Stories from the Field: CVSU Afterschool

Contributed by Kristin Getler, Site Coordinator at CVSU Afterschool

CVSU Afterschool offers a safe, fun, and stimulating afterschool experience. We are educators who believe in building great relationships with and among students; helping students to recognize and realize their potential; and giving kids the opportunity to express themselves in a variety of interesting and enriching activities. CVSU Afterschool, known locally as Bridges and ONWARD!, serves elementary and middle school students from five communities in central Vermont: Northfield, Roxbury, Williamstown, Orange, and Washington. 

What are your current enrichment activities—virtual or otherwise?

[email protected] and [email protected] are offering virtual programs 3-5 days a week across all seven of our elementary and middle school sites. Students “attend” programs via Google Meet and staff utilize other virtual tools like Flipgrid, Google Classroom, Jamboard, and Vooks to engage students. Two of our elementary programs are offering American Sign Language, which, we have discovered, is a great SEL tool for participants to express their feelings. We have a thriving Dungeons & Dragons campaign at a middle school site that is meeting for two hours of dynamic storytelling and strategizing each week. In Art and Mindfulness programs, students are creating their own mandalas and zentangles. A video game design cohort of 10 students, using the Bloxels platform, is meeting two times each week to share their evolving game designs. And finally, we look forward to the video release of our middle schoolers singing parodies matched with stills of their artwork that reflect their experience of the COVID-19 moment. 

Youth4Youth Project (Y4Y)

Our Y4Y project began this past fall at Northfield Middle School. Our Y4Y Council resumed momentum with weekly virtual meetings focused on ”rerouting” our project. Our rerouting process has been an incredible exercise in flexible thinking, as students reimagined new ways to reach their peers and gave voice to what young people need for support in this new reality. Our Council decided that their middle school peers will really need something meaningful to plug into this summer when the school year has ended. They developed four summer “experiences” that focus on performance art, healthy food, recreation, and visual art.  They created both virtual and in-person versions of the experiences since our summer program is still unclear. Their peers will vote the last week of May and choose which experience they most want to see offered this summer. Once the results are in, our Y4Y Council will come together for a participatory budgeting and planning process to design the winning programs. There is a lot of hard work and critical thinking underway! 

What are some of the highlights you’d like to share from the past few weeks? 

At Northfield Elementary School, school day teachers have joined the yoga program as guest teachers; since then, the yoga program’s enrollment has doubled. Afterschool and school-day are coming together in new and powerful collaborations and students are seeing that we are ONE group of adults who care about them very much. 

Informal daily “Lunch Bunch” meetings are providing truly meaningful opportunities and benefits. Young, pre-school aged siblings are discovering afterschool via lunch socials and are excited to join us when their time comes. A parent reached out to share that our lunch bunch programs give her the time and space she needs to take care of herself while being assured that her child is safely and positively engaged. One lunch bunch turned into a living room concert when a student shared a song she composed about a special person in her life; she courageously sang and performed the song on the ukulele for the group. 

Can you share a challenge or problem you’ve been able to figure out?

We had an elementary school program offering a daily lunch social where the numbers began to dwindle once school day virtual programming picked up. That program merged with one from another town to boost numbers and create opportunities for more dynamic interaction. Now we have one lively lunch bunch program connecting kids across the communities we serve. Again, we are creating new lines of connectivity at a time when it can feel like connection is hard to come by. 

The nature of things right now means program participation changes day-to-day, but these small group settings can provide great opportunities to model and practice prosocial behaviors. Students and staff have this terrific opportunity to really connect and get to know one another; our relationships with students are going to be strengthened and solid for when in-person programs resume.