Portrait of a Passion Class

A lot has changed since our first year of after-school.  We are constantly trying new things, seeking to learn from the kids, their families, the neighborhood, and, most of all, God.  But there is one element that has remained constant–Passion classes.  Each Friday since our very first week, the kids at after-school have had opportunities to try out different extra-curricular activities.  We’ve dabbled in rock climbing, French cuisine, dance, origami, theater, poetry, violin, cooking and more.

These Passion classes have blossomed out of the interests and hobbies of the staff, volunteers and, more recently, the parents.  We have found that the value of the Passion classes comes not just from the activity itself but from the opportunity for the kids to see adults who are jazzed about something–to see that it is a good thing to get excited and to care about how you spend your time.  We’ve found that the kids can get excited and curious about even the most seemingly basic activities if an adult they look up to is pumped about it.

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So much can happen in a single Passion class.  This past Friday’s baseball class is a great example.  Afterschool staff member Clarissa led 8 kids in the basics of baseball.  Because we do our best to give the kids their top choice, the groups usually end up with quite a mixture of ages.  Clarissa had kids all the way from kindergarten to 5th grade, and had a mix of boys and girls.  In their time together, yes, the kids learned about baseball, but they had opportunities to learn much more as well.  The older kids had opportunities to encourage kindergartener D’sean and first-grader Kenyen as they tried out batting for the first time ever.  One young lady who started out refusing to step up to the plate for fear that the boys would make fun of her was hitting a home run by the end of the game.  Jeremiah, now in his third year of after-school, showed how much he has grown when he struck out but instead of lashing out or giving up, just smiled to his coach, shrugged his shoulders, and hoped to do better on his next turn.  And they all got to see Clarissa confidently lead them in what some may have previously thought was a “boys'” activity.

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We are so grateful for your prayers and support in making Passion class Fridays possible.  God takes these simple Friday activities and uses them in such creative ways–to create bonds, to resolve conflicts, to awaken dreams and open up minds.

If you would like to learn more about leading a Passion class in a topic or activity of your choosing, please contact lauren@ahouseonbeekman.org


First Steps at Babies to Three


After some mid-summer labor, by a team of extraordinary volunteer decorators, our workspace had been transformed into a comfortable, clean, family-friendly setting. At the same time as we set about refurbishing the space, my colleague Frances and I were also engaged in preparing a program that would be most responsive to the needs of our immediate community.

 

We planned to offer services that would stretch from pregnancy right up until these children will be ready for Pre-school.

On Mondays, our focus would be classes for those who are pregnant or recently delivered of their babies.

On Tuesday mornings, parents, grand-parents, carers and their children could join us to enjoy play, music and storytime and also receive structured teaching on topics ranging from important milestones in childhood development to healthy nutrition.

On Thursdays we would be running a Parenting Course that is recognized by local and state government.

And so, we walked round the blocks in the immediate area, extending a welcome to those who might benefit from these programs and also posting flyers around the community.

But then came the real test!

A warm and welcoming building, carefully prepared programs and enthusiastic staff and volunteers are of no value if people don’t attend.

Thankfully, they have… and since mid-September we have seen not only a steady increase in numbers but also parents expressing real gratitude for the services and support that we are offering in this part of the South Bronx.

 

Image-1In addition, we held a gathering for our wonderful team of volunteers who attend faithfully week-by-week to offer childcare so that parents and caretakers can be released from their immediate responsibilities and are able to concentrate on the topics we cover.

Our wonderful Babies to Three volunteers.

Our wonderful Babies to Three volunteers!

 

These are early days – but we could not be more thankful nor more enthused at the prospect of serving young families at A House on Beekman.


Happy Places!

Everything feels better when you’re happy about where you are. It’s true for your home, vacation destinations, and certainly the place where you go to learn and work each day.

As our 3 and 4 year old program has started this month, I am grateful for so many things. But my number one reason for gratitude is the fact that A House on Beekman is considered a Happy Place for every single one of our children.

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Our kids are smiling when they arrive each morning. They’re still smiling in large group time, center time, recess and lunch. And the best time to observe that the smiles are still present is at the end of the day, when they hug their friends goodbye and cheerfully shout “See you tomorrow!” as they head down the sidewalk.

When learning occurs in your “Happy Place,” it means the brain associates learning with positive, good things. And when this happens in the preschool years, the chance of future school success drastically increases.

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We love that our 3 and 4 year olds are happy here. We love watching friendships blossom and minds and hearts grow right in front of our eyes. We love witnessing what Jesus spoke of in the book of Matthew, when He said that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to wondrous little creatures such as these.

Thanks for your love, support and prayers. They are helping to make this Happy Place a reality for 15 special kids!

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Personal Growth and Community!

This year, we have two big dreams for the kids at after-school.  We want to see each of them take greater ownership of their learning than ever before, feeling responsible for their learning but also empowered and in control of it.  We also want to see the kids bond together into a community, developing trust with each other, supporting each other and learning how to resolve conflicts more and more independently.

To move toward these goals, we are trying some new structures and activities that we feel really excited about.  One new part of our after-school  day is “Powerful Projects.”  Each of our 3rd-5th graders is developing a project around a topic of their choosing.  The kids jumped right into brainstorming and have chosen things like writing a cookbook for kids about international foods, designing an original board game, designing a remote-operated toy helicopter with cameras and other “spy features,” and more.  For the past week, they have been researching their topics and searching for “mentor texts” (professional examples that they can learn from) and will soon begin drafting their first attempts.  Next week, they will begin sharing their drafts with each other, getting feedback and revising again and again until their projects are ready to be published for a public audience (on-line, at the local library, sent to a local newspaper, etc.).  The excitement the kids have already shown at being given the freedom to choose what they study and their enthusiasm to start researching has been really awesome to witness.

Another new element of after-school is our expanded “Family Time.”  This year, the after-school staff have partnered up into two pairs that each plan Bible, Community- and Character-building lessons and activities–one pair for our “Juniors” (K-2nd graders) and one pair for our “Seniors” (3rd-5th graders).  We are already noticing a growing sense of community and accountability to each other.  We also invited the kids into the rule-establishing process during the first week of after-school.  We asked them to think about how they wanted to be treated at after-school–by each other and by the leaders–and also how they thought the leaders probably wanted to be treated.  After talking through their thoughts on these questions, we crafted our “After-school Community Commitments.”  We each (adults included) signed our names in our commitment to “try our best to choose to be respectful and kind to others, to leaders, to ourselves and to God.”  In conversations about conflicts that have arisen since then, we have had great opportunities to return to these commitments, reflecting on what it means to be kind and respectful to each other.  The kids are showing understanding that their choices impact others and that we are trying to build the kind of community we dreamed of together last week.

Please pray for us as we navigate the balance of teaching the kids independence and autonomy in their learning but also interdependence and community with each other.  We’re really excited to see the culture at after-school grow more and more in these ways.  There have already been exciting glimpses–and this is only the beginning! 

"Community Agreement" signed by participants in our After School program.

“Community Agreement” signed by participants in our After School program.