Children engage in learning through myriad activities beyond the specifically academic tasks they carry out in school classrooms. A body of literature exists on how teaching methodologies which engage youth through diverse experiences—particularly centered around the arts and movement—positively impact their learning, as well as the ways they interact with the world. After-school programs are increasingly viewed not only as places for children to go during post-school hours to avoid at-risk behaviors, but also as opportunities to enhance and expand learning that occurs in the classroom. In shaping Studio R.O.C.K.S., an after-school program serving primarily Latino youth, mostly of Central American origin, CentroNia incorporates activities such as sports, music, dance and theater to engage children’s participation and contribute to their learning.
A collaborative project involving CLALS, the AU Department of Psychology and AU's Collaborative for Urban Education, Research, and Development aimed to determine the impacts of CentroNia’s after-school program on diverse aspects of Latino children’s development.
The main objectives of the project included a) strengthening CentroNia’s capacity to maximize their effectiveness and efficiency in providing the highest quality programs to the youth and families they serve; b) identifying successful models of intervention that might be replicated or scaled up in other contexts; c) expanding and strengthening methodologies for defining and measuring “success” of interventions; and d) expanding the body of knowledge, locally and nationally, related to needs of the growing Latino youth population.
The initial phase of this project, a process evaluation, documented and analyzed how Studio R.O.C.K.S. is implemented, the approaches or practices used and what factors influence those practices. In addition, program staff (both educators and management), explored and defined measures of “success” which reach beyond traditional measures of academic achievement (including levels of civic engagement, etc).
The AU research team has completed fieldwork for phase two of the project, which addresses student impact indicators, including whether behavioral, physical, social and academic goals outlined in phase one of the project are being achieved and how these outcomes contribute to the closing of the achievement gap between Latino children and their white counterparts. Together with CentroNia, AU researchers presented a poster "Because My Culture is Fun: Exploring cultural attitudes among K-5th grade children" in January 2013 at the National Multicultural Conference and Summit.