The Early Release Enrichment Program will open for a second annual spring session. Kids within the Bellingham School District can participate in on-campus learning during Thursday early release days from 1:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. starting April 14 through May 26.
Kids from across the district can sign up for the program and go along with a theme that corresponds with each specific day. The themes vary throughout the program giving children the chance to explore many subjects.
Western Washington University’s Extended Education Youth Program’s Manager, Debbie Gibbons, started the program because of parent interest after the Bellingham Elementary School switched to an early release schedule, she said. She wanted to expose children to life on a college campus.
Children can participate in the program as many days as they want. Every individual session is open to new students and participation in every half day session is not required.
Some themes for this spring session include: Musical Scientists, Terrific Trees and Survival Science. All themes and schedules can be found online at www.wwu.edu on the Youth Programs page.
Although the themes are mostly science based, Elijah Davis, a student teacher in the Youth Programs, said the themes address a lot of different interest groups.
“I think the themes do a really good job of tying in some music or art into the scientific practice,” Davis said.
The cost per session is $20, but there is a $5 discount for students who sign up for all seven program days. Throughout the program most families opt for all scheduled days, said Gibbons.
“It’s more consist for the parent and the child, they don’t have to remember from one week to the next what they are doing on Thursday,” Gibbons said.
During the sessions, Gibbons said she uses eligible students from the teaching program at Western to provide the education to the children. The education students get a true professional experience, Gibbons said.
“We’re not assessing their abilities like a school district would but we’re asking similar questions and giving them that experience in applying for a teaching job,” she said.
Through teaching in the Youth Programs, Davis said he recognizes the benefits that come with it. “Those extracurricular [activities] when you’re in the education program, they make you stand out above the other candidates. Someone who’s got experience working with kids is going to be a leg up,” Davis said.
In terms of expanding the program to more days throughout the year, Gibbons likes to keep Western’s quarter schedule in mind. She said it’s hard to coordinate and expand the program, especially if it turns into an all day program.
Any parent interested in this session or other Youth Programs can register their child online on www.wwu.edu/youth.