Handing 12 Brookfield Elementary School students boxes that contain bags of flour and bottles of vegetable oil, Elainie Huncik tells the students the very obvious.
“This is a messy activity,” said the senior edutainer from OH WOW! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology, Youngstown.
The activity is making kinetic moon sand. When the flour and oil are mixed together, they create something like wet sand, which can be molded. The boxes also contained silica to give the sand color, and orange oil to give it a scent.
This activity appeals to all of the senses – accept taste, Huncik said, warning the kids not to eat it, but they did spread it around, clapping their hands to watch clouds of dust fly off. The room filled with a citrus fragrance.
“Omigosh,” said Amara Mason. “It’s all over the floor.”
And, her black T-shirt.
Yes, the kids were allowed to take the sand home, and not all of it was in the box.
These kids – 12 on this day – took part in an afterschool program run by Youngstown State University. Brookfield’s Director of Teaching, Learning and Accountability Adam Lewis is the site coordinator, and the program is staffed by YSU students, most of them education majors.
YSU’s Center for Human Services Development received a federal 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant through the Ohio Department of Education, and also runs afterschool programs in Campbell and Girard, said Melissa Chizmar, lead site coordinator for YSU.
Chizmar ran a middle school program at Brookfield from 2010-15, and an elementary school program from 2015-18.
“I absolutely love Brookfield,” she said. “They have a great school district. Adam’s doing a great job this year with the students, for being a first-year site coordinator.”
The current Brookfield Elementary program started in November and will run for five years, including summers.
“The purpose of the grant is to provide students with help with their math and reading, and then the grant also works with the students on youth development and community outreach,” Chizmar said.
Twenty-five to 30 Brookfield students attend sessions at least part of the time. Lewis asks that students come at least three days a week, although officials understand that keeping a student from 3:15 to 6:15 p.m. after a full school day makes for a long day.
Snacks and transportation are provided.
There frequently are visitors such as Huncik, and there are field trips and family activities.
“There’s a lot of socialization that’s going on here, a lot of activities, building confidence with kids,” Lewis said. “There is an academic piece. We do math and ELA (English language arts) daily, but there’s a lot more to it than just academics.”
Student interests help in choosing speakers and field trips, Chizmar said.
“It’s providing opportunities for those students that they might not otherwise have, trying to get them out into the community,” she said.
“I like it, the fun activities that we do,” said Lilly Clark, a Brookfield third-grader.
Those fun activities have included crafts, “marshmallow stuff,” the kinetic sand and word searches, she said. They’re different from what she does at school, she said.
“When I grow up, I want to start my own afterschool (program),” Lilly said.
Because different grades are together in the program, students make friends outside of their class, Lewis said.
“It’s kids that probably wouldn’t have interacted, talking to each other and being nice to one another,” he said.
The grant requires that family events be held throughout the year. Past events have included book nights, student presentations, physical fitness activities, dance parties, Scrappers games and drive-in movies, Chizmar said.