‘Beyond School Time’ adapts to remote learning

May 3, 2020

For the last ten years, Wareham’s “Beyond School Time” has created engaging after school programs and offered resources to students and families. While schools are shut down because of coronavirus, the program continues to do just that, except in the form of videos, online classes, and virtual meetings with teachers. 

Beyond School Time typically offers a wide variety of programs including playgroups for preschoolers and support groups for teen mothers and grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. There are also several clubs offered throughout the school year for students interested in legos, foreign languages, and other special topics. 

“We’re servicing families from birth onward,” Beyond School Time Director Jane Fondulis explained. 

Now that schools are closed for the rest of the school year, Beyond School Time has had to change its methods, but the goal of supporting Wareham students and their families has stayed the same. 

Playgroups are now meeting through Zoom, a video conferencing app, and teachers have been posting instructional videos to help students learn from a distance. 

For Maureen Manning, Director of Communications, Global Education and Community Engagement at Wareham Public Schools, the ability to use video is helpful because it offers a sense of connection for students who are otherwise isolated because of the pandemic.

“They love seeing their teachers’ faces on video,” she said. 

In addition to lessons on everything from art to engineering, Beyond School Time is also hosting virtual trivia and game sessions, something that Fondulis and Manning say has been picking up momentum recently.

For younger students, teachers have been holding virtual storytimes to keep kids engaged at home. At the high school level, teachers have been offering homework support and even mask-making sessions through Zoom. Rather than sending all of the masks to one organization, students are able to give them to others as they see fit.

Decas Elementary School Teacher Brittney St. Germaine has been keeping students engaged with engineering challenges like building a catapult from popsicle sticks and rubber bands, and how to design a “marble maze” from household materials. 

She said that distance learning can be difficult because it can be harder to figure out what students are having difficulty with, but that the Beyond School Time program has helped to stay connected with her students. 

“I do miss seeing my students every day and I am sure they miss me too, but I know that the videos I make are a great way for us to stay connected at home. I am thankful that the Beyond School Time program is providing a ton of great resources for our students during this school shut down,” she said.

The office’s programming has also reached some kids who have not yet started attending Wareham Schools. Jonathan Churbuck, who currently attends a private kindergarten, is excited to start first grade at Decas Elementary School in the fall, and he’s already getting to know his future teachers through the virtual programs. He recently learned to draw BB8, a Star Wars character, through a lesson taught by Decas art teacher Tom Tricker. 

Jonathan’s mom, Kelly Churbuck, said she and her husband are both graduates of Wareham Public Schools and are excited for their children to start learning there. In a funny coincidence, Churbuck was one of Tricker’s first Wareham students when she was a student at the high school.

“Ever since we moved back to town, the programs that Beyond School Time offer have been so impressive to me. I really appreciate all the hard work that WPS staff and educators have done to go above and beyond for the people of Wareham,” Churbuck said.

Fondulis and Manning added that Beyond School Time has also been  providing students with materials like art supplies and cloth to make the masks.

They will also be working to help parents and guardians handle the stress of the quarantine in the coming weeks. 

Parents who pick up meals for their kids will soon be able to get a small journal as well to help jot down their thoughts as a way to manage stress. Beyond School time is also in the process of creating an art therapy program for both students and adults to work on creative projects to relieve stress during the school shut down. 

To explore the many virtual classes and resources offered by Beyond School Time, go to wareham.k12.ma.us/bst-distance-learning.