An individual’s initial or continued level of engagement or interest in a topic, activity, or subject is directly related to how they feel about it, the attitude they have towards its outcome, and how they perceive others will react.1 The younger they are, the more important these factors are, which can make program planning very difficult. In the classroom setting, there are rigid and predetermined rules, structures, and curricula of which students are expected to follow, but critical-hours programs have the flexibility to manage the environmental aspects that influence a young person’s level of engagement.
Each activity supports at least one of six areas of focus, all of which relate to the 3 Pillars of Critical Hours, and there are 6 icons to represent them. Take a look below to familiarize yourself with the icons and their topics:
This type of activity, which can consist of academic enrichment or homework, but which is not always scholastic in nature, requires children and youth to utilize a higher degree of concentration on the task at hand, helps children and youth to develop skills which are invaluable to academic success, such as persistence, focus, and sustained attention and engagement.
Social competencies which are honed in such a setting include individual goal-directed behaviour, collaboration and teamwork.3 Self-esteem, self-regulation, psychosocial adjustment, empathy, and school bonding are some of the emotional faculties which are critical indicators of positive development and successful outcomes, and are also a focus in after-school programs.
When we provide to our young people the tools to navigate the digital world and ensure that they limit the time they spend in front of a screen in the first place, we are setting them up for success online and off. Children and youth who attend critical hours programming spend more time involved in skill building, physical activities, and community service than their non-attending peers, and spend less time watching TV.
Participants should be made aware of potential challenges but be given lots of opportunity for autonomous choice in assessing whether or how they should play.5 Contrary to popular belief, risky play is not about playing on the edge of danger as many people may believe, in fact is about facilitating fun activity where the possibility of mild injury exists.6 Within, “Healthy Minds in Active Bodies,” physical activity is defined as, “movements that increase heart rate and breathing, and is any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure.”
Relationships with peers influence a participant’s level of engagement, creating a support system and a common group identity. When children felt respected by the adults running the program, they were more likely to respect them in turn and also to be engaged in the structured enrichment activities, academic and non-academic that program staff was facilitating.
Each of us has our own educational, familial, or cultural experiences, we live and play in the same community and must learn how to coexist. Prosocial behaviours which program students have identified as being products of participation in after-school programs are: standing up for and providing emotional support to others, helping others to develop skills, complimenting and encouraging others, and being inclusive.