For some children at Ilchester Elementary School in eastern Ellicott City, learning doesn't stop when the school bell rings at the end of the day.
Twenty-eight schoolchildren are involved in after-school programs in which they perform science experiments and make crafts. The school's PTA oversees the program, which is offered to everyone enrolled at Ilchester.
"We thought it would be great to give them a chance to pursue other areas of interest that aren't in the curriculum," said Doreen Klose, a PTA vice president and the program's coordinator.
The children are enrolled in two six-week classes -- Mad Science, which is run by an independent organization, and Flexible Lace Stitching, which is taught by the school's media specialist.
Science with slime
Mad Science has been a big hit, said Sue Frederick, a secretary at the school who assists with the administration of the program. "They love that Mad Science. They do great experiments," she said.
Klose's son Jimmy, 6, is taking Mad Science. The best part for him was when the class made "slime." It was during a session when the kids learned about polymers and the chemical reactions used to create them.
Slime was also the highlight for second-grader Elliot Halperin, 7. "I learned the ingredients of slime and how to mix them," he said.
The children have made periscopes and performed experiments with magnets. Each week they explore a different scientific concept and conduct experiments to reinforce the learning.
In the Flexible Lace Stitching class, the children make key fobs and other items out of a plastic lacing material commonly called gimp. First-grader Emily Hardingham prefers to use green, blue and pink gimp when making "cobra stitches." She also uses a glow-in-the-dark color.
"I decorated my room," she said. "I sit them on my dresser."
For the Hardinghams, the class was the answer to their search for a craft class for Emily. Karen Hardingham, her mother, said it's easy to find sports activities for children, but not craft classes.
"It was something different for her to do that's right after school, and I don't have to drive all over," she said.
Because the classes are held at Ilchester just after dismissal, the children who participate do not take the school bus home.
Klose said it was a major concern that the PTA and Principal Jackie Conarton shared.
"It's important to have procedures in place," Klose said. "We have to make sure all kids go where they're supposed to go."
Easing into program
She emphasized that because this is the first time for such a program, the organizers wanted to start small and ensure the process worked. This, she hoped, would make parents comfortable about having their children participate.
The classes are held Tuesdays. Children must bring a preprinted note to school the day of each class.
The PTA also decided to have the school's teachers instruct the after-school classes.
"We felt we had more control that way," Klose explained. "Our teachers know our kids. Our parents know the teachers."
Teachers receive payment directly from parents to cover their time and materials used.
Next year, Klose hopes to offer more classes, including sign language, cooking, video production and dance. "I've already had a lot of teachers contact me about participating," she said.