Online Professional Learning and
Technical Assistance for
21st Century Community Learning Centers


The arts combine learning with fun afterschool activities that engage students. In working with dance, music, theatre, and visual arts, students explore, apply, and understand the meaning of the arts in their own lives.

What Research Says About the Arts in Afterschool

  • The arts develop the mind by giving it opportunities to learn to think in special ways.
  • The arts play an important social function in the expression of culture, past or present.
  • The arts have the potential to build self-confidence in ways that may increase students' interest in other academic areas.
  • The skills learned through the arts are transferable to other areas of life.
  • The arts make us feel alive.

Principles of Quality Afterschool Arts

The most effective arts programs incorporate the following principles in their activities and work with students. These programs:

  • are intentional and standards based;
  • are age-appropriate and engage students' interests;
  • develop skills and vocabulary;
  • are taught by trained staff or in partnership with an artist or arts organization;
  • make time and space available for sustained, real-world, hands-on work;
  • make connections to other subjects;
  • utilize a process of creating, presenting, and reflecting;
  • include public demonstrations of work that engage families and community;
  • are supported by ongoing planning, assessment, and resource development.

Putting Arts Programs into Action

Whether you already have an arts program in place or are just thinking about starting one, consider the following questions:

  • Who are our students? What are they like? What are they interested in?
  • What do we want to accomplish?
  • What resources and materials do we need?
  • What resources do we have in our community?
  • How can we collaborate or partner with local organizations to teach the arts?
  • How can we develop academic skills while addressing art-based goals?
  • How can we ensure students' safety in arts activities?
  • What kind of short- or long-term outcomes do we want?
  • How will we measure those outcomes?
  • How do we provide for professional development to enhance teaching in the arts?

Step by Step

Begin by identifying students' interests and potential activities. Then, determine who can lead these activities, whether it is a current staff member or a local artist. Make the most of local arts organizations and resources, from individual artists to museums and performance centers. Staff can learn from local artists or through professional development training; local artists may need tips on classroom management.

Be sure to connect with school-day teachers to find out what skills students are learning, and how to build on them. Familiarize yourself with the National Standards in the Arts, identify learning goals, and set short- and long-term program goals. To find your state's standards for the arts, go to your state department of education website.

Finally, measure your success. Keep a log of outcomes based on attendance, participation, parent and student responses, and student work.