Classes and programs outside of the traditional school day have evolved. Today they’re a vital part of many students’ educations, part of the mix of classes that schools offer to make sure they are graduating well-rounded individuals. That’s because many parents and students have the expectation that these extracurricular courses will teach soft skills that are now required for college admissions and career success.
The modern before- and after-school program director should consider both the parent’s and participant’s motivation for enrollment. Fortunately, updating your program to reflect what parents and participants need is easy. By implementing soft skills into your existing programs you can increase registration and retention rates.
What Is a Soft Skill?
Soft skills is a misleading name for skills that are often more difficult to master than traditional ‘”hard” skills often used to evaluate students and employees. But if students are going to succeed once they’re out in the real world, mastering soft skills like communication, time management and empathy is key.
Soft skills improve a student’s chances of success in the classroom and well into adulthood. But what exactly is considered a soft skill? According to a theory by psychologist and author Daniel Goleman, it equates to emotional intelligence, which is defined as an individual’s ability to recognize, understand and manage others’ emotions. This can include self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.
It’s likely you’ll experience a demand for soft skill programming to be included within your before- and after-school programming, such as the following examples:
+ Social intelligence
+ Technological fluency
+ Healthy lifestyle choices
+ Community stewardship
How to Integrate Soft Skills Into Your Programs
Any after-school program can build development of these skills into its existing curriculum and will likely increase registration rates and retention if it does. Consider the ideas below as you reflect on how best to update your programs.
Empower Class Participants to Become Leaders
In a study about keeping youth engaged over time, 88 percent of those programs that retained 50 percent or more of their participants for a full calendar year offered leadership activities. Attendees are more attracted to programs when they feel authentically represented and believe they play a role in program success. You can integrate leadership-building components into your afterschool program by:
+ Appointing leaders within your after-school program
+ Allowing older participants the opportunity to mentor younger participants
Create Opportunities for Participants to Explore Their Passions
Sometimes the best source of inspiration when jazzing up existing programs is your participants themselves. Participants are more engaged in and excited about after-school programs when they have a say in the activities, especially those related to technology and the arts. To help build this discussion into your after-school program you can:
+ Poll participants annually to see which subjects they’re most passionate about
+ Create a physical or digital suggestion box for attendees to anonymously submit ideas
+ Ask for feedback during each activity and after its completion
Give Participants Opportunities to Give Back to Their Community
Only 53 percent of children participated in volunteer work in 2015, but those who did reaped numerous benefits. People who perform community service activities can experience an increase in self-esteem and often feel more connected to their community. Kids are also loyal to programs that offer service activities. In a recent study conducted by The Wallace Foundation, 81 percent of high-retention after-school programs offered community service activities. Design community-outreach opportunities into your existing program by:
+ Scheduling regular volunteer days at nonprofits
+ Introducing community craft projects, such as creating cards and art for nursing homes and hospitals
+ Hosting “community cleanup” days where participants can pick up trash from a playground or nearby park
+ Modeling after the Urbano Project, a studio that encourages participants to brainstorm solutions for community issues through art.
Increase Registrations for Your Before and After-School Programs With ACTIVE
After updating your after-school program to include the soft skills parents and teens expect, you’ll need to modernize your registration process. Use ACTIVE Network’s Camp & Class Manager registration tool to streamline enrollments, save time, and create sleek, customized registration forms. This class participant management solution provides a quick, easy and mobile option for the influx of new and returning participants your soft-skills programming will surely bring. Contact us today to see how ACTIVE can make your before- and after-school program a success!