Asked about his favorite recipe from the Cooking Club at Greenfield High School’s Green Room After School Program, Ben, a quiet, reflective eighth grader, thought carefully about his choices. Ben’s father, Mike, didn’t need time to think about it. “Swedish Apple Pie! Ben has already made it a couple times at home. We have even requested it!” Mike described the pie in glorious detail while his son grinned and nodded.
The Green room is one of thirteen 21st Century Community Learning Center after school and summer programs run by the Collaborative for Educational Services (CES), in Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties. Ben learned about the Green Room when he saw a flyer one day at lunch, and thought he’d give it a try. “The clubs looked interesting,” said Ben. He signed on for Cooking and LARPing (Live Action Role Playing), and rotated clubs on other days throughout the year. Ben said that the year started with three or four choices per day, but that each day had six or seven options daily by year’s end. Students make suggestions and work with the supervising adults to develop new clubs. All of the activities are fun from the students’ perspective, but they are also carefully crafted to provide a balance of academics including Math, Science, and language, and social-emotional skill development through student-centered enrichment activities.
“One of the great things about the Green Room,” noted Ben, “is you get to know kids you wouldn’t normally meet, and become friends with kids from all different grades.”
After school time at the Green Room begins with a refreshment, and then moves to homework time for participating students. An adult assists with questions or problems during their work time. The students also help each other with homework, said Ben, because there are different ages in the Green Room, and some have already taken a class that another might currently be enrolled in. After homework, the students move to their clubs, which may be held indoors or outdoors, when weather allows. Cooking Club met at the new cooking lab at Greenfield High School; until winter snows arrived, LARPing met outdoors at nearby Shattuck Park.
Some CES after school programs are funded through 21st Century Learning Grants, and others are the result of CES partnerships with schools to create their own pay-as-you-go programs. Special recruitment efforts assure that a majority of students from low income homes, students with special needs, and other students considered at-risk are able to attend. All of the programs are grounded in evidence-based learning practices, and incorporate Service Learning as well as long term projects. The school year and summer programs serve schools and communities in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties; and new schools continue to partner with CES to create new high quality programs.
“The students become our inspiration. It is a joy to watch our youth take risks that are positive (joining a new club; making a friend; volunteering; directing an activity). This becomes a possibility when the program is a safe place to be ourselves.” – Janice Marciniec, Greenfield High School.
Learn more about what inspires our team in the Collaborative for Educational Services 2015 Annual Highlights report, www.collaborative.org/sites/default/files/CES-2015-AnnHighlightsRept.pdf