Wildwood students learn through the arts

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Zumba is one of the programs available in the Wildwood school district’s after school program because of a federal grant.
Zumba is one of the programs available in the Wildwood school district’s after school program because of a federal grant.  WILDWOOD — Learning doesn’t stop when the last school bell rings at Wildwood High School.

Thanks to a $1.5 million federal grant, about 75 elementary and middle school students in Wildwood have access to theater programs, cooking classes, Zumba sessions, music instruction and film and editing courses every day during a five-year after-school program.

Josepha Penrose, supervisor of curriculum and instruction, said that the Wildwood school district was one of only nine districts in the state, and the only one in southern New Jersey, to receive the grant through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

The grant will provide almost $300,000 a year to administer the program, paying for things like instructors and equipment.

“This isn’t like their normal school day,” Penrose said as three students played tunes on steel drums and the xylophone on the high school stage. “They are active and really engaged. It is about learning things a different way.”

Penrose said the district could choose a specific category, such as theater and the arts, sciences or career study, for the program to focus on.

“I felt that our district could apply more resources for a program that was theater related,” she said. “And the performing arts is something that a number of our students might not have been exposed to yet and could get a great deal from.”

Penrose said that under the umbrella of the arts, she was able to build a program with multiple courses that would appeal to a number of students. The final product means the students are rotating from class to class, similar to a high school class schedule, so they can get the most out of the three-hour program.

Jason Fuscellaro, a fourth grade teacher at Glenwood Avenue Elementary School, explained the detailed schedule as he and Penrose stopped in various classrooms to check to make sure students were rotating classes on time.

On Jan. 7, students from the cooking class were late to their music class because they wanted to stay and eat their finished product, a tray of baked ziti.

Fuscellaro said he’s constantly perfecting the student’s schedule so the day flows as smoothly as possible.

Penrose explained the grant requires a program be offered to a minimum of 75 students for three-hours every day after school as well as during the summer months.

“We decided to direct the courses toward the middle school,” Penrose said, “although some elementary school students from Glenwood are also involved.”

“We’re fortunate we have enough students especially with a school of this size,” she said of the students in fifth through eighth grades who participate. “And the students manage to balance homework and other after-school activities. If they have to go to track practice or something, they let me know and then come back to this program after it is over.”

The students are responding well to the program, Penrose said, as sixth grader Jonathan Hales showed her that he could play a song without the sheet music.

“I just pick it up by ear,” he said.

Nearby, his classmate Fabian Delgado was working on a piece he had played for the school’s winter concert. He had just started learning about percussion instruments in early December and less than a month later was performing on stage with his peers.

“They love it,” Penrose. “They can focus on what interests them and the teachers can connect with them through programs that they are involved in.”

“We applied for the grant in the spring, started the program in October and already you can see a big difference in the students,” she added.

Even little things like switching classes within the high school are making an impact, she added.

“The younger students get a taste of what it’s like in the older grades,” Penrose said. “And they get comfortable here at the high school.”

Lauren Suit can be emailed at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or you can comment on this story at shorenewstoday.com.

 

Carolanne Marsden and Casandra Diaz check to see if their pasta is cooked properly.
Carolanne Marsden and Casandra Diaz check to see if their pasta is cooked properly.

Raelynn Springer and Jesus Perez add sauce to their ziti. 
Raelynn Springer and Jesus Perez add sauce to their ziti.

Michael Bradley runs the camera as Deyaneira Brito Arroyo waits to be interviewed in the after-school program’s film class. 
Michael Bradley runs the camera as Deyaneira Brito Arroyo waits to be interviewed in the after-school program’s film class.

Wildwood High School teachers Ivan Perez and Dave Perro give interview pointers to Michael Feliciano. 
Wildwood High School teachers Ivan Perez and Dave Perro give interview pointers to Michael Feliciano.

Jonathan Hales practices a piece of music.
Jonathan Hales practices a piece of music.

Jonathan Hales and Fabian Delgado work on the music they played during the winter concert. 
Jonathan Hales and Fabian Delgado work on the music they played during the winter concert.


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