If you stopped by the Alan Shawn Feinstein Elementary School at Broad Street after school this past year and saw the principal leading the chorus, the gym teachers beading bracelets and the math coach leading a scrapbooking class, it was not a case of mistaken identity. It was the debut of after-school clubs led by Principal Cynthia Scheller, teachers and other school volunteers.
Thanks to the support and talents of the school’s staff, all of the after-school clubs are free for students and, according to Scheller, have brought new energy to the diverse population at one of the city’s oldest schools.
“The parents are very appreciative,” she said. “Many have struggled to find after-school activities, but due to the cost are unable to participate. Students see their teachers in a different dimension. Our program shows that teachers care outside of the school environment and teaches the students that learning can be fun.”
Jen Partridge, a fourth-grade teacher and the homework club facilitator, said “I enjoy having the opportunity to work with and get to know students from all grade levels.”
“I like to see the students participate in enrichment activities that are outside the curriculum,” said Mary Watson, math coach. “They have a chance to be creative and use their imagination more than what we see in the normal school day.”
Scheller said she directed the school’s Parent Engagement and Climate and Culture Committee to develop an after-school program using available resources. They responded enthusiastically by discovering the talents of the school staff and tapping into their volunteer spirit.
“I enjoy working with smaller groups of students and watch them hone their skills and grow as a team,” said physical education teacher Arthur Magno. “I get to share my passion for sports with the kids.”
Last spring, the after-school program was launched on a trial basis with 12 clubs meeting on one day. A total of 187 students signed up and, last fall, the number rose to 219, nearly half of the school’s population.
The school tries to select clubs that are of high interest and diverse. The initial session included chorus, drama, drawing, Chinese, calligraphy, cookie decorating, homework and arts and crafts. In the fall, students could take basketball, a book club, beading, sewing, iPad, tumbling and a doctor’s club, where the students learned about making healthy choices and received lab coats.
The spring session began this week with 179 students and new offerings of scrapbooking, dance, whiffleball, Lexia and Dreambox. One of the school’s community partners, Dr. Tina Rizak from The Miriam Hospital, is facilitating a “Fit” club.
On the last day, parents visit the clubs to see what their children learned. “They love it. They form friendships with different kids from different classes and grades,” said Scheller of her students.