Making school a favorite hangout

After-school program Clubhouse inspires growth by letting kids play chess, make salsa and more

lpemberton@theolympian.comMay 20, 2013 

Twice a week, the library, playfield, hallways and some of the classrooms at Meadows Elementary School in Lacey transform into a different place: It’s called Clubhouse.

The free after-school program provides homework assistance, snacks and enrichment activities for about 80 students in first through sixth grades, according to coordinator Sarah Wickstrom.

Students are invited to join the program when they need a little extra support for their academics, or if a staff member feels the student would benefit socially from the program, she said.

Parents often request to have their child put in the program, too.

“There’s a waiting list,” Wickstrom said.

Clubhouse is one of several programs funded by North Thurston Public Schools’ 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, which is a five-year project from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The grant also supports after-school and summer clubhouse programs at Mountain View, Pleasant Glade and Lydia Hawk elementary schools and Nisqually Middle School, according to the district’s website.

At Meadows, students meet for about 30 minutes to eat snacks and finish homework. Then they spend about an hour doing various activities.

Fifth-grader Star Mojica said she enjoys the program, and said she’d probably just end up watching television after school if she didn’t have Clubhouse.

“We can just have fun and hang out with our friends,” she said. “It’s fun. It’s interesting.”

On a recent afternoon, a group of students prepared mango mint salsa with fresh vegetables from the school’s garden, while others played math and reading games, worked on art projects, played computer chess and other programs in the library, and ran drills on the soccer field.

“They want us to do things that aren’t really done during the school year,” said physical education teacher Matt Tuttle, who runs the fitness club.

This year, the students he works with have participated in jogging, calisthenics, yoga, basketball and floor hockey. They recently began playing soccer – and Tuttle said he tries to make the experience different than what they’d get in PE class.

“It’s more of a coach,” he said of his role. “You can put on a different hat.”

Wickstrom said they’ve seen academic improvement among the kids who are involved in Clubhouse. “We do see a lot of successes,” she said. “It’s so rewarding to see them grow and develop and transform.”

Music and library teacher Betsy Perkins said she hopes the program can continue after the grant ends.

“Hopefully, we’ll get another run at it,” she said. “(Clubhouse) has become a fixture.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 @Lisa_Pemberton

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