Fun belongs to summer — every kid knows that. But when the academic year returns, many young students will have experienced what Spiro Tsirkas, the director of the Glen Cove Youth Bureau, calls summer learning loss. “Most kids, when they go back to school, are one grade level behind,” Tsirkas said.
Helping children exercise their learning muscles while staying true to the joys of summertime is just one of Tsirkas’s jobs. The Youth Bureau’s After 3 summer program is designed to do just that. Each session — the After 3 program has sessions during the school year as well — staff members select a theme, and tailor age appropriate long- and short-term activities around that theme for participants in grades 1 through 9.
Picking a theme is no small challenge for the program’s coordinators. “You can’t do something with the first graders that you’re going to do with the ninth graders,” said Carolina Guastella, the After 3 program’s coordinator, “so we have to gear it towards everyone’s age group.”
This year’s theme was “Road Trip!” Younger children participated in activities based on iconic American Highway 66, which many of them know from the animated Pixar film, “Cars.” They also made hot-air balloons and crafted their own collage-style license plates from different states.
Older participants worked with facilitators at the Cradle of Aviation to make solar powered cars and learned about engineering and architecture by building miniature, but sturdy, bridges out of craft materials.
One testament to how the children feel about the program, Tsirkas said, is “how sad some kids are that they can’t come back next year because they’ve aged out. But the best part is that then they ask, ‘Can I volunteer?’”
These participants-turned-volunteers provide relatable role models for the younger crowd. This year, one volunteer, Alan Gansky, was recognized at the After 3 showcase where the activities that students had worked on get put on display for parents to see. When he was a participant himself, Tsirkas said, “he always gave us issues.” But as a volunteer, he earned the respect of the Youth Bureau staff and the admiration of the children. When Gansky was called up during the showcase, “all the kids went crazy. You could see he was someone they could relate to. It’s important to have some people like that.”
The theme for the school year After 3 program hasn’t been chosen yet, but registration is rolling, and the program begins on Sept. 12. Call the Youth Bureau, (516) 671-4600, and ask for