Drea Owen has been hired by the district as the program manager of community connections and healthy living.

Keeping kids busy after school

After-school programs now coming to the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district.

With guitar lessons, robotics and more, the after-school hours will be a lot more more active at four Maple Ridge elementary schools this year.

After-school programs are popular at most schools in the Lower Mainland, and are now coming to the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district.

They will be offered by community groups, many of them local, at a low cost. The activities will start at 2:30 p.m., and run until 3:30 or 4 p.m.

Drea Owen has been hired by the district as the program manager of community connections and healthy living.

Her position is funded in part by a grant from the United Way.

She said the hours of 3-6 p.m., when kids are finished school but before dinner, is a “vulnerable time,” when children have their largest block of discretionary time. How they spend those hours can affect their development. Their choices – whether it be play, sports, television or computer time – make a difference.

“We’re trying to keep kids connected to the school,” she said. “They’re safe and they’re engaged.”

The new after-school programs:

• Guitar for grades 5-7, which will be offered by Bergthorson Academy of Music;

• Glee Academy for grades 4-7 to learn and perform singing and dancing;

• coding, design and robotics for grades 3-7 – guided instruction and play with FusionEd of Burnaby, using robotics kids, tablets and coding software;

• yoga for grades 3-7, by Free Spirit Yoga, is a program tailored for kids to improve concentration, reduce stress and improve flexibility and posture;

• Bricks4Kids for grades 1-4 is a special Lego program that also teaches about real-life space exploration and the NASA space program;

•  Professional Live Arts for Youth (PLAY) for grades 3-7 brings Shrek to life on stage;

• Mad Science for grades 1-3 is hands-on individual and group experiments and exciting demonstrations designed to be fun;

• TennisBC for grades 3-5 is an introduction to a new sport.

“Our programs go hand-in-hand with the new curriculum, with students being more hands-on and critical thinking,” said Owen.

For this first year, the programs will be run at four elementary schools in the east side of the district: Harry Hooge, Blue Mountain, Webster’s Corners and Whonnock.

Each school will offer four or five of the new programs this year, and pamphlets will be available at each school for parents to see dates, times and costs.

Owen explained that that the new programs will be perfected, and then expanded to eventually include all 21 elementary schools in the district.

“Building programs like this does take time. We like to move slow and steady – we want to make sure it’s sustainable.”

These programs will all run at different times at different schools, with fees ranging from $35 for yoga to $90 for FusionEd. Most of the programs operate on a cost-recovery basis.

Owen said the programs include materials, so parents will not have to supply their own guitars, and the costs generally range from $5 to $10 per hour.

The school district will ensure that the programs are available to all children through a subsidy program.

The programs will be promoted to children considered at-risk – those who are disinterested in school, alone after school, or socially disconnected, explained Owen.

The programs are available through a grant from the United Way, and the support of an organization known Human Early Learning Partnership HELP. It calls itself a “collaborative, interdisciplinary research network based at UBC.”

It researches how early environments and experiences affect children’s development.

Owen has lived in Maple Ridge for 12 years, but has worked providing after-school programs in New Westminster for the past 15 years.

“I’m thrilled to be here,” she said.


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