By Danielle Nason
The goal of the Libby After School Program is not just to help kids with school work, but to provide a safe and caring environment. They teach children to embrace learning while providing enriching educational activities for expanding their knowledge.
Teachers and students are not the only participants in this program. Parents are encouraged to help their children as well. The program provides downloadable games and other options for furthering education, available to take home. Staff encourage parent and child relationships as well. For instance, there is a dinner next Tuesday for kids and their families to attend together. The best part is that the kids are the ones making the meal that they get to enjoy with their families.
Each day there is an active play activity in the upper gym or outside, weather permitting, such as dancing, dodgeball, or tag. Enrichment activities include building or crafting, and listening to educational speakers, among many other things.
The next speaker scheduled to visit the After School Program will be a Fish, Wildlife and Parks representative who will do a presentation on bears. The speakers topics range from animals, to travel and career opportunities. Speakers are always wanted. If you or someone you know would be willing to provide a positive educational presentation, please contact Mandy Bell at 406-263-7485.
Through the After-School Program, other organizations are able to help out by providing their own services. The Lincoln County Library sends Dustina Deans to the program once monthly to do an activity with the kids at the school. Last year the Library provided a Science Club, and this year they have a Math Club. On their first day, the Lincoln County Library Program had 63 students in attendance.
“They all had a really good time and it was really fun. Everything went over smoothly for that amount of organized chaos,” said Deans.
According to Bell, there are so many positive outcomes from the program this year alone. The new friendships that have developed, and the things kids have learned, along with experiences they’ve shared together, all create lasting positive memories. If that weren’t enough, they are a part of several other programs as well. The After School program is an active participant in the Montana State University Harvest Program. The Harvest Program showcases foods grown by Montana’s farmers and ranchers. Each month, they focus on one locally grown item (i.e. winter squash) by serving it in a meal or snack. Additionally, they offer taste tests to students along with active educational lessons and activities.
There is also a Science Action Club once per week after school. It is a 10-week program through the California Science Academy. Right now, the students are learning about Birds and everything related to them. A few of the subjects being taught about birds include their environmental issues, weather, how eggs need to be protected, and their flight patterns.
“It’s a wonderful part of Libby Elementary School. We work closely with teachers and parents to make it the best experience possible for the students. To provide them with a safe and friendly place that they can be after school, ”said Mandy Bell, the After School Program’s Director
There was a noticeable increase in kids for the After School Program in 2018. In October the program had a waiting list. They can accept 40 to 45 students maximum due to space and time constraints. Now, everyone on the list has been welcomed in. There are always things that students can attend, even if they are not a part of the After-School program.
“We are always welcoming more kids. There are situations where new kids can attend and there are always kids coming and going because of moving or other things. We encourage kids to come and participate,“ said Bell.
The Lincoln County Library also provides the Bedtime Math program for kids. They come with all sorts of fun learning activities using math and science skills. You can order or request the related books at the library and learn at your own speed.
“With this Bedtime Math program there are a lot of great books that you can order and do with your own children at home. You can order these from a lot of partner libraries and at ours. The parents can download the programs online and do the work and activities with the kids at home. We really hope parents can utilize this,” said Deans.
High School Mentors are also wanted. Right now, the After School Program is in the process of hiring a couple of high school students to be mentors for the younger kids. This helps the High School students gain experience and it provides a good example for the younger students. For the High School students, it is six hours per week and minimal pay. To the younger kids, it’s something that they look forward to.
Next time you see a teacher or a volunteer, someone involved in the Libby Elementary After School Program, give a thought to telling them thank you. Not just for all the hard work they are putting into the After School program, but for all the time, care and effort they are taking to put into the community’s children, and future.
Kids at play in the Libby Elementary School gym during the After school Program. Photo by Danielle Nason, The Montanian