Guest Post: Engaging community partners through Lights On Afterschool

This guest post was written by the Afterschool Alliance.

As the summer comes to a close and children across the country begin a new school year, the enrichment opportunities available to those children will vary dramatically. Some will engage in hands-on activities at their local museum, science center or afterschool program that spark an interest in STEM fields. Too many, however, will miss out. More than 15 million of them will take care of themselves after the school day ends and will not have the chance to participate in programs that help make learning exciting.

This is why more than one million Americans and thousands of communities participate in Lights On Afterschool, an annual event that helps to raise awareness about the need for programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and help working families. Supporters of Lights On Afterschool believe that schools can’t do it alone and that meaningful, active collaboration with out-of-school programs is critical. We know that access to an array of quality, informal STEM learning opportunities can make a huge difference in the lives of youth. We also know that strong partnerships between informal learning institutions can help to maximize the use of shared resources and foster creative solutions to community needs. Lights On Afterschool events can help showcase program offerings and deepen ties between informal learning institutions and community organizations.

The Afterschool Alliance is proud to be partnering with the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) again this October to highlight the important role of science centers and museums. In past years, we’ve been thrilled to have participation from museums and science centers around the country, such as the Carnegie Science Center. During their Lights On Afterschool event, Carnegie held a joint celebration with the Allegheny Partners for Out-of-School Time (APOST) which included reduced admission for afterschool youth and a provider fair to showcase local programs. Other events have included partnerships between the Pacific Science Center / Schools Out Washington and the Columbus Center for Science and Industry / YMCA of Central Ohio.

Interested in participating in Lights On Afterschool? Here’s how you can get involved:

Hosting a Lights On Afterschool event is a great way to raise awareness in your community about the benefits that your science center or museum provides to youth. Events can be as small or as large as you like; use them as an opportunity to build relationships with parents, elected leaders, and community partners. Registered events will receive 10 free Lights On Afterschool posters in the mail and will be eligible for a chance to win cool prizes.

Get Inspired
If you would like to host an event at your museum or science center, but aren’t sure what to do, the Lights On Afterschool event planning kit can help you find bright ideas for getting started. You’ll find sample materials, planning checklists, case studies, and a host of other resources to help make your event a success.

If you aren’t able to host your own event, use Lights On Afterschool as an opportunity to reach out to local afterschool programs. Our Find An Event tool can help you search for events and potential partners.

Whether you host a joint celebration or simply schedule a site visit, Lights On Afterschool is a great time to start a conversation with local afterschool programs about how you might partner to better serve youth in your community.