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Ahfachkee after-school fun, learning

WARP Zone02BIG CYPRESS — A new program at Ahfachkee School is sweetening everyday education with after-school icing on the cake.

On a recent Tuesday, starting at the last ring of the school bell, children relaxed for homework fun with instructional aide Kolisa Franklin, attended art class to create watercolor masterpieces with media specialist Gary Chaffin and got mathematics know-how by measuring cups filled with chocolaty goodness for a cooking class with kitchen manager Horacio Smith.

“We have a good time. Our homework gets done faster, then we eat a snack and then we get to do whatever fun there is,” said student Nicholus Andrews.

Called the Warriors Achieving and Reaching their Potential (WARP) Zone, the after-school offering launched Sept. 9, provides academic enrichment and fun-focused activities that bolster classroom learning.

Principal Lucy Dafoe said WARP Zone achieves several goals.

“It gives kids a chance to see teachers in a different light and lets Tribal departments have a collaborative relationship with the community,” Dafoe said. “With math, reading, FCAT preparation and homework help, it’s all there.”

WARP Zone is funded with a three-year 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant via the Bureau of Indian Affairs. According to the most recent U.S. Department of Education report on 21st CCLC, the national program awarded 52 grants in 2012 for a little more than $1.1 billion.

Instructional aide Jonelle Pollard applied for the grant last school year. It was received in time to institute a fun, summertime curriculum dubbed Ahfachkee Jet-setter during which children “traveled” the world.

“Every week kids explored different countries – Mexico, Italy and China.  We read about the countries, used the currency . . .,” Pollard said. Every “visit” ended in a food feast – like a Mexican fiesta complete with rice, beans and plenty of salsa.

The after-school fall session is now featuring cooking, hip hop dance, watercolor painting and fitness sports. The spring session will bring as much excitement plus robotics and science fair preparation.

Dafoe said the grant also allows children a second, or first, chance at band, drama and other special classes that are limited to certain semesters and grade levels during the school day. For instance, if a student is not eligible for musical instruction in the classroom, he or she may get a chance to pick up an instrument after school.

Instructional aide Jarrid Smith said children and adults have been eager to participate.

“More people are getting involved all around at school and it’s because of the grant,” Smith said.

Various Tribal departments, including Seminole Police and Family Services, are already on board. Late summer back-to-school events, such as the first Ahfachkee Meet and Beat Your Teacher 5K Walk and Run, were supported heavily by the Tribe’s Health, Recreation and Police Departments.

“It was fun for the kids to see teachers and other adults show up at school in shorts and sneakers,” Dafoe said.

Participating parents and guardians will get to enjoy the fruit of the program when kids cook and serve a special meal prepared by their own hands to their adult loved ones.

“WARP Zone is not parent conference time or must come to the school for other reasons. It’s about, ‘Hey, come to school to see what great things your kids are doing,’” Dafoe said.

Pollard said more than 30 percent of the student body was signed up a week before the program started.

An enrollment surge was expected because of recent cutbacks at the Big Cypress Boys & Girls Club and the temporary closure of Herman L. Osceola Gymnasium for improvement construction.