DeKalb School System Awarded New LEAPS Grant for After-School Program

August 13, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Michelle Burklow

The DeKalb County School System recently received approval for a $200,000 grant from the Lottery for Education Afterschool Program (Leaps Grant) to provide students at Smithville Elementary and Northside Elementary Schools with academic enrichment opportunities and support services. The goal of the program is to help students meet state and local standards in the core content areas of Language Arts, Math, and Science.

As a way of creating more fun and excitement for children as they learn through the program, Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-K through 6th grade said the school system will be unlocking mysteries through the Junior Detective Academies. "We decided to go with a detective type theme and focus the entire year around mystery. Unlocking mysteries. Trying to make it inviting for kids to want to stay after school for two hours every day. We're calling it our Junior Detective Academies," said Burklow.

This grant follows an earlier one approved for the school system three years ago. "This was our second submission for the LEAPS grant. It's a competitive grant that school systems and private entities can apply for. We got the grant three years ago. We saw a great deal of success with our grant at SES and NES. After the three year cycle we had to totally re-submit a different grant with a different focus," said Burklow.

The academic academies will utilize a cross curricular theme based approach (Spy Camp). Students will participate in Language Arts, math, and science enrichment activities based on Tennessee Common Core and Science standards to accelerate achievement. The club names are: Unlocking the Mysteries of STEM, Junior Detective, Math Madness, Imagination Destination, Get Your Game On, and MILK (Morning Intensive Language Klass). Four of these themes will change each nine weeks to offer a variety and continued enthusiasm as the year progresses, MILK and Get Your Game On will be offered throughout the year.

Students will participate in activities to improve health and wellness through structured physical education and a daily nutritious snack will be served. "We have special things we must do in order to meet the overall focus of the goal (grant). We had to include healthy lifestyles, healthy snacks, and exercise. We're partnering with the School Nutrition program to provide a healthy snack and we're focusing on exercise throughout the school year. We're calling that "Get Your Game On". Every nine weeks we're changing up and focusing on a different activity, whatever sport might be in season (tennis, basketball, soccer, etc). We're going to focus on playing those types of games and learning the history behind those games. We're also going to be doing some yoga. We did yoga this last year. We tried it at Northside during summer school and the kids loved it so we're incorporating yoga this year," said Burklow.

The Spy Camp Kick-Off will begin the Junior Detective Academy. The goal for the students participating in this academy is "Read like a detective and write like a reporter." This club will explore numerous ways to solve a mystery or case while paying close attention to details and context clues. The sheriff or his designee will meet with students to discuss the significance of paying close consideration to facts and looking for specific clues. Teachers will create lessons around mystery chapter books and or novels for a book club. In order to prepare students for College and Career Readiness, a focus around informational text and the writing process will be implemented into these activities. The students will have an opportunity to write and illustrate a non-fiction book for the school's library and for other students to enjoy in the future. An author and illustrator will be invited to share their ideas at a parent's night. This night will be designed so the students can showcase their book for parents as well as the author and illustrator. High school students interested in becoming teachers will have the opportunity to design age appropriate activities to implement with younger students during the academy.

During the second nine weeks, the STEM Academy will begin as students "Unlock the Mysteries of STEM". Students will participate in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math activities. Teachers will design lessons for the Science component of this academy that will include microscope use, crime solving, forensic investigation and a variety of other science skills. Technology lessons will be incorporated throughout the academy, but a focus will be on computer skills and iPad use as well as interactive boards. Investigative research and writing will also play a role in this academy. Tennessee Tech University's Millard Oakley STEM Center has agreed to transport their mobile Science Lab to both of the after school sites. The students will be exposed to cutting edge technology that is housed in this lab. The students' skills will be expanded with robotics, Kinect and bridge design and building during the Engineering phase of the STEM Academy. Teachers will incorporate hands on engineering experiences and how engineering is in everyday life. Under the guidance of the Science Club sponsor, volunteer high school students will research and develop age appropriate STEM projects to implement with the younger students during this academy. To support the LEAPS theme, a local nurse practitioner will talk to students about the tools she uses to investigate illness and how she uses clues to make a diagnoses. She will also show the relationship between how important math and science are to her field.

The third nine weeks will be "Math Madness". Since the college basketball tournament is held in March, a real life activity will be incorporated into the after school program. Math Madness is a spin-off of March Madness. Like March Madness, students will work on a mastery and advancing math skills to win the big game called standardizing testing. Teachers will use basketball statistics from player cards, biographies, and NCAA Tournament brackets to form meaningful lessons. Math skills will be incorporated into basketball along with other sports related activities. In order to bridge math and reading, teachers will use sports themed books, such as biographies of athletes, to encourage reading and going back into the text to gain specific information for writing. The students will research and write about an athlete or history of a specific sport that will be displayed in the "Sports Hall of Fame" for parents to attend.

"Destination Imagination Simulation" will be the focus of the fourth academy. The purpose is to inspire and equip students to be innovative and future leaders. This academy will focus on STEM, Improvisational, Visual Arts, Service Learning and Early Learning. Each challenge is open-ended and enables student teams to learn and experience the creative process from imagination to innovation. Students have fun and gain confidence in their ability to solve any challenge. In working to solve the Challenges, teams learn 21st century skills (creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, citizenship and courage) to build on their unique strengths. The goal for the first year is to attend the Academic Tournament as spectators but the ambition is to compete the next year. After attending the Academic Tournament, students will share their projects based on the tournament guidelines with community members and parents in attendance at the parent night.

Afternoon bus transportation will be provided for students participating in the after school learning activities.

Partnering with the program are the 4-H Extension Office, Coordinated School Health, the School Nutrition Program, the Sheriff's Department, Girl Scout Troop 343, Tennessee Scholars, Family Medical Center, the FCCLA Club, the DCHS Science Club, Tennessee Tech University's Millard Oakley STEM Center, and the Board of Education.

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