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After school learning energizes student performance

Submitted to aedgett@sierrasun.comStudents and volunteer tutors gather at a learning station in the Henness Flats apartment for an after-school study program.
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TRUCKEE, Calif. andamp;#8212; Thereandamp;#8217;s been a shift childrenandamp;#8217;s education energy at the Henness Flats apartment complex adjacent to the Truckee Donner Recreation andamp; Parks District Community Recreation Center weekday afternoons. After the school bus takes children home, many students walk to the Community Center at Henness Flats for extra schooling. Four teachers from Glenshire Elementary School with support from Parents For Public Schools volunteers, several Alder Creek Middle School and Truckee High School students await.Readers might think the kidandamp;#8217;s feet would be dragging. This is hardly the case. They start with healthy snacks supplied by New Moon Natural Foods and then settle down to a routine yet casual learning session. Two areas, designed to accelerate learning, include reading and writing for kindergartners through second graders and supplemental math development for fifth graders.Clusters of children work with instructors at work stations. Mrs. Berelson arrives an hour early to work with kindergartners on verbal and math games, read stories aloud and help the students update journals at the table or on the carpet. Mr. Inns provides help at the dining table with math homework. Mrs. Johnson always starts with a story and the children chime in identifying beginning, middle and end and expanding their vocabularies. The kids then participate in a round robin of stations executing vocabulary games, journal working exercises or reading with dedicated volunteers. Mrs. Garnet and her second graders can be found in the recreation room reading books aloud and performing plays or journaling and playing word games. Onlookers would not see an inattentive face.Why is this supplemental learning important to the fabric of daily school life? We asked Suzie Dailey, fifth grade teacher at Glenshire, what results she has seen. andamp;#8220;The dramatic change in these students has been in their confidence to answer questions and participate in class, especially around math concepts,andamp;#8221; said Dailey. Apparently, the students are now completing their homework which gives them a better understanding of the material. The after school program has given them the extra support needed to help master concepts. Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Berelson, who are also the childrenandamp;#8217;s teachers, are heavily targeting which is in turn increasing their vocabulary. Berelson and Johnson know the children need more exposure to reading and they are seeing real progress. Typically, in a class of 20 students, few teachers can find five minutes a day to devote to reading with each student, (Adams 2002).Borrowing a line andamp;#8220;from the mouths of babes,andamp;#8221; we asked children to tell us what the after-school program has meant to them. Here is what they said:Kindergartners: Brandon Huerta, andamp;#8220;I like playing math games. I like andamp;#8216;5andamp;#8217; (a math cooperative circle game).andamp;#8221; Eduardo Garcia, andamp;#8220;I like to read the most.andamp;#8221; Eimi Morales, andamp;#8220;This class is about learning. We get to play and write and read and play learning games.andamp;#8221; Metzi Ramos, andamp;#8220;I like coming here to read a book.andamp;#8221; Rheyana Lopez, andamp;#8220;We get to write in our journals every time.andamp;#8221; First and second graders: Alyssa Seveirup, andamp;#8220;I like learning and writing. It makes me feel smart.andamp;#8221; Adriane Zarate, andamp;#8220;I like reading with Mrs. Johnson. In math, we are learning a lot. I like writing in my journal.andamp;#8221; Cristal Frutos, andamp;#8220;I like to read and I like to be with everybody here. I feel better because everybody is helping everybody.andamp;#8221; Eidy Bera, andamp;#8220;I like reading and writing and I feel less crazy because I come here.andamp;#8221;Fifth grader Alex Villa said, andamp;#8220;My teacher comes here to help me. Itandamp;#8217;s like weandamp;#8217;re staying at school. I get a lot of help from Mr. Inns. If my mom doesnandamp;#8217;t understand or have time, that makes my homework harder to get done.andamp;#8221;There are plans in the works to continue this program in August, to bring the students back up to speed for the coming school year. The entire community is coming together to create a supportive network of possibilities for all of our children. There is El Andar (The Path), a parent engaged summer literacy program that runs out of Truckee Elementary whose goals coincide with and expand upon the Henness Flats program. These programs are seeking to level the playing field for the children at a site located away from the school so less individual time will be needed during class.The teachers along with Glenshire Elementary principal Kathleen Gauthier are appreciative to Henness Flats for providing space. However, without the childrenandamp;#8217;s hard work this program could not happen or be successful. Ultimately, it is a choice these children have made to learn. Donations and volunteered time to directly support the program at Henness Flats are gratefully accepted at Glenshire Elementary. El Andar has been awarded the Bessie Minor Grant Foundation grant and coordinators would like it to grow. Eileen Driscoll at Truckee Elementary can be contacted to contribute to El Andar. Parents for Public Schools expects to continue to be fully involved. While these programs augment the childrenandamp;#8217;s schoolwork, a key part of what supports them is provided by people in the community who reach out and show they truly care about these students. Volunteering with your time to read with the children would also be gratefully appreciated. andamp;#8212; Brooke Bishop is a volunteer with Parents for Public Schools


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