Ideas flow from enrichment programs
From Gizmotics to math, Community School students learn before and after school
To those among us who couldnt build a 3D printer or who have never heard of an ONeill cylinder: You dont have to consult Google instead, just ask a student at the Forest Grove Community School.
In addition to regular coursework, the school offers six different after-school enrichment programs: Gizmotics, Math Games, Spanish, Publishing House, touch football and a school garden. The programs last roughly 50 minutes and are offered both before and after the regular school day.
Especially impressive is the turnout for these optional programs. In a school of about 200 kids, Principal Vanessa Gray estimates about 70 join one class or another.
These kids are learning valuable skills, she said, and it helps out working parents who need an extension of the day program.
Though Gray must approve the programs before theyre adopted, she said, theyre student driven.
We want students to be participants in their own education, she said. Its a big part of our goal, which is for our students to become stewards, scholars and citizens.
The students get excellent role models for that in the volunteers who run the before- and after-school programs.
Erin Morgan offers Spanish classes for all grades for a $10 per-semester materials fee (not quite free, but close). A bilingual teacher, Morgan runs the schools Out & About program during regular hours.
Publishing House a Friday club thats producing a literary magazine with student writing and artwork is run by Americorps member Ashley Vincent.
The Gizmotics and Math Games programs are put on by parents Markus and Roberta Roberts.
FGCS also offers an after-school academic support program called Tree House.
PE teacher Rick Boudreau has been supervising a student-initiated touch-football club the past few months. And another parent volunteer is getting ready to offer a theater class.
Because our resources are limited, we work hard to take advantage of the resources we do have, Gray said. FGCS gets only 85 percent of per-pupil funding from the state as compared to mainstream public schools, with no access to many revenue streams that support other schools, such as capital-improvement dollars.
We couldnt put together a library of our own, but we have the public library down the street. And we couldnt afford to bring in a math specialist, but we have a parent like Markus.
The idea for Math Games came from a paper called A Mathematicians Lament, said Roberts, whose three children attend the school. Basically what it says is, you wouldnt try to teach kids to play the violin without letting them hear the great composers and only letting them tune instruments and play scales. But thats how were trying to teach math.
So now Roberts teaches college-level math such as group theory and probability to first- through fifth-graders.
In Gizmotics, Roberts students have built a working 3D printer and an ONeill Cylinder a theoretical space colony from a two-liter bottle.
We start with the motivation: I have a problem I want to solve, Roberts said, and from there were always upping the challenge. Its great practice dealing with frustration and, so far, time is the only limitation weve found.
Kids are saying Well, I want to be a mad scientist, but I have homework tonight.
The school will soon add two new programs: a drama club and an animation club. The latter is a capstone project dreamed up and organized by an eighth-grader whos set to move on to high school at the end of the year.
Its wonderful to see such a small school touch so many students, Gray said.
And what has allowed the Forest Grove Community School to do that?
Its the culture of inclusivity and openness, Roberts said. This is the most open and reasonable school Ive ever been a part of, and their willingness to try new ideas makes all the difference.JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT