Program Profile: East Richland Community School District #1 21st CCLC

Visit any of the three sites of East Richland Community School District (CSD) #1 21st CCLC, and you’ll see students engaged in a variety of activities. This spring, for example, students at East Richland Middle School’s “Block” program performed High School Musical Jr. At the two elementary programs, West Richland Elementary School and East Richland Elementary School’s “Tiger Zone,” you might see students creating a new dish in a cooking class or practicing with a comedy improv group. 

Although the three sites vary in the number and ages of the students they serve, they all offer students a range of activity choices while aligning activities with Common Core State Standards. Every day, each student selects a homework or tutoring activity to support his or her academic success and also has an opportunity to select from a variety of engaging activities that incorporate reading, writing, math, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). 

To ensure that academic achievement remains a focus of the program, English language arts (ELA), math, and STEM goals are part of the East Richland CSD #1’s grant. The program hires as many school day staff as possible, especially for homework and tutoring sessions, and also provides training and support for the staff. Project director Sherry Geier notes that having academic achievement goals embedded in the grant helps keep the team focused. “By setting goals in those areas, we monitor the data more closely and provide the staff and activities that will support those goals.” 

Enrichment activities are aligned with standards in ways that illustrate real-world applications of ELA and math content and keep students engaged. Students also have an opportunity to develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. When describing the many choices that students have, Geier lists a range of activities that are aligned with the Common Core:

  • fishing (which might involve reading about laws and regulations, writing thank you notes to organizations who have donated resources, and monitoring the weather to make decisions about fishing conditions),
  • cooking (measuring, fractions, close reading, and chemical reactions),
  • technology activities with computers and tablets (building basic skills through electronic games like Reflex Math Fact Fluency, research, blogging, and reading),
  • chess (thinking and reflecting),
  • visiting the school library and the public library (reading, book clubs, and writing to authors),
  • writing classes and drama (reading scripts, memorizing, and fluency), and
  • other science activities, including Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom and 4-H activities (all addressing Illinois Next Generation Science Standards). 

“These are activities that kids can learn from [and] would choose anyway,” says Geier.

For afterschool leaders who want to better align activities with the Common Core, Geier recommends focusing on building staff capacity. “Take time to determine what staff needs are in connection to school day instruction and Common Core,” she says. “It might be that staff need to know what the standards are, where to access them, or strategies to help kids be successful. Find ways to fill those gaps.” The range of activities offered at East Richland CSD #1 21st CCLC show that it is possible for afterschool programs to align programming with the Common Core while maintaining the flexible and engaging environment that keeps students involved in afterschool.