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Fifth Dimension, The

An After-School Program Built on Diversity

Michael Cole, Distributive Literacy Consortium

Publication Year: 2006

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.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xii

This volume describes and analyzes a long-term effort to address a number of recalcitrant issues that affect children’s welfare in the contemporary United States. These issues are located at the intersection of theories of human development, the changing institutional organization of children’s...

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pp. xiii-xv

When Mike Cole and I met about five years ago in a diner in San Diego, I felt simultaneously wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket and refreshed by a blast of crisp New York autumn air. Warm and fuzzy because Mike’s conversation was infused with concern about the young people attending...

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Chapter 1

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pp. 1-14

For the past decade, a group of college professors and their students have been gathering several days a week with elementary school children at various after-school centers to take part in an unusual educational experience. They play games and puzzle over homework problems. They write to each other...

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Chapter 2

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pp. 15-33

As noted in chapter 1, the disciplinary backgrounds we brought to the design of our local after-school systems varied considerably, but we all adhered to a core set of concepts that placed a premium on the idea that individual development is a part of, and depends on, participation in a culturally...

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Chapter 3

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pp. 34-65

The previous two chapters described some of the early history of efforts to develop after-school educational enrichment activities and summarized the central theoretical ideas that guided our efforts at program design, implementation, and evaluation. Our goal in this chapter is to describe the projects that generated the data we use to evaluate...

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Chapter 4

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pp. 66-84

Evaluating the Fifth Dimension is a complex challenge. In light of the goals and design of our project, our evaluation efforts have addressed these questions: • What are the effects of Fifth Dimension participation on children’s learning, and how do those effects emerge?...

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Chapter 5

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pp. 85-106

A Fifth Dimension site in operation creates a strong impression that good things are happening and that children are learning. Children and their undergraduate partners chatter away, problems get solved, and reading and writing abound. However, more than good impressions are needed to provide convincing evidence that the...

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Chapter 6

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pp. 107-128

The evaluation studies in chapter 5 provide ample evidence that participation in the Fifth Dimension has a positive impact on a range of children’s academic skills, but they do not provide direct evidence about the sorts of interactions that could plausibly be linked to these desirable outcomes.1 The purpose of this chapter...

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Chapter 7

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pp. 129-159

Chapters 5 and 6 demonstrated the Fifth Dimension’s success in enhancing children’s educational achievement during the after-school hours. In this chapter, we discuss the effects of Fifth Dimension participation on a second group of learners: the undergraduate students who assist the children. Reports...

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Chapter 8

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pp. 160-170

Up to this point, we have concentrated on describing the design and implementation of Fifth Dimension after-school programs that were all funded by the Mellon Foundation and participants in the research plan laid out in earlier chapters. In this chapter, we go beyond these early programs to describe...

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Chapter 9

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pp. 171-201

Having provided an account of our multiyear attempt to design, implement, and sustain Fifth Dimension–UC Links after-school programs and their associated courses in colleges and universities, it is time to return to our starting point to reflect on what we have accomplished, where we have failed, and the lessons others might...


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pp. 203-206


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pp. 207-215

About the Authors

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pp. 217-218


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pp. 219-227

E-ISBN-13: 9781610441292
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871540843
Print-ISBN-10: 0871540843

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2006