Adults and Youth – When Equal Engagement Equals Powerful Results

Research reveals that high-quality after school programs have a well-defined structure and adhere to careful supervision of youth. Yet while supervision is key to student safety and behavior management, well-trained and well-prepared staff can dramatically impact youth beyond their oversight role to create a flexible environment where collaboration occurs.


“By creating mutually caring, trustful, and respectful relationships between youth and adults, high quality after-school programs can provide involvement in social networks embodying the values of the school” (Mahoney et al., 2005, chapter 22, citing Mahoney, 2000; Mahoney & Cairns, 1997). And while research shows that children and adolescents often participate in after school programs for social reasons (Mahoney et al.,2005, chapter 22, citing Fredericks et al. 2002), one can’t forget the powerful impact adults add with their involvement.


While adolescents enjoy activities with their peers, it appears that they pay better attention, concentrate more, and have better outcomes when doing activities with adults (Shernoff & Vandell, 2007, p. 894). Students in the research registered higher engagement when with both peers and adults than when they were with peers alone (p. 899). These researchers concluded: “[A]fter school programs can be unique environments in which adult supervision and peer interaction are offered simultaneously, a combination likely to result in peak engagement and intrinsic motivation” (p. 900 citing Vandell, Shernoff, et al., 2005).


How AlphaBEST aligns with research: AlphaBEST’s enrichment blocks are an example of experiences designed to involve peers and adults in problem-solving, creativity, self-expression, leadership, teamwork, and open, positive communication.


For instance, in the STEM Workshop “Stop Motion Claymation” students create DotBots (clay characters) and join their team of fellow animators on an exciting journey of digital storytelling. Along the way, students learn basic stop-motion animation techniques by working with staff on pro tips and fun animation recipes. As a team, young learners become Animation Chefs.


AlphaBEST’s workshops and curriculum balance peer and adult involvement to multiply the benefits of after school.