Global Afterschool Activities: Steps to Success

As the new school year starts and afterschool programs are ramping up, here are some ways to create afterschool activities that incorporates global issues. There are several core elements to consider and no matter what topic or age group, think about each step carefully.

Planning: Steps to Success 
Plan your globally focused activity ahead of time by following these steps for success:

  • Give it meaning. First uncover the local and, if appropriate, personal connections to the global topic. Help young people investigate and describe the issue as it exists in their local community and in their own lives.
  • Connect local and global issues. Next, create a bridge from personal and local experiences by connecting them to what is happening in other parts of the world.
  • Put it in context. To provide students with background to understanding the issue, help them explore the geography and history of countries, cultures, and peoples related to the topic.
  • Take action. Finally, help youth take action locally to make an impact globally by planning, as a group, a culminating event or community-based project. Help young people make connections explicit and discover how their local actions have a broader global impact.

For example, at a University of Chicago Charter School, children wanted to talk about violence and ways to resolve conflict. The afterschool staff first helped children connect their own African American roots to Martin Luther King’s quest for non-violence in this country. From there, they learned about Gandhi’s non-violent campaign to liberate India from British rule. After examining both local and global models, they worked on their own strategies for resolving violence in their school community.

The last step to planning a successful activity is to think about how it plays out. Consider:

Introduce the Activity
It is important to take the time to introduce the global topic that’s related to the planned activity. Think about an opening hook that helps young people connect the issue or topic to their own lives. Take the time to find out from young people what they already know about the topic as well as what they are curious about.

Instruction and Modeling 

Give young people clear instructions. If possible, model the procedure so your group knows exactly what they are supposed to do. Take the time to answer their questions before beginning the activity.
Be an Effective Facilitator
Keep in mind your role as facilitator while young people are doing a globally focused activity. Encourage creativity and reasonable risk-taking. If participants are working individually or in small groups, remember to check in and offer guidance without stepping in and taking over. Keep in mind that global learning often takes place as much in the process of investigation as in the end product, and that global issues often have no easy answers.


With your global learning goals in mind, create a series of debrief questions to ask after the activity is over. Thoughtful debriefing helps young people process what they have learned. Debriefs can happen in a variety of different ways, including in large-group discussions, sharing in pairs or small-group sharing, and reflective writing.


End the session with a closure activity. If you are working with the same group of young people over multiple sessions, you may want to use a consistent ritual or routine each time, such as a closing “go around” where everyone shares something with the large group (e.g., one thing they liked about the activity, one thing they learned, and/or one question they still have about the topic).

What global topics have you explored in your afterschool program? How did you tie global to students’ own lives?

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