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REACH engages students


November 15, 2018

Shana Neesvig

AFTERSCHOOL ENGAGEMENT is achieved through REACH, a program implemented by Thompson Falls schools aimed at providing a safe place for students to get help with their homework and participate in fun, enriching hands-on activities. Third grade student Billy Detlaff colors stars and stripes creating a patriotic Veterans Day display.

For more than 10 years Thompson Falls' Penny Hopkins has dedicated herself to growing student intellectual, physical and social aptitudes through an afterschool program called REACH (Rural, Education, Academics, Community, Healthy Lifestyles). In addition, the program provides a safe, structured and engaging setting for children of working parents.

Students in grades third through eighth are welcome to attend and benefit from a vast diversity of projects Hopkins implements in the REACH program.

"We cook, do measuring experiments, aeronautics and rockets, crafts, solar projects, engineering projects such as building bridges and computer work too," Hopkins stated. In addition to each elementary class, the program has a specifically designated growing box in the school greenhouse for REACH students to work on growing their green thumbs.

"I come up with my own projects, sometimes I pull ideas from what the Science Olympiad kids are doing," Hopkins commented. She focuses her curriculum on the educational STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) approach. STEAM emerged from the original STEM movement because it has been recognized that the arts are an equally important component of education and an essential component in meeting the 21st century economic demands.

After students gather, have a snack and finish their homework, they quickly get to work on the afternoon's activity. In line with Veterans Day, last Wednesday students were busy crafting artistic displays of the American flag that were hung during the school's Veterans Day lunch, honoring veterans in the area last Monday.

Allexia Anderson, sixth grader, commented that REACH is "a place where you can make more friends and get away from home and do fun activities." Her favorite REACH activities include cooking and making windmills out of wood and straws. She said she was most fond of kitchen time, adding that the cookies, pies and the ever-famous toad-in-a-hole made during the program were by far her favorite.

"We do fun crafts!" exclaimed Allie Borgmann, fourth-grade student. "My favorite was when we made catapults. We had to use wood pieces and put them together. I think we flung marbles." Borgmann said this is her second year attending REACH and she is certain she will join again next year.

Prior to this year, funding for REACH was supplied through a 21st Century Community Learning Grant. Funding was not awarded during the last application cycle, so other sources were explored. Thompson Falls administration felt REACH was essential and found a way to fund the program internally, according to Hopkins.

REACH meets every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday right after school until 5 p.m. in the elementary cafeteria. Some days the group does not meet if a holiday or other scheduled event falls on these days. The program will continue through the month of April. Contact the school at 827-3592 for more information.


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