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Including Student Choice & Voice in the Expanded Learning Day | Dear Rashida...

Rashida Ladner-Seward

Rashida Ladner-Seward is Director of Program Support at ExpandED Schools. This blog is part of our bi-weekly advice column where we answer burning questions from program directors, educators and administrators on how to develop and run successful expanded learning programs.

Dear Rashida,

How do Expanded Schools programs manage giving students choice in their expanded learning time activities?

-Open to Options

Dear Open,

As we all know, youth vote with their feet – particularly those participants enrolled in secondary program settings. Getting youth perspectives in your program’s design from the outset is the best advice I could give to help you ensure sustained buy-in and participation from your students. A recent report commissioned by Boston After School & Beyond provides solid ideas for cultivating authentic youth participation, leadership, voice and choice into the expanded day. If program activities are already designed (either due to funder requirements or staff skills/expertise), then it is important to provide youth with opportunities that will spark their interest in activity offerings and inform the decision-making process for developing their expanded day program schedules.

One of my colleagues visited a middle school in the Bronx a few months ago and shared what I believe is a good approach towards incorporating choice when there is a pre-set program activity menu. The school hosted an "ELT Fair" where instructors from a robust list of offerings conducted interactive and hands-on demonstrations of their activities. These demonstrations allowed prospective participants to get a glimpse of projects to come, such as a technology class featuring remote-controlled drones, dance, step, track & field, music production, fashion design and more.  

After students had an opportunity to view each activity choice, they utilized iPads to select their schedule for the following cycle (most middle and high school programs offer three cycles per year). Students were given their new schedule prior to winter break and again upon return from the holidays. When the new semester began, students were allowed one week to make changes to their activity schedule. This final choice would determine their ELT schedule for the remainder of the cycle.

I realize that the school year is winding down so you may not be able to create a new cycle, but you can definitely engage your students in conversations now (focus groups, surveys, etc.) in planning for next year. Make sure students you anticipate will return next fall are helping you and your staff design program activities, and be sure they are key players in developing and promoting the next ELT Fair. I hope this helps!




♦ Have a question? Send it to info@expandedschools.org with “Dear Rashida” in the subject line. Be sure to check back each week for a nugget of wisdom.



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