LIMA — An afterschool program at West Middle School has students building hydraulic robots, decorating desserts and tie-dying masks, part of an initiative to combine traditional afterschool tutoring with hands-on enrichment activities so students stay engaged.
The program started last fall with the support of Cleveland-based Open Doors Academy, which funds afterschool programs that emphasize social-emotional learning and behaviors that influence academic success, like self-control, confidence and perseverance.
Already, 25 seventh- and eighth-graders from West Middle School are enrolled in the afterschool program this fall, while a similar program is set to launch at Heritage Elementary soon.
“It’s different from what they see in a regular classroom,” said T.J. Winkler, principal for West Middle School. “The regular classroom material has always been the traditional ‘sit and get’ philosophy. … Learning has to become fun or they’re not going to be interested in what they’re doing.”
Each session includes a snack, academic support and an enrichment activity, with transportation available for students whose parents are unable to pick them up from school.
Students who struggle in traditional academic settings may benefit from the hands-on nature of the program, as Winkler said he has already seen several students gain confidence in their skills after participating in the afterschool program.
The program has also inspired Lima schools to overhaul its summer school program, which now takes the form of interactive summer camps.
“It made us step back and think about how we offer services to kids as a school district,” said Jill Ackerman, superintendent of Lima schools, who hosted House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) at West on Friday for a roundtable discussion about the afterschool program.
“They’re here because they want to be here, not because we’re saying you have to be here,” Ackerman said. “It’s engaging them and it keeps them off the street.”