중앙데일리

School recognized for extended-care programs

Oct 24,2015
Unsan Elementary School students participate in an after-school class in which they learn to make pizza. Students who don’t take extra lessons spend their time in an extended-care program known as the Niche School. [Unsan Elementary School]
Unsan Elementary School has just 139 students spread out across seven classrooms.

Nonetheless, this small school in Seosan, South Chungcheong, organizes 36 after-school programs - a feat that led it to win first prize in the Seventh After-school Program Contest hosted by the Ministry of Education, Samsung Dream Scholarship Foundation, Korean Educational Development Institute and JoongAng Ilbo.

Until the last buses leave the premises at around 5 p.m., the school hosts a range of programs, from cooking and Chinese to belly-dancing.

On Sept. 14, some 11 students gathered for a robotics science lesson after classes had been dismissed for the day.

The children had just learned about elasticity and elastic force, and checked the springs in their robots to watch how rubber bands helped their robots to move.

Meanwhile, other students on the ground were learning to play The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” during a ukulele lesson.

“There are no music academies in my town, so I’m glad I can learn how to play instruments at school,” said student Kwon Eun-hye.

“I practiced hard for four months and won the gold prize in the city contest,” she boasted.

Lee Sun-hee, the principal of the school, explained that by mobilizing people from local universities, neighboring towns and factories, the school was able to operate a unique range of after-school programs, some of which aren’t even available in major cities.

One after-school class took students to visit a confectionery factory. In another, they learned about planting rice at a local farm.

Along with its after-school programs, the elementary school is also famous for its Niche School, an extended-care program aimed at students with two working parents.

On days when students don’t have after-school classes, they gather together in designated reading rooms, playrooms or day care rooms at the school, where they can draw pictures, play Korean folk games or exercise.

“When there was no after-school program, students just used to wander around town,” said Park Hee-ryang, a teacher at the elementary school. “Earlier this year, the teachers here banded together to let the students play after school in a supervised environment, and that’s where the idea for the Niche School originated.”

Timetables and the names of each student are posted on the walls of the three rooms. “After organizing plans for after-school programs in the first semester, the teachers and students made individual timetables for each student,” Lee said.

Teacher Park Chae-ryung added that the after-school program had also blurred the boundaries between study and play.

Parental support has also been integral in the Niche School program.

“Many parents have volunteered to teach students, since it’s hard to find day care teachers in town,” said Jung Hae-sun, a parent. “Parents also take turns preparing breakfast for all the children.”

“I’m really satisfied with the Niche School program,” said another parent, Kim Ji-hye. “It provides high-quality classes, and the students who participate are in a safe environment.”

The incidence of accidents at the elementary school has decreased by 12 percent this year, according to data by Unsan Elementary School, while parental satisfaction has gone up, from 88 percent last year to 96 percent this year.

BY BAEK MIN-KYUNG [koo.yurim@joongang.co.kr]


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