On Wednesday, Oct. 10, a group of about 20 students gathered after the bell rang at Hawthorne Elementary to learn what their after-school activities entailed.
The students were part of the new Flagship program called Core that expands on after-school activities by providing students with additional academic and behavioral support, as well as outings organized by community partners.
While traditional Flagship programs meet weekly, students in the Core program meet five days a week, following a schedule that balances the time they spend in the classroom and participating in various activities.
“It’s not so much focused on homework,” said Nicole Miller, Flagship’s program director. “It’s more focused on skill building and the whole child.”
On Wednesday, about half of the students prepared to go on an outdoor scavenger hunt, while the other half stayed back for a lesson. Before splitting up, the students helped themselves to snacks provided by the Missoula Food Bank, which included carrots and ranch dressing, tuna, crackers and milk. After their snack, the students wandered to the playground for a short recess.
Tyler Taylor, one of the teachers who works with the Flagship Core program at Hawthorne, said he initially debated establishing a structured recess schedule but he decided students needed some time to let loose before sitting through another lesson.
Taylor also came up with the idea for students to check in emotionally when they arrive using a chart he made with different emoticons that kids can put a clothespin next to with their name on it. The chart displays faces expressing a range of emotions, which he said has helped students identify how they and others are feeling.
“I’ve had students explain to another kid that something they did made them feel sad and have that other student apologize,” Taylor said.
Taylor tries to find ways to boost student academic achievement through lessons that apply to students in the program, who range from kindergarten to third grade. He often chooses books containing lessons that he can apply to a hands-on activity.
“Today, there’s a story about two ways to count to 10,” Taylor said. “It gives them an idea about numbers and problem-solving, that there might be more than one way to get to a solution that’s correct.”
After reading the book to the students, Taylor instructed them to split up into groups or by themselves and find different ways to count to 10 using sugar cubes and a worksheet.
“You’re each going to get a bag with 10 sugar cubes,” Taylor said to the students. “We want to see how many different ways you can use the sugar cubes to count up to 10.”
Each student also received a worksheet with four boxes that students could place sugar cubes in and columns on the side where they could record the numbers.
“You could do five in each, or you could do eight plus two more in another box,” Chevelle Hill, a second-grader said as she arranged the cubes in different boxes. “Or you could do seven in one box and three in another box.”
Taylor said teachers can reach out to him if there’s a particular topic that a student needs additional help on so he can integrate it into his lesson.
“We’re making it project-based learning for kids,” Miller said. “The lessons are based on school curriculum but in a different context. So we tie in things like social studies, science and math.”
Miller said they also work with various community partners to come up with activities similar to those that other Flagship programs focus on.
Sam Garetson, a Flagship youth development coordinator at Hawthorne, said students go to the food pantry to make meals they can take home every third Thursday of the month. Last week, they made trays of baked spaghetti and zucchini. The students may also work with Missoula Parks and Recreation to coordinate outdoor activities such as mountain biking or rock climbing.
The Flagship Core program is currently offered to students at C.S. Porter Middle School and Franklin and Hawthorne elementary schools.
The Western Montana Mental Health Center oversees the Flagship programs, which provide a variety of after-school opportunities for students in eight Missoula County Public Schools including Franklin, Hawthorne and Lowell elementary schools; Meadow Hill, Washington and C.S. Porter middle schools; and Hellgate and Willard high schools.