Written by Pam Simons, Volunteer
Jeremy and Marzio are staffers at South Carolina Aquarium and rock stars to Sanders-Clyde students. Their supporting cast of adorable turtles, baby alligators and eerie barn owls are equally famous visitors to the school every Friday and help the men illustrate in an upfront and personal way how important the senses are to an animal’s survival. Learning about the senses is part of the 4th and 5th grade science curriculum. But actually seeing how a barn owl’s ears (one on its head, one near its neck) work like radars to locate prey is part of CPN’s Expanded Learning Time Initiative at Sanders-Clyde.
Expanded Learning Time (ELT), a pilot program funded by Charleston Promise Neighborhood, is designed to close the achievement gap as well as the opportunity gap by offering enriching educational classes like Jeremy and Marzio’s. Every single scholar at Sanders-Clyde is in the program. Teachers who sign up are provided a stipend by Charleston Promise to stay beyond the normal school day several days a week. Numerous partners, like Yo Art, Chucktown Squash and Backpack Journalist, are contracted with CPN to provide services. After ELT’s pilot year of programming, it will roll out to other Charleston County School District schools and specifically schools within the Charleston Promise Neighborhood.
ELT isn’t a typical after school program or extended recess. Scholars arrive at Sanders-Clyde for a 7:30am start and do not leave school until 5:30pm — a total readjustment for everybody. “It took a couple of weeks for parents to realize that homework time was built into the day,” says Brittany Bryant the ELT Coordinator from a partnering CPN agency, Communities In Schools. “Younger scholars might not get choice in their ELT programs,” she says, “like older scholars do.”
But hey, change also means a lot of great things are happening. Children receive hot meals, personalized learning, homework help and blocks of enrichment classes right after “school” ends at 2:15pm. Double the fun, double the learning!
Scholars love the dynamic learning introduced by ELT. “What did you bring today?” calls one scholar from down the hall as rock stars Jeremy and Marzio enter the building. Quiet excitement and waves greet them when they enter the 4th grade classroom. Once they have their covered cage set up, Jeremy does a little act to illustrate the limit of just using one sense, like vision, for survival. He has mocked up a potato to look like a candle. Around the room he goes, asking each scholar for adjectives to describe his “candle.” ‘Hot,” says one. “Waxy,” says another. After about a minute, he picks up the “candle” and takes a big bite out of it. The scholars hoot and holler. They were had because they relied on only one sense. Then he introduces the class to a white-faced barn owl and its survival adaptations like having its ears on different body parts to better hunt.
“We look at the state standards and what the classes cover in science so we can relate to it,” says Jeremy, who rewards scholars for correct answers by giving them shark teeth. “You can see the scholars making connections.”
The connections to academic learning is the main ingredient that makes Expanded Learning Time more than an after school program. It truly expands upon each child’s learning in an innovative and engaging way that’s beyond the classroom. To learn more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.