FORT Adventure students Evelyn Meyer, left, Jon Grote, Aidan Grothouse, Ellie Lindeman, Abigail Koester, Madison Brinkman and Hannah Dickson work on their personalized puzzle pieces during enrichment activities Monday afternoon at Fort Jennings Elementary. Under the direction of teacher Carolyn Horstman, the students will create their pieces and she will put them together on the wall outside her classroom to show the “pieces of FORT Adventure.”
FT. JENNINGS — The FORT Adventure after-school program, sponsored by the county Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative grant, is back in full swing. Seventy-seven students at Fort Jennings Elementary are enrolled in the fall session. FORT (Focusing on Remarkable Things) Adventure is open to all students in grades 1-4.
The program, which runs from 3-4:30 p.m. two days a week, is structured to give students an activity period, provide healthy snacks and assistance with completing homework, as well as an opportunity to participate in a variety of enrichment activities.
Fort Jennings teachers Geri Kaverman, Carolyn Horstman and Margarita Madley and Ottawa-Glandorf speech teacher Laurie Lindeman provide instruction for the offering. They also rotate so each has every class at least once.
“The students are excited about learning and getting their homework done,” Horstman said. “It also gives them the stimulus of the enrichment activities and additional time to interact with teachers and peers.”
The activity period is held first, allowing students to go outside, weather permitting, and blow off some energy before settling back in the classroom. A healthy snack is offered in the cafeteria before children start their hour of learning. The first half-hour is for homework with a teacher present for assistance. The second half-hour is for enrichment with hands-on activity.
“All of our instructors teaching enrichment activities are certified,” Fort Jennings Elementary School Principal Kathy Verhoff explained. “Students participate in enrichment activities including astronomy, book publishing, learning Spanish, building a hovercraft and more.”
The school was awarded the grant in 2008 from the Putnam County Educational Service Center in Ottawa through the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative, a unique federal grant-making program that is a comprehensive approach to youth violence and substance abuse prevention among youth, schools and communities. It is an unprecedented collaborative grant program supported by three federal agencies: the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Justice and seeks to develop real-world knowledge about what works best to promote safe and healthy environments in which America’s children can learn and develop. These agencies are working together to ensure that federal funding is channeled to schools and communities that can work together to provide comprehensive educational, mental health, social, law enforcement and juvenile justice system services that promote healthy child development and school environments that are safe, disciplined and drug-free.
“The grant for this program expires at the end of this school year.” Kathy Verhoff explained. “We are looking for ways to fund and continue the program. No local funds have been used for FORT Adventure. The program has been very successful and the proof is in the numbers. We have 67 percent of our elementary students enrolled in this program. Instructors have just as much fun as the kids. Parents are delighted that their children can get a ‘jump start’ learning math, writing, language and science concepts they might not see until later.”
Since 1999, 365 urban, rural, suburban and tribal school districts, in collaboration with local mental health and juvenile justice providers, have received grants using a single application process. These grantees are implementing comprehensive plans that address safe school environments and violence prevention activities, alcohol and other drug prevention activities, student behavioral, social, and emotional supports, mental health services and early childhood social and emotional learning programs.