Out-of-School Time: What It Is, Why It Matters, & Finding the Right Program for Your Child

The Impact of Out-of-School Time

Out-of-School Time: What It Is, Why It Matters, & Finding the Right Program for Your Child

During times when schools are closed—such as before and after school hours or during summer breaks—many families require programs that offer academic enrichment opportunities for their children to help them reach state academic standards. Out-of-School-Time (OST) programs are available before school, after school, and during summer. These programs are located in schools and communities and serve families with children from Pre-K through graduation. They offer a variety of services including academic tutoring, homework help, and test preparation. Students will have the chance to engage in hands-on learning experiences such as science experiments, art projects, and outdoor exploration.

OST programs not only provide academic support but also offer various services that focus on youth development, character building, social-emotional learning, civic engagement, and physical and nutritional health in safe spaces with a caring mentor. These programs help students develop important life skills, such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork while also promoting positive behaviors such as respect, responsibility, and empathy.

In addition, these programs offer activities that keep children socializing and learning with their peers. Students can participate in sports teams, clubs, and other extracurricular activities that allow them to explore their interests and develop new skills. Research has shown that participation in OST programs can lead to improved academic performance, increased school attendance, and decreased behavioral problems.

OST programs are important not only for working families and those who need childcare when school is not in session, but research has also shown that they benefit children’s continued health and learning. Students who participate in these programs have been shown to have improved physical fitness, healthier food choices, and a reduced risk of obesity and chronic diseases.

Furthermore, OST programs benefit adult family members of program participants by providing educational development opportunities and enabling them to engage in their children’s education collaboratively with schools, families, and communities. These programs offer parenting workshops, family events, and other resources that help parents and caregivers support their children’s academic and social-emotional development.

Out-of-School Activities

There is no right or wrong way to select an OST program for your child—as long as it aligns with what you want and need for your child, any program you choose will have an impact. Typically, OST programs fall into one of three categories that each have a set of typical types of activities. These categories are:

  1. Academic—these programs tend to focus on academic enrichment and support and are geared toward promoting continued academic achievement even when a child is not in school.
  2. Multipurpose—these programs blend providing academic support with additional enrichment opportunities and recreational activities.
  3. Specialty—these programs are specialized around specific interests and activities that children are interested in. These programs are geared toward providing children with experiences related to specific sports, hobbies, and both academic and extracurricular areas of interest.

It’s important to know what kinds of activities you want your child to experience in an OST program, as well as what you hope the outcome of that participation might be.

Finding Out-of-School Programs

When it comes to finding an out-of-school program that best fits your child and family’s wants and needs, the sheer number of options available might seem overwhelming. To help you navigate this decision, Starting Point launched the Out-of-School Time Program Locator. With this locator, you can search for out-of-school programs based on your child’s age, your location, and the types of activities you would like your child to experience. Whether you are looking for a one-time activity or a recurring program, there is something for every child! If you need additional assistance, please feel free to reach out to one of Start Point’s Resource and Referral Specialists at 216-575-0061.

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