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Clubs another avenue for learning

October 16, 2005|By KAREN HANNA

According to Barb McCusker's fourth- and fifth-grade students, the unlabeled state in the middle of a map showing Corn Belt neighbors Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas might be California, South Carolina or Alabama.

It's Missouri.

McCusker's group of six students boned up on their geography Monday, the first day of after-school clubs, which meet once or twice a week for an hour a day, at Bester Elementary School. About 20 percent of Bester's students have signed up to attend.

Teachers extended invitations to struggling students in grades 2 through 5 to join reading and math clubs, Principal Kathy Stiles said. Other groups, including the geography club, have formed to provide enrichment for any student who is interested, she said.


"This is just an extra dose of instruction, and many of these students need all that they can get," Stiles said of the math and reading groups.

Though the enrichment groups include only students in third and fourth grades or above - Stiles said younger students usually are worn out by the end of the day - the math and reading clubs include second-graders. Sixty percent of students in that grade read below grade level, Stiles said.

The geography club found a home on the after-school schedule for a different reason, McCusker said. A former Frederick County Public Schools teacher, McCusker, who now teaches the school's Quest program for gifted and talented children, said she plans to help students prepare for geography bee competitions.

Three boys on McCusker's left and three girls on her right jockeyed for a closer inspection of cards, each bearing the shape of a pink unlabeled state with the names of its neighbors written in blue all the way around.

One boy named state after state, while other players struggled to identify just a few.

Even the boy who recognized most of the states wasn't infallible.

When the students blanked on North Dakota's capital, McCusker hinted at just the first syllable: "Bis ..."

The boy said, "Zoit?"

The girls were roundly beaten by the boys Monday evening, but one girl in the group already was formulating a winning strategy."Shouldn't you make us write this down in our notebooks so we can go home and practice it?" she asked McCusker.

Patricia Mosley, who picked up her grandson, Austin Marston, after geography club Monday, said she appreciates the school's efforts to create additional learning opportunities for all students.

"If they start getting involved in learning, what I think, as a grandmother - I have 11 grandchildren - the more they want to learn," Mosley said.

Stiles said the clubs, which will meet now through the second week of December and resume in January and run until March, were "very beneficial" at Eastern Elementary School, where she was the principal last year.

The clubs, which are run by about 16 teachers and staff members, will cost between $10,000 and $14,000, Stiles said. Title I funds - federal money that is given to lessen the effects of poverty on the performance of poor schools, such as Bester - will cover the cost, she said.

Ten-year-old Austin, an orange belt in karate and a Quest student, correctly identified a handful of states during geography club. He has signed up for the art and music clubs, as well.

He also is taking dance.

"I want to either be a forensic scientist or a baseball player," Austin said.

Mosley said she encouraged Austin to take part in geography club so he could learn "new and exciting things," but ultimately, she left the decision to join up to him.

"Every day is learning for children, right? (We) just need to get the parents behind the children down here, (is) what I think," Mosley said.

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