What is learning beyond the classroom?
At a crucial stage in their brain development, Minnesota youth have nearly 2,000 hours of unstructured time each year, twice the amount of time they spend in school.That’s the equivalent of a full-time job. High-quality opportunities for learning beyond the classroom support parents in helping their children grow, support schools in preparing youth for the working world and support communities in encouraging active and responsible participation in civic life.
Youthprise defines “learning beyond the classroom” broadly to include all programs that provide support for young people’s intellectual, social, emotional and physical development outside the traditional school classroom, including programs for youth that take place in schools and in community-based settings, youth leadership initiatives, youth employment and youth entrepreneurship models that occur both before and after school, and during weekends, holidays and summer breaks. These programs are also known as “expanded learning opportunities” or collectively as “out-of-school time”.
Why focus on learning beyond the classroom?
A growing body of research suggests that much of the achievement gap between lower-income and higher-income students is a result of what students experience outside of the classroom. We know that participating in quality out-of-school time programming has wide-ranging and far-reaching benefits for young people, and helps them become happy, productive, contributing adults:
- They do better in school: documented improvement in attitudes, punctuality, responsibility, and performance.
- They acquire important life and social skills: documented improvements in communication skills, self-confidence and relationships.
- They are less likely to get involved in negative activities: documented decrease in behavioral problems, delinquency, crime and drug/alcohol use.
- They are healthier and make better food and lifestyle choices: documented increase in physical activity and fitness, knowledge of nutrition and health practices and improved body image.
Of equal importance, young people have a right to live full, interesting and engaged lives today, as young people.
Download the case statement on learning beyond the classroom: Investing in the Enterprise of Youth.
Why focus on building systems and the field?
From math camps to drop-in basketball nights, a rich variety of opportunities for learning beyond the classroom are offered throughout the community. Different organizations provide these services, and most are doing their best with the resources they have. But there is really no centralized place for sharing knowledge and getting resources, and as a result:
- The quality of programming across the board is inconsistent, and there is no easy way for young people or their parents to gauge the quality of a given program.
- The opportunities are not accessible for all youth.
- The current financial model means that programs are not sustainable over time, and there isn’t enough funding.
The result is an opportunity gap for the most vulnerable young people.