Keeping Minds Busy After School

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Forget about the Tom and Jerry cartoons you watched over and over again after school while your parents, still at work, worried about the house burning down.

Times have changed. In just a few hours, your child can visit Japan to Africa, and back to Payson by the time you pick them up.

Frontier Elementary School's Wolf Impressions keep children busy throughout the afternoon with exotic and interactive learning opportunities long after the last bell rings.

Two dozen little hands twitch with the anticipation of making Daria Mason's tall African drums boom.

"Now watch me first ... Don't play with me, play after," Mason admonished the third- through fifth-graders attending the preview of her African-drumming class.

They chant in unison as they drum, "Bounce high, bounce low, bounce the ball to Shiloh."

So your child isn't musically inclined? Not to worry. A bevy of other 45-minute classes are available from which to choose.

Lights, Camera, Action! taught by Travis Walton, a graduate of the Payson Center for Success, introduces fourth- and fifth-graders the fundamentals of drama.

"He wanted something that he could give back to the school," FES Principal Gail Gorry said. "He loves drama and he wanted to make sure that kids, before they get to high school, have experiences with drama."

Mimi Daley and Eileen Lawson offer all grades the art of making puppets. Each week, kindergarten through third-grade students will make a different kind of puppet. They will create puppets from a variety of media, including paper, socks, paper plates and paint sticks.

"Some of them have never sewn before," Lawson said. "They have a great time sewing and gluing, so it is a lot of hand-eye coordination."

Fourth- and fifth-graders use more technical materials, molding puppets out of papier mache.

They are asked to make up a character then work with other children to write their own scripts. Afterward, the students perform for the rest of the class.

"I liked the play the best," Katie Beckel said. "We got to pick a couple of people in the class and then we wrote the script."

Her brother Curtis still has the cheetah puppet he made in last year's class even though the puffy eyes fell off.

"Now he's a no-eyed cheetah," Curtis said.

Daley and Lawson also expand the cultural and culinary horizons of students in a new class: Cooking Around the World.

German, Japanese, Italian, Chinese and Native American foods are all on the menu said Daley. Students will get to make and eat fry bread for American Indian Day, and learn the importance of food's presentation in Japan.

Craftiness or cooking not your child's idea of a grand time?

Puzzles and brain games, math mania and Spanish are other offerings to keep them occupied and engaged.

Since it began a half-dozen years ago, Wolf Impressions has grown from a one-day-a-week, one-hour-a-week program to a three-day program, ending after five in the afternoon.

Gorry and teacher Cynthia Chovich applied for and received a two-year grant from the Arts Institute of Arizona to get Wolf Impressions off the ground.

The arts remain the focus of Wolf Impressions because those classes are often cut first during budget shortfalls and pushed aside by state academic mandates said Gorry.

Wolf Impressions is now completely funded by the tax program, Credit for Kids. Gorry said the program costs between $10,000 and $15,000 a year to operate, depending on the number of classes and enrollment.

The fall session begins Monday, Aug. 15. Classes are offered Mondays and Wednesdays for six weeks.

Any child in the community is welcome to sign up.

The materials fee for each class is $5 per week or $10 for two or more classes; receive a price break if you pay the entire tuition up front. Fees will be waived if you made a Credit for Kids donation of $200 ($250 for married couples) last year.

Applications for Wolf Impressions can be picked up at Frontier Elementary School, 1000 E. Frontier St., Payson. For more information, contact the school at (928) 472-2052 for a detailed list of classes. To learn more about the Credit for Kids program, visit the Payson Unified School District's website at: www.pusd.k12.az.us or call, (928) 474-2070.

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