Education

Visitors Day: The ‘Push’ Students Need

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Our Afterschool and Summer Learning Programs are doing their best to make an impact on the lives of elementary aged children in our community through focusing on their socio-emotional development as much as their academics, and no one understands the importance of this mission more than parents. That’s why we have made parent engagement an integral part of our curriculum with opportunities for students to showcase and celebrate their hard work.

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Children worked on bringing their stories to life by creating characters in clay.

“We have four units in our curriculum, so we have Parent Visitor Days at the end of each [unit],” explained Shannon Hayes, the Afterschool and Summer Learning Coordinator. “It’s a really good opportunity for [parents] to see what Afterschool is like for their kid, what the children are specifically working on, and it’s a confidence boost for the kids… it serves as a push and they put their best effort into their projects.”

“For [Visitor’s] Day, we try to design activities that parents can participate in,” Hayes told us. Going on to add that for this unit, the class focused on storytelling & problem-solving, “They created a superhero, they created a problem the superhero had to solve – two attempts that didn’t work and one that did – a classic setup for problem-solving in stories, and then, they created their comic books.” So when parents arrived, students had their stories ready to present to their parents, and together, they made their superheroes & graphic-novel characters out of clay.

By incorporating a strong arts component, we’re able to help first & second grade English Language Learners (ELLs) improve their language skills and self-esteem, which materializes as success both in the classroom and outside. For instance, in 2016, not only did we see improvements in their academic skills but also their problem solving, self-regulation, and relationships with adults increased by more than 40 percent (see infographic).

Laura Sierra, the mother of first-grade program participant, Angel, gushed about the academic and social benefits that our programs have been able to give him. “They’re learning about how to have positive peer relationships … how to manage themselves in a school setting… and just [how to be] a good person.”

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Some of the measured improvements seen in students’ socio-emotional skills following our 2016 Summer Learning Program.

Having participated in Afterschool for two school years & one session of our Summer Program, Sierra described the change that she has seen in Angel’s behavior, “He’s a typical child, but [now] he has the language and he understands this is what is acceptable.” She went on to say, “When he does make a mistake – like any kid – he recognizes it and is able to say ‘Well I wasn’t such a good friend today’ or ‘these are the things that I did that were good with my friends.’”

As for Angel’s academics, Sierra told us about one huge improvement she’s seen in his language skills, “He was really behind with his letters, so [his in-school & after-school teachers and I] were in a team email and [the teacher] was saying ‘These are the letters we’re working on this week and if we’re all working on the same letters, then he’ll learn them, and we can move onto other letters.’ We did that for a few weeks and, to date, he knows all of his letters – he can write them [and] identify them.”

Laura Sierra and her son, Angel during Visitors Day April 2017.

Laura Sierra and her son, Angel during Visitors Day April 2017.

Hayes explained that while academics and socio-emotional skills are at the core of the program, there is more time during the summer for teachers to focus on children’s social-emotional development simply because teachers spend more time building a relationship with the student and their parents.

Sierra attested to this, noticing the emphasis on more social lessons in the summer while during the school year she noticed more academic benefits. She described Angel’s experience last summer, “He learned about recycling, the community, and how to be a good neighbor.” And then went on to mention the added school year advantage of homework help, saying that whether he gets his homework done during that time or not, “he’s had a long enough break that when he gets home he’s re-energized and able to jump back into it & retain some of the tools they gave him here [to finish it].”

Our staff is dedicated to helping each and every child flourish, which is why Hayes says the most rewarding part of her job is seeing the visible impact that Afterschool & Summer Learning has on all the students. In fact, Sierra described the program saying, “They’re always willing to do a little more – willing to engage and willing to be a part of the bigger team.” Please consider donating by clicking here, because your support ensures that programs like this one continue to do their part in educating future generations for success.

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