ANeSU students enjoy extra-curriculars
BRISTOL — For students in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union, the day is hardly over when the afternoon bell rings. They’re not just participating in sports or getting some extra tutoring from a teacher; rather, in four of the five ANeSU elementary schools, students can be found learning everything from tai chi, to cooking, to making jewelry.
The workshops and classes are part of ANeSU’s Expanded Learning Program (ELP), a series of after-school experiential learning classes held in six-week sessions throughout the school year and the summer.
The program is offered at Bristol, Starksboro’s Robinson, Monkton, and Lincoln elementary schools. Beeman Elementary in New Haven plans to begin participating by the end of the month. The program offers 45 workshops for the 2015-2016 school year in topics including conversational Spanish, Zumba, trivia, creative writing, space exploration and French children’s literature — to name a few.
“We try to create opportunities for kids to try things they might not ordinarily get a chance to do,” said ANeSU’s Mandy Chesley Park, who directs the program. “We’re infusing it with academics that are quite imperceptible to the student, which is exciting. It feels and looks different than what you might see during the school day.”
The program has been in place for the past five years. With the help of a renewed five-year grant of approximately $1 million from the Vermont Agency of Education this year, the program has been expanded from two to five days a week at the Bristol and Starksboro elementary schools. The programs now go until 5 p.m. and provide students with transportation home when needed. ANeSU employees and community members teach the programs.
Recent studies suggest that access to these types of activities can leave a lasting impression that will serve students well in the future. A national study recently featured in Voices in Urban Education, a publication of Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform, reviewed student trends in extracurricular participation from the 1970s until today. The study found that while middle- and upper-class students have become more active in their after-school sports, clubs and vocations, their less affluent peers have become more disengaged. This rising disparity also exacerbates an existing achievement gap between more affluent students and those of more modest means, which can affect the opportunities available to them later in life.
Researchers in the article said the trend was “alarming.”
According to data from ANeSU, about 200 students (or just under half) of ANeSU school’s population participate in ELP. ANeSU’s Chesley Park said students who participate in the workshops see improvement in their attendance and performance in during the school day.
“The bottom line is that kids that participate in extra curricular activities are more successful after high school,” she said. “The problem is that the equality gap widens because some people can’t afford that. Some parents aren’t home to transport students and some parents don’t think about those opportunities. We have a real problem of inequality among students and this is one way to close this gap.”
To allow all students access, programs are open to all students, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.
Bristol resident Maryann Twyman’s two children, one in third grade and the other in kindergarten at Bristol Elementary, have participated in the program as long as they’ve been at the school. After they both recently completed a six-week workshop in photography, 8-year-old Idries is looking forward to participating in a film club while 5-year-old Edda hopes for a spot in a dance program where she can practice jazz, ballet and modern dance.
“They’ve loved every program they’ve been in,” Twyman said of the programs, which are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. “They know it’s a privilege to be there and they love the variety.”
In the past, they’ve participated in African drumming, violin lessons, cooking, a nature club and a comic book club. If it weren’t for these programs, Twyman said, her kids would likely come home right after school, where they play outside or do their homework.
Extracurricular activities can be expensive and Twyman said programs like ELP allow students to find where there passions are.
“Financially and logistically it’s do-able,” she said. “It’s certainly a perk for them and us as parents. It gives them a little exposure to what they might want to invest in long-term and what we as parents can invest in,” she said.
LINCOLN STUDENTS IN the Expanded Learning Program take an afternoon to enjoy freshly fallen snow on their sleds. ANeSU’s afterschool program provides opportunities for exercise and time outdoors.
Photo courtesy Jennifer Allred