Afterschool Programs Inspire Students with a Connected Learning Approach

January 28, 2015
By Educator Innovator

Today, afterschool programs are providing their students a host of learning opportunities. From designing websites to writing poetry to gardening, the list goes on and on.

Though the opportunities differ, what many afterschool programs share is the way in which they approach creating learning opportunities for their students—finding new ways for young people to take part in activities that are relevant to them, while building academic and workplace skills and knowledge. Afterschool programs have been among the pioneers in applying a connected learning approach—creating a learning environment for students that builds on their interests; introduces them to new passions; provides mentors and a supportive peer network; and links this engagement to academics, careers and civic participation.

The Afterschool Alliance‘s new report, “Afterschool Programs: Inspiring Students with a Connected Learning Approach,” discusses the role afterschool programs play in the ecology of learning, where programs can help bridge the divides that exist in terms of access to additional learning opportunities, access to caring mentors, and access to resources and peer networks that can excite young people about the acquisition of knowledge. The report also dives into connected learning, exploring this educational approach that is the intentional linkage of ones’ interests, peer groups and academics, and how it capitalizes on the benefits of all three areas to create a learning experience that is both powerful and enduring.

Included in the report are examples of afterschool programs that are offering connected learning opportunities that join together their students’ interests, peer networks and academics, as well as key takeaways from programs. For example, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, students at Createch Studio—a partnership between the St. Paul Public Library and the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department—are able to help design the program’s space, can take part in a youth advisory council and provide input on activities offered at the program. Students can take part in a variety of activities—such as videography, dance, design and photography—where they have the ability to create, remix and share their work.

If you’re interested in learning more about connected learning, be sure to take a look at the “Resources” section at the end of the report that includes information on networks for educators, additional reports and websites focused on connected learning. Check out as well this resource at Educator Innovator.

Nikki Yamashiro
Original Post/ Afterschool Alliance