Lesson 1: After-School Program Essentials from Citizen Schools

Find out how this after-school program helps kids stay in school.

October 8, 2008

Keeping children awake in class is one thing. Keeping them in school is another. Citizen Schools has developed a nationwide after-school program aimed at keeping students in school so they can achieve more in their future jobs and in life.

To complete this feat, the program prescribes four essentials to learning: community support, leadership and positive values, access to resources, and new basic skills. These academic and real-life principles set the tone for the rest of the curriculum.


Providing students with a community gives them resources and a sense of relevance. Citizen Schools embeds students in the community by making citizens active participants, or mentors, in the education process.

Mentors are the hallmark of the program. Mentors create a vital link between community, students, and parents. They encourage parents to become more involved in their kids' education; connect parents, teachers, and after-school staff; and entice young people to contribute directly to community improvement.

Leadership and Positive Values

Leadership and positive values help kids obtain self-respect. You can build leadership skills by helping students plan ahead, lead groups, be effective team members, resolve conflicts, be self-aware, and take positive risks.


Access to diverse role models and professional pathways enlightens and enriches student knowledge. Students need access to the best resources their community has to offer -- educationally, culturally, and financially. You can help children become familiar with resources in their community by having them visit colleges and museums, introducing them to professionals and tradespeople, and allowing them to share opinions with political leaders.

New Basic Skills

Technology and other forces of the twenty-first century have spawned a new set of basic skills. Recent research indicates that young adults who develop these new basic skills earn higher incomes. In Teaching the New Basic Skills, authors Richard Murnane and Frank Levy define these skills:

  • Oral communication -- the ability to speak to an audience with confidence, making eye contact and using proper body language
  • Teamwork -- the ability to work effectively and solve problems as part of a diverse team
  • Data analysis -- the ability to solve problems by looking at the data
  • Technological adaptability -- the ability to use technology as a tool
  • Written communication -- the ability to use new vocabulary, communicate effectively in writing, and read critically

Citizen Schools has more on how you can assess key skills like oral presentation and teamwork (pdf).

Try to incorporate at least two of these skills in your lesson plans, assessing students' progress in mastering each skill along the way.

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  • Assessment
  • Classroom Management
  • Curriculum Planning
  • Place-Based Learning

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