George Lucas Educational Foundation
Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Lesson 7: Programs and Operation

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the ins and outs of running an AfterZone.

January 21, 2009

After-school programs take an enormous amount of logistical planning. How do students transition from the school to an off-site location? How do staff members keep track of students' attendance? And what about the actual programs? All these questions and more are answered below. Get an in-depth view of the different programs offered, registration process, orientation, and day-to-day scheduling that go into running an AfterZone.

Download a map of the AfterZones (7MB)


An In-Depth Look at the Programs

The Providence After School Alliance and its site-management agencies operate many after-school programs in four sessions over the course of the school year and during the summer. Programs are held Monday through Thursday, both on school grounds (such as in the gymnasium, library, or cafeteria) and off site at community-provider locations. Programs are categorized broadly under arts (such as photography or dance), skills (like nature exploration and computer programming), and sports (such as volleyball or soccer), and fall into two formats, dubbed Provider Programs and Club AfterZone.

Provider Programs

In each AfterZone, community providers offer weekly or two-day-a-week enrichment programs in three formats:

  • Community-based programs: All programs off school grounds are considered community based and take place for two hours. Program examples include martial arts at a sports center, photography classes at a graphic design facility, or astronomy activities at a natural history museum.

  • Full-service programs: These programs take place on school grounds and run for two and a half hours, providing youth with not only focused enrichment programming but also academic supports, physical-wellness activities, and personal-development opportunities. Program examples include filmmaking, spoken word acitivities, and aikido.

  • One-hour enrichment programs: These are focused programs, such as robotics, break dancing, or tennis. Students enrolled in these programs also spend an hour before or after them in Club AfterZone.

Club AfterZone

Club AfterZone is a daily learning time for youth involved in one-hour enrichment programs. Either before or after these programs, youth check in with YES workers, AmeriCorps members, and college volunteers, who all serve as AfterZone guides to collectively facilitate the sessions. (For more information about these employees, visit Lesson 5 of the tutorial).

Following check-in, students spend the next 45-50 minutes involved in a number of intensive or casual learning opportunities chosen on a rotating basis. They engage in tutoring and other direct academic supports, focused reading time, educational and recreational games, hands-on activities (in science, math, or social studies), guided discussions on issues affecting youth, and instructional workshops.

Instructional workshops are discussions lasting 30-45 minutes in which individuals or professionals can talk about their profession or a passion. Workshops can be offered either as a onetime experience or as part of a series.


Student Registration Procedures

About two weeks before the AfterZone session begins, students register for after-school programs. They can attend sessions four days a week or fewer days. (Most programs are held two days a week.) Flexibility is important to middle school youth, who are beginning to navigate their independence. PASA hosts recruitment events and showcases during the school day to introduce youth to the available programs. (Recruitment events are discussed in greater detail in Lesson 8 of the tutorial.) It also produces a detailed registration brochure for each school outlining the school-based and community programs available to students.

Download an AfterZone student registration brochure (92KB)

PASA uses, a Web-based data-management system, to process registration forms. (This is the same service used for data tracking discussed in Lesson 4 of the tutorial.) When the forms are completed and signed by a parent or guardian, members of the AfterZone staff enter the youth's contact information and program selections into the data-management system and gather any missing information. When all information has been entered, a confirmation letter is sent to the student to verify program enrollment.

Waiting lists are created after the program reaches enrollment capacity (based on an adult-to-youth ratio of 1 to 13). Throughout the first two weeks of every session, youth are allowed to add or drop programs to be sure they have found one they like.


Provider Expectations and Orientation

In a provider orientation at the start of each AfterZone session, staff explain program logistics and provider expectations. In addition, AfterZone managers meet with all providers once or twice a session to confirm room assignments, review program schedules, and discuss how things are going.

Download the Expectations of Program Providers (860KB)

Before the beginning of orientation, PASA hands out a session information packet to providers. Each packet consists of an enrollment list; emergency contact, medical, and allergy information for each youth enrolled in the program; and a session-long calendar with important dates and meetings for providers. This information is generated from the data-management system.


Students' Day-to-Day Schedule

When the school bell sounds, signifying the end of the school day and the start of the after-school day, students move in many directions: Some are involved in one-hour enrichment programs on site, two-hour programs on and off site, or Club AfterZone. Following are the step-by-step procedures PASA follows to assemble, manage, and move youth around:

  • 1. Youth sign-in.

    At 2:40 p.m., school ends and all students report to their program table in the school cafeteria or other designated location; each table has a program-table tent and a youth sign-in sheet.
  • 2. Snack time.

    After students sign in and report their attendance, they're given a snack, which includes a juice, fruit, and a grain food. One student at each table is responsible for bringing the attendance sheet to the staff in charge of the snack. The student then delivers the snacks to the group.

  • 3. Program-involvement time.

    After check-in and snacks have been delivered to staff, one of the following occurs:
    • Students enrolled in school-based enrichment programs during the 3-4 p.m. session or who are enrolled in full-service programs are led by their instructor to their assigned room.

    • Students enrolled in community-based programs board a school bus to go to the designated location of their two-hour program. The bus driver is given an attendance sheet with the list of students present, which the driver delivers to the program staff at the program location.

    • Students enrolled in Club AfterZone during the 3-4 p.m. session remain in the cafeteria and decide what they want to do during that block of time.

  • 4. Program transition time for one-hour programs.

    At 4 p.m., students participating in one-hour enrichment programs on school grounds transition to Club AfterZone; students in Club AfterZone transition to their scheduled enrichment program.

  • 5. Youth sign-out and transportation.

    At 5 p.m., all youth in all programs report to the cafeteria, and to their appropriate tables, which depends on the transportation option parents have approved for students returning to their homes; this includes walking, pickup by a parent or a designated adult, or taking one of many buses provided by the school district to targeted drop-off locations.

    The data-tracking system automatically assigns students to specific buses based on attendance data entered every program day. Bus riders are escorted to their respective buses by an AfterZone staff member, who gives highlighted routing sheets and the electronic attendance sheets to the bus driver.


    We use these terms throughout this and other PASA lessons:

    AfterZone session: The term during which after-school programs operate: 11 weeks in the fall, 10 weeks in the winter, 6 weeks in the spring, and 4 weeks in the summer.

    Club AfterZone: Daily learning time for youth involved in one-hour enrichment programs on school grounds; administered by young staff members or volunteers.

    Instructional workshops: Discussions lasting 30-45 minutes in which individuals or professionals can share about their profession or a passion during Club AfterZone.

    Provider programs: Enrichment programs in arts, sports, or skills mastery that take place on or off school grounds during time blocks ranging from one hour to two and a half hours.


    Key Points

    Here are some important factors to consider:

    • After-school programs in each AfterZone take place Monday through Thursday and operate during four sessions per year.
    • Programs involve activities in arts, sports, or skills mastery at on-site and off-site facilities; program times run from one to two and a half hours.
    • Club AfterZone is a special learning time coupled with one-hour programs and run by staff members.
    • Students have flexibility to choose their programs; tools and forms facilitate student registration, which usually takes place two weeks prior to session onset.
    • Providers attend orientation and receive information to help in preparation for the session.
    • AfterZone staff, providers, and the school district must work in a concerted effort to shuttle and keep track of youth between facilities.

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    • Project-Based Learning (PBL)
    • Professional Learning
    • 6-8 Middle School

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