Friday, September 15, 2017

What's New for After-School

Making changes for the new school year

With only a week and a half until ALEC starts, we are preparing the space and the curriculum as much as we can. Specifically, we have made a few changes to the program since last year. Since this is our Education Coordinator Miss Maggie's first year programming for the school year in the summer, she and Site Supervisor Miss Dianna have discussed improvements to the daily and weekly schedules. We plan to implement these ideas this school year to enhance student freedoms, engagement, and responsibility. We hope you are excited about these new changes as we are!

Activity Sessions

Similar to our Mentoring programs where girls work with Strong Women Strong Girls and boys work on together in the community, students will have the opportunity to choose between two different activities on Mondays and Tuesdays. Mondays offer Venture Outdoors and Project HAND (explained below), while Tuesdays offer Art and the YMCA Creator Space. During the first two weeks of after-school, program leaders will provide a showcase lesson to each of the two classes. Afterwards, students will choose the activity they want to participate in the rest of the session. That's right, students won't be locked into their decision the whole year. Instead, we have split up the year into three sections: from September to December, from January to March and from April to May. Students will have the opportunity to keep their activity or choose a new one. Because the last session is shorter than the rest, program leaders are planning special projects for participants that dive deeper into the material they have already been working on all year.

Project HAND

As mentioned above, we are introducing a new activity this year: Project HAND, Helping Allentown Neighbors Dream. Every year, AmeriCorps members must conduct a service project that impacts the community with the help of the students they work with. Typically, AmeriCorps members interview members of the community in order to establish the community's assets. Using these assets, the member organizes a service project and incorporates the students to help execute the plans. This year, we will include the students at the planning stage of the service project. Mr. Neal will contact community members and ask them to come to the center for an interview. The students will then ask questions about that person's job, role in the community, and visions for a better Allentown. Once we gather enough notes from the interviews, we will brainstorm possible changes and projects that will benefit Allentown. Together we will organize a project and impact our community!

Personal Badges

Apart from programming, we are introducing a new button system to ALEC that will increase engagement and responsibility in the activities,. On the first day of after-school, students will create a badge (pictured ABOVE) that leaves spaces for their name and each activity offered this year. If a student completes a session of an activity as an active participant or helper, they will receive a sticker on their badge. At the end of the year, the result will be a decorated button that represents what each student accomplished with us. In addition to the programs mentioned above, students can receive stickers for collecting many Helper points throughout the week (labeled H), by completing their homework every week (HW), and by being a Saturday Superstar that attends many Saturday Drop-In sessions (S). We hope that this system will encourage students to commit to completing activities, whether the same or different, with excitement and curiosity.

Free Time

When we aren't taking part in activities, we have free time. Free time is getting a slight change itself: the 20-30 minutes of daily free time will take place at the beginning of our after school schedule (3:00 PM) instead of at the end. We find that early free time provides a brain break for students to transition from school to after-school. Additionally, this approach gives students the freedom to come down to the center when they want, for example after talking with a teacher or a friend. After catching up on each other's days, playing games, and reading independently, we will all be ready to tackle homework and the day's activity together.

Family Surveys

Lastly, even though we have made a lot of changes, we know that we haven't found all of them. That's why we need you! Periodically, we will share a survey (paper and online) for students' families to complete. The surveys will ask the family's opinion on certain parts of our program. Based on the results, we will make changes to better serve our students and their families. But wait, there's another reason to participate! Every time a family member completes a survey or attends one of our Family Fun Nights, that family will be entered to win a prize. So come see the center and tell us what you think!

After making all of these changes, we could not be more excited to start the school year. We hope to use these new approaches to better help our students have fun and grow with us here at ALEC. Now the 25th just has to come soon!

1 comment:

  1. you are so thoughtful to come up with amazing activities to keep the kids invested into something productive. keep it up and keep posting



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