2012-02-24 / Community

The KidsmART You Should Know

kidsmART, the Rockaway Artists Alliance’s highly acclaimed free afterschool program, is open Monday through Wednesday, 2:30 - 5:30 p.m., now through May, in Building T-149 in Fort Tilden.

Children from grades K- 8 are eligible to participate in the peninsula’s only free after-school program. Children arrive at kidsmART and are greeted by Junior Counselors who help them to sign in and provide them with name tags. Children then join Artistic Instructors and Junior Counselors at tables throughout the room to receive homework help. Staff members are ready and willing to aid children with math, science, reading, grammar, spelling and social studies. For children who arrive during this period (2:30 - 3:15) with a light homework load there are other enriching options. They can join an instructor in the library area for a read aloud of a great children’s book.

Or they can select a book from the library themselves. All of the books are being leveled A-Z so children can easily pick a book that is at their level. Every child in attendance is invited to join the kidsmART Book Club. Whenever children complete a book, they discuss it briefly with the Program Facilitator or an instructor and then they receive a sticker next to their name on the Book Club chart. The child with the most stickers at the end of the month is honored at an in-house awards ceremony and receives a prize. “The Book Club is becoming so popular,” says a spokesperson, “that we have a feeling we’re going to have to start honoring our first, second and third place winners each month!”

To make homework time not only productive, but relaxed, the staff has started playing some quiet classical music and jazz. It sets the tone for a transition from academics to art. Children who don’t bring homework or feel inclined to read are provided with paper, crayons, and colored pencils to draw during this period. As always, parents who would rather complete their child’s homework at home before they come to the program are welcome to do so. The doors to kidsmART remain open for drop off throughout the afternoon.

At 3:15, the books are quietly closed and returned to their book bags and junior counselors distribute snacks to all of the children. While children happily munch away and socialize with one another, artistic instructors introduce their projects to the group. There’s something there for everyone. A spokesperson explains, “A typical day includes a round of theater games on stage to get our young performers into the spotlight. A still life painting lesson is afforded to the young fine artist. For our crafty kids there are wreaths, jewelry, paper lanterns and cardboard critters to create. The budding sculptor can receive a hands-on lesson in making a clay medallion, vase, pinch pot or other objet d’art.”

And for the young scientists, there is an opportunity every day to participate in an interactive and safe science experiment. These lessons are taught by an NYC certified science teacher who understands that after-school science has to be fun, informative and handson, Some of her lessons have included nature walks in the park identifying indigenous trees combined with a treeinspired art project. Others feature the creation of “Oobleck,” otherwise recognized as slime, and testing how colors are absorbed or not absorbed in various liquids like water and oil. In the month of January, she teamed up with one of Gateway National Recreation Area’s John Daskalakis, to offer children weekly science lessons that brought Fort Tilden and the natural environment to life through a scientific lens.

Finally, children are encouraged to stretch their legs, reach for the sky and pal around with their buddies.

On weather permitting days, children are invited to come outside and enjoy a game of kickball, taps, jump rope and more.

Whether inside or out, children are carefully supervised by kidsmART’s highly trained Instructors and Counselors.

“One of the best aspects of the program,” observes the spokesperson, “is that there are two workshop sessions daily so children can go outside and get some exercise for the first session and then come back in and paint or craft for the second session.”

Children are rewarded for their many good deeds – saying something kind to a playmate, helping another child pick up something he or she dropped – with colorful good deed beads that they wear proudly at the program and pass on to other good deed doers.

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