By Luci Manning
Students at Frances Willard Elementary School, Rock Island will get to enjoy squash, corn, green beans, strawberries and rhubarb this fall thanks to the work of 16 kids in the school’s afterschool program. The garden project is run by three local AmeriCorps workers as part of a collection of educational programs they provide to the community through the Nahant Marsh environmental education center. “The project usually involves the kids getting more connected to the outdoors and fostering stewardship of our natural world,” AmeriCorps worker Grace Griffin told the Quad-City Times. The students will tend the garden throughout the summer then harvest the produce this fall.
High school sophomores Mandy Lee, Joan Monti and Xiu Ti Wang first began to identify themselves as scientists when they collected DNA from strawberries, visited the American Museum of Natural History and examined rocks as part of Girl Scout Troop 3106. Their Scout leader Maryann Stimmer sees the Girl Scouts and other afterschool programs as the key to unlocking the scientific potential of girls. Rather than focusing on student performance like regular-day teachers, afterschool staff can focus on identity, which is a bigger predictor of whether students will go into science and math fields, according to Stimmer. “After school is the sweet spot for STEM,” she told Youth Today.
Earlier this week, Washington Governor Jay Inslee joined a group of students from Northern Heights Elementary School as they explored the forest near their school, catching garter snakes and playing hide and seek behind trees and bushes. The outing, part of Wild Whatcom’s afterschool program, followed Inslee’s announcement that the nonprofit will receive a $20,000 No Child Left Inside grant from the state’s Parks and Recreation Commission to expand its outdoor education programs. “The evidence shows—and there is good evidence of this—that small, little experiences like this really turns kids on to science, turns them on to nature, turns them on to what’s wild in our state,” Gov. Inslee told the Bellingham Herald.
The Adams Youth Center Inc.’s afterschool program did its share to help the environment this Earth Day by making 40 reusable bags through The BagShare Project, which produces eco-friendly bags made from recycled materials to encourage people to use fewer plastic bags. Volunteers at the Council of Aging also participated in the project, and together the two groups made over 100 reusable bags. “The bags are made by 6-year-olds, teens, tweens and elders, demonstrating that greening up/reusing is everyone’s responsibility,” The BagShare Project founder Leni Fried told the Berkshire Eagle. The bags were delivered with monthly food supplies for people in need across the area in honor of Earth Day.
By Luci Manning
Rock Falls Middle School students are coming out of their shells thanks to an afterschool theater program run by the school, Sterling-Rock Falls YMCA and the Woodlawn Arts Academy. The afterschool students recently put on a performance of “The Wizard of Oz,” which impressed the Illinois State Board of Education enough that they have been asked to perform it again at the 21st Century Community Learning Centers spring conference in May. The program includes an academic tutoring element, but focuses on the arts as a way to unlock kids’ potential. “Arts is fantastic, because you get to watch it change their lives and watch them get more confidence in themselves,” program head Faith Morrison told Sauk Valley Newspapers.
Benton Harbor’s 21st Century Community Learning Center program is receiving high marks across the board from parents, teachers and students. The afterschool program uses creative activities—like sending Barbie dolls bungee-jumping using rubber bands—to teach science, arts, math and other academic skills. According to project director Julie Earle, the kids can’t get enough—93 percent of students in the program said they wanted to attend in a recent survey. “The students are choosing to learn,” she told the Herald-Palladium. “To me, that’s the biggest reason we’re successful.” Additionally, 100 percent of parents say the program has helped their kids academically and kept them out of trouble.
A group of elementary school students gathered at the Hyannis Gold Course last week to learn basic putting and other important golf skills as part of the First Tee Massachusetts afterschool program. Through the nine-week program, kids will learn to drive, chip, select the appropriate clubs and how to play by the rules of the game. All the while, they’ll absorb life skills that fit into the program’s nine core values: respect, courtesy, honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, confidence, responsibility, perseverance and judgment. The kids will learn to push through their mistakes, respect their competition and honestly report their own scores. “It is really a life skills program,” Hyannis’ PGA teaching professional Dave Donnellan told the Bourne Courier. “Golf is the vehicle by which we teach those life skills.”
