Witchcraft Heights 21C Programming Has Students Excited to Learn – After School

Posted on: February 20, 2024
Witchcraft Heights Elementary School 21C Program

Project-based, enrichment and empowering activities resulting in enjoyable learning experience 

SALEM (Feb. 20, 2024) – When the final bell rings, the sight of Witchcraft Heights Elementary School students leaving for the day is a speedy blur. 

For 51 students in grades 3-5, however, the beeline at the final bell is for the library, where the 21st Century Community Learning Center – known as the 21C program – begins its four-day-a-week afterschool session.

Little do they know that while they cook, dance and build Lego structures, they’re learning as much as they’re playing.

The federally-funded 21C program is free to Salem families with transportation provided. Launched last October at WHES, the program runs Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday – with a regimented schedule.

“We wanted more time for academic and enrichment programs and project-based learning,” said Brittany Kennedy, a K-5 mathematics educator in her eighth year at WHES who also serves as the 21C site co-director along with Reading Specialist Judith Dompierre. She is among several educators – all on a voluntary basis – who remain after school to teach and oversee the program, some all four days and all at least two days weekly.

“Our hope is that the kids have the opportunity to learn academics in a different way, such as using fractions when cooking, practicing their SEL (social emotional learning) skills and applying them,” she added.

Students choose two activities and rotate each trimester. 

On Mondays and Tuesdays the focus is on project-based activities: 

  • School Newspaper: Students write, edit and layout the school newspaper, The Witchcraft Word. 
  • Brick Lab: Students are presented challenges they solve using Legos. 
  • Passport Adventures: Students learn about countries outside the U.S.
  • Student Voice: Students collaborate to confront and solve problems.

Thursdays are dedicated to enrichment.

  • Strong Women, Strong Girls: Facilitated by student-mentors from Salem State, female students learn empowerment skills. 
  • Arts & Crafts: Students are encouraged to show their creative best.
  • Cooking: Students learn to cook simple dishes such as pizza, macaroni and cheese and Oreo truffles.
  • Indoor Soccer: Though focus on team sports is part of the Friday curriculum, indoor soccer is a popular option on Thursdays.

Fridays are a mix of the physical and academic.

  • Team Sports: Students compete in a various team sports.
  • STEM Challenge: Students collaborate on STEM projects.
  • Dance: Students learn the art of dance through guest instructors.

In the first 40 minutes of each afternoon, students have the option of receiving extra help in mathematics or English language arts from one of several paraprofessionals on site. Otherwise, students begin the day playing board games or reading.

“I had a student tell me recently that her least favorite day of the week is Wednesday,” Ms. Kennedy quipped.

When asked about her favorite program, third-grader Keira Hollis has trouble deciding between cooking and dance.

“I just think it’s really fun we can make new friends while learning about different things together,” she said. “I love that we all can discover different things.”

The 21C program was made possible through a successful grant secured by Taylor MacDonald, Director of Extended Academics and Enrichment Services. WHES is one of four schools at Salem to offer the program, along with Bates Elementary School, Bentley Academy Innovation School and Collins Middle School.

The 21C program at WHES (along with the three other schools) mirrors the District’s Strategic Plan, particularly the core priorities of elevating learning and centering belonging, evidenced by the program’s emphasis on collaboration.

Shortly following the launch in October, a wait list started to grow.

“Word has spread,” Ms. Kennedy said.

About Salem Public Schools

Salem Public Schools is an urban public school district in Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is a small, diverse city with a proud maritime and immigrant history. Our leaders and our teachers are all passionate about education and understand the urgency of improving student achievement with equity and social-emotional needs as the lens we view all of our work through. We respect and value the racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity of our students and their families, and have a strong commitment to the Salem community. Salem Public Schools staff serve all of our students, regardless of ability or language. Salem Public Schools enrolls approximately 4,000 students across its eleven schools.