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MU Program Facilitates Hands-On, After-School Learning for Missouri Youth

October 27th, 2011

Story Contact: MU News Bureau, 573-882-6211,

In the U.S., 72 percent of children have parents who work full time. Since most schools dismiss several hours before the workday ends, many children are without care or supervision until their parents get home. A University of Missouri Extension program is working to ensure that school-age children in Missouri have access to high-quality, after-school programs.

The Missouri AfterSchool Network (MASN) builds systems throughout the state that improve, support and sustain after-school programs for youth. Established in 2002 with a grant from the Charles S. Mott Foundation, MASN works to foster relationships and provide resources to create quality after-school programs.

“After-school programs provide a safe space for children,” said Terri Foulkes, executive director of MASN. “Programs also help working families who need child care, but want their children to remain in an environment that encourages learning.  In Missouri, only 12 percent of school-age children participate in after-school programs, but approximately 30 percent more would participate if a program were available in their communities.”

The network serves 271 after-school programs around the state. Services include onsite technical assistance to improve program quality and training for program providers on a wide range of topics, including working with children with special needs, providing developmentally appropriate lessons, and maintaining a safe environment. MASN also coordinates the Missouri School Age Community Coalition, a professional association for after-school program leaders.

Foulkes says after-school programs complement school curricula and allow students to see real-world applications of concepts they learn in school.

“After-school programs really do help to support the academic success of youth and inspire them to learn,” Foulkes said. “The programs have a lot of flexibility so they are able to do hands-on activities that classroom teachers may not have the time or resources to provide. These activities help enrich what is taking place during the school day.”

One example of the connection between the classroom and after-school learning is Project LIFTOFF, an initiative to elevate the levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning. The goal of the project is to inspire students to learn about and pursue opportunities in STEM-related fields, which are known to produce economic growth. Project LIFTOFF provides training to after-school staff on a variety of curricula, including lessons about the solar system, kits for building machine models, and informal math and science lessons.

“Good STEM programs inspire children to engage in science and prompt them to ask questions and think scientifically,” Foulkes said. “Project LIFTOFF aims to give after-school program staff access to inexpensive materials and lessons that will encourage a child’s interest in science.”

MASN is primarily funded by the Charles S. Mott Foundation, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Noyce Foundation. It is hosted by MU Extension’s 4-H Center for Youth Development.