21st Century gives kids after-school choice

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Meadow Bean, 8, of New Vineyard and Wesson Corson, 6, of Farmington work on a multi-step art project Thursday, Nov. 29 during the 21st Century Kids of F.R.A.N.K.L.I.N. After School Program at W.G. Mallett School (Dee Menear/Franklin Journal)

REGION — A popular after-school program has provided learning and enrichment opportunities for students in Farmington and Wilton for more than three years. The program, 21st Century Kids of F.R.A.N.K.L.I.N., is offered to children in kindergarten through fifth grade enrolled at Cascade Brook School, W.G. Mallett School, Academy Hill School, and G.D. Cushing School.

F.R.A.N.K.L.I.N., which stands for Friends Reducing Abuse and Neglect of Kids Living in our Neighborhoods, is funded by a $1.5 million 21st Century grant received in 2015.

Programs take place at Mallett and Academy Hill schools Monday through Thursday, 3 to 5:30 p.m.  There is also an option for students to enroll in summer and vacation programs.

The 21st Century program is administered by Franklin County Children’s Task Force in partnership with Regional School Unit 9.

There is plenty of fun and learning to be had. The program focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, or S.T.E.M. activities. These activities are woven into art projects and gym time.

“The afternoon starts with snack time and then we break into groups by grade level,” said Elizabeth Staples, Mallett school site coordinator.

Homework help is offered three times a week. University of Maine at Farmington Early Childhood Education students offer one-on-one literacy tutoring during the program in the fall.

“These preservice teachers and young students really have the chance to form a relationship during tutoring,” said  Kathryn Will-Dubyak, UMF assistant professor of literacy education.

The program also offers short-term clubs. The clubs give participants a voice and a choice said FCCTF Community Coordinator Rileigh Blanchet.

“Students work together to come up with club ideas and vote on submissions to pick which three clubs will be offered,” said Blanchet. “They work with the staff to plan the club, so kids have a real investment. Giving kids a choice is a key part of the grant.”

Clubs are typically held one day a week for six weeks. Past clubs have included board games, free art, cooking, science and a junior police academy.

“We try to get community partners to come in and help the clubs. In the instance of the Police Academy, we never could have pulled it off without Farmington Police Officer Darin Gilbert,” Staples said.

Meadow Bean, 8, of New Vineyard took part in the Police Academy club. “I really liked it a lot,” she said. “We learned about not bullying. I like the after school program because there are a lot of people here to talk to and play with.”

Art activities are project-based with multiple steps, said Staples. A recent project including dyeing salt as part of a science experiment. The next time the group gathered they drew pictures. Young artists planned to use the colored salt to outline their drawings in the final step.

Wesson Corson, 6, of Farmington said he likes art but he also likes playing board games. “We played one game but made up how to play. We didn’t know how and just made it all up. It was fun,” he said as he drew a picture.

“A lot of kids didn’t know how to play Uno or Skip-bo,” said Staples. “Now there are tables full of kids playing those games during free time.”

Zeiva Bivens, 8 of Farmington said she likes gym the most. “We play games like hamster hunt, sharks and minnows, and pac man,” she said.

The Mallett school program averages about 50 participants a day, although there are 90 students enrolled. Students have the flexibility of enrolling in the program but also taking part in sports, said Blanchet.

The program offers open enrollment. Blanchet said all a parent had to do was fill out an application and return it to FCCTF office, 113 Church St. There are no income guidelines in place to take part in the program. Currently no fee is charged. However, beginning Jan. 1, a sliding scale fee will be used to help offset costs and ensure program sustainability.

For more information or an application, visit www.fcctf.org or call 778-6960.

 dmenear@thefranklinjournal.com

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