Pilot program offers kids opportunities

February 17, 2009 2:59:45 PM PST
After-school programs help give kids something to do after school lets out. But they aren't just fun and games. They can also help give kids a chance to learn things they wouldn't necessarily learn in their normal classes.Now, a pilot program in New York is offering kids a unique opportunity to learn and have some fun.

At PS 636, the after-school program is more than just babysitting.

"We've designed our programs in such a way that it's fun and exciting, and children are learning without even knowing that they're learning," PS 636 principal Danika Lacroix. "that's the great part about it."

It is among 10 public schools selected for a pilot program called Expanded Learning Time/NYC, in which school principals design their own activities. A robotics class is one of the most popular activities.

"The thing I like about robotics is that you can program, build or build a robot with your teammates," student Joseph Ortiz said.

They get to play sports, including basketball, which is carefully coached for skill and sportsmanship. There is a class in cheerleading and instruction in a Brazilian form of martial arts. But even the after-school academic sessions can be fun.

"When we play, like, educational games, like math games and English language arts games," student Annette Estrella said.

The programs are run in partnership with community groups, in this case, University Settlement House.

"We go over their academic records, their reading scores, their math scores, to figure out what would be the best activities for them to flourish in, academically or socially," site supervisor Tameeka Ford-Norville said.

It's all paid for by a combination of public and private funds, which include part of each school's budget.

"I've cut other things out of my budget, but this I cannot bend on," Lacroix said. "This program is not only working for me, for the kids and for the families, but larger for the entire community."

The program is specifically scheduled to last for three school years. At the end of that time, there will be a careful evaluation of how well it worked. If it did work, evaluators would determine the best way to expand it to other schools.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King


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