Learn how to create a dynamic afterschool community from the Weinstein JCC.
“Kids’ Place is like a second home for our children and staff,” said LaVenus Harried, the Kids’ Place director at the Weinstein J. “They understand this space is designed for them, a place they can come, unwind and be themselves after a scheduled and structured day at school.”
Kids’ Place is designed for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. A typical day at Kids’ Place is filled with play, homework, a snack and a scheduled program.
“There’s a great deal of planning for the year, with staff putting in months of prep work to make program and transportation logistics a reality,” said Harried. “As for each day, planning is done every week by the instructors who implement the activities. Counselor planning is done two weeks in advance for out of school days.”
On a typical day, children arrive after school between 2:30-4 p.m., and go directly to the large Kids’ Place playground on suitable weather days. If the weather is not suitable for outdoor play, the kids go to a large gym that holds children ages kindergarten through second grade on one side, and third through sixth grade on the other side. Ages are separated by a petition during this free play time.
The Kids’ Place Homework Room has two sessions. The first session is open from 3-3:30 p.m., and the second session is open from 4-5:30 p.m. The room is always staffed with two professional homework teachers.
Snack is served from 3:35-4 p.m. The children get to choose between building blocks, Legos, board games, free art or gym/open play from 4-4:30 p.m.
From 4:30-5:30 p.m., the staff has a program scheduled, such as: choice play, playground time, volunteering, coding, team building, group gym time, swimming, art, cooking, gardening or fitness. The programming ends at 5:30 p.m., and the kids have free choice play until pick-up at 6 p.m.
Overall, the mission of Kids’ Place is to foster a dynamic afterschool community that enriches the social growth and individuality of children through a Jewish lens. And the Weinstein J is doing just that.
Harried has this advice for other community rec centers with afterschool programs:
- Develop a program with protocols, policies and emergency procedures in place.
- Foster an environment where children and staff feel safe, respected and engaged. Most of all, there should be parent communication and involvement.
- Hire positive, caring and invested staff to act as role models.
- Have an environment that’s bright, colorful and able to handle loud noise — high energy should be embraced.
- Programming should focus on every child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical growth and development, and most of all, their individuality.