Downtown Brooklyn

After School Programs In Brooklyn

September 11, 2012 Heather Chin
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After school programs have been facing a tough economic climate as budgets in counties and states across the country are being slashed, leaving programs intact, reduced or closed outright. Meanwhile, demand increases in cities such as Brooklyn, where a baby boom of sorts is sending ever more school-aged children into the classroom at the same time that parents most need to put in extra hours at work.

So how and where can parents find affordable and quality options for their kids?

Community and School-based programs

In New York City, city funding for after public and school-based programs fortunately remains intact through this school year, following intense budget protests from parents, children, and youth advocates. That means that you can register your child for one of over 25,000 after-school seats that are available completely free to anyone who signs up in time.

These programs are organized under the city Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) and include the Out-of-School Time (OST) Program – “a mix of academic, recreational, and cultural activities for young people in grades K-12 after school, during holidays and in the summer – and the Beacon Program – located at 80 school-based community centers throughout the city.

According to Susan Brenna, chief communications officer at the nonprofit After School Corporation (TASC), “these programs give a wide range of opportunities – academic help, homework help, a third snack for the day, and a whole range of learning opportunities that parents want, [such as] band, martial arts, sports, robotics, depending on the school and community organization.”

Dr. Kathy Gordon, DSW, assistant executive director of Good Shepherd Services, which provides OST programs to youth in Red Hook, Gowanus, Greenpoint and elsewhere, noted that instructors “take them on team-building experiences, have them join youth councils where they have a voice in what they like and don’t like in the programming, and give them responsibility to help work with younger kids in a buddy system – the younger kids love the older ones, the older kids love being looked up to.”

Academic-enrichment programs

There are also private enrichment programs available, such as FasTracKids and Eye Level, which have branches in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Park Slope, Bay Ridge, and Sheepshead Bay.

“FasTracKids is an early childhood enrichment program that [focuses on the] five C’s: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and confidence,” said Josh Gunsberger, center director at the Williamsburg and Greenpoint locations. Kids work in small groups and discuss topics ranging from economics and earth science to speech and drama or art.

Meanwhile, the Eye Level program focuses on developing fundamental math and reading skills in a fun way for kids aged three to 12. So that means learning about patterns, sequencing, analogies, spatial recognition, and more.

Their after school program is for kids between ages three and seven, who come in once or twice a week for two hours with FasTracKids, on a month-to-month or six months-to-a-year basis. Prices range from $150 to $350 a month, depending on time commitment. For Eye Level programs, children take one hour of math and one hour of English a week in a class of three or four kids to emphasize individual attention.

Fitness programs  

For parents who want more physical education and enrichment for their child, then programs such as Bija Kids on Fulton Street in Clinton Hill could work for you. Many workout studios have kid-friendly programs, but places like Bija specialize in them, merging fitness with education about how to live a healthy life overall.

For the after-school set, this could mean classes such as Bodhi Trees I (3 to 8-year-olds) and II (4 to 8-year-olds), and Bija Tweens (9 to 12-year-olds), which introduce meditation, visualization, and relaxation techniques along with yoga poses. There is also a formal after school program for three to six-year-olds that meets three, four, or five days a week and focuses on “curiosity and fun” through art, yoga, botany, storytelling, reading, and dancing. General themes are learning general life skills and self-awareness, cleaning up after yourself, and using your body in a healthy way.

Prices range from $260 per month to $365 per month, depending on time slot and number of days per week. School pickups can be arranged at P.S. 11, P.S. 56, The Co-op School, and Dillon.

Arts programs

The Brooklyn Craft Workshop (BCW) opened its doors in Gowanus in June for their inaugural summer program and after the exuberantly colorful success of that class, are holding two after school workshops this fall: “Patterns, Prints, Stamps and Stories” on Tuesdays from 4-5 p.m. for ages 5-6, and “Beads from Scratch” on Wednesdays from 4-5:30 p.m. for ages 7-12. They cost $250 for each eight-week program.

“We really wanted to create a space – and environment – that [fosters] a lot of exploration and discovery along the way,” said Rachel Schwartzman, who, along with co-founder Ilana Friedman, teach second and third grade at the Brooklyn New School.

“This summer, a girl was printing with a potato and discovered that if she turned it away [from her], she could create a flower. That self-discovery then led to cross-pollination to the other kids,” Schwartzman explained. “In a traditional [art] program, you’d give them clay and show them what to do. We ask them, ‘what can you create?’”

“Some of the happiest and best moments in my life were making art with my family and community,” she added. “BCW is about creating those moments.”

Social Skills programs

Taking a long-term view of education, Faye Rogaski founded Club SocialSklz, an after school class for socialkidz (ages 4-7) and socialtweenz (ages 8-12) that teachings them “those really important skills that we all need to get ahead in life.”

“I’ve been in PR for many years and started teaching at NYU, teaching students how to build a brand, so I thought, why not teach them how to build their own brand, especially in these days with the internet,” said Rogaski, who noted that “it’s not their experience, but great communication skills, that gets them past that first interview. “So I modified that class for a younger set… What I see is that they can easily be taught it and it becomes second nature for kids.”

The program will meet this fall at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, starting on Thursday, September 20, and costs $450 for 10 weeks.

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