Social Justice and Education

Every society grapples with the challenge of educating its citizenry… Some determine that any information that isn’t strictly controlled by the state is too great a threat. But even the governments of open societies such as ours (or such as ours aspires to be) have ongoing, heated debates over what should be taught to children.

Among the afterschool staff there is discussion about how we as an organization should respond to the recent racially-motivated murders in Buffalo. On the one hand, school in general and afterschool in particular are safe spaces where children can be children and where their learning to sing or draw or juggle is the most important thing in the world for a few moments a day. We are committed to that child-centered-ness.

But that commitment isn’t incompatible with adults being aware and speaking out about the social ills we witness. In fact, it may be essential to it. Education, as the project of cultivating a sense of agency in children, can be a powerful response to injustice and tragedy as we prepare children to navigate and re-create their world. Children choosing classes, cultivating interests, charting their own paths are all training in what philosopher Maxine Green referred to as social imagination…the capacity to invent visions of what should be and what might be…to imagine a lovelier world.

Stephan Russo, former director of Goddard Riverside here in the neighborhood, wrote a piece this week for the West Side Spirit recounting a recent Civil Rights pilgrimage he made. It’s a good reminder for the adults of why education is so important, what is at stake and what we are working toward as educate our kids.

https://www.westsidespirit.com/news/reflections-on-the-civil-rights-trail-DA2075050

Spring Break and Summer Camps!

Spring Break: There will be no afterschool for Arts and Athletics next Thursday or Friday. Spring Recess for the New York City Department of Education schools will run from Friday, April 15th through the following Friday, April 22nd. School resumes on Monday, April 25th.

Arts and Athletics will conduct an outdoor adventure camp from Monday, April 18th through Friday, April 22nd. Half-day (9am to 1pm or 1pm to 5pm) and full-day (9am to 5pm) options are available.

For more information click here or call Ryan Zavala at 917-975-8811 to reserve a spot.

Summer: Arts and Athletics will also conduct our very popular summer camps this summer, from Tuesday, July 5th to Friday, August 19th. In addition to outdoor adventures in Central Park offered all summer, we will also feature STEM and Robotics Camp, Basketball Camp, Track and Field (Athletics Development) Camp, and Performing Arts Camp in which children will create and perform a new show each week!

The Perfect Afterschool Class

I’ve used the phrase “the perfect afterschool class” over years to refer to offerings that challenge students to use and develop skills they learned during the school day, but do so without piling on more work. When they take a cooking class, for example, they read recipes, engage in procedural thinking, work out fractions in scaling the amounts of various ingredients up or down, and gauge how adventurous they feel about tasting a new food for the first time. In each of these ways, they are applying things they know in a real-world situation.

But in cooking class, they shouldn’t feel they are being tested or graded or judged. They should just feel smart and competent and emboldened and like they understand a little better why the adults include stuff like fractions in their daytime studies.

In reality there isn’t any such thing as a perfect afterschool class and even the simplest offerings can be great in their own way. Kickball doesn’t utilize a lot of academic skill, but taking part, being present with classmates, cheering them on, taking turns…those are important skills to develop as well.

And sometimes what is most valuable is the children basking in the feeling (whether they recognize this or not) that they are doing something that they want to do. They are spending time with friends and teachers who have all each independently chosen to be there. It’s easy to forget how programmed children’s lives can be. (Maybe because we as adults have accepted that as our lot!) Choosing and deciding are skills, too, and they are developed with practice.

So perhaps the perfect afterschool class is any one of a dozen that children can choose from. Maybe children choosing a class is what makes it perfect.

On-Site Afterschool: Winter 2021-22 is Here!!!

First day of Winter Cycle is this Monday, December 13, 2021!!!

Fall Cycle was a huge success and we have been able to gradually increase the number classes offered. We’re not back to pre-pandemic levels yet, but we’re getting there! The children seem very excited to see their friends and take part in their favorite activities.

Please remind your children that school rules about distancing and mask-wearing should be observed during afterschool as well. (Just trying to keep everyone safe!)

And, for parents, thank you for your patience with the first day of pick-up. The new routine of walking the children out to parents takes a little longer, but, again, safety is our top priority.

Winter Cycle of afterschool will go from Monday, December 13th to Friday, March 18th. As we ramp up, we are re-connecting with our teachers in various subject areas and fine-tuning the schedule. More than more years, this year’s schedule is a work-in-progress and we will continue adding classes and making adjustments through the start of the school year. If there’s a class that you would be interested in but you don’t see it on the schedule, please let us know. It might be that we were planning to bring it back or that we just needed a nudge from an enthusiastic family! (We love your input!!!)

Even as we resume many of our old stand-by classes (like chess and multi-sports and science) we plan to continue with the programs we developed during the last year and a half. In particular, our outdoor adventure classes in Central Park have been a big hit and are here to stay. Also, where there is interest, we will continue to our online instruction in art, chess, and instrumental music.

Welcome back everyone! If you have questions, please send an email to info@artsandathletics.org.

The NYC DoE calendar for next school year has just been publish, so we will begin to set up registration next fall afterschool as well. Here’s the link to the school calendar for 2021-22.

