Reasons to stay late at Wilde Lake


January 30, 2002|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PUPILS ARE FINDING plenty of reasons to stay after the last bell rings at Wilde Lake Middle School. Thanks to an after-school program developed by the school's staff and PTA, a variety of classes keeps children engaged in supervised activities.

"A lot of our kids go home to empty homes and have no supervision in the afternoon or any direction," said Eileen Jones, chairwoman of the PTA's After-School Programs committee.

"These classes give them a chance to be exposed to things they wouldn't be exposed to otherwise. It also gives them a place to set goals for themselves and feel good about themselves. It empowers the kids and helps them build a better future for themselves," Jones said.

Nine classes were offered in the fall and ran for eight to 10 weeks. The winter session, which will begin Feb. 11, will have 14 classes. The cost ranges from $22 to $95 per pupil. Scholarships are available to those who are unable to afford tuition.

In the winter session, pupils will be able to choose to participate in a computer club, improve their basketball skills, learn to speak French or master the latest hip-hop dance steps. Earth Treks will continue its partnership with the school by offering a class in rock climbing. The National Aquarium in Baltimore also has a partnership with the school and supports a course in marine biology called "Aqua Haven."

The National Aquarium has donated 18 30-gallon aquariums to the Aqua Haven program and provided training to teachers. The children have been learning about marine biology while assembling tanks containing plants and fish indigenous to other areas of the world.

The school purchased a few larger tanks and has more than a dozen aquariums operating all over the building. The tanks represent aquatic life found in Africa and the Amazon region of South America.

"We're moving toward the Chesapeake Bay," said Bob Keddell, a science teacher at Wilde Lake Middle School. "We're hopeful that we'll end up with a tank of Chesapeake Bay seahorses, but we can't afford it at the moment. Saltwater tanks are very expensive to maintain."

Keddell said that setting up the tanks to mimic the natural conditions found in other areas of the world is a very detailed process. "The water has to match the natural environment. It requires quite a lot of tinkering with what comes out of the tap," he said. "It's taken us over six months to cure the tanks and make sure the water is aged and has the right pH balance."

Developing an after-school program that served more than 150 pupils last fall was an involved process. But Keddell says the effort was worthwhile. "There's a special need in schools for addressing the social and emotional growth of students," he said. "Kids need a chance to interact in a positive environment. These activities make them feel great about themselves. If you capture their hearts, you can capture their minds."

Line dancing

If you're looking for a way to beat the winter blues, the Town Center Community Association just may have the answer. On Feb. 8, Jim Davis will teach line dancing at Historic Oakland Manor from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Tickets cost $5 and can be purchased by calling 410-730-4744. Refreshments will be provided. Historic Oakland Manor is at 5430 Vantage Point Road in Columbia.

Popcorn theater

Public schools will be dismissed three hours early Feb. 6. Elementary and middle school pupils can spend the afternoon at Slayton House that day, when the Wilde Lake Community Association will show the movie Snow Day. The cost is $2 per child.

The program will begin at 1:30 p.m., and popcorn is included in the admission price. Tickets will be available at the door. Information: 410-730-3987.

Polisar to perform

Barry Louis Polisar, children's author, singer and songwriter, will perform at Slayton House in the Village of Wilde Lake on Feb. 18. Shows will be held at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Tickets cost $4 in advance; $5 at the door. Group rates are available. Information: 410-730-3987.

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