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After school programs combine learning and fun
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Kids can stay at PLAY and ASES afterschool programs run by the Turlock Recreation Division as a low cost alternative to child care. The programs run from the time school lets out until 6 p.m. - photo by ANDREA GOODWIN/ The Journal

Back to school means back to finding afterschool childcare for many local parents. The Turlock Recreation Division offers several educational and play-oriented programs for elementary school students.

“We try to find a balance between learning and recreational activities. We do a lot of disguised learning,” said Erik Schulze, City of Turlock Recreation supervisor for the PLAY program.

PLAY (Positive Leisure Activities for Youth) is one afterschool program run by the Turlock Recreation Department that offers that balance. Students go to PLAY at their own school site when school gets out, and they can stay until 6 p.m. They typically spend 45 minutes to an hour doing homework before they split up into groups for games, physical activity, and arts and crafts.  

“We like to give them a choice of what they want to do. Just sending kids out for physical activity isn’t fair if some of them would rather do something else,” Schulze said.

Students are supervised by Turlock Recreation employees while they are at the PLAY program. Sarah Schrader, a PLAY supervisor at the Walnut school site, said that they do fun activities but they also try to incorporate school subjects.

“Today we made hand turkeys with feathers, but we also did a science lesson where we made goo,” Schrader said.

Education is the focus of another Turlock Recreation after school program called ASES (After School Education and Safety.) During the ASES program students can spend up to two hours working on homework or other assignments. For the past two years ASES programs have also incorporated the Power of Words program in partnership with Turlock Unified School District and the Stanislaus County office of Education. Power of Words programs roughly follow what students are learning in school and reinforce vocabulary words. They also teach students new concepts such as “compare and contrast” through word games and picture books.

“Because the ASES programs are so structured we have less time for recreational activities. But we sneak learning into games so the kids have fun with the lessons,” Schulze said.

ASES programs are sponsored by grant money given to TUSD schools. The grants are given first to the schools that have the most students receiving free or reduced lunch. Because the program is mostly grant funded, there is only an annual fee of $75 per student. ASES is offered at Brown, Crowell, Cunningham, Osborn and Wakefield elementary schools. Each program admits only 90 students and there are waiting lists at every site except for Wakefield.

PLAY is offered at Dennis Earl, Denair, Julien, Medeiros and Walnut elementary schools to students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The program is fee based and costs $35 per week.  PLAY accepts sign ups year round.

Both ASES and PLAY offer financial help to families who qualify. Both programs run from the time school gets out until 6 p.m.  Interested parents can sign up or get more information at the Turlock Recreation Division office at 301 Starr Ave.

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.