Summertime is over and kids are back to school much to the relief of many parents. While the freedom and irresponsibility of childhood are great for young children, having to watch over them every day of the week can be a bit of a burden on working parents. Now in a new grade, students are learning new lessons from new teachers, and parents of young children are having a chance to breathe again, get a few errands run, and some work around the house accomplished. While the extra time is certainly appreciated, many parents still need to find a solution on what to do with their children on Fridays, as the school district continues again this year on a four-day school week. While there are many different options, one that continues to be very popular is the 4-H Friday Friends program put on by the University of Idaho Extension Office of Boundary County.
Now in its 12th year, the program is a safe place for young children to go where the learning continues as does bonding with fellow students outside of a normal classroom setting. Amy Robertson is the primary educator for the program and also writes grants to help keep the program funded. She is joined each week by Kate Wood, 4-H Friday Friends coordinator. Kate writes daily lesson plans, arranges activities and runs the program with help from assistant Tiffani Beggerly.
“Children get to learn in a relaxed setting that is different from what they experience at school and are provided with a variety of learning opportunities in multiple areas,” said Robertson.
Participation varies year to year but typically averages out at about 45 to 50 kids throughout the school year and an average of 15 to 20 each day. Subjects vary each week but include technology, science, history, nutrition, art and others. Hands-on activities are central to the curriculum, which helps young minds build communication and self-responsibility skills as well as stimulating their creative side and making healthy choices. Children also learn the benefits of helping and improving their hometown by completing different community service projects each year. Homework assistance is provided as is plenty of physical activity to help keep kids fit and burn off some of that extra energy, all while interacting in a unique environment. A combination of hands-on, interactive exercises, lessons in typical school subjects, learning healthy eating and being physically active give these young minds a well-balanced day, not unlike another school day.
“Children get to develop new relationships with children that live throughout the county,” said Robertson.
Some of the favorite experiences these children have is going on field trips or learning from guest speakers. In the past few years, the students have visited places like Kootenai Wildlife Refuge, Boundary Community Hospital, Bonners Ferry Vet Clinic and Safeway. These trips include behind-the-scene tours of how these places and businesses operate and usually occur about two times each year.
More frequent are the guest speakers who are invited to the program twice per month. These include local professionals ranging from librarians and business owners to ambulance drivers and sheriff’s deputies. Kids get to learn what goes into these professions and ask questions of the adults. Adults volunteer their time and share their experience and expertise hoping to shape young minds into future productive and active community members.
While the 4-H Friday Friends program doesn’t specifically provide education services, children do receive a structured and stimulating day. Kids learn new social skills during group projects and physical activities, are shown new technologies and the unique uses for them, and get to hear directly from community leaders on what it’s like to serve your community, all while parents get back that extra time so often needed.
“Parents have a safe, fun and affordable alternative for their school-age children on Fridays during the school year,” said Robertson.
The 4-H afterschool program is available to children in kindergarten through grade six, beginning on September 9, 2018 and running through June 9, 2019. The program is held at the Boundary County Middle School from 7:30am to 5:30pm on Fridays and costs just $12 per day. There is also a sliding scale available for those who meet certain income qualifications. The program provides two snacks per day, however children will need to bring their own lunch from home. Participants can sign up for one day at a time, but priority is given to children attending all days of operation. Program enrollment is open until all slots are filled. Enrollment forms can be picked up at the Extension Office located at 6447 Kootenai Street. You can also email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 208.267.3235.