Making Online Learning Work for You

The necessity of work in front of a computer screen has certainly taken its toll this year. And we’ve learned that not every subject can be taught effectively over the internet. Nevertheless, Arts and Athletics and other educators have identified a number of classes that work well online and we’ve developed ways to make the most of these resources.

Coding is a natural and we’re exciting that Ms. Sora is offering a couple section of coding using a couple of different platforms, Kodable and Code Monkey. (You can learn more about our technology offerings here.

Outdoors/Indoors–Central to our afterschool programming these last months has been our outdoor adventure program, where children exercise and explore and learning about nature. We currently offer sections in English, Spanish, and French, and we’ve discovered that for children still learning the languages (i.e. they don’t speak French at home with their parents) we are able to augment the outdoor experience with an online class in which reinforces vocabulary and phrases and concepts that were covered in our outdoor class. And we are offering this language support for children who are signed up for outdoor adventures and no additional cost!

Other classes that work well online are chess, musical theater, and writing. The ideal afterschool class is one that uses a child’s academic skills without seeming to pile on more work. When a student can experience the sense of agency that comes with using the skills they’ve learned in school, that reinforces the benefits of their classroom experience, and promotes a love of learning.

We hope that we’ll soon be able to resume classes in our schools, but we will continue to look for ways to use online learning to support our offerings and create a better learning experience.

COVID Policies and Procedures

Arts and Athletics has cultivated a cautious but optimistic stance toward the coronavirus pandemic and we have developed routines that incorporate insights and best practices from the latest public health guidance. Naturally, it is a work in progress, but as we expand our programming and gradually resume activities in our cooperating schools, we will continue to adhere to the policies and procedure that keep our children and our staff members safe.

To read more about our COVID response, click here.

It’s a Positive Sign!

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve collaborated with our friends at the Level Group design firm to develop signage for our winter offerings. You’ll see the results posted at each of our schools, red/pink and blue/green banners that say: YES! Winter Enrollment is Now Open.

It’s such a simple message, but during these colder months we feel that it’s important to affirm that good things are happening amidst all the disruption and uncertainty.

Join us this winter if you can. We have regular outdoor and online afterschool (winter cycle goes through Friday, February 12th) and we have camps on the days that school is not in session. And keep us in mind for spring activities as well. We will begin registration for spring cycle by the end of January. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to offer some of our spring classes back in the school buildings.

But whether it’s with our crew or on your own or with friends…make sure that you’re getting outside and enjoying the fresh air. We want you to be happy and healthy too!!!

Travel During the Pandemic

The Arts and Athletics staff are minimizing travel during this holiday season, and those who are traveling are taking precautions of getting tested and quarantining before leaving and upon their return.

The New York Health Department continues to update its guidance on travel and staying safe during the winter months. See their winter plan here.

The team at Arts and Athletics has worked hard over the last ten months to learn all we could about operating safely during this unprecedented public health crisis. Like everyone, we wish we could have a quicker return to normalcy, but we’re also learning about patience and we remain committed to providing support for families and cool experiences for children…always prioritizing their safety and wellbeing.

Happy Holidays everyone. Please be safe!

Balto–Hero for Our Times

Last week, our winter adventurers took a walk down to 67th Street on the east side of Central Park to visit the sculpture of Balto the celebrated sled dog. In addition to this bronze rendering, there are also animated movies about him.

Balto’s back story (also told in a popular animated feature named for him) is that there was an outbreak of a disease called diphtheria in Nome, Alaska in 1925, and the people of that city were running out of medicine.

Teams of sled dogs came to the rescue, running across the tundra for nearly 700 miles in the harshest conditions to bring residents of Nome the supplies they needed. Way to go, Balto!

Read what the Central Park folks have to say about Balto here.

New York State Guidance for In-Person Instruction

On Monday, July 13th, the New York State Department of Health issued a report: “Interim Guidance for In-Person Instruction at Pre-K to Grade 12 Schools.” I would encourage all of our parents and instructors to read the document and share your reflections about it. Afterschool staff at Arts and Athletics are studying and discussing all available information as we prepare for re-opening of schools in the coming weeks.

In simpler times, we (parents and providers alike) might have thought of Arts and Athletics as simply the local musical theater program, homework help provider, or physical activity coordinator, depending on the child’s specific interests. What’s been true all along, however, is that the role of Arts and Athletics is to work with parents and educators to determine the needs of the community and work cooperatively to address those needs. In the coming days we will open registration for fall cycle, offering programs that are informed by documents like the New York State Interim Guidance and ongoing consultation with our school leaders.

The model we are exploring for afterschool for the fall cycle is for self-contained groups of 15 or fewer students with two teachers who would stay together as a unit throughout the afternoon. The objective is to minimize the potential for infection by keeping the same group of children together from school dismissal until pickup at 6 p.m. and throughout the week (Monday through Friday) where possible. In this configuration all children would have some art, some physical activity, and some academic support during their afterschool hours.

Our staff will continue to take part in trainings provided by the New York State Department of Health and we will put together action plans that begin to adapt the Arts and Athletics programs to the needs of our school community.

In the meantime, stay healthy and stay in touch!