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Park and recreation afterschool programs make a real difference in communities

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Park and recreation afterschool programs make a real difference in communities

A new survey study released by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), 2018 Out-of-School Time Report, highlights the multitude of ways that local park and recreation before school, afterschool, and summer programs are positively impacting the lives of children and their families. With nine in ten park and recreation agencies offering afterschool services, millions of children across the country are benefitting from safe and supportive places to spend time outside of school.

Park and recreation professionals agree that the top five benefits afterschool programs provide youth are:

  1. Safe spaces to play outside of school hours 
  2. Free or affordable spaces to engage in health and wellness opportunities
  3. Opportunities to socialize with peers
  4. Exposure to nature and outdoor experiences
  5. Educational support and supplemental learning opportunities

Other key findings from the NRPA’s July 2018 survey of 334 park and recreation agencies demonstrate the importance of park and recreation afterschool programs in meeting the needs of local youth.

Key Findings

Park and recreation agencies offer a broad range of afterschool activities.

The vast majority of park and recreation agencies offer opportunities that encourage physical activity and mindfulness, exposure to arts and culture, and family engagement. Many agencies also focus on youth development, mentoring, and expanding educational opportunities in areas like nutrition and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Park and recreation agencies deliver programs to address the specific needs of local youth.

Specialized programs range from enrichment clubs serving all youth to offerings that focus on gender or minority youth populations. Most park and recreation agencies also develop targeted programming for youth living under challenging circumstances that include mental health struggles, homelessness, risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system, and risk of engaging in substance-use.

Park and recreation agencies encourage youth to explore the STEM field. According to the America After 3PM survey, 70 percent of parents agree that afterschool programs should provide opportunities to explore and engage in hands-on STEM learning. Since more than half of park and recreation agencies currently offer STEM programming, park and recreation afterschool programs are uniquely positioned to meet this demand and promote STEM learning through hands-on nature-based activities.

Park and recreation agencies guide youth on a path of healthy living. To ensure that youth have knowledge of and access to healthy and sustainable food sources, the vast majority of park and recreation agencies offer gardening and nutrition-oriented activities as an element of their afterschool programming. In addition, 46 percent of park and recreation professionals say that their programs support healthy, physically active lifestyles through play, swimming, exercise, and sports–an aspect of afterschool programing favored by 84 percent of parents in the America After 3PM survey.

Challenges

Park and recreation agencies understand the value of staff training as a way to better serve local youth. However, four in five park and recreation agencies experience difficulties providing training opportunities for their staff. Funding limitations prove to be the greatest hurdle agencies have to overcome, with roughly half of agencies either unable to pay for additional personnel to cover current staff in training or unable to cover the cost of the training program itself.

Park and recreation afterschool programs are making a measurable difference in the lives of local youth and their families–and with increased support, they have the potential to make an even greater impact. Access to greater funding and staff training resources means park and recreation agencies can provide more youth with opportunities to learn, discover, engage, and thrive in the afterschool hours!

Learn more about what park and recreation afterschool programs do for local communities by reading NRPA’s 2018 Out-of-School Time Report.

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