Aspire makes a dif­fer­ence at Elm Street El­e­men­tary

Rome News-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - Rome City Schools

Mak­ing the best use of time is a valu­able les­son to learn early on. Elm Street’s Aspire af­ter school pro­gram, im­ple­mented last year, has taken very lit­tle time to fill up and some par­ents have placed their chil­dren on a wait­ing list be­cause the pro­gram is now at ca­pac­ity. By of­fer­ing much more than help with home­work, Aspire ed­u­ca­tors aim to not only make the chil­dren bet­ter stu­dents, but bet­ter peo­ple all-around.

Penny Akin­son, a Phys­i­cal Ed­u­ca­tion teacher at Elm Street, also serves as the co-co­or­di­na­tor for Aspire. She and Pre-K teacher Heather Sar­gent have or­ga­nized ac­tiv­i­ties to keep stu­dents busy dur­ing down time af­ter school, but also give them a help­ing hand with their stud­ies. The pro­grams runs from 3-6 p.m. and the chil­dren are given a snack af­ter school and they are fed din­ner be­fore they leave, free of charge.

“We have stu­dents here four days a week and we work on read­ing, math and writ­ing,” said Akin­son, “but we also have a few fun ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties for our stu­dents. On Mon­day, we have 30 min­utes of dance and wood­work­ing. On Tues­days we have an art class af­ter work­ing on our stud­ies. On Wed­nes­days we all go to the YMCA where half of us swim and the other half par­tic­i­pates in a fit­ness class like Zumba. Then, on Thurs­days we have a life skills group that we teach in ad­di­tion to our read­ing, writ­ing and math.”

Dur­ing the life skills class, the stu­dents learn man­ners, safety les­sons and other ba­sic skills.

Aspire is a fed­er­ally funded pro­gram that is planned for the next five years in Rome City Schools. The pro­gram con­sists of third, fourth and fifth grade stu­dents. While the goal is to have fun with learn­ing, some of the data col­lected has been in­stru­men­tal in get­ting stu­dents read­ing on grade level.

“We use a read­ing pro­gram called Lexia. This pro­gram presents the learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in a fun and en­gag­ing way, and our chil­dren re­ally en­joy work­ing on the les­sons,” Akin­son ex­plained. “But, the data we col­lect af­ter they work through dif­fer­ent sec­tions is how we track their lev­els. I can pull up the progress of each stu­dent to be sure they are work­ing and help them in ar­eas where they may be de­fi­cient.”

The data is then shared with the teach­ers around the school so that they can tailor their les­sons to the needs of the stu­dents. Also, by track­ing progress stu­dents are able to be re­warded for reach­ing mile­stones in their ed­u­ca­tion.

“For ex­am­ple, if we work on frac­tions dur­ing Aspire and we see that some of our stu­dents are strug­gling, then we can pass this in­for­ma­tion on to teach­ers who can spend ex­tra time in this area of study,” Akin­son said.

The cur­ricu­lum is pro­vided by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, but ed­u­ca­tors can choose the di­rec­tion of the les­sons ac­cord­ing to the stu­dent’s needs.

/ Rome City Schools

Emma Smith, An­gela Cut Chan and Jae­lynn Glover work on their read­ing skills us­ing a pro­gram called Lexia dur­ing Aspire. This ed­u­ca­tional tool tracks stu­dents’ progress and the data col­lected is passed on to Elm Street’s teach­ers for fol­low-up.

Kobe Moses as­sem­bles a su­per­hero-themed toy that is made of wood dur­ing Elm Street El­e­men­tary’s Aspire af­ter school pro­gram.

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