- This is Poly
It was a Tuesday afternoon at Lower School…
After classes are over for the day on the Park Slope campus, many children head for the buses, but many others stay for the after-school programs that are offered to all students in Nursery – Grade 4. This includes a drop-in program where students can have a healthy snack, do their homework, and play outside or inside. But there is also an enrichment program in which students as young as Nursery can get creative in Spy Kids or learn basic coding or ballet and others can take classes in filmmaking, art, musical theater, STEM, chess, basketball, dances of the African diaspora, and Harry Potter. There’s even a Lower School newspaper for aspiring journalists.
Lower School Auxiliary Program Coordinator Nathaniel Meek explained, “The drop-in after-school program (POLY PM) includes anywhere from 10-20 kids on a given day, and depending on if those kids have an enrichment class or a music lesson they come to POLY PM and then go off to their separate classes at different times and then sometimes come back to POLY PM until they’re picked up by an adult.”
“After-school programming has been statistically shown to build stronger communities and better learners.”Nathaniel Meek
“The Enrichment Program currently has about 150 kids participating in at least one class during the week and many of the kids participate in multiple classes plus our Music Conservatory program headed up by Jennifer Nelson,” Meek added.
On a recent Tuesday, Kindergarten and Grade 1 students, who arrived for Jr. Coding, were excited to chat with their friends and to have a snack, before moving to tablets and laptops on which they would use Scratch to learn basic coding. Four teachers from Coding Space knelt down next to students to help with coding projects. One child was having fun programming a large fish on screen to catch and eat a smaller fish.
In Room 1B, a small group of children from Nursery and PreK were getting ready to make masks in Spy Kids. Callie, a teacher from Curated Care helped them.
Meek explained, “Curated Care is an after-school enrichment company that offers various classes and events for all elementary age groups. They have a catalog of class options and I let them know which ones I think would best fit the Poly community. Then we organize a schedule on when they can come and who the teachers will be and then offer the classes to parents.”
The Filmmaking class in Room 3A had already made great progress in planning their short movie. Teacher Adam Benay and Grades 3 and 4 students had plotted out the beginning, middle, and end of the film considering characters, setting, the “problem,” the main event and how the plot moves forward, how the problem is resolved, a “big learning moment, and how to “tie it up with a bow.”
There was happy banter back and forth about the plot. Benay illustrated how they should storyboard the film to work out how the characters would move through the plot.
“I was not surprised at all by their enthusiasm,” Benay said. “This class has really strengthened my belief that everyone wants to tell stories!”
“The plan for this movie came together in the first two classes,” Benay explained. “I ask the kids if they have any ideas for our short. They gave me two different ideas and after I figured out how we could work them both into the same story, I asked them leading questions to get them through my thought process. I introduce ideas like the protagonist/antagonist having needs and goals, and what’s great is that Poly teaches a basic form of story structure in third grade, so they all have a background understanding of how things should build to a climax.”
Next week the class begins filming!
This is the second year Benay has taught the class. “Both years I have been so impressed with their ability to come up with not only initial ideas, but to flesh them out with the necessary ingredients for a good story,” he said.
“Collaboration and working toward a common goal is something I hope to teach in this class. I make it clear to the kids: having a finished film project feels incredible, but it’ll only happen if we work together.”
Grades 2-4 students were welcomed to the gym by Coach Maurice for some high-energy, basketball skill building and friendly competition. Divided into four lines, they got set to take turns running across the court to shoot baskets. The team that scored four baskets first won.
The beautiful weather on this particular Tuesday also meant that children could enjoy play outside.
Back inside for more advanced computer science, Grades 3 and 4 students had replaced the younger children in Room 2A for Coding class. Third grader Liam S. ’33 had been using Scratch to code his name.
“My goal is always to enrich the kids’ and teachers’ lives in after school, and to build lasting memories that make them better students and ultimately better people.”Nathaniel Meek
Back at Spy Kids, the masks were finished and Jackson W. ’37 was carefully cutting out his mask from the background. Teacher Callie helped him attach an elastic so he could try it on and see himself in a mirror.
“I’m very proud of our program at Poly Lower School!” Meek said. “Our staff is second to none in the attention they give to the kids and the passion and excitement they have for their individual subjects. My goal is always to enrich the kids’ and teachers’ lives in after school, and to build lasting memories that make them better students and ultimately better people. This program, so far, has done just that. It’s also a great way to get to know the kids and families in a way that’s different from the regular school day. After-school programming has been statistically shown to build stronger communities and better learners. With those goals in mind, our programs are extremely successful.”
The fall season is well underway, but Poly families can find out more about Lower School’s After School programs by logging into the Parent Portal and clicking on the School Resources tab. Families may also reach out to Nathaniel Meek, Lower School Auxiliary Program Coordinator by email.