Committee for Children Blog

Second Step® Out-of-School Time: when kids thrive today, communities thrive tomorrow

Second Step Out-of-School Time in after school setting

This blog is part of an introductory series by our Vice President of Product, Polly Stansell.

The 2020 back-to-school season has reminded us that a child’s learning and development doesn’t start and stop at the classroom door. Whether in school, out of school, or at home, this pivotal time in our world has reinforced the importance of social and emotional well-being as foundational to everything else.

Research suggests that social-emotional learning (SEL) is most effective when integrated across multiple contexts. We know that to make social-emotional learning and development programs a force for positive transformative change, they need to be intentional, research-based, and designed to support youth where they are.

When surveyed in 2018, 70 percent of out-of-school time providers listed social-emotional learning as their program’s highest priority. Out-of-school time providers — such as before- and after-school programs, childcare, and external facilities — have always played an essential and implicit role in youth development and program quality.

Research shows us that the active, multi-purpose environment of an out-of-school time program differs meaningfully from the school context and demands different instructional approaches. Our organization’s decades of experience in the field of SEL and countless conversations with site leaders and educators highlighted a challenge that both before-and after-school providers faced: there aren’t any affordable social-emotional learning curricula developed specifically for the out of school time environment. The need became clear to us.

With over 10 million U.S. children participating in after-school programs, and another 19.4 million willing to participate if a program were available, we saw an opportunity to impact millions and address the challenge.


I’m thrilled to introduce Second Step® Out-of-School Time, the first research-based and field-tested social-emotional learning program on the market designed specifically for out of school time settings. And the first in the Second Step family of programs to expand beyond the classroom.

Built on the foundation of our trusted classroom-based elementary school curriculum, we collaborated with first-tier experts like the Wallace Foundation and the Weikart Center, to develop high-quality programming for Kindergarten to Grade 5 that is sequenced, structured, research-based, and suited to the atmospheres and schedules of before and after school providers.

SEL notebook
Second Step Out-of-School Time spiral-bound notebook for Grades 4-5

Second Step Out-of-School Time includes the following key features:

  • Community Building – Includes a foundational unit program that supports SEL implementation and reflects the core values of many out-of-school time settings, which have long prioritized building healthy communities and relationships. 
  • Active and Learner-Centered – Engages children in movement, acting, and art projects that fit naturally into the before or after-school program context.
  • Adaptable and Supportive – Provides facilitators with embedded supports and adaptations. These offerings are both structural and instructional and help out-of-school time educators adjust the activities due to resource and space availability.

Flexible, adaptable, and fun

Second Step Out-of-School Time includes printed notebooks by elementary grade band (Grades K-1, Grades 2-3, and Grades 4-5) as well as online program training material and embedded program support for facilitators. Second Step Out-of-School Time can be used with Second Step® Elementary to back and reinforce skills and concepts in classroom lessons, or it can be used on its own.

For over a year, we field-tested the activities found in Second Step Out-of-School Time with partner centers, site leaders, and facilitators who helped us improve our program to fit the specific needs of before-and after-school spaces and staff. The positive feedback gleaned from our target audience helped reassure us that we were on the right track in meeting their needs.

Below is part of a sample activity from our Kindergarten-Grade 1 unit called “Facing Challenges with Confidence.”

Second Step Out-of-School Time sample activity

Adapting to hybrid and remote learning environments

Now, you might be thinking, how is Second Step Out-of-School Time going to serve children when in-person school is not in session? We’ve thought about that and are offering implementation resources to support before- and after-school facilitators as they prepare to use the program in-person while socially distanced or in fully remote settings.

Want more? Check out our Second Step COVID-19 support resources for educators and families, including back to school supports, on-demand SEL lessons, free webinars, guidance for recording, live streaming, and sharing Second Step lessons and media, and more.

Now available

SEL, Second Step, Out of School Time grade bands

Second Step Out-of-School Time is now available to purchase for $499 at our website here.

About the author

Polly Stansell, Vice President of Product

Polly Stansell serves as vice president of product at Committee for Children and has worked in the ed-tech industry for 20 years. She oversees strategic product vision for the organization’s Second Step® family of social-emotional learning programs, and guides product execution through the full delivery cycle. Polly develops products that support the whole child, with programs that support social-emotional development, child protection, and bullying prevention. Learn more about Polly and our executive leadership team here.