Community Learning – Not Your Typical Afterschool Programmes

As far as we have been able to find out, afterschool clubs, or extra-curricular activities, were introduced in the 19th century. The original aims differ slightly depending on the context, but generally speaking, this offer tended to expose young learners to a broader range of experiences than they might get in the “typical” school day.
Afterschool programmes might include things like time to experiment more in science, do arts and crafts, and of course develop social skills in a more relaxed environment. The added benefit was that parents were freed up to work that little bit later without worrying about additional childcare, and therefore improving the financial health of the family.

Experiences vary, of course, but afterschool programmes and extracurricular activities have tended to be “school-lite”, and because they typically are only open to the same learners who are in the classroom together all day in any case, there is perhaps limited potential for development of broader social skills, as is often claimed. “More relaxed” is of course relative when you are talking about teacher-centred environments, but what they do tend to get right is helping introduce learners to new things, which might become interests or passions for life. There is huge merit in this.
Going beyond the typical “extraescolares”

So what happens in a learning environment like ours? There is no such thing as a “typical” day at Learnlife, with every moment shaped around the unique needs and passions of our learners. Development of social skills are a given in a a learner-directed environment, where collaborative working and 360 degree feedback are the norm. Learners already pursue their passions as the core of the personal learning experience, and they do not have to wait until an Afterschool Programme to do the things they really want to do.

This is why our Afterschool Programme is different from the usual “extraescolares”. Skateboarding, for example, is a big thing at Learnlife, for reasons we have written about here, so why not create opportunities for our learning community to skate and learn together? Surfing, yoga, cooking, 3D printing and many more activities are also part of our afterschool programmes, but with one twist on the familiar: the doors are open to everyone.

The traditional afterschool programme and other extraescolares offered in Spain was as an extension of the school day; open to the same learners who were already in the building. Learnlife, however, is a learning community and so the Afterschool Programme is a chance to really strengthen that.

Learners from Learnlife and other learning communities too are all welcome to join, as are their friends and family. Learning together with a broader community is social cohesion in action, and a way in which learning can strengthen community bonds.

Yes parents can still use the Afterschool Programme as a way to have more flexible working hours and to support their household. They can also, however, come and join in the activity with their children, their brothers and sisters, friends from other learning communities, and the experts who facilitate a wide range of experiences for everyone.

The programme is completely in English, so there is an extra layer of benefit from those who want to increase their exposure to the language too. When the activity is joyful, the learning is stronger, so this is a great opportunity for those who do not speak English as a first language.
Leveraging Afterschool programmes for social learning

We started out by identifying the very shallow origins of after school activities from the 19th century, but for us, the true roots of this approach lie in the anthropology of community learning. Learning is a social process, which should not be confined to homogenous groups of people, learning in static environments in lockstep with each other. That misappropriation of “learning” also comes from the 19th century and we really should leave it there.

In our human roots, across cultures, we learned skills as a community. We shared stories, learned to cook and survive, iterated our way towards better ways to do things and then passed that knowledge on. True learning recognises no boundaries, whether generational or institutional, and this social approach is at the heart of our Afterschool programme. Our communities are broader and more fluid now, but still as important as they ever were.

If you are curious about the Learnlife environment and want a taster, this is a great introduction. If you have a child in a traditional school, where you feel they are not thriving and are disengaged, this is a space to try something new. If you are a parent who is busy during the day but want to come and learn together with your child after work, and share your experiences with others, then this is for you.

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