School budgets seem to be shrinking down to nothing, squeezing out any and all enrichment programs such as art, music, shop, home economics, even computers. The loss of these programs seems to fly in the face of what modern educators have discovered to strengthen children’s assimilation of basic education. Cooking is chemistry in action. Music and art, math and geometry and linking a hands-on experience to educational concepts helps kids connect their world to school, crossing the bridge from thinking into action. Unfortunately, due to harsh economic conditions and a strong undercurrent of test-based teaching that has become the necessity, that bridge has gone out.
Thankfully, North Shore Community College’s Kids To College (KTC) program seems to be helping to build some scaffolding. Based on a hands-on, participatory approach to education, children ages 5-14 can enroll in Saturday classes in everything from cooking to filmmaking to web design and robotics.
Trish Walker, Director of the Danvers, Lynn and Beverly NSCC Kids To College program, believes that the KTC programs “…invite young people to experiment, to learn and to have fun – and to develop their unique giftedness.” Something that because of pressures of standardized testing and strict curriculum guidelines have been harder to find on a daily basis.
Many of the faculty members teaching these up-and-at’em courses are taken directly from the local classrooms, but there are also successful local artists and business people with an intention of sharing their knowledge with the next generation. Arlene Hanson, Peabody resident and NSCC School Age and Youth Worker Certificate Programs Coordinator, teaches the computer component of the KTC program at the Lynn Campus. She was previously a business teacher and guidance counselor for a private Catholic high school in Cambridge.
Hanson believes that these KTC classes gives children a chance to learn an new skill or even just reinforce a skill or subject that they already enjoy. “…Kids To College can bring out the best in our kids. It fosters learning in a safe, social environment. Going to college on Saturdays also helps self-esteem that going to college us a choice for them and since I am a guidance counselor this is a wonderful way to encourage young people to continue learning beyond high school.”
KTC is one of three programs for young people in the community. North Shore Academy, another component is designed for teens age 13-17, with such courses available as Be A Rock Star and Computer Game Design. The last in the series is Summer of Discovery, a kind of day camp for kids aged 7-14. This program consists of six weeks each with its own unique theme – students can get involved in aviation one week and animal care the next. Students may sign up for the entire six week program or just one at a time. Mother of a young participant, Christine Gomes credits the Summer of Discovery program with her son’s social confidence and “helping him to grow up. It exposed my son to some many different experiences…the field trips to the flight simulator…that he didn’t even know that he would enjoy…like the theater class… and he loved it.”
There are so many parents “…who have commented that until they found the KTC programs, they were taking their children to Boston for these kinds of courses,” Walker enthuses. And parents and school administrators
see a link between access to a college campus and student interest in post-secondary ed, meaning, these kids are intimidated by the idea of college – they’ve been going since they were little!
But the fun isn’t just for the kids: the Parents To College program is also available and is scheduled to coincide with the kids’ courses so that parents can take advantage of some fun instructional time as well. So instead of nipping out to Market Basket, moms and dads can learn Internet Basics, Hydroponic Gardening and Cooking, and learn some new Yoga poses.
Flying, cooking, painting, music, making robots, filmmaking, designing computer games – sounds like too much fun to be educational. But NSCC’s Kids To College programs are a platform for young people to learn about how “college” can lead to a great education.
Class sizes are limited and take place in Early and Late Morning sessions on Saturdays. Current KTC courses are being offered on the Lynn and Danvers campuses, enrollment is approximately $99 per six week course, with some exceptions. See course guide for more details on the new classes being offered for the Winter/Spring Sessions, registration for those classes begins November 9th, 2009.