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Midvale Journal

Midvale Middle after-school program builds community while offering academic support, fun activities

Mar 17, 2021 10:14AM ● By Julie Slama

During the after-school program at Midvale Middle School, students can get math help, then play ultimate chicken as one of their choice activities. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Midvale Middle seventh-grader Hunter Hinckley recently has participated in math kahootz, crab ball, coding, basketball and ultimate chicken after school. 

“I have no idea why we play with a rubber chicken. (Midvale Middle School MYP program coordinator) Shelley Allen came up with it and I call it a ‘stroke of genius,’” said the tall, athletic boy. “I like the more athletic activities, but I have gotten math help from Ms. (Debra) Delliskave and Mr. (Brandon) Cornaby; they’re great teachers. On Wednesday, we’re playing floor hockey. It’s just a great time to hang out with a bunch of friends.”

Midvale Middle School’s after-school program was initiated this year, thanks to extra funding provided to the school from the Canyons Board of Education. The funding provides snacks, materials and stipends for faculty helping with the program, said Jordan Geist, who coordinates the program with Amy Caro.

The hour-long program is offered to students for free, three times per week. As no sign-ups are required, it provides student an opportunity to join whenever they want. Afterward, students can take a free late bus that has five drop-offs near students’ homes.

“We get new kids each day. Some students pick a mix of favorite activities and add some new ones for diversity,” said Geist, who estimates an average of 50 students per day participate in the program.

The after-school program begins with the first 30 minutes devoted to math and the second half-hour to fun activities.

“We give explicit instruction in math skills and math extension to help our academic scores in math,” she said. “There is a sixth-grade intervention math class and opportunities for students to get homework help for any class.”

Geist said that teachers, such as Delliskave and Robert Violano, are providing that support. 

Violano, who plans to lead after-school robotics during the third part of the year, sees it as more than just homework assistance.

“I’ve made relationships with students so when they are in my classroom in eighth grade, we already have gotten to know each other,” he said. “This program really gives students the chance to do some things they want to do and to get to know the teachers better. We’re sharing our interests and we talk about them. It’s just not classroom study time although I do give kids a quiet space to work on their homework.” 

Geist said that it has been successful in terms of relationship building.

“Students are excited to see teachers in a new way and learn something new that they may have an interest in,” she said. “We want to give students a positive experience at school and build and make those connections whether it’s from getting the extra academic help or playing indoor bowling in the school’s halls.”

Several students also take it a step farther, Geist said, by taking on a leadership role to explain a game to a newcomer.

“They’re learning how to communicate, how to collaborate, how to problem-solve and gain some conflict-management skills,” she said. “It’s a good outreach program that is providing them a safe place, new activities, and a chance to come together and build a positive community.”

After the half-hour of classroom time, students then can choose an activity. Already this year, they’ve had choices ranging from croquet, yoga and soccer to art, improv, and maker space. Some of the after-school projects can lead into the students’ Middle Years Programme’s “Make a Difference Project,” where they spend time devoted to making a difference or impact in their community, Geist said.

The activities are changed every quarter and are led by about a dozen teachers who want to bring program enrichment and fun to the students, she said.

Cornaby, who teaches seventh-grade science, is a supporter of the program.

“I think it’s a great way to build relationships in a non-contingent environment,” he said. “The expectation is to give students support and teach them at school in a safe and fun environment. It also teaches them if they have issues and need someone to talk to, they may recognize us as one of the after-school teachers and reach out. Students like the program. They stop by to ask if we’re playing soccer, bowling or doing robotics after they get help with math or with their homework. It is building our community in an exciting way.”