ABOVE PHOTO: St. Sen. Art Haywood hosted a great back to school celebration in Germantown last weekend, complete with face painting, educational resources, health checks, food and more. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Haywood Facebook page)
By Amy V. Simmons
State Sen. Art Haywood (D – 4th Dist.) recently hosted a “Back to School” celebration at the Recreation Center in Germantown. The event the end of a successful summer camp program and the beginning of the new school year.
“The main thing we wanted from this event was to provide opportunities for kids to be inspired,” Sen. Haywood said.
Attendees were treated to a free lunch and perused the many exhibitors on hand, who provided parents and students with helpful information about educational resources available to them throughout the school year.
The Backstage Barbers offered free haircuts to the young men at the celebration. Sen. Haywood’s Philadelphia community liaison and district representative, Pat Edouard, donned his clippers and helped with the effort.
One of the exhibitors was the Free Library of Philadelphia, who were giving away free books and providing information about school year activities, including the popular Homework Help Online and Literary Enrichment After School LEAP programs. September is also Library Card Signup Month. Those interested can sign up for one at their local neighborhood branch or online at: know.freelibrary.org.
The Literacy Enrichment After-school Program (LEAP) provides homework assistance, computer literacy, and library skills for students in grades K–12, and daily literacy enrichment activities for elementary school students. LEAP operates after school Monday – Thursday from September to June at all Free Library neighborhood libraries and Parkway Central Library, and Tuesday – Friday in the three regional libraries. The program emphasizes literacy in science, technology, and cultural arts.
LEAP also trains and employs seven college students as Associate Leaders and approximately 120-150 high school students as Teen Leadership Assistants (TLAs) to assist library personnel and receive valuable work experience.
Literacy is something that is very important to Sen. Haywood.
“We gave away 1,000 books this summer,” Haywood said. “The Free Library of Philadelphia is a big partner in the rec center reading camps, as well as events like this one here. They [also] have a “Read By 4th” program designed to help kids read at grade level before fourth grade. If they don’t read at grade level by grade four, your chances [of success in life] really go down.”
“What we recognize is that during summer, kids can lose a lot; it is called ‘summer slide,’” Haywood continued, “So, we make sure we have reading instruction during the summer. There are some children that have gone up an entire grade level as a result of this summer camp.”
Adults received wellness checks from Abington Jefferson Health, while children were given a presentation about staying safe at home and outdoors. Ventri Community Partnerships was on hand with their Mobile Teaching Kitchen, where they demonstrated knife safety and the proper way to prepare healthy veggie snacks like carrots, peppers, and cucumbers.
Einstein Hospital also provided information about preventative health, wellness and good nutrition, including a recipe for a delicious, no-bake snack – No Bake Energy Mix — easy enough for children to prepare and full of nutritious ingredients. Parents and children loved the free samples of the treat and were eager to test the recipe at home.
The Academy of Natural Sciences brought an interactive dinosaur touch table exhibit, where participants could handle real fossils and learn all about the creatures who left them behind.
Live animals were also part of the celebration, thanks to the Elmwood Park Zoo and the mammal, bird and reptile presentation. The families were introduced to a snake, a bullfrog, and an owl during the presentation.
Let’s Go Outdoors — a local non-profit which encourages environmental stewardship and outdoor activities — handed out information about its free, three-part touch-point program available to children from third grade and up. The program includes an interactive classroom activity, an outdoor educational activity, culminating in a related field trip. Some of their many partners include the Fairmount Water Works, Awbury Arboretum, Overbrook Environmental Education Center, Friends of the Wissahickon and the Diverse Environmental Speakers Network.
The American Helicopter Institute (AHI) brought “Stubby,” its interactive traveling helicopter. The helicopter — initially used to train U. S. Army pilots — was acquired by AHI in 1998. “Stubby” received its nickname when the aircraft’s rotor blades were shortened by museum volunteers to facilitate handling and transportation. Although it can no longer fly, the control panel and other necessary apparatus work so that students can see how a real helicopter operates. Parents and children alike took turns at the controls, relishing this rare hands-on learning opportunity.
Sen. Haywood’s office is happy to assist parents with referrals to after-school programs and activities throughout the school year.
They can be reached at www.senatorhaywood.com, or by telephone at: (215) 242-8171 (Philadelphia office) or (717) 787-1427 (Harrisburg office).