Newly designed and restructured, the Oasis after school program at Oakdale Junior High School focuses on keeping students engaged in the program for its duration.
Oasis Program Manager Matt Dillon reported that 110 students registered for Oasis and about 65 to 70 are attending daily. He said attrition was expected and he’s excited about the turnout because the program is totally new and some people are still getting used to the change who may have only attended sporadically or on a drop-in basis in the past. Planning for the overhaul of the Oasis program began in March to be ready for its August debut.
“The fact they’re here three to four hours after school says a lot, that they’re interested and they want to come,” Dillon said. “We emphasized that we want them to come every day, at least until 4 p.m. or 4:30 p.m. We don’t want this to become a drop-in program. We want this to be a structured after school program.”
The program has clearly defined academic intervention, homework support, academies and clubs, and recreation. The first hour of Oasis is homework time, led by certificated staff, and after that it’s time for enrichment activities.
“We tried to beef up the activities we did this year because we wanted it designed for middle school students. We wanted it to be challenging to them,” Dillon said.
The academies, which are led by after school program staff, run on a quarterly schedule and take place three days per week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. There are three quarters. The current quarter runs through Oct. 11 and includes the academies of cooking, art, sports, and clubs.
In the cooking academy, students are learning about breakfasts this quarter. Next quarter will be lunches and the final quarter focuses on desserts. They do their work in the OJHS cooking room and each class starts out with the students writing a recipe. They learn about identifying ingredients, measuring amounts, and creating their own meals. Recently, it was a recipe for breakfast burritos, where they cooked them up and finished by eating their work and then cleaning up the kitchen. They will have a small box full of recipes to take home at the end of the quarter.
“Some of these kids have never done anything remotely like this,” Dillon said.
Eighth grader Cade Middaugh was in Oasis last year and he said it’s very different this year.
“This year it’s more like a second elective… It’s better because you can learn more (about a subject) than just homework.”
He chose the cooking academy for this quarter because he likes to cook and wants to know more recipes.
On a recent day in the art academy, students learned about perspective and drawing an “inside your room” view. They’ll learn different art techniques in the academy and at the end of the quarter the students will have a portfolio of their work. The first quarter of art academy is drawing, the second quarter focuses on photography, and the third quarter is pottery/ceramics.
The same day in the sports academy, a game of baseball was in full swing. The first 30 minutes of the sports academy consists of drills and fundamentals. Baseball/softball is the first quarter, basketball is the second quarter, and physical fitness is the focus of the third quarter.
Previously, Oasis was required for students who were in sports and the homework part of the program was more heavily attended. Since revamping it, the focus is on the entire program and students participate voluntarily.
“We wanted as many kids to participate in activities as they did in the homework portion,” Dillon said of the new program. “They’re coming because they want to, and they’re staying.”
There is also a clubs academy that features a different activity every day for students who want more variety. Tuesdays and Fridays are also “club days” for all the students, wherein they do not attend their regular academies. Dillon said that 10 weeks is a long time to do only one activity, so that’s why there are two “free” club days each week. There are usually two inside activities and two outside activities from which the students can choose. Clubs focus on a variety of enrichment activities such as guitar lessons, film making, woodworking, and others.
Dillon pointed out that all the activities are what the students said they wanted. Surveys were administered to all incoming seventh and eighth graders to determine their interests. A mid-year survey is also being considered.
“Our focus is we want this to be student driven,” he said.
Oasis has a limited capacity and students must register every quarter if they want to participate in the program. The program is free to any OJHS student who’s interested. It runs Monday through Friday from 2:25 p.m. to 6 p.m.