Making Classroom Connections
Youth spend approximately six hours a day in school, two hours a day in afterschool, and another six hours at home or in the community. This means a significant amount of their time spent learning is "out-of-school," and it's worthwhile to ensure these environments are as rich as possible.
While out-of-school time learning is important, the time spent in-school also has formative effects on young people that can impact their futures; including where they go to college, what kinds of careers and lifestyles they try to form, and the quality of their learning.
It is a hope that afterschool environments are able to provide rich, out-of-school time learning, but also connect to what youth are learning during typical school hours. In order to integrate and build upon in-school learning, it's important to interact with school professionals to get information about what youth are learning:
- Ask to get put on the parent email list. Many elementary teachers send a weekly email to parents to tell them about upcoming events, the curriculum, or school activities. This is a great way to get regular information about the school day, and it doesn't require any extra meetings or phone calls for anyone involved.
- Borrow a copy of the school's science curriculum and any "scope and sequence" documents that indicate which units get taught on which timescales. This can help you choose when to do certain science activities, and it can help youth make powerful connections across school and out-of-school time learning. Many districts even have these documents for every elementary school. You can note which grades learn which topics and get photocopies of relevant activities or concepts. You'll need a teacher or curriculum specialist to loan these texts and documents, but they should be happy to help when they learn you want to support their students' learning.
- Ask the youth. Older youth can be especially helpful in explaining what they're learning about. The only drawback is that asking youth to describe their learning doesn't give you much time to design meaningfully-connected lessons, but it still gives you a chance to express enthusiasm for learning and draw connections between activities you've done in the past.