The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Sherman County School in Moro to eliminate its successful three-day-a-week after-school program. The rural school of about 250 students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12th didn’t attempt the after-school program in the 2020-21 school year and relaunched on a very limited basis in January 2022. Families served by the school, especially working parents in the town of Moro, missed the enrichment programming for their children.
In response, Cindy Brown, 4-H educator with Oregon State University Extension in Sherman County, launched Extension Afterschool, a free program for local youths ages 8 and older in September 2020. Extension Afterschool was held at the Extension building in Moro in the afternoon on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with five to eight youths from the third through seventh grades per session.
Brown marketed the program to the community in a variety of ways: social media posts, flyers posted at post offices and stores, direct emails and messages to parents, articles in a county-based newsletter and an article in the local newspaper.
Besides providing a space for children after school, the program introduced students to a variety of potential activities as well as encouraged development of life skills, new hobbies, creativity, and enrichment. Brown used a variety of resources, including:
- National 4-H Council STEM projects.
- National 4-H Council curriculum for art.
- Growing Healthy Kids, a curriculum through Oregon SNAP-Ed, a nutrition education program of OSU Extension.
- Food Hero recipes. Food Hero is a statewide initiative of SNAP-Ed that was developed by OSU Extension in English and Spanish.
- OSU Extension publications about leathercraft and outdoor cooking.
As a result of this work, a total of 315 students had attended Extension Afterschool through January 2022. This figure includes 30 students in the second through sixth grades, representing about 30% of the total Sherman enrollment in those grades.
Thirty of the program participants and their families were surveyed in February 2022. Of the 12 youth respondents, nearly all agreed that they felt “welcome, happy and safe here” and that “the program gives you something fun and worthwhile to do during COVID restrictions.” Eighty-three percent of the 12 respondents reported that they had learned something new or practiced an activity they’d never done before.
All seven of the parents who responded to the survey answered “yes” to these three questions:
- “Did the program meet your needs as a family or working parent, some or part of the time?”
- “Do you trust and have peace of mind about the adults working with your children?”
- “Is this program helpful in terms of supplementing activities at the school or community?”