Extension Update from Megan Burda: Community Investment in Expanded Learning Opportunities

Extension Update from Megan Burda: Community Investment in Expanded Learning Opportunities

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Community Investment in Expanded Learning Opportunities

Children and youth in grades K-12 spend only 18.5% of their waking hours in the formal classroom environment. So where are they spending the rest of their time? As the number of working parents increases, more and more youth are coming home to empty homes after school. It is during these unsupervised hours that juvenile crime and victimization increases drastically, and youth miss opportunities to learn, create, and problem solve. Expanded learning opportunities provide fun, enriching, safe environments where students can explore, learn, create, and build life skills that will prove invaluable as they grow and develop into competent, caring adults.

Expanded learning opportunities, or ELOs, is a term that is increasingly being used to describe before and after school programs, and summer learning programs that adhere to certain principles of quality. Expanded learning opportunities provide extended academic enrichment and engagement. ELOs improve academic achievement and help prepare youth for their future by providing hands-on learning experiences. ELO programs help youth develop team building skills, leadership skills, and critical thinking skills; skills that are a necessity as they move into adulthood.

Leveraging the expertise of community partners can increase in the quality of ELO programs by bringing in experts in a variety of subjects. High quality ELO programs not only provide educational hands-on learning experiences, they foster many characteristics of positive youth development. Characteristics such as community engagement and citizenship; leadership and conflict resolution; and development of patience, responsibility, and discipline are all components of ELO programs. By bringing in community partners these programs also foster positive youth-adult relationships, and important component of youth development.

Community partnerships not only benefit the program but can benefit the community organizations and businesses that invest in the programs. ELO programs provide children of working parents with a safe, enriching environment so parents do not have to worry about where their children are or what they are doing. This provides businesses and organizations the benefit of having fewer working parents absent because of child care issues. Businesses and organizations that invest into ELO programs in their community not only have to worry less about employees missing work, they are also investing in and growing the workforce of the 21st Century.

Our office is hoping to expand that reach to all of York County. Currently, our office is planning to leverage partnerships in summer programming to increase educational reach throughout the county. We will be providing educational activities at the York Public Library to supplement the Summer Reading Program. We have also partnered with York Parks & Rec to provide unique program offerings for all York County Youth. We are also maintaining the traditional workshop program by providing 4-H youth with opportunities for fair exhibit creation. More than 15 programs will be offered from robots to rockets and quilts to pies, there will be a variety of expanded learning options. Youth will develop science interests, skills and abilities. York County summer programming will help youth think and problem solve within a scientific framework and encourage an excitement for science.

We are always looking to further our reach. If you know of other programs that can support expanded learning opportunities in your community contact me at 402-362-5508 or via email at megan.burda@unl.edu. Help us build a better tomorrow by investing in youth today!

Information shared comes from resources provided by Nebraska Beyond School Bells, Afterschool Alliance, and Nebraska Extension.

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