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From music and dance to athletics and art, benefits abound for kids involved in extra- curricular activities. Jan Sanderson, research chair for Red River College's School of Health Sciences and Community Services, points to some of the positive possibilities. "There's lots of evidence that after-school program engagement builds cognitive and physical competencies and, most importantly, social skills. It helps expose kids to a range of challenges that stretch them and build their confidence. Over time, they might possibly find those things that they can feel really passionate about," she says. "If you can tap into kids' passions and offer them opportunities to explore and pursue them, then evidence shows that they will be busy enough to stay engaged on those positive tracks. At the same time, they will be less attracted to some of the more negative influences that can come flying around our kids as they get a little bit older." However, not all programs are created equal. To evaluate the quality of an extra-curricular program, Sanderson focuses on three components: skill-building, structure and supervision. "With skill-building, there's a focus on achieving something while also understanding that kids will come in at different levels. There's support for them to get through stages. You build skill as you go along and you gain confidence as you do it," she says. "In lots of the really strong after- school programs, one of the things we really love is when kids start to take some responsibility in helping to run the programs as they get older. That's important because the younger kids then have role models that they can look to. It's also tapping into the development of those kids that are getting older and need more challenge. They want to build a sense of their own self and their independence." When it comes to structure, it's best to seek a program that has a mandate, an objective and regular activities. "There needs to be something that kids can see as parameter-setting. As they get older, you can loosen those parameters a little bit, appropriate to their own development," Sanderson says. "Structure gives them a sense of place and an understanding of the rules and value system of the program. Those are so important for kids in their developmental years." At the same time, it's important to choose a program with strong supervision. "You want to know the program is being supervised by people who have an understanding of child development and what different kids need at different points in time. They should be good at assessing who are the introverts and extroverts in a group, how to draw them in and what they are comfortable with," Sanderson says. "Even if you do have junior leadership programs, you still need to look for some adult supervision." For Ken Reimer, assistant professor in the University of Winnipeg's faculty of education, extra-curricular activities provide something to suit every interest, including opportunities for youth who are drawn to social activism. "There are lots of benefits to extra-curricular activities. I've seen evidence that there's a correlation between improved academic performance and young people participating in extra-curricular activities. Kids can explore their interests and create broader perspectives," he says. "No matter what the activity is, there's an increase in social opportunities. I think this is really important because it gives them the chance to have a valuable social role and it allows them to be part of what they perceive to be a valuable social group." In turn, the participants develop social capital through networking and connecting with others based on a mutual interest, he adds. "It might be too strong a statement to say that young people who join school clubs don't drop out of school," he says, "but I don't think it's entirely inaccurate either." Sanderson agrees that good programs can help steer kids towards more positive tracks. "There is evidence that they will keep engaged in school even though they might not be school-based programs," she says. "It builds their positive social connections, helps make friendships, encourages their ability to be empathetic as well as doing all the things for brain development and physical development that you want happening." Sanderson notes that socio-economic dynamics also come into play since the best programs might not be accessible to all kids. She points to programs like CSI (Community School Investigators), After School Leaders, Career Trek, and Boys and Girls Clubs as examples of groups that provide opportunities to kids who might be living in challenging circumstances. "There is a public policy aspect to this. We need to make investments in programs and we need to be actively reaching out to kids who are the least engaged," she says. "If you get them engaged earlier and get them passionate about something, they're the kids who actually benefit the most from these