AfterWords: July 2008
July 2008
U.S. Department of Education: Technical Assistance and Professional Development for
21st Century Community Learning Centers
a newsletter of the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning : Afterschool News

The Case for the Arts in Afterschool

“We don’t have time to offer arts activities.” We’ve all heard this statement, and some of us may have even said it ourselves. Just as a work of art may bring a new perspective, the same is true for finding time for art. Instead of seeing art as something that takes time away from academic enrichment, try using the arts to reinforce it. You will likely find students to be enthusiastic participants in music, theater, and visual arts projects related to core content areas like math and science, and you will also be using research-based strategies that can help them learn.

Integrating the Arts With Other Subjects is one of the promising practices in the arts section of the Afterschool Training Toolkit, a free online staff development resource developed by the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning. This practice supports learning through creative, hands-on arts activities that build on content from other subject areas. For example, students studying the solar system might extend learning by creating a planetary travel brochure. “If a student is struggling with science, he or she might be more receptive if an instructor presents science in the context of an art activity,” says Suzanne Stiegelbauer, who led the development of the arts toolkit. “Once you have sparked students’ interest with art, you will increase their desire to learn any subject.”

Project-based learning (where students learn by tackling real-world problems and projects) and thematic learning (where activities are organized around themes) are two types of instruction that lend themselves to the incorporation of arts activities. To get started, talk to students’ day-school teachers to learn what themes students are studying during the regular school day. If a social studies class is studying the Middle Ages, students can spend their afterschool hours building replicas of medieval castles or listening to the music of troubadours. If you are interested in integrating the arts into afterschool activities, visit Integrating the Arts With Other Subjects in the arts toolkit and click on the “Sample Lessons” tab.

What is the National Partnership of Quality Afterschool Learning?

mother and daughter building a castle

“Once you have sparked students’ interest with art, you will increase their desire to learn any subject.”

Suzanne Stiegelbauer
arts educator

Student with headphones working on a computer
Recommended Resource
Stories from the field



Englewood, Colorado

At the KidsQuest afterschool program in Englewood, Colorado, the arts are woven into ongoing afterschool activities. None of the current staff have college degrees in the arts, which shows just how much you can achieve with enthusiasm and the right resources. Staff attend district training on incorporating the arts into reading comprehension.

Each month the KidsQuest staff choose a theme and essential questions as a unit of study for project-based learning. Staff brainstorm with students to determine the direction of the study, and each unit contains multiple arts activities that support learning. Past art activities have included drawing the life cycle of butterflies for a unit on insects and designing costumes made from recycled materials for a unit on the environment.

The arts have also served as the foundation for parent programs that highlighted student work in the arts. This year’s programs include “The Night the Museum Came Alive,” where students displayed art and held performances related to different museum themes. To afterschool professionals considering using the arts in their programs, 21st CCLC Coordinator Cathy Mandel offers this encouragement: “Arts are easy to include in afterschool programs. The arts strategies are vehicles to engage students in the learning process.”

child with face painting and costume to look like a butterfly

“Arts are easy to include in afterschool programs. The arts strategies are vehicles to engage students in the learning process.”

Cathy Mandel
21st CCLC coordinator
In Your Words Announcement Events Calendar

To participate in this survey and view results, submit your vote now.

How does your afterschool program use arts instruction? (Select one.)

Community Involvement
Arts activities can provide excellent ways to showcase your afterschool program and get the community involved. If students have created a mural as the culmination of a science project, why not take the activity one step further by inviting families to admire the mural at an afterschool family night? Such events can also provide opportunities for family members to share their own artistic talents.


July 30

Webinar: “Technology in Afterschool”
1 p.m. CST

Aug 22

Webinar: “Teaching the Arts in Afterschool”
1 p.m. CST

For more events, visit our calendar.

Produced for the U.S. Department of Education by the National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning housed at SEDL


This email was sent by:
Laura Shankland

Editor: Laura Shankland
Designer: Shaila Abdullah

This newsletter was produced in whole or in part with funds from the U.S. Department of Education under contract number

You are welcome to reproduce issues of AfterWords and distribute copies at no cost to recipients. Please credit SEDL as publisher. Link to PDF versions of AfterWords is available here. For additional uses, please fill out and submit a copyright request form.

Copyright © 2008 by SEDL.