PHOTO: Students taking part in Moon Lake Elementary’s 21st Century After-School work on their garden, which will be ready in time for Earth Day in April. (Mary Lance | Moon Lake Elementary)
By C.Campbell, Staff Writer
MENTONE, Ala. — As the world continues to evolve in the 21st Century, American schools remain adamant about a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) education for their students. However, one issue that virtually every school faces regarding such a curriculum is that there are not always enough hours in the school day to show students how to apply what they learn in the classroom.
To help fill this gap with their students, Moon Lake Elementary has launched an after-school program to demonstrate the practical applications of STEAM in everyday situations.
Mary Lance, the Principal at Moon Lake, and the director of the school’s 21st Century After-School Grant, detailed what had been taking place once the program began. Since starting in December, students at the Mentone elementary school have taken in part in a wide variety of activities, including art, dance classes, archery (through a partnership with DeSoto State Park), and even gardening.
In the days leading up to Christmas, those participating in the program expanded their after-school “education” by working with St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church to prepare stockings for some of their fellow students in need.
Getting this program up and running was not a simple task. According to Lance, there was a lengthy application process that had to be completed, in order to be considered for one of the grants, which included demonstrating what sorts of activities would be held, among other things.
Moon Lake was awarded one of the grants to begin the program, which will provide funding for three years. Once that time is up, Lance explained that “We can re-apply for another three years, but we would also have to demonstrate how we’re moving towards being a self-sustaining program.”
While being able to financially sustain the program from within is a major part of pushing into the future, plans have been laid out for what the program intends to teach Moon Lake’s students. They will continue to work on their recently planted garden in order to have it ready in time for Earth Day in April.
Starting soon, those participating will be able to learning to cook simple recipes, demonstrating how math and measurements can be useful in the home. Also upcoming, “Our younger students will be learning how to work in computer coding, while the older ones will work with drones,” Lance said. Come next school year, the after school program plans to start a recycling program, which will not only be a valuable teaching tool, but will help to provide some of the funds needed to keep the after school program going into the future.
Started as a way to provide the elementary students at Moon Lake with an enriching after school alternative, the program has garnered great support from the community at large.
“Everyone I’ve talked to has loved it,” Lance said. Even though it was begun only recently, the Moon Lake 21st Century After-School Grant has become a big hit, and will hopefully be able to continue providing the young pupils there with not only a great way to spend their weekday afternoons, but also help them become more productive individuals in today’s ever-changing world.