So many choices, so little time! On any given day one can find hundreds of lower and middle school students remaining on campus after the academic day ends. These students have a wide range of enrichment activities from which to choose, many provided by the staff of BEST (Bucknall/Blackford Enrichment and Supervision Team). At each campus, students can sign up for regularly scheduled enrichment classes or can drop in for a variety of activities, both physical and less active. Some classes are taught by outside instructors, some by BEST staff, and all are quite popular.
the Bucknall campus, students can choose from classes such as musical instrument instruction, Hindi, yoga, chess, cheerleading and art. One of the most popular activities is dance. In K-Gr. 5, 290 students chose dance this year, and 250 of them – all but the kindergartners – danced in the May dance show. Preethi Kandappan, Gr. 5, has been taking after-school dance since Gr. 1, and took up tap dance fourth quarter. “I like being on stage and being with my friends,” she stated. Laughing, she added, “I like everything!”
Jason Ting, Gr. 3, participates in jazz ensemble, chess and dance after school. His favorite is jazz ensemble, which is a new activity this year. In this class, he said, ”I get to interact with other students, and I like playing the trumpet.” He likes chess because, “I actually get to play with other people and get to experience new techniques.” He has taken chess and dance since first grade.
Amanda Crook, program coordinator, is a typical example of an enthusiastic BEST staff member. One of her favorite activities is the end-of-year Kiddie Carnival, held for school. “Every year planning a party for the last day of school – what could be better than that?” she asked.
Kim Coulter, Bucknall’s BEST program director, has been with Harker since 1987. The program has grown since then from one full-time director, Kelly Espinosa (now director of summer programs) and five part-time staff members to two separate programs, each with its own director, and eight full-time and 25 part-time BEST staff. Each campus has additional learning workshop teachers and outside companies that provide programs as well. In addition to leading enrichment activities, BEST staff members provide supervision before and after school as well as at recess and lunch.
Coulter, who has a B.A. degree in liberal studies with a minor in child psychology, is constantly working to find new ways to improve the BEST program, and feels that children should be provided as many different enrichment options as possible. She recently explained, “It is my hope that the children can find their passion and talents through the BEST program, allowing them success in doing what truly makes them happy.” She added, “The BEST program is like no other program you’ll find. We have amazing staff, offer a variety of activities and provide the ‘neighborhood’ to the students of The Harker School.”
Erin Clifford, Blackford’s BEST program director, has been at Harker since 2005, and holds a B.S. in kinesiology with an athletic training emphasis and a minor in sociology. She is also driven to find new programs. “The middle school students have so much energy and curiosity!” she exclaimed. “I enjoy the challenge of finding enrichment classes and activities that will peak their interest.” This includes classes such as Photoshop, Mandarin, food science and Club BEST, in which students can choose from a different daily physical or non-physical activity. “The most important part of BEST is giving the students a sense of security while having fun,” Clifford said.
The staff certainly seems to provide that. Melina “Bean” Nakos, Gr. 6, likes the drop-in and special activities offered after school. She explained, “I like when they do competitions, like when they did the competition for spirit week on making a cookie.”
Ian Richardson, Gr. 8, also enjoys Club BEST. He added, “I kind of like when the BEST staff gets all fun with us and we play the Ninja game. It’s kind of fun because they interact with us.”