- School District 49
Odyssey Enrichment Offers Well-Rounded Support
When the final bell signals dismissal at Odyssey Elementary School, a growing number of students do not head for the door.
There’s a good reason to stay after school. In fact, there are many good reasons, including origami lessons, coding practice, and perhaps the most exciting of all for the young-learner set, Minecraft (™). When students stay late, they’re part of a club.
“It’s very popular,” said Trinity Wedde, OES’ family liaison. “We have about 130 kids signed up. They are all over, and popularity is through the roof.”
Officially called the OES Enrichment Program, students know the menu of activities as “clubs.” The program emerged at the outset of the 2021-’22 school year as OES listened closely to their parents. The COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted the difficult work/life balance many families faced, needing to get the most out of their work day. Even an hour, OES learned, makes a big difference.
“Parents need help, they need to be able to work,” Wedde said.
Equipped with an idea to offer low-cost after-school activities, Wedde created a sign-up list. Her coworkers answered the call to go the extra mile for their families. The first six-week session in September produced 10 clubs. By the third session in January, the number of staff-supported offerings nearly doubled.
“I think it shows the connection is full circle,” Wedde said. “Our kids are loving it, and our parents are loving it.”
Wedde said the overall commitment to offering the enrichment program is considerable and admirable. Beyond the classroom, it involves office staff who send alerts to parents ahead of each session to manage enrollment. OES has also enlisted parent volunteers to help supervise the sessions.
“It's a very cool thing to see [my daughter] interacting with her friends and see as a kindergartener how she’s making those connections already. It’s exciting to be a part of that,” said Melanie Hawthorne, a parent volunteer. “It warms the heart, but it also throws me for a loop because she’s a big kid now!”
Not every club can be as popular as Minecraft, which draws more than 40 OES students. OES Paralibrarian Katherine Nunn can count on one hand the number of Kindergarten - first-grade students in the Comets Coding Club. From an instructor’s perspective, a smaller group has its advantages.
“It gives you a lot more one-on-one time, and you can change what you’re doing more to suit the specific learners that are in the club,” Nunn explained.
As it turns out, many of the coding lessons, including programming robots to respond to commands from a mobile device, involve real learning.
“They don’t really realize they’re learning different problem-solving skills. They don’t realize they’re using some algebra,” Nunn said. “They have no idea as we are doing loops, which is essentially multiplying, but they haven’t gotten to that point in math. It helps set them up with those skills, and when they meet that standard in the classroom, they already have this background to fall back on.”
Having just concluded its third session of the enrichment program, OES is gearing up for a fourth this spring, anticipating a growing group of students (Click here to learn more about the spring session). A small, per-student, per activity fee, covers basic program expenses like materials. Wedde is researching opportunities to reduce the cost to zero.
“My goal would be to have a sponsorship where it’s free for the families, and they can sign up for a couple of clubs throughout the week, in each session,” said Wedde. “I’m hoping that it works out to where we can offer this next year for free.”
In the meantime, an expanding catalog of activities to meet a steady increase in demand points to the program's popularity. It’s part of the reward for Wedde, who has learned what is possible when those who have time willingly give it to those who need it the most.
“I am truly honored and excited at the amount of growth and support that we’ve had from teachers and our parents and our students,” Wedde said. “When you go into the classroom, you see how much they are loving it.”
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D49 Core Commitment Spotlight: Community
Through the month of February, D49 collaborated with the communications department to feature stories that show how D49 engages our community in holding the district accountable for school performance and in serving students and families across the region.