Thirteen Vance Middle School students are learning how the scientific concepts of force, friction, acceleration, velocity and speed apply to drag racing through the CHAMPS Racing Program. The afterschool program teaches kids how to use their math and science knowledge to solve real-life problems by working on their teacher David Boggs’ racecar, which he drives on the weekend at Bristol Dragway. “We take the race program and help kids use what they learn in the classroom and use it at the track,” he told WJHL.
By Luci Manning
Child refugees face a lot of obstacles when they arrive in the United States, including language barriers that can keep them from succeeding in school. Thankfully, an afterschool program in Buffalo is trying to help kids overcome their English difficulties and perform at grade level. ENERGY pairs children with adult mentors three times a week to work on reading and writing comprehension, enjoy a meal and play games. According to volunteer Clark Sykes, the program gives him hope at a time when the country is politically polarized by immigration issues. “I know the reality of children who want to learn so that they can be like everyone else in their grade and make their families proud,” he said in a Buffalo News column.
A group of Columbus High School students had their television debut this weekend thanks to a new talk show filmed and produced by the students themselves. The kids are producing Falcon Talk as part of an afterschool program that aims to give young people a taste of what a future in television or journalism would be like. Additionally, the program gives students an academic boost and teaches many useful skills for their future careers, like learning how to debate and act like a professional. “I’d love to be able to see them have a legitimate talk show with a live audience,” faculty sponsor Andrew Nation told the Commercial Dispatch. “It’s amazing to watch the kids have fun with it.”
Daquan Oliver didn’t have many opportunities growing up, but that never stopped his entrepreneurial spirit. By his sophomore year of college, he had formed an entrepreneurship-focused mentoring program for low-income teens just like himself. WeThrive trains college students on how to be mentors, then pairs the students with local kids using an 11-week curriculum developed by the program. Through WeThrive, students develop confidence, leadership and teamwork skills as they put together business ideas and pitch them to adult funders. “I want them to be the next generation of social-change leaders,” Oliver told the Christian Science Monitor.
The Metamora Area Robotics Students and Woodford Area Robotics Students, or MARS WARS, have taken on a special mission: developing customized robotic vehicles for children with disabilities. The afterschool robotics team spends its six-week regular season creating complex robots for FIRST Robotics competitions, then spends the off-season developing cars for kids like four-year-old Emily Heflin, who has a rare genetic disorder that has kept her from being able to walk or talk throughout her life. “I’m just completely blown away with how intelligent and how talented these high school kids are,” Emily’s mom Jodi told the Associated Press. “They are going to change the world someday.” The program helps students see the real-world applications of the technical skills they’re learning while programming robots.
By Luci Manning
After the Greenwood neighborhood suffered a gas explosion that leveled two buildings and damaged more than 50 others last month, an afterschool writing and tutoring program is joining in the repair efforts. Kids in the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas (BFI) program had been collecting stories and poems about Greenwood to fill their “Encyclopedia Greenwoodia,” an anthology dedicated to the neighborhood, and will now donate all proceeds from the book’s sale to the Greenwood Relief Fund to help repair damage from the explosion. BFI executive director Teri Hein said that, given the nature of the anthology, it was only natural that the proceeds should go back to the community. “It’s a love letter to Greenwood,” she told the Seattle Times.
An engineering afterschool program at Granby High School is giving girls the confidence to program robots, develop their own engineering designs and plan their future careers. Career and technical education teacher Roger Lagesse started the Girls in Engineering Program four years ago and has since seen interest in the program spike dramatically, even leading to the introduction of an all-girls introductory engineering class at the high school. “We had three percent females in the engineering courses four years ago, and now it’s up to 20 percent,” he told the Virginian-Pilot.
Olympic swimmer Gary Hall Jr. is working with the Santa Ynez Valley Community Aquatics Foundation and the Chumash Tribe to make afterschool swimming lessons available to kids throughout the community. He took to the Santa Barbara Independent to argue why these afterschool programs deserve support: “To do away with our culture of inactivity and promote a culture of health, we need to encourage children to make physical activities a part of their regular routine, just like washing their hands and brushing their teeth. We need more programs… to provide safe spaces for kids to exercise and play in the hours after school…. Shorting kids the opportunity to be physically active, healthy and happy is woefully short-sighted.”
