Here is my wager: that what’s going on after school at Rappahannock County Elementary is creating in minds of young students memories that will last them all their lives — pleasant, warm, rewarding memories of the people and the things that go on in these unsung activities after the closing bells ring.
The first thing we must do is put in the capital letters: It is the After School program operated by the Headwaters Foundation and its head, Jane Bowling-Wilson. It is Dabney Kirchman of Headwaters who directs the daily action in After School.
There are some teachers involved, and a few Headwaters staff members, but the volunteers are very important. Indeed, there are three dozen of them in the After School and other Headwaters programs. There’s a mixture of old and young, women and men, as well as some high school students. Here they are in the cafeteria, after the last classes of the day, busy with their first chore — setting out snacks for the dozen or so youngsters who are signed up for After School. And not chips and cookies and cakes or doughnuts. No, it is the 21st century, so the snacks are bits of fruits and other healthy things.
Then, the room fills up with a kind of happy circus of activities. Over here Kevin McCloskey is quietly teaching French to two boys. This is elementary, sort of moving slowly to “parley voo” something or other. At the other end of the room, five or six kids are engaged in what are commonly called “board games”; they seem to take lots of things out of boxes and stack them or array them — not necessarily the way the manufacturer intended but the way the youngsters think they should be put together. More fun that way.
Another table is set up for making jewelry. Ms. Cynthia Stamp has brought in a supply of string, beads, stones and little rings and stuff in boxes. Small hands are free to pick out things and make whatever comes to mind. Necklaces are often the first choice. Ask a child “what is that?” and you are shown the product and told just who it is being made for — mother, aunt or grandmother, usually.
On a day when it is grim out of doors, rainy or just plain cold, the running and jumping is done in the gym. Whether it is relay races or just random leaping around, in this activity it is often difficult to tell the adults from some of the larger kids. The reason for that is the grown-ups are having so much fun at recess. (Didn’t we always?)
Just being with other kids for an hour or two is an important extra for some kids because, in Rappahannock, we don’t have tenements and games of stickball in the streets or neighborhoods that lend themselves to kids moving easily in and out of each other’s homes. Instead, many youngsters live miles from other kids, and the interactions among the young — so very important to development — are particularly useful in the After School program.
It is all under the heading of “enrichment.” Parents pay what amounts to a token fee for this extra study camouflaged as fun. If they are truly strapped, the fee can be waived. That’s Headwaters Foundation’s way of thinking.