After-School Programs on Agriculture and the Environment

An enterprising educational alternative.


| May/June 1984



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A parent organizes community-sponsored, after-school programs. 


PHOTO: HAROLD MAYO

Despite all that's been said about the current crisis in our public schools, the fact remains that little effective action has yet been taken to correct the situation. A majority of children are still bored, restless, and frustrated—often to the point of violence—and "learning" has come to mean little more than adhering to (loose) discipline and following the school's routine. As a result, the chasm continues to widen between administrators responsible for the education of young people and those parents concerned with the impact of this sort of "learning" experience on their children's futures.

Of course, private and parochial institutions are simply out of the question for many folks, and though home schooling is a viable alternative to public education, some parents just don't have the time or the temperament required to teach their youngsters on a one-to-one basis at home. So, for better or for worse, most of us are stuck with the public school system.

If you're in that situation, why not take affirmative action toward improving your children's education? How? By organizing or taking part in community-sponsored (and staffed) after-school programs, using your local public school's facilities. Here in Tallahassee we've done just that. We call our undertaking the Afterschool Enrichment Program. Our after-hours workshops are proving that a community really can have a positive effect on its schools and, ultimately, on its children's learning (in its true meaning) experiences. Of course, it takes a lot of time, work, and energy to run this sort of program (and once you get it going, not everyone will want to take advantage of it, either). But it can be done, and it can produce a great many rewards at minimum expense.

To give you some idea of what I'm talking about, here's a brief account of the Afterschool: what it is, how it began, and where it may be headed. If after reading this you'd like to know more about us or to exchange ideas on how you might set up a similar program in your area, feel free to contact me (Harold Mayo, The Afterschool, Astoria Park Elementary School). I'd be happy to consult with you and to send you a descriptive pamphlet we've worked up.

Defining the Terms

Basically, the Afterschool is a sort of mini school. It consists of a series of innovative courses that are taught by local members of the community (artists, businesspersons, college students, musicians, househusbands and -wives with special skills, and so forth). Designed for youngsters in grades K-5 (with plans to reach older children in the future), the program is currently housed in several public primary and elementary schools in the Tallahassee area. Our overall goal is to provide quality activities that will (it's hoped) stimulate new interests, encourage creativity, build self-confidence, and motivate young people to use their after-school time in a positive and wholesome way.

Each Afterschool has its own coordinator (who works closely with the principal of the school in which he or she is located) and its own staff of instructors, some of whom do rove between schools. Everyone is paid a salary in accordance with his or her experience and responsibilities. Curriculum is based on student and parent interests—as well as the availability of a teacher—and covers a wide range of subjects, including oil painting, ceramics, guitar and violin lessons, and German and French as well as other foreign languages. Students can sign up for as many afternoons and courses as scheduling allows, and they pay a set rate of $4.00 a day for most classes. This fee covers supplies (generally donated by area businesses), an hour and a half of instruction, and a snack. (Parents are asked to supply texts and music sheets.) The schools don't demand "rent" for the use of their space, so the overhead is minimal.





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