University of Nebraska at Omaha medical student Seif Nasir wishes he had known more about his chosen field when he was younger, so he and colleague Jenna Christensen are working to spread some medical school insight to high schoolers throughout the city, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The pair recently presented before Omaha Westside’s afterschool medical club, discussing the academic rigors involved in preparing for, getting accepted to and progressing through medical school. They also introduced the high school freshmen to some of the health care career options they might pursue once they finish their education.
By Luci Manning
Students of the Genesis Center’s afterschool program recently shared their love of strawberries with the community by putting on a strawberry festival. Each grade had an area to research, including agriculture, history, geography and food preparation, and then each grade ran a station about their area at the festival. The stations included samples of strawberry-themed treats (of course), such as shortcake, ice cream, crepes and kabobs. The afterschool program runs three days a week, teaching kids about agriculture, engineering, banking, carpentry and other practical subjects. “It allows the kids to get exposure to various types of skills associated with professions,” program director Pastor Ken Scrubbs told the Orlando Sentinel. “We work to give them an idea of what they want to do, what they choose to do in life.”
A group of second, third and fourth-graders at Crocker Elementary School now know how to better handle dangerous situations, thanks to the afterschool radKIDS training program. The students spent the past ten weeks working with local police officers on safety and defense training. The kids have mastered some basic defensive maneuvers, and know to yell ‘No!’ and find an adult to help if they’ve been threatened or attacked. “It’s nice to see they can defend themselves,” kindergarten aide Stacey Brassard, who helps with the program, told the Sentinel & Enterprise.
After finishing a lesson on India, students in the Little Blue After School Club at Edith Bowen Laboratory School received a visit from Utah State University’s Indian Student Association to get an in-depth, personal perspective on Indian culture. “It’s always advantageous when you learn about different cultures when you go to different places,” Indian Student Association president Varun Gattu told the Herald Journal. The kids learned about India’s languages, styles of dance and mathematical discoveries, but were most interested in learning about the significance of henna tattoos. Some even had the chance to have their own henna tattoos done.
Nine-year-old Pashia Bowens is one of 15 lucky students to get invited to the America SCORES National Poetry Slam, an all-expenses-paid national showcase for poet-athletes across the country. America SCORES is an innovative afterschool program that combines soccer and creative writing, based on the philosophy that engaging kids in a team sport helps create a positive learning environment, improving both health and literacy, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Since she won the regional poetry competition, Pashia will now get to play soccer in Central Park and recite her winning poem to a much larger audience in April.
By Luci Manning
Seven fifth graders at Israel Putnam School have created a beautiful mosaic illustrating their school year’s theme—around the world in 180 days—as part of an expanded afterschool enrichment program. Through the nine-week course, the kids learned to use grout, sponges and screws to put together the mosaic, which contains multicolored handprints that join to form the world. “The biggest benefit is kids working on things they wouldn’t work on during school otherwise,” Israel Putnam principal Anne Jellison told the Record-Journal.
A cohort of public officials, nonprofit groups and educational providers has unveiled a new initiative, “Summer 16: Dream! Explore! Do!” that hopes to engage thousands of Allegheny County kids in high-quality summer programs. The initiative will help providers throughout the county coordinate with one another, enabling the region to better gauge where programs are most needed. “We’re giving every child that wants an opportunity a chance to do something great this summer,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto told the Tribune-Review. The goal is for 16,000 children and young adults to participate in programs this summer.
After months of practicing their bike skills on pavement at the West End Center for Youth, eight students in the PedalUp afterschool program ventured into nature for their first mountain biking excursion. PedalUp, a part of Family Services of Roanoke Valley’s community counseling, uses bikes as a therapeutic tool to help kids develop and connect with one another, according to program founder Emily Painter. “It is very self-empowering; you are responsible for what you do on a bike,” she told the Roanoke Times. “I find that [the kids] look after each other in a big way, so it is done a lot to build their empathy.”
Western Kentucky University student Lillie Hoskinson recently developed a new program to better prepare tutors to help struggling young readers. According to the Daily News, Tutor in a Bag pairs students with volunteer “reading buddies,” who use tools like alphabet bingo puzzles, flash cards and games to improve the kids’ reading skills. The program targets students that show signs of reading weaknesses such as poor word recognition. Each volunteer completes a two-hour training session before participating in the afterschool program. “I think it’s a great tool for people who maybe want to provide assistance to struggling readers but don’t think they know how to do it,” WKU School of Teacher Education professor Nancy Hulan told the Daily News.
