On a recent Monday after school, three students and MMS second grade teacher Jenni Leach relaxed atop a platform on a playground structure and shared a nutritious picnic of hummus, cheese, apples, crackers and juice. Their conversation included discussion of events from earlier in the school day, various environmental and science topics — including the migrating Monarch butterflies – as well as other activities they could do for the remainder of their two hours together.
These third and fourth grade students, along with other MMS students ranging in grades two through seven, regularly participate in MMS’ After School Program, which provides extended care, fun, and homework assistance at MMS from 3:25-5:25pm, Monday through Friday. The program began in September at the urging of school parents looking for affordable and convenient extended-day care for their children. MMS Spanish Teacher and After School Program Director Jen Block said the program continues to meet with great enthusiasm from parents and participants.
“My kids really enjoyed the program,’ shared MMS parent Beth Brennan. ‘It was surprising to me that they really looked forward to the afternoons. I expected some resistance to the longer day, but they had so much fun they were really relaxed and content when they got home. They came home with energy expended in some very fun outdoor activities and had a good chunk of homework done. This meant we could sit down for a nice dinner and have an on-time bedtime. It was good for all.’
Parent Michelle Brandt agrees, and said her daughter comes home happy and having had an enjoyable time after school. And as parent who works a distance from home, the extended care hours and convenience are significant.
‘It is a very helpful option,’ said Michelle. ‘It means that have not had to hire a second sitter for the school year.’
During a typical after school period, students will engage in an array of activities, including outdoor free play — a chance to unwind after the more focused, structured activities of the school day — a healthy and hearty snack (included in the program); time for working on homework, group walks, games, puzzles, story time and arts and crafts.
‘I like having time to play and eat,’ shared 8-year-old Ronan Keith. ‘I like playing the ‘Save the Earth’ game and ‘Twister,’ and making the rainforest puzzle with Anna.’
Fourth grader Denali Spector said she likes participating in ‘everything’ and described making ‘Warm Fuzzies,’ a craft project combining colored yarn, cardboard and stick-on ‘googly’ eyes. Jenni points out that this fun art project has a connection to the MMS’ character development curriculum, and so along with creative fun, positive character attributes are reinforced.
On Mondays and Wednesdays students spend time with Jenni in and around the second grade classroom. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they are chaperoned at the Upper Campus by Evelyn Fortang, a Mount Madonna Center resident with teaching and tutoring experience, who has a good repoire with the students. At present Friday after care is not in demand, but is available should there be a need.
‘My dad thinks it is awesome, because he can just come home and cook dinner and spend time with me,’ said third grader Anna Shelton, ‘and my homework is already done.’
‘My daughter loves it,’ acknowledged parent David Shelton. ‘She spends time with good friends and gets a jump-start on her homework. The program offers so much more than just day care. I love the fact that she has lots of homework done on Monday afternoon — not only that it gets done, but that she has the help, if needed, from two great teachers!’
The program currently has space available, and is open to students from first to twelfth grade. So far most participating families either choose to pick up their children at 5:25 or arrange carpools; however transportation to prearranged stops to inland and ocean side communities is available.
Jenni said there’s a strength and benefit to having a mixed-age program, with kids spending time with different kids than they generally play with at lunchtime.
‘It’s a diverse group of new friends,’ she noted. ‘For the students and myself it’s another way for us get to know each other. It’s nice to reconnect with students who’ve previously been in my class, as well as getting to know new and older students. Our present group is small enough that I can really offer individualized homework help tailored to what each person is working on.’
‘I also value the social piece of having students in mixed-age groups,’ Jen said. ‘This allows older students, like middle schooler Noah Kaplan, for example, a chance to shine as a gentle leader and engage with the younger students. It’s natural mentoring.’
‘I found the After School Program helpful when I had one kid staying late at school, so that the others could be in cared for and I didn’t have to pick up at different times,’ added Beth. ‘More helpful though was it gave me a few nights during the week when I didn’t have to rush home to get kids, I had time to get home from work, make dinner and then pick up kids at the bus stop so we could enjoy a relaxed time together. Having some of the homework done was a real key to that.’
Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Marketing & Communications,
Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.