After school program gets parents involved

Jesse Hollett
Posted 11/8/17

FLEMING ISLAND – The Lights On Afterschool program is to after school programs as Christmas is to children.

It’s the one day of the year where educators can shine a spotlight on the need for …

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After school program gets parents involved


FLEMING ISLAND – The Lights On Afterschool program is to after school programs as Christmas is to children.

It’s the one day of the year where educators can shine a spotlight on the need for after school programs – and have a little fun doing it.

Thunderbolt Elementary students celebrated the occasion on Oct. 26 with some healthy competition, but not between their peers – with their parents.

A program of the YMCA, students faced off against their parents to see who could engineer their way the best to a simple goal – who can get the most cotton swabs into a bucket.

Both teams were given a bundle of cotton swabs with a bag of materials including string and straws to test critical thinking and engineering skills to manufacture the most optimal way to toss the cotton swabs into a bucket.

The two teams went about it in different ways. The adults tied the cotton swabs into a bucket, while one of the student teams used the straws as a fishing rod to drop the bundle of cotton swabs they had created with the string into the bucket.

Despite their prowess, the adult team eventually prevailed simply due to some cotton swab sharpshooting.

The point wasn’t to win or lose, according to program directors. The point was to have the teams collaborate together to find the best method to prevail.

“We want them – the parents – to be part of the process, we want them to appreciate the activities that are happening after school, we want them to know that this isn’t just a babysitting service, that we’re giving quality enrichment services,” said Chuck Steinfurth, director of Y after school programs in Clay County. “Anytime we get a chance to include parents in that process it just kind of helps strengthen the family as well.”

The YMCA holds before and after school programs in every elementary school in Clay County, and has for the last 20 years according to Steinfurth. And while their costs range from $95 to $79 a week, the programs focus on providing academic support as well as character development and physical fitness.

Parent Ozzy Trevino competed with his children Natalie and Logan. Coming from out of state, he said the program’s focus on character development and play is unlike anything he’s experienced before.

“I’m really big on family events, anything I can do with my kids, I’m all for it,” Trevino said. “I try to keep it creative in the home life, I try to do things that are good for their productivity, their morale, their home life.”

The program at Thunderbolt Elementary focuses on STEM activities for students to develop critical thinking skills. YMCA received a $10,000 grant in September to buy more advanced materials for the students to play with.

Thunderbolt Elementary is a sort of staging ground for after school programs for the rest of the county to see what works and resonates with students.

“We’re the flagship for the county, we experiment with everything through here,” said Christine Jarman, Thunderbolt Elementary site director. “It’s a new pilot program.”

And while the students get to experience new activities daily, they seemed to enjoy competing with adults three times their size.

It’s beneficial, too, Steinfurth said.

“It’s nice every once and a while to act like a kid and get to do some kid activities,” Steinfurth said.


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