partner with STEM-rich institutions to access needed resources and deliver quality programming, as addressed in CYD-OST 7.01 and 7.03; (2) facilitate first-hand experiences that enable children and youth to learn through active engagement with relevant academic concepts and materials, as addressed in CYD-OST 8.04 and CYD-OST-AESD 1.02; (3) recognize and build upon the interests, cultures, and experiences of program participants; as addressed in CYD-OST 8.04; and (4) help children and youth understand how STEM learning at the program connects to ideas, experiences, and opportunities outside of the program, as addressed in CYD-OST 8.14 and CYD-OST-AESD 1.02. Programs should also be sure to support and encourage participation and engagement in STEM activities regardless of gender, as referenced in CYD-OST 1.04 and 4.01. Given that many OST personnel may not have the background needed to feel comfortable implementing STEM programming, it is also important for programs to: (1) provide the training and support personnel need to deliver STEM programming, or (2) offer programming in conjunction with educators or other professionals from STEM-rich institutions, as addressed in CYD-OST 7.03 and CYD-OST-AESD 1.09.
It is widely recognized that the United States must bolster its workforce’s skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Accordingly, literature emphasizes the importance of engaging children and youth in high-quality STEM learning opportunities, and points to the role that out-of-school time programs can play in exciting children and youth about these fields. Given that girls tend to be under-represented in STEM fields and may doubt or downplay their abilities in these areas, literature also highlights the importance of proactively cultivating the interest of, and supporting equal participation by, children and youth of both genders.
When the program is designed to focus on social studies, children and youth participate in activities that:
are centered around the study of cultures and societies, civics, economics, and/or geography;
enable children and youth to consider and explore multiple perspectives related to the topics in question;
highlight connections between the past, present, and future; and
encourage a commitment to citizenship and social responsibility.
Different programs may have different areas of focus. For example, while one program might emphasize global awareness and focus on the cultures and geographies of other nations, another program might engage children and youth in learning more about their local community, history, or culture. No matter the area of focus, social studies should ideally encourage children and youth to become excited about the world and learn lessons that can be used to make the world a better place.
Note:Please note that the more general expectations included in CYD-OST 8 also apply to social studies programming.
Children and youth have opportunities to learn about and explore community institutions, careers, and options for higher education related to the academic areas of focus.
When programs serve older youth who are closer to embarking on a career path it will be especially important for youth to gain an understanding of professions that relate to the academic area of focus, as well as to obtain a better sense of the steps necessary to prepare for the career.
Note: Programs should also ensure that opportunities for reflection, as addressed in CYD-OST 8.14, are incorporated both throughout the duration of the project and upon completion.
Children and youth are helped to navigate transitions between grades and schools, when applicable.
Personnel might assist children and youth by helping them understand the structure and expectations of different grades and schools; arranging or accompanying them on visits to new schools or classrooms; or providing assistance with school applications. In addition to the explicit help addressed in this standard, programs can also help youth during transitions between grades and schools simply by serving as a stable, familiar place that youth can count on as they cope with changes in other parts of their lives.
Some literature notes that it may be especially important to help older youth navigate the transition from middle school to high school. Transition programs will ideally: (1) provide information about new schools and the support students may need to succeed; (2) encourage parent involvement; (3) facilitate communication with middle and high school staff; and (4) offer summer programming that promotes readiness for the next school year.
Personnel who provide academic activities are qualified to do so, and receive the training and ongoing support they need to understand:
best practices in programming for the relevant academic areas and grade levels;
state and local academic standards; and
strategies for engaging children and youth, including for promoting engagement and participation when children and youth may be reluctant or struggling.
In many programs striving to improve academic performance, academic activities are provided by, or in conjunction with, certified teachers who have both content and grade-level experience. While COA does not require programs to hire teachers, programs should have a strategy in place to ensure that staff are prepared to engage children and youth in high-quality activities. For example, a program might establish an ongoing relationship with, or arrange for its staff to be trained by, an experienced teacher or curriculum developer.
It also is important to note that the content and focus of training will likely vary based on both the academic content addressed and the qualifications and background of personnel. For example, given that many OST personnel may not have the background needed to be sufficiently familiar with the STEM domains and practices addressed in CYD-OST-AESD 1.04, it is important that they receive the training and ongoing support needed to help children and youth deepen their understanding and skills in these areas. In contrast, many personnel may be more comfortable facilitating literacy and language arts activities, but may still need training and support in order to understand the difference between reluctant and struggling readers, and utilize engagement strategies in accordance with students’ needs.
Literature emphasizes the importance of preparing staff to provide academic activities. Strategies for training staff vary, but some literature highlights the potential benefits of partnering with external providers to ensure that staff are properly trained. Research also highlights the importance of providing coaching or training on an ongoing basis in order to help staff maintain and strengthen their skills, and deliver quality programming, over time.
Programs seeking to improve academic performance ensure that children and youth spend sufficient time on academics to support achievement of the program’s goals.
The amount of time that should be devoted to academic content will likely vary based upon the duration of the program. For example, while a program that operates during the school year might offer programming in a given subject two or three times per week, some experts recommend that shorter-term summer programs provide academic content at least three hours per day, five days per week, for five to six weeks.
NA The program does not explicitly seek to improve academic performance.
It is important that children and youth attend programs in order to benefit from them, as referenced in CYD-OST 1.02, but it is equally important that they spend a sufficient time on academics while in attendance in order to improve academic performance. Accordingly, literature emphasizes that programs striving to improve academic outcomes should: (1) encourage regular attendance, (2) dedicate a sufficient amount of time to academics, (3) create schedules that protect instructional time, and (4) ensure teachers understand how much time they are supposed to devote to academics.