The significant increase in the number of working mothers over the last twenty years has led to widespread worries about the plight of “latchkey kids,” who return from school each day to empty homes. Concerned that unsupervised children might be at greater risk of delinquency, schools and communities across the nation began providing after-school activities. But many of these programs were hastily devised with little understanding of what constitutes a quality program that meets children’s developmental needs. The Fifth Dimension explores and evaluates one of the country’s most successful and innovative after-school programs, providing insightful and practical lessons about what works and doesn’t work after-school.
The Fifth Dimension program was established in the 1980s as a partnership between community centers and local colleges to establish an educational after-school program. With an emphasis on diversity and computer technology, the program incorporates the latest theories about child development and gives college students the opportunity to apply their textbook understanding of child development to real learning environments. The Fifth Dimension explores the design, implementation, and evaluation of this thriving program. The authors attribute the success of the Fifth Dimension to several factors. First, the program offers a balance of intellectually enriching exercises with development enhancing games. Second, by engaging undergraduates as active participants in both learning and social activities, the program gives local community organizations a large infusion of high-quality help for their educational efforts. Third, by rewarding children for their achievements and good behavior with greater flexibility in choosing their own schedules, the Fifth Dimension acts as a powerful, enduring motivator.
The Fifth Dimension program serves as a model for what an enriching after-school program can be. The product of years of innovation and careful assessment, The Fifth Dimension is a valuable resource for all who are interested in developing successful community-based learning programs.