July 1, 2015
Blending Creativity and Quality at the Wallingford Boys & Girls Club

Quality afterschool programming is one way to give youth hands-on experiences that target multiple domains of learning. In Washington, the Raikes Foundation has been supporting youth development programs to use the Weikart Center’s Youth Program Quality Intervention (YPQI). The YPQI is a tool that helps programs learn more about the important elements of quality, assess their own program strengths and areas of growth with a validated measure and then use data to set program goals that are supported by coaches and professional development. 

Wallingford Boys & Girls Club has been using the YPQI process since 2013.  In that time, the club has been able to increase the staff’s ability to infuse higher quality practice into every aspect of the program. YPQI has helped club employees to better-understand the most effective ways to interact with youth and how to structure programs so that there is maximum social and academic benefit for members.

Recently, Wallingford Boys & Girls Club received the prestigious 2015 Merit Award for Program Excellence in the Arts Category from Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) for their Iconic Images Explorers Program. Merit Awards for Program Excellence are sponsored by MetLife Foundation and presented annually to outstanding programs developed and implemented to lead youth to great futures at Boys & Girls Clubs across the country. Drawing on the agency mission to support the core area of the arts, the Iconic Images Explorers program was created to provide students in 2-6 grades the opportunity to learn about historically significant images and re-create classic photographs, paintings and media images.

The program included a multi-step process that allowed for hands-on discovery and opportunities to participate in a wide-range of different art forms as well as provide lessons in history, civics and media. According to Program Director Eric Kirby, “The program created the type of supporting learning environment which is highly beneficial for our club members. They engage in both individual and group work. Youth are given the chance to both lead and work together as a team toward specific goals while having their voice heard in the process.” Youth were asked questions like:

  • What do you think the photographer was thinking when he took this picture?
  • Why do you think this image resonated with the American people?
  • What do you think the Mona Lisa was thinking about?

The YPQI’s assessment guide details strategies for how to encourage youth to lead, how to facilitate effective group work, how to promote participation from youth, and much more. Using these strategies, Kirby was able to design each program session to maximize learning for members.

Kirby explained, that as a result of the project, not only were relationships between youth and program staff supported, but relationships among youth were strengthened as they made decisions together and both debated and learned how to finalize the images. The end result of this work goes far beyond the final product or recreation of the iconic image and is an exemplar of how the afterschool space can foster youth initiative, leadership and lifelong curiosity.