New Toolkit Teaches Afterschool Providers Innovative Ways to Support Student Learning

September 1, 2005
Austin, Texas

Laura Shankland
Communications Associate
Phone: 512-391-6556

Many people think of afterschool programs as glorified babysitters. That could be the case—if your babysitter engages your children in fun activities and creates a desire to learn, not just a desire to play video games. To help afterschool program directors and instructors develop content-based, enjoyable activities that make students want to learn, the National Partnership for Afterschool Learning has developed a toolkit with the necessary tools, models, and expertise.

“Nearly half of the public schools in the United States offer afterschool programs. The opportunity to improve children’s lives and academic success all at once is tremendous,” says Catherine Jordan, the director of the National Partnership for Afterschool Learning and a program manager at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL), which leads the eight-member partnership. “The toolkit helps practitioners build on the content students are learning during the school day and support learning in a fun, yet meaningful way.”

The Afterschool Learning Toolkit: Building Quality Enrichment Activities provides resources in six key areas: arts, literacy, math, science, technology, and homework help. Available online, the toolkit includes sample lessons by grade level and tips for practitioners. There are also videos that allow afterschool practitioners to see activities firsthand, such as one in which seventh- and eighth-graders at the Children’s Aid Society in New York City create an original play inspired by the Mirabel sisters’ struggle for freedom in the Dominican Republic. The toolkit’s sample activities include learning goals, directions, and potential results.

“The U.S. Department of Education recognized the importance and need for quality afterschool learning programs by establishing the 21st Century Community Learning Centers under the No Child Left Behind legislation,” Jordan says. “Through this online toolkit, we hope to help providers plan and deliver the academically rich programs required by NCLB.”

The toolkit’s focus on learning theory- and evidence-based practices makes it unique among afterschool resources. Its examples stem from practices observed through the National Partnership’s visits to about 30 afterschool programs nationwide.

Afterschool practitioners may access the toolkit through the National Partnership’s Web site at Currently, the toolkit is available as a prototype in the area of literacy only; the other areas will follow in the upcoming months. The Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory in Portland, Oregon, one of the members of the National Partnership, developed the literacy section of the toolkit. For more information, please call 800-476-6861 or email

About the Partnership

The National Partnership for Quality Afterschool Learning provides assistance, training, and tools to help local afterschool programs build capacity to strengthen learning. It is supported by the Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education under contract number MRED-03-CO-0048 and includes the following partners:
  • Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL), primary contractor
  • National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST)
  • Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning
  • Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL)
  • SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • WGBH Educational Foundation
  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
For more information about the Partnership, visit

About SEDL

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) is a nonprofit corporation based in Austin, Texas. SEDL is dedicated to solving significant education problems and improving teaching and learning through research, research-based resources, and professional development. For more information about SEDL, visit