programs. Society benefits as well because if you keep them on a positive trajectory, then that's good for all of us." ❚ • Preschool Combo • Ballet/Tap/Jazz Combo • Ballet • Jazz • Hip Hop • Lyrical • Tap • Acro & Aerial Silks • Boys Only Hip Hop • Mommy & Me • Competitive Dance Teams • Stretch & Strength • Musical Theatre • Studio Rentals • Competitive and Recreational Programs • Birthday Parties .EW31&4&ACILITY5NIT-AIN3TREET 204.334.0080 | New 4600 SQ. FT. Facility | Unit 200-2405 Main Street 204.334.0080 | REGISTER NOW FOR FALL CLASSES OPEN HOUSE WEDNESDAY, AUG. 22 ND 6:00 - 9:00 PM View online at By Jennifer McFee | Winnipeg Free Press For advertising information, call: 204-697-7389 S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E W I N N I P E G F R E E P R E S S - T H U R S D A Y , A U G U S T 9 , 2 0 1 8 "There's lots of evidence that after- school program engagement builds cognitive and physical competencies and, most importantly, social skills." Extra-curricular programs help kids to build confidence and social connections. PHOTO BY KIRA GREGORY Research chair Jan Sanderson encourages parents to consider the quality of programs. SUBMITTED PHOTO Activities and programs can provide important bonding time with children. PHOTO COURTESY OF KINDERMUSIK DISCOVERY Madison Guarino is Dancer of the Year from Nationals in Quebec. SUBMITTED PHOTO The L.A. Dance Academy is celebrating its 15th year anniversary. Lucy Reveco, director and owner of the North End facility, accompanied more than 55 of her competitive dance students in July to the Dance World Cup in Mont Tremblant, Que., where they competed against thousands of dancers from all over the globe, including the other provinces from Canada. Her elite jazz dance squad, in fact, not only took home top honours in their category but they were asked to repeat their performance at a special gala on the competition's final night. The World Cup judges came on stage afterwards and presented them with a giant trophy in honour of posting "Highest Score for groups" for all groups across all genres. "I was in tears yet again as this was the second year in a row receiving this award," Reveco said. In total, dancers from L.A. won 16 gold, seven silver and three bronze medals at the World Cup and Reveco praised the hard-working teachers, including Lindsay Kaczir, Justin Serrette, Jessica Seaford, Heather Schiller, Alex Dicurzio and Sofia Constantini, who choreographed L.A. Dance Academy's performers at the event. She said it's been particularly gratifying to see the hard work of her students pay off over the last few years. That growth has coincided with changes to curriculum and teacher training. "I always tell the kids before they go on stage to have fun, perform their best and leave it on the stage. The awards are a bonus," she said. While it's nice to pick up hardware at these competitions, the kids at L.A. are picking up something even more valuable with every single week — life skills such as confidence and self-esteem as well as improved strength, flexibility and co-ordination. "It's not just about teaching dance. We prepare kids for life. For some of them, dancing is an outlet. This may be their only activity. A lot of our kids don't play sports so this is their outlet for expression." L.A Dance Academy has over 100 classes per week with a wide variety of dancing disciplines, including ballet, hip hop, jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, musical theatre, acro and aerial. It accepts registrations until the end of October and kids can take a free trial class during the first six weeks of the season. If they missed auditions for the competitive program in June, a private assessment can be arranged. They also have an open house on Wednesday, Aug. 22 from 6 to 9 p.m. that will offer free classes from ages three to 17 years in various dance styles. Since opening up in 2003, Reveco has seen the number of dancers under her tutelage expand steadily. Five years ago, she moved a few blocks down Main Street into a 4,800-square foot space — twice what she used to have — featuring three studios. Her staff consists of more than 25 dance instructors and 20 teacher assistants. "I wanted to be able to give more to the students with the new space. We have more parking spaces for the parents and a bigger lobby. Our dance studio is a second home for many kids. Some of them are here for 18 hours-plus a week. They do their homework on the lobby floor," she said. Reveco is quick to point out that dance can often be misunderstood as a discipline. Coming from a strong athletic and dance background herself, she said there's no question they go hand in hand. "I've built strength and confidence through dance. I grew up on the north side of the city. I didn't have as many opportunities as a lot of these kids. I wanted to provide an A-plus dance studio so they don't have to go elsewhere," she said. For more information, visit ❚

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