Igniting the Fire

Professional Development for After-School Staff

Supported by a grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation, the AFT has developed Igniting the Fire: Professional Development for After-School Staff. This tool kit sheds light on why after-school programs are crucial in helping meet the needs of children; and it provides structure and guidance for educators who want to incorporate project learning (a process in which students apply what they've learned to deepen their understanding, usually ending in a product or performance) into after-school curriculum.

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In another era, the term "staying after school" meant remaining behind as punishment for misbehavior while the other kids went home. The concept of "after-school" has evolved and today is seen as a time when students either can get extra help or participate in a variety of enrichment activities. And as the percentage of working mothers rose, after-school programs also became a refuge to keep children off the streets in a safe and supervised environment. The AFT believes the after-school venue has great potential to enrich students academically and socially.

More Background and Research

Addressing the need for students to be excited and feel successful about their own learning and to change the pace from the normal day, the AFT makes two major recommendations regarding learning strategies in after-school programs.

Go to Project Learning

We have identified some of the most fundamental ideas within these content areas. Along with the list of important ideas, each section contains a few tips for strengthening knowledge.

Access Project Examples and Resources

If we want students to think, we must hold back from thinking for them. It is easy to tell them what to do, but it is more beneficial to help them figure it out for themselves. One of the most effective ways of pushing students is through the questions we ask in response to their questions or errors.

Go to Strategies for Helping Students

This section features several games to help students practice skills in various disciplines. The games also can be used as warm-ups during training sessions or staff meetings, closers or breaks, which means that staff can become familiar with the games before using them with students. Printable game boards are included.

Go to School Games and Icebreakers

Included here are five modules that include explicit step-by-step presenter's guides, detailed activity descriptions, directions and special notes to support presenters. We also provide printable handouts, activities, game cards, etc., that are referred to in the modules.

Go to Professional Development Modules