Huntsville City Afterschool Labs

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Program Description

Huntsville City Schools and Appleton Learning have teamed up to bring teachers, students, and parents the most exciting and innovative afterschool enrichment program in town. Each day of "the Labs" provides the perfect mix of play and exploratory curriculum. Afterschool Labs offers fun, hands-on learning modules in everything from Mysteries of the Mind to Forces of Destruction and gives children the opportunity to explore real-world applications.

Young Scholars

3rd – 8th Grade students are invited to participate in a self-directed research program. The goal of this program is for students to show their teachers, classmates, and parents that they are capable of conducting and presenting research at the collegiate level. By the end of the program, students should be able to stand in front of an audience, give a presentation that leaves the audience begging for more, and answer the audience’s most difficult questions. For teachers working with students ages four to seven, you should conduct the steps of the self-directed research program as a class. Over the course of the semester, students will conduct research on two different topics.

Computer Programming II

Students will learn the basics of computer programming and logic through activities that teach them how to think like computer scientists. Older students will utilize drag-and-drop, block-based programming software to design a variety of computer programs and games, as well as engage in peer review and playtesting. Younger students will learn programming logic through activities that help them to identify patterns and solve complex problems, with exploratory play, kinesthetic learning, and collaboration playing major roles in the problem solving process.

Energy Science

Students will investigate how energy works with hands-on experiments covering topics such as wind speed, solar energy, and thermodynamics. Older students will work independently and in small groups while younger students will conduct more guided experiments led by the teacher. Experiments will include synthesizing “crystal flowers” from coal, making ice cream from chemical reactions, building an anemometer, and comparing indoor and outdoor air purity over time.

Mysteries of the Mind

Students of all ages will learn illusions, card tricks, and other sleights of hand as they became masters of trickery. Working independently and in groups, students will also become espionage experts, mastering the arts of effective disguise, lie detection, code breaking, and more. Younger students will learn how to effectively solve puzzles, riddles, and mysteries using a variety of strategies, while older students will take this knowledge and build upon it, not only solving these sorts of problems but also crafting ones for their peers to solve.

Design Thinking, PART 2

Students will investigate the following six design professions by identifying real-world problems and developing practical solutions: Fashion design, graphic design, interior design, product design, architecture, and animation.Older students will work independently and in small groups while younger students will complete design challenges led by the teacher. These design challenges will include inventing a better backpack, building a revolutionary amusement park attraction, and creating an original cartoon animation.

Forces of Destruction

Students will explore the causes and effects of different destructive forces, including natural disasters, human behaviors, and medieval weapons. Investigations will include experimenting with the properties of earthquakes, volcanoes, and tornadoes as well as building catapults designed to destroy sandcastles. Older students will work independently and in small groups while younger students will conduct more guided investigations led by the teacher.

Nutrition is an important component of every child’s day at school. Afterschool is no different. Upon arrival at Afterschool Labs, each child will receive a USDA approved snack and a beverage – either low fat milk or juice. Afterschool Labs enforces the new Healthy Snack regulations outlined by the State Department of Education. Healthy snacks fuel healthy play and experiential learning.


Huntsville City Schools Afterschool Labs

Strategies for sustainability

Afterschool Labs are the next generation in after school care. They operate under the premise that children need and want the opportunity to engage their brains in different ways than they do during the school day. A-Labs are facilitated by trained, engaged and highly qualified personnel who provide fun, project-based learning activities for students and work with school principals to customize programs that meet school goals. In addition to providing students with a safe environment afterschool, A-Labs provides kids a variety of fun things to do such as hands-on projects and extracurricular activities. A-Labs also provides study sessions and homework help for students who need a little extra academic support.

The Huntsville City School System is one of the premier school districts in the state of Alabama. Our school system has 64 Pre-K programs, 21 elementary schools, 7 middle schools, 7 high schools, 5 P-8 schools (2 of which are Magnet Schools:  Academy for Academics and Art and Academy for Science and Foreign Language) providing services for more than 23,000 students.

Impact of program

We currently operate Afterschool Labs at 19 sites throughout Huntsville City Schools, and we are always looking to expand. 

Key elements towards success

Afterschool Labs is an afterschool program designed to provide enriching experiences to students. Afterschool Labs curriculum will include academic coaching and homework help, unstructured and free play, modular instruction and hands-on experiential learning. Program staff members are trained professionals who receive curricular training and guidance from educational experts at Appleton Learning. Afterschool Labs administrators incorporate national best practices to provide a program that extends learning into the afterschool hours.

Challenges to meet them

“Recently Huntsville City Schools engaged Appleton Learning to evaluate the Program in an effort to identify opportunities for expansion and improvement commensurate with the caliber of educational programs characteristic of Huntsville City Schools,” said Joey Vaughn, Director of Extended Learning for Huntsville City Schools.

During the course of the evaluation process, the opportunities that were identified centered around the idea of transitioning the existing Extended Day Program to a true extended learning environment by incorporating fun, hands-on activities, homework and academic assistance, and access to extracurricular activities such as dance, music, and karate.

After a preliminary evaluation of the existing program and extensive discussions with the school leaders, it became clear that our goal was to identify an effective and innovative way to extend the school day that was both fun for kids and helped improve academic achievement across the district,” said Glenn Clayton, Chief Executive Officer for Appleton Learning. “From this mission, the Afterschool Labs Program was born.”

Length & stage of project

Huntsville Afterschool Labs will launch in Huntsville City Schools February 3, 2014