When the bell rings and most students head for the door, some of them enjoy staying after school.
On Monday and Thursday of each week, Jamestown School District's fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders stay after school for the Advanced Learning Program. According to Denise Pusateri, curriculum coordinator for K-12 math and ALP, these are students that have met a number of criteria in order to be selected for this program.
"This is an enrichment program for students that have scored the highest in their state assessments in ELA and math," said Pusateri. "In addition to their good grades, they have also have to be recommended by a teacher."
Teacher Jamie Genco, left, and students learn about Ellis Island and immigration at Persell Middle School’s Advanced Learning Program on Thursday.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
Once the students have been recommended to the program, the top students from each grade are combined into a single class.
On Thursday, fifth- and sixth-graders gathered at Persell Middle School to learn about Ellis Island and World War II, respectively. ALP allows students the opportunity to spend more time on one topic and learn it thoroughly. According to Jamie Genco, who teaches eighth grade at Persell and fifth grade for ALP, this method of learning makes for a well-rounded approach to education.
"It's fun to have the students be able to learn some things that we wouldn't normally be able to cover in class because of time constraints," said Genco. "Here, you can go deeper and get into the fun stuff that kids really like. For example, we're spending five weeks on Ellis Island, where in the regular curriculum we would be spending maybe a week on it. These kids have such a passion for learning, it's almost like they're leading the class."
In addition to in-class curriculum and assignments, each individual class is given a book to coincide with the material they are learning. The fifth-graders have a book that documents personal accounts of immigrants who were processed through Ellis Island. The sixth-graders have a book about actual World War II heroes and their stories. The fourth-graders, who are studying pioneers and Westward expansion, were given a novel to read. The use of these books is intended to bring an ELA component of reading for information to the curriculum.
"The kids really enjoy what they've been doing," said Pusateri. "They like the fact that they're with their peers but they're still learning. And it's not just another social studies class for them to do, it really is letting them dive a little deeper into the content but also do it in a fun way."
Some of the students were also eager to share their feelings about the program.
"It's basically like two extra hours of school but all the same people in the same grade are getting taught the same thing as one class," said Savannah Hazelton, a fifth-grader.
"I like ALP because I have a chance to learn about World War II with other people who are not my regular classmates," said Hannah Hornyak, a sixth-grader.
"I like it because it helps us get ready for the state tests," said Nolan Stevenson, also a sixth-grader.
When asked if ALP was more fun than regular class, all students declared unanimously with an enthusiastic "yes."
JPS' Advanced Learning Program runs twice a week, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. It runs through October and November. Another session will run through February and March with a focus on science-based curriculum.