Green Street after-school programs get A+

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BRATTLEBORO — After-school programming at Green Street School is a big hit, with both students and adults embarking on new territory.

Principal Mark Speno estimated 70 to 80 percent of students participate during the school year.

"Overall engagement is through the roof," he said.

Teachers receive small stipends to run programs scheduled three days a week for sessions lasting an hour and fifteen minutes. Some programs are held four days a week.

Speno said teachers find it inspiring to share their passions with the students.

"It's not just enrichment for the select few," he said.

After-school tutoring began to be available five years ago then Speno spoke with his staff about offering "exciting opportunities," which now include calligraphy, crafting, rock band, jazz band, hiking, kickball, improvisation, painting, sign making and more. He watched participation and the number of programs grow.

"There's something for everyone now," said Shannon Kelly, who was hired as the school's librarian four years ago and brought an idea for setting up after-school STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities to Speno after

ordering kits for the library so she could learn along with the students how to best use the materials.

Since then, Speno said, there has been "a concerted effort to focus on enrichment."

"It's largely based on the staff's personal interest," Kelly said. "So we had furniture refinishing this past session. We had a TV production club."

"Fishing club," said Speno, who noted that the school now has "a pretty incredible drama program, which was nonexistient four years ago."

"Just straight up yarn club," added Kelly.

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This year, a student started his own club for playing cards and found an adult to supervise.

Kelly said the last session for the school year just finished up but staff members are already talking about what they want to do next year. She estimates half or more of the school's staff are tutoring or running programs.

Having offered hip hop dance last time, since she was interested herself in learning about it, Kelly is brainstorming about her next program. Students are "more willing to learn when they see their teachers are learners themselves," she said. "Some of the adults want to be in the after-school programs."

School counselor Tracy Binet-Perrin runs Destination Imagination, which is in its fifth year. She described it as a "problem-solving, team-building, creative-thinking program, where students are given a challenge and they solve the challenge creatively with their own ideas."

"It really is so exciting," she said.

Speno said students are required to go through processes which require coming to agreement. They also need to create costumes and write scripts.

Fourth graders Mary McLaughlin, Lotte Kurowski, Alex Aither, Levi Healey and fifth grader Evelyn Geiter headed to Kansas City, Mo., last week for a global competition involving students from all over the world. Workshops focused on acting, building and technology.

This marks the first time Green Street School sent students to the contest. An "instant challenge" gave them a certain amount of time to finish a task and there were two "team challenges."

Companies bring toys they have not yet released to allow participants to "test drive" them, said Binet Perrin. That's what McLaughlin was most excited about doing at the event.

Aither could not wait to try the virtual reality.

"I'm super excited," she said, recalling the competition that brought her team to the Global Finals. "This year, we were totally unprepared honestly. None of us expected this but we ended up getting first place."

Believing her team's energy made them a favorite among the judges, Aither said, "when they would call us onstage, we would all scream and run, and be really excited and happy."

McLaughlin Kurowski laughed along with Aither at the memory. They also made the adults in the room laugh when they sang a tune they wrote about their team at full volume in the principal's office.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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