Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 2 Profiles of Promising Practices - 1995

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

After-School, Weekend, And Summer Kids Crew Programs

Brooklyn Children's Museum
Brooklyn, New York


Key Characteristics


Overview

Kids Crew, started in 1991, is one segment of a community-oriented outreach program for at-risk neighborhood youth sponsored by the Brooklyn Children's Museum. The museum was one of the first in the country to encourage children to attend without their parents, and the outreach program is a natural outgrowth of that policy. The outreach program tries to build "enlightenment, responsibility, and achievement" in students through cultural education; mentoring of children by teenagers and of teens by adults; and career training. Kids Crew offers after-school, weekend, and summer programs to children between the ages of 7 and 12; structured activities include homework help sessions, story-telling, art classes, and off-site study trips. The sessions focus on enhancing children's literacy and are organized around monthly themes inspired by the museum's exhibits, galleries, and collection. Students who regularly attend programs and exhibit enthusiasm and a sense of responsibility may become volunteers or, as teenagers, paid interns.

School Context

About 750 children participate in the Kids Crew program each year, with an average of 30 to 40 students attending every day. The museum is located in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, a diverse community with 100,000 residents including African Americans, West Indians, Hispanics, and Hasidic Jews. About 40 percent of the students in Kids Crew are African American, 50 percent are Caribbean, 5 percent are Hispanic, and 5 percent are from other racial and ethnic groups, including Hasidic Jews. The community is primarily low-income, with an unemployment rate between 12 percent and 17 percent; 34 percent of the families receive public assistance. Half of the families earn less than $10,000 a year, and 61 percent of the families are headed by single parents. The dropout rate in local schools is more than double the average of all public schools in New York City.

The program has only informal relationships with the local schools, but program staff are establishing a more formal relationship with the elementary school closest to the museum. Up to 90 percent of Kids Crew participants come from this school; only a handful of students come from nearby private schools.

Major Program Features

Implementation Issues

The program was designed so that participants, many of whom are considered at risk, can gain easy access. Although children sometimes must wait to join Kids Crew, there are no selection criteria that restrict access to the program; even though the program is a neighborhood outreach program, it has no residency restrictions.

Transportation and safety issues do not pose problems for the program. The museum is in the middle of a residential area, and most of the Kids Crew members live within a five-to ten-block radius. Kids Crew staff work with a child's parent or guardian to make sure that students are not walking home alone in the dark during the winter; children will be paired with others who live in the same area, or parents or older siblings will come to pick up the children. The structure of the Kids Crew and Museum Team program actually eliminated some of the museum's security concerns because children now are more likely to participate in supervised activities.

One of the challenges for this program has been addressing the special needs of urban, at-risk children. For example, many of the children live in areas of high poverty, crime, and drug use. Program staff said they must form relationships with community leaders and be aware of local counseling and family resource programs so they can refer participants who have problems, rather than trying to provide counseling themselves.

Program staff typically have an informal relationship with the local schools. Often program staff attend school performances or events to show support for their participants. The coordinator of youth programs recently attended a staff development session at the neighborhood school, explaining the various types of programs and exhibits offered and inviting teachers to bring their classes to the museum. As the program evolves, organizers hope to formalize the relationship between Kids Crew and the schools through more frequent contact with teachers.

Evidence of Success

Most of the evidence of this program's success comes from the evaluation done by the YouthAlive! Initiative. According to these case studies, students credit Kids Crew with helping them develop social and problem-solving skills. For example, they learn to resolve conflicts among themselves without adult intervention and learn to get along with people from different cultural backgrounds. The curriculum journal identifies specific knowledge that students gain through each project, such as better community and cultural awareness, but the program does not have any formal academic evaluation efforts in place. This may change as the program develops formalized relationships with the local schools. Other anecdotal evidence also comes from museum staff, who report dramatic improvements in children who had "big behavior problems" when they came to the program. Academic success also is affirmed by the fact that since the Museum Team program was formalized, 100 percent of the program interns have gone on to college.
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