When school is out, the choices for many students are pretty boring. Ottawa Middle School’s Whirlwind After-School Program offers many very exciting options.

Jason Circle, who directs the after school program along with the help of the assistant director, Brittany Bowers, has developed a multi-faceted program for sixth- through eighth-grade students. The school is the second year of a five-year 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant.  

The first hour of the program offers either homework assistance  or enrichment activities. Students are assisted with homework by April Robbs, Bari Deardorff and Bob Fluke. If students have no homework, they then can choose from a huge assortment of activities that are led by Jeff Brewer, Krystopher Hylton, Morgan Leon, Jennifer Robinson, Jessica Lee and Chance Bulmer, joined by Circle and Bowers.

Some of the daily choices include stunt kites, radio-controlled cars, Fun with Science, which consists of a range of lab experiments like dissection of starfish, dogfish etc., and a variety of chemical reactions lab. Computer labs are another choice. Cooking is a popular choice, but one of Circle’s requirements is that students have to read a recipe and really cook something not just warm things up in the microwave. Of course, the eating of the evening’s choice of food also is a very fun time. Archery is offered a couple of times a year as well as bicycling.

Hunter safety is a very popular choice. They are able to earn a Hunter’s Safety Certificate after passing this class. While I was there, the students were watching a video about weapons and were learning about the different size of ammunition. The class is as popular with girls as boys. A lot of girls can’t wait to get to go hunting with their fathers or grandfathers. What a great opportunity.

Another component of the after-school program is community service projects. Students have cleaned up Kanza Park, as well as participated as bell ringers for the Salvation Army during the holidays. It is a very good opportunity for them to be involved in the whole  volunteer  process, which will help them as they become adults since the seed of volunteering is planted early.

The second hour of the after-school program basically is spent at the Ottawa Community Receration Center/Goppert Building, where students may take part in many physical activities. What a great use of the community’s recreation center, in a supervised way.

Students are working toward a built-in reward incentive in May. The after-school program will sponsor a “Day at the K,” where students will attend a home Kansas City Royals baseball game, for all those who have been a part of the program for at least 30 days and have passing grades for the last quarter. This is scheduled for May 2 and the leaders anticipate having about 110 students this year. The average attendance is 77, but you can see the incentive is helping build the program.

It is Circle’s 10th year sponsoring a OMS after-school program, but as you can tell, this year it has grown to be the biggest and the best.  

Thank you to Circle, Bowers and all of the adults who make this program so great and popular with the middle school students. I am so happy we have such a successful program here in the Ottawa school district.

Marge Stevens is an Ottawa school board member.