Learning outside the box

Posted on March 24, 2011 by Sonoma Valley Sun

If the smiles on students’ faces were any indication, the new Afterschool Enrichment program at Adele Harrison Middle School is a huge success. The first session ended last week and was brought to a close with an evening presentation by staff members and students themselves, who were more than willing to show off the new skills they had learned in the program.

Not all fun and games, the new program is organized so that students undertake core curriculum work in math and career exploration two afternoons per week (Mondays and Wednesdays) and then choose an elective/enrichment class the other two afternoons (Tuesdays and Thursdays). For their part, students are just as excited about the curriculum help as they are about the enrichment.

“When the session was over, we gave each student a survey. I was amazed at how many kids were proud of what they’d learned in math and career. One student wrote that he’d never understood fractions but now, with the extra help, he did. That was pretty neat,” said Lyndsey Munn, the program’s enrichment coordinator.

But really, let’s not get carried away here. The true draw for many of the students were the interesting and unique enrichment classes that ran the gamut from Lego Robotics and the very popular cooking class to the leadership opportunities offered by Teens, Community, Action!, and much more. The first session was open by invitation only to students that administrators felt needed to be more engaged in school – determined through test scores and more – the school has since opened the classes up to the entire school. “Some kids are able to get enrichment activities at home. We wanted to give the other kids similar opportunities,” said Munn. “And we really tried to offer a variety of things.”

The 62 students in the seven enrichment classes were split almost evenly between male and female students. In addition to the classes mentioned above, the offerings included Creative Olympics, Dance, Criminal Justice with high school mock trial volunteers and a photography workshop called Shoot, Build, Publish. In fact, each and every one of the enrichment classes as well as the core curriculum classes had at least one community volunteer to support both students and the instructor.

The program is funded through the Sonoma Valley Fund with organizational help from the Coordinating Council for Youth Development in Sonoma and the full support of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District and the Sonoma county Office of Education. The Sonoma Valley Fund providing support also for summer school at the middle school level last summer.

The second enrichment session begins April 4. Seventy-three students have already signed up and will be distributed across just four classes this time around. Other changes include the choice of either homework help or career exploration once students are finished with math.

“The after school enrichment program at Adele Harrison was a big hit for students, staff and families.  Watching the enthusiasm of the students at the end of the course celebration was amazing and contagious! We have been very fortunate in having such tremendous community support for this program and I’m looking forward to the next set of creative course offerings,” said Louann Carlomagno, superintendent of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.

For more information or to volunteer with the Aftershool Enrichment Program at Adele Harrison, contact the school at 935-6080

Photo credit: Paul Bunting

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