Climbing, choreography, hooking at Club Beyond

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The new after-school partnership program takes Tacoma middle schoolers far beyond the classroom.

Tacoma, WA: They climb the walls, dance with the teacher and sew to pop music. Things get really interesting after the dismissal bell rings at Hunt Middle School — and every other college in Tacoma, too, thanks to Club Beyond. A new after-school partnership program between Metro Parks Tacoma, Tacoma Public Schools and Greentrike, Club Beyond is exactly what it sounds like: fun clubs that take young people way beyond the classroom.

Singing, dancing, teamwork

“” No no no! re in a box.

Wadleigh frames her face, accompanied in sync with Hunt dance teacher Dana Raike, and behind them, about 25 excited college kids copy them exactly, suggesting moves and singing along.

It’s time for the musical theater club, and from the packed classroom and the very engaged choir, it’s abundantly clear why Club Beyond is such a great thing.

“It’s really fun to get together as a team,” says sixth-grade student Olivia.

“It’s fun to meet people and learn new things,” adds Tayarii, a seventh-grader, who jumps through divisions and back up.

“With acting, I love how you can become a totally different person with just your voice and your imagination,” sixth-grade student Finley says with a big smile.

Like its elementary school sibling Beyond the Bell, Club Beyond is a pay-as-you-go program in all Tacoma public schools that brings together community partners in a one-stop shop for children in need of after-school activities. From 3-5 p.m. most days (clubs operate Monday-Wednesday, Tuesday-Thursday, and some Fridays), families can choose from arts, STEM, sports, and more, all taught by a network of experienced instructors like Wadleigh and Raike (who are paid by TPS for these extra hours).

Logistics, registration and vendors are coordinated jointly by Tacoma Public Schools, Greentrike OSTI (Out-of-School Time Intermediary) and Metro Parks Tacoma. Programs are run at each school site by agencies such as the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, Communities in Schools, and Metro Parks itself.

The program started in September 2021 and it is already popular. At Hunt this semester (Jan-Feb), Cooking, Rock Climbing, and Carpentry/Decorating are sold out, with only a few spots left in Crochet, Musical Theater, Filmmaking, and Animation. Clubs vary by school, and the next session will include unique sports like rugby and frisbee.

Best of all, the pay-as-you-go model gives access to those who need it most. On a sliding scale of $0 to $150 per session, the average tuition paid is $11. This session, out of 1,856 registered students, 1,444 chose to participate for free.

“The need is there,” says Sheryl Blessing, Metro Parks Youth Recreation Services Supervisor for Middle Schools and Teens, who oversees Club Beyond. “And the benefits for this age group are many: in addition to having a safe space after school, they have a place where they belong, where they can gather with their peers and learn new skills. is a big confidence builder, which is so important at this age.

“Expanded learning opportunities help young people in their social development and their relationship to learning, and create positive relationships with adults,” said park board commissioner Rosie Ayala, who has worked extensively in the field of education and access for young people. “These are all necessary skills to navigate and succeed through matriculation. This partnership makes this expanded learning fun and free for Tacoma students.”

Back in theater class, everyone is really having fun. But as they spin, sing and laugh, they learn other skills besides directing: teamwork, flexibility, thinking outside the box – and as Finley points out, empathy. with the others.

Strength and Confidence

At Edgeworks Climbing Gym, it’s a different skill set. Led by language teacher Tamara Sloan-Ritchie, the club meets in the cafeteria like the others after school, then heads to the nearby gym. Shoes, harnesses and an instructor are all covered by the Metro Parks partnership and slide lessons.

As the six students warm up on the treadmills and begin to cross, Ritchie encourages them. A climber herself, she had seen the difference the sport made for her own daughter and wanted the same for Hunt’s students.

“Climbing builds strength, confidence and self-control,” she explains. “But accessing it can be expensive, so it’s great that we can offer it to our students.”

As they try alternate routes in the gym, Edgeworks instructor Ruby Williams coaches them in foot placement and how to do safe, turtle-style drops. Some children easily climb the wall, others timidly try a few moves – but everyone discovers that they can do something new.

“I like sports, but not ball sports,” says sixth-grade student Sage, explaining why she signed up. “It’s a bit difficult, but I like it.”

“Come on Mateo! Ritchie calls, as a little seventh-grader nervously watches the next take — and reaches the top.

“Blocking makes me stronger, because I can get back up,” Emily says, flushed with triumph.

Focus on sewing

Back at school on a Friday, the crochet club hooks up. After grabbing the free snacks that are part of every Club Beyond day, students place their name tags in one of four cups – blue, green, orange and red – to self-assess the emotions they are feeling (learning socio-emotional, or SEL, is a big part of Club Beyond and Beyond the Bell).

Then they head upstairs, where Metro Parks Site Manager Ella Wagner explains today’s four choices: learn to tie, learn single crochet stitch, learn slip stitch, or join it all together. to make a washcloth. As students choose their yarn and spread out, Wagner kicks off an instrumental pop playlist and helps beginners. Others learn together or practice. It’s the perfect kind of decompression you need after a week of school, and Wagner effortlessly redirects difficult behaviors with crochet challenges: Can you do an X? Can you pinch this loop? You see, you are addicted to a point!

“Our mother is pregnant and we chose to crochet to make clothes for the baby,” explain twin sisters Anh and Madison.

“I learned a long time ago and wanted to learn again,” says Coraline, a tall seventh-grader who concentrates on her fourth row of stitches as the late sun shines lazily through the windows.

The Crochet Club actually started from student requests, after crocheting was included in an art club in a previous session.

“It’s kind of meditative, and the students can produce something they can be proud of,” says Blessing. “It’s a big confidence factor.”

At 5 p.m., students walk home, take the late activity bus, or are picked up by parents.

“Club Beyond is really good for these students,” says Wagner. “After a long day in class, they can rest, reset, re-energize and talk with friends. Then they learn something new and bond with each other and with adult mentors. And everyone can afford. ”

LEARN MORE: Discover Club Beyond on metroparkstacoma.org/beyond-the-bell. Registration for Session 4 begins February 7 on the GST family app.

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