21st Century learning

Educational program broadening its scope, partnering with NASA

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Kindergarten and first-grade students in the 21st Century Program at Beaty-Warren Middle School do some wellness yoga.

The 21st Century Community Learning Center in Warren County is broadening its scope and aiming for the skies.

In addition to adding kindergarten and first grade this year, the program has entered a partnership with NASA.

About 40 students who will enter kindergarten or first grade within the next two weeks participated in Cohort 10 of the program this summer.

The program targets literacy and math skills among its participants, but also works on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM), wellness, and social-emotional learning. “It’s a grant-funded program to establish community learning centers to give kids assistance with reading and math,” 21st Century Grant Project Manager Christine Haslett said. “The literacy component is right from the district’s curriculum.”

It runs during the school year and in the summer.

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry The 21st Century Program will feature a partnership with NASA during its after school program this year.

The youngest students — Discovery Crew — spent four weeks in the program, wrapping up for the summer on Friday. “We’ve accomplished a lot,” Haslett said. The summer program for students in grades two through eight lasts six weeks.

For many of the kindergarten students, there is much to learn — from how to hold a pencil or scissors, to some of the social aspects of school.

The summer program helps combat learning loss.

“There’s quite a slide between spring kindergarten and fall first grade,” Haslett said.

Adding the younger students will provide some help to Warren County School District. Traditionally, the district has provided transportation for students in the program.

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Kindergarten and first-grade students in the 21st Century Program at Beaty-Warren Middle School get moving along to the Ants Go Marching.

Under the rules for the new cohort, grant dollars will be able to be used to offset some transportation costs.

According to PDE, “NASA wants to partner with programs to do some project,” Haslett said. “We’ve already gone to some professional development. We had a face-to-face with NASA people.”

Ten sites in Warren County — Beaty-Warren Middle, Eisenhower Elementary, Eisenhower Middle, Sheffield Elementary, Sheffield Middle, Tidioute Community Charter Elementary, Tidioute Community Charter Middle, Warren Area Elementary, Youngsville Elementary, and Youngsville Middle — will participate. Transportation is provided for students from St. Joseph Catholic School.

“Each site is going to pick a project — an engineering design challenge,” she said. “While the kids are working on this project, we’re going to have virtual meetings — the kids are going to get to see and talk to NASA scientists.”

“It’s a really great opportunity for the kids to be able to see how what they’re doing in school connects with the world,” Haslett said. “This will make a real-world connection for them.”

Haslett’s engineering background has her excited about the partnership with NASA. In addition to that, she sees value in opening students’ eyes to future possibilities.

“It’s a good way to broaden their vision of what’s out there and what’s available to them… give them a look at careers that they might not normally think of,” Haslett said.

Typically, about 100 students in grades two through five — STEM Squad, and 75 or more in grades six through eight — Team STEAM, participate in the after-school program.

The 21st Century Program is funded through a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).

Anyone may apply to participate, but if program caps are reached, priority goes to students who qualify for free or reduced lunches and those with academic need, Haslett said.

The 36-week 21st Century after-school program starts Sept. 9.

“Applications will be mailed shortly and will be on the district’s website,” Haslett said.