About Academic Enrichment Activities
Well-Integrated Academic Content
Recent trends in education have stressed the importance of including strong academic content in all aspects of the school day. This has particularly come to the fore with the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (more information on this legislation is available). Afterschool programming is no exception to this general trend. With the increased focus on incorporating academic content into afterschool, our project looks at how programs are best able to integrate academics (specifically literacy, math, and science) with fun, engaging content. We believe that one of the most important indicators of a high-quality activity is that the academic content is intrinsic to the activity, rather than merely added as an afterthought. Academics should be organically knit into the fabric of the activity, such that the learning occurs as a function of the process itself instead of as a tangential consideration. In our efforts to collect activities, several programs submitted activities in which the academic content of the activity was added on to the end of an activity that was already occurring (e.g., allowing students to play sports only if they write a report describing their favorite player). Though incentives of this sort may provide short-term motivation for students, there is a danger that children will come to see "academics" as something that serves as a barrier to fun, rather than something that can provide enjoyment on its own. For the purposes of this project, we believe that the learning should come from the activity, not be connected after-the-fact. Also, in order for the activity to be engaging, the academic content should be made relevant to the participants' experience, present and future. This connection is crucial for students to see, and afterschool programs can offer a great opportunity for students to see how the material they are learning in school can be applied in other settings. Academic content must also be age and ability appropriate. Take a quick quiz to test your thinking.