Lights On Afterschool Shows What Programs Can Do for Kids, Highlights the Need

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LOAPoster2014Afterschool programs are in the spotlight on Oct. 23, as the fifteenth Lights On Afterschool is celebrated.

At least one after-school program is highlighting the event all week.

The Irving Rec Center in Norman, Okla., is offering kids free classes ranging from flamenco, ballet and jazz dancing to creative basketball dribbling. The idea is to show the variety of activities offered and the benefit to kids.

Lights On Afterschool, sponsored by the Afterschool Alliance, will consist of more than 8,000 events around the country this year, the organization said in a statement.

Millions of children need high-quality after-school programs, the organizations said in its America After 3 P.M. survey, released earlier this month. One in five kids is unsupervised after school, the survey of more than 30,000 families reported. The survey showed an increased enrollment in after-school programs, but said the parents of an additional 19.4 million kids would enroll their children if programs were available.

The programs are seen as an effective way to close the academic achievement gap between affluent and low-income students.

Many of the Lights On Afterschool events are focusing on physical activity.

“Afterschool programs play a central role in ensuring that children and youth not only have opportunities to engage in physical activity, but also that they develop the habits of healthy eating and getting regular exercise.” Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant said in a statement.

In September, the journal Pediatrics published results of a study concluding that children who had moderate-to-vigorous physical activity at least an hour a day after school had a significant increase in their ability to pay attention and avoid distraction. They were also able to better switch between cognitive tasks, the research indicated.

Afterschool programs are also highlighting STEM activities.

For example, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale, Ariz., will have kids visit the Arizona Science Center for a family engineering science night.

4-H is making resources available for afterschool programs to take part in National Youth Science Day, according to the Afterschool Alliance.

At many of the Lights On events, kids will be able to show the skills and talents they have developed through after-school programs.

AshleyParker-2In the Blended Zine after-school program at the Farmington Public Library in Farmington, NM, 16-year-old Ashley Parker designed the poster that represents this year’s Lights On Afterschool. The poster shows a Broadway marquee-style sign with colorful yellow, orange, green and pink lights.

To find an event in your community, visit http://www.afterschoolalliance.org/loaFindEvent.cfm.