Class had ended at Park Side Elementary one afternoon last week, but the activity at the school hadn't. Kids brave enough to face the snow were playing outside while adults supervised. Indoors, scissors and markers were spread out on tables in the library, where other students were making crafts with paper cutouts.
"Could you please pass me a paper that nobody's using? I'm going to make a flower," Jessica Stucker said to friends sitting at the same table.
Across town at Marshall Middle School, older kids were having their own activity time, choosing between playing games or heading into the gymnasium for a little basketball or indoor soccer.
Photo by Deb Gau
Erin Holmberg tried putting together an art project one afternoon at the Marshall Middle School’s afterschool program. Activities at the program, from gym time to games like pingpong, are a lot of fun, students said.
"We compete with each other, to see who's the best at different things," said eighth-grade student Khadar Abdullahi.
Afterschool programs have become a more common offering for area children and youth, with several schools and community organizations around Lyon County offering places for kids to catch up on schoolwork, do activities or just hang out. No matter the location, the goal is the same: make sure kids and youth are safe and doing something productive with their afternoons.
"It's about keeping the kids engaged after school," as well as helping parents find good care for their children, said Monica Vierkant, youth development director at the Marshall Area YMCA. In Marshall there are now afterschool groups geared toward several age groups of kids at the public schools and YMCA.
Park Side's afterschool program is new this year, and made possible through a partnership with the Y. Staff members from the YMCA supervise children and offer help with schoolwork, both at Park Side and at Lakeview Elementary in Cottonwood. Vierkant said so far the program has had a combined enrollment of about 35 to 40 children.
"I think it will continue to build as we get into a second or third year," said Lakeview elementary principal Phil Lienemann.
Youth programs for older children and teens are also offered at the YMCA.
Part of the YMCA's program at Park Side centers around teaching kids positive values. "Caring, honesty, responsibility and respect," Ashley Wall listed as she and Addison Arndt leaned over a huge dictionary in the library one afternoon. The two girls were working on a mini-research project on the values.
"We have caring," Wall said. "Yeah, it's here - but I just lost it," Arndt added as she ran a finger over the small print. Fortunately, they had already written down some of their own experiences with caring. "It makes you feel really light," part of the report said.
The Marshall School District has also offered an afterschool program for middle school aged youth through Marshall Community Services for about five years, said Doug Goodmund, assistant director of community services. Enrollment fluctuates between school semesters, but it's generally between 70 and 100 students, he said.
"It is making a difference," Goodmund said. Middle-school students get additional instruction from teachers, and have opportunities to participate in special activities offered in partnership with Southwest Minnesota State University.
The middle school program starts out with an hour just for academics, said Adam Windey, an MMS staff member who coordinates the program. The community services program is separate from Project Success, an academic afterschool program that has its own curriculum, he said, but after both groups of students have finished their work, they come together to have free time.
Last week, the choices included supervised computer time, games, and an hour of open gym.
In the games room, middle school student Erin Holmberg was experimenting with a craft project of her own design, involving yarn stretched over a square of plastic needlepoint mesh. "It's kind of like weaving," she explained, with different colors of yarn making patterns against each other.
The afterschool activities could sometimes be crowded, kids said, but they were a lot of fun.
"I love playing ping-pong," Holmberg said.
Students Amy Rodriguez, Ridwan Kalif and Asha Absiya said they liked being able to get help with homework and hang out together.
"After school is time to chill with your friends," eighth-grade student Hussen Osman summed up.