By Luci Manning
Students are learning what it takes to be an entrepreneur and run their own business in EntrepreneurShip Investigation (ESI), an afterschool club for fifth through seventh graders. The club supports kids who come up with business ideas and coaches them through developing and supplying a product, which they then sell at an expo at Mitchell Elementary School in May. The club also features guest speakers who talk about their experience owning a business. “I think this club gives them a heads-up on what opportunities they can create for themselves in the future,” fourth grade teacher Michelle Engstrom told the Star-Herald.
A group of fourth and fifth grade students in the High Desert Leapin’ Lizards afterschool program may be the first people to set foot on Mars in 2030 – at least NASA education specialist David Alexander thinks so. Alexander held a teleconference with kids in the program last week where they discussed the details of NASA’s space shuttle program and some of the basic physics involved in sending people to Mars, planting the seed in their minds that one day they could be astronauts too, according to the Daily Independent.
Students in Campbell County Middle School’s Club 21 are learning important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills by building bicycles from scratch and creating objects on a 3-D printer after school. Kids in the club will work with volunteer mentors—including a police officer, a teacher and a counselor—to put together their bicycles over the next ten weeks. “I think these kids learn not only the ins and outs of putting a bike together, but following instructions and patience,” CCMS counselor and club mentor Kelly Crowley told the Cincinnati Enquirer. The STEM clubs are part of the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative.
A team of elementary schoolers from Long Lake Elementary are heading to Louisville, Kentucky next month to compete in the world championship VEX robotics competition after besting a number of middle school teams at a state-level competition. The RoboRunners team meets regularly after school to design their robots for competition, learning a host of important STEM and life skills along the way, from computer programming to teamwork. Most importantly, it’s a fun and engaging way for kids to spend their after school hours, according to ten-year-old Valerie Marinello, whose mom initially signed her up for the club. “I’m so glad she signed me up because I’m having so much fun and I love being on robotics,” she told the Grand Traverse Herald.
By Luci Manning
Patrick Henry Middle School is doing its part to close the technological skills gap in South Dakota with an afterschool class for middle school girls. The computer coding class follows the curriculum outlined by national nonprofit Girls Who Code, which builds young girls’ interest in web development, cyber security, information systems and computer programming. The class is trying to break down the barriers that keep women from entering tech fields. “Mostly there’s boys or men that do coding jobs and I guess girls don’t know that the opportunity’s out there,” sixth-grader Ava Bouwman told the Argus Leader. “You don’t have to be a certain gender to do something.”
For 50 years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Wake County have given kids a safe place to do their homework, play sports, exercise their creativity and make new friends. The clubs care for nearly 5,000 children, many from low-income families, offering fun, character-building activities during the after school hours. Seventeen-year-old Stephen Kalokoh was initially hesitant to join the club five years ago, but quickly came to see it as a “big family” and credits the club for his leadership skills. He told the News & Observer that while some of his peers from middle school are now in jail, his friends from the club have college and careers in their future.
An afterschool program at Twain Elementary School is helping Spanish-speaking children build pride in their heritage while giving University of Iowa students a chance to practice their language skills. The goal of Spanish Buddies is to help the kids, many of whom grew up speaking a mixture of English and Spanish, learn a more grammatically correct version of Spanish and show that their language is part of their identity. “These native speakers should be proud to speak two different languages, though some of them aren’t,” Before and After School Programs director Steve Nordlund told the Daily Iowan. “For a lot of these kids, this afterschool program is a confidence boost to them, and they’re starting to realize that it’s something they shouldn’t be ashamed of."
Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas makes the case for a continued investment in afterschool programs in the Orange County Register: “After-school and summer programs make sure students are safe, healthy, supervised and engaged in learning activities and develop the skills they need to succeed in life…. Not only does [the Santa Ana Police Athletic & Activity League] help keep kids safe and on track academically, it’s building community trust with daily positive connections between youth and law enforcement.... However, funding for the After School Education and Safety program has remained static for a decade…. Increasing state funding for existing ASES grants now will ensure quality programming continues to keep California’s youth off the street and out of trouble.”