When the bell rings for dismissal at Park Elementary School, the after-school clubs are just getting started, Park Principal Phil Heeke told the Great Bend USD 428 school board.
“We have a lot going on here besides the normal day,” Heeke said. Park has a “second dismissal” at 5 p.m. four days a week, Monday through Thursday.
Heeke and other members of the Park School team talked about these programs when the school board held a luncheon meeting at the school on Oct. 31.
Some 50 students in grades 4-6 take part in after-school clubs that include the Multimedia Club, Leadership Club and Guitar Club. Students also rotate through programs that include the Walking Classroom and Reading Skills; Novel Studies/Osmo iPad learning games; and STEMS – science, technology, engineer and math skills, utilizing robotics purchased through grants.
The clubs are also mostly funded by grants, Heeke said. Park Elementary is in the third year of a Masonic Lodge Literacy Grant.
One of the school’s best-known groups is the Multimedia Club. It began as the Drone Club but has evolved into a video production crew that uses drones. Fifth and sixth graders can learn to pilot Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs, or drones) and/or edit videos. Second-year students help train new members.
Students said it takes about an hour to make one minute of finished video. They use iPads, iPad Pro models and the iMovie Video Editor.
“We talk about the audience (of each video) and who this video was for,” Heeke said. Students have created videos for the Great Bend Recreation Commission and other entities.
“This year we have two high school kids who come back to help us,” he added.
Board members asked about the requirements for students wanting to be in the Multimedia Club.
“They have to be in good standing with their teachers and they have to have a passion for it,” Heeke said. Often students start asking him about the club when they are fourth graders.
Examples of the club’s videos can be found on the Park Elementary Tigers’ Facebook page.
Park School’s Leadership Club has been around for about 10 years. Teachers Alana Blessing and Deena Smith are this year’s sponsors. These students are in grades 5-6, with a few fourth graders. They must be leaders who make good grades and who also make good choices, Blessing said. The students learn about kindness and how to be role models in the school.
“They do so much for our school,” Heeke commented. Recently, they were in charge of the Cram the Van food drive for Wheatland Electric. A teacher allowed students to use her van so they could cram a real van with donations that would go to the Community Food Bank of Barton County. They collected 1,060 pounds of food in one week and won fourth place in a Wheatland regional Cram the Van contest for schools.
Leadership Club also spearheaded the school’s Red Ribbon Week with a school-wide coloring contest to promote staying drug-free. Then, they invited students to wear red to school and join in forming a human “red ribbon” on the playground. (It can be seen in the videos on Facebook.)
“We really depend on them,” Blessing said of club members. “They know exactly what to do.”
Students in this group have also helped feed people and fold clothes at the Hungry Heart Soup Kitchen and the Kingdom Kloset, both at the Central Kansas Dream Center.
In the near future, Leadership Club plans to get T-shirts from Identifications in Great Bend. They will learn how to do screen printing so they can make some shirts themselves.
Reading, Walking School Bus
Reading Coach Lacey Hofflinger talked about the school’s Reading Contest, which offers weekly prizes for the most pages read. Students set long- and short-term reading goals, she said.
Heeke said the school recently purchased a complete 75-volume set of the “Hank the Cowdog” book series for its library.
This week, the school will also start the “100 Book Challenge Program” by American Reading Company. Students will have 30 minutes of silent reading and will be encouraged to read at home for 30 minutes. They will be given reading logs and they will earn prizes as they work toward their goal of reading 100 books in a year.
Meagan Henry talked about the Walking School Bus. Other schools tried the Walking School Bus, which arranges groups that walk to school together, but they didn't have enough students to keep it going this year. Park nearly canceled it this year as well, she said.
“I was sad when we were told we wouldn’t have it because we didn’t have the numbers,” Henry said. But enough students signed up to have a north and south route. “We are the only school that continues to do it,” she said.
“We had 25-30 kids that actually walked every day,” although sometimes there could be as many as 40 participants, including volunteers. Both groups walk for about 25 minutes, arriving at the school at 7:25 a.m., in time for breakfast and then on to classes.
Students told the school board what they like about the Walking School Bus. One girl said, “I get to spend time with my friends and I get exercise, and I get to school on time.”