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Volunteers wanted for Minnehaha Friday program

Minnehaha fourth-grader Isaiah Brown works on his gingerbread house during the Friday educational program at the elementary school. (Teri Cadeau/News-Chronicle)

The Minnehaha Elementary School has been filled with a little more life on Fridays this fall. For the past six weeks, the elementary school has held an arts and imagination-focused Friday morning alternative learning pilot program.

Twenty-six third-, fourth- and and fifth-graders have gathered from 8-11 a.m. to build gingerbread houses, create their own books, build up their basketball skills and more.

Principal Brett Archer wanted to make it easier for community members who want to share their passions, talents, and hobbies with children. He also wanted to see more use of the Minnehaha building on Fridays. He built the pilot program to cover both areas, while also meeting the need for more alternative learning programs. The Lake Superior School District has alternative learning status, which means additional funding can be provided for state approved alternative learning programs.

"The funding allows us to hire two teachers to administer the program," Archer said. "They take care of the main functions of the program and are the ones who work with members of the public who come in to share their skills with the students. This is especially nice for people who might be nervous about working with children."

The program is also focused on hands-on activities and learning opportunities. Teacher Cassie Peterson said she's enjoyed that aspect of it.

"It's fun to see the kids excited to come, especially ones who maybe aren't always thrilled to come to school," Peterson said. "Because it's structured learning, but it's very hands on. It's not like classroom learning. They get to work with their hands and get to be more creative. Plus the smaller group setting makes a big difference."

One community member who has come in to share with the students was Anfo's basketball trainer Mark Anfinson. Anfinson was working with students in the area when Archer approached him about the Friday program. Anfinson was glad to volunteer to teach the students some basic basketball skills.

"It's been fun to see the kids achieve things they didn't think they could before," Anfinson said. "And it's a very fun environment to come into. There's no pressure here."

The sports section of the program has been fourth-grader Isaiah Brown's favorite section of the day. He likes the chance to practice his moves. His favorite activity on the final Friday of the program on Dec. 14, however, was building a bridge out of toothpicks and marshmallows. The students then tested how much weight each bridge could hold.

"I karate chopped mine when we were done!" Isaiah said. "I just felt like it was so unstable. But it was fun."

Although the pilot program has wrapped up for the fall, another session is scheduled to begin Jan. 25. Volunteers are needed to share their skills. Those interested can sign up for just one Friday session or a series of sessions, depending on their schedules. The program especially needs artists to join in, but Archer stressed that the kids are up for "just about anything."

"Our kids have interests as varied as adults, so if you're interested in a hobby, there's probably a student who will like it as well," Archer said.

Those interested in volunteering can contact Principal Archer at Minnehaha Elementary at 218-834-8221 or by emailing barcher@isd381.org.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. 

(218) 834-2141