- With the mission of creating more opportunities for young people to develop confidence, creativity, and spark an interest in science, technology, engineering, math and the arts, the “maker movement” and afterschool are natural allies in promoting learning thru making. Look for afterschool programs to bring together museums, libraries and other community institutions to engage young people in these creative learning endeavors. Check out what the Chicago Digital Youth Network is doing with their local public library system.
- While STEM will continue to be a focus for the afterschool field, I predict 2014 will be a year when we go deeper on STEM instructional training for the afterschool workforce. This resource guide prepared by Every Hour Counts as part of their Frontiers in Urban Education (FUSE) initiative provides a great roadmap for how we can address this issue.
- Until recently, it's often been difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements gained outside of school. Digital badges provide a way for young people to get recognition for the skills and experiences they gain in afterschool programs. Potential employers, community members, and even college admissions staff can go to a student's online profile to see their portfolio of badges—linked to the work and projects done to achieve the badges—to get a holistic understanding of the student that goes beyond the classroom and beyond grades. Providence After School Alliance (PASA) is doing some amazing work in this area. I predict that we will see more programs adopting the badging model for youth and that we’ll also see an interest in what it can mean for afterschool professionals as well.
- On the subject of technology, I am looking forward to hearing from our NAA Annual Convention Keynote Speaker, Jaime Casap, Global Education Evangelist for Google, Inc. Jaime is sure to address how afterschool programs can help close the “digital opportunity gap” through innovative uses of technology.
- With tremendous focus on the troubles in both college and professional sports, I predict a growth in sports-based youth development (SBYD) programs – those that promote positive youth development principles in the context of organized youth sports. Programs like Up2US and their “Coach across America” initiative are leading the effort to build both life skills and athletic ability.
- Because conventional schooling in most places has not been able to focus productively on social and emotional learning and development, and because its benefits are so well demonstrated and wide-ranging, the afterschool field has a huge opportunity to fill a crucial need. I predict much attention will be given to the role of afterschool programs in promoting the skills necessary for success in school and in life. NAA will be hosting a day-long national thought leader’s summit on this issue in early March.
- As Common Core State Standards are being rolled out in states around the country, I predict that the implementation of these standards will provide more and sharing among afterschool staff and school staff. Our New Jersey NAA Affiliate, NJSACC, in cooperation with the New Jersey State Department of Education, recently completed a statewide pilot training program on the Common Core for afterschool program leaders. You can read more about that project and others in the Expanding Minds and Opportunities article on Common Core and expanded learning.
- Similarly, “age three to grade three” initiatives that promote seamless learning between preschool and early elementary will provide afterschool programs and professionals increased opportunities to collaborate with both early childhood and elementary classroom teachers to promote student success.
- With her own daughters nearing college age, the First Lady is turning her attention to the issue of college access. I predict afterschool programs to be major players in promoting and supporting this effort with the youth and families they serve. National programs like the Urban League’s College Track are demonstrating impressive rates of college acceptance and completion among the low-income students in their program.
- Finally, consider this last one part trend prediction and part New Year’s resolution: 2014 will be the year that NAA focuses on professionalizing the field of afterschool. From our NAA Quality Standards to our Core Knowledge and Competencies, we have a tremendous framework on which to mobilize our partners and begin the “call to action” for creating a professional field of practice.
I hope reading this list excites you as much as it does me! With so many amazing initiatives and opportunities, 2014 is going to be a great year to be an afterschool professional!
Thanks to all of you for the hard work you do every day to improve the lives of children! Here’s to a fantastic 2014!