Story and photos by Jo Mathis
AAPS District News Editor
Lakewood Elementary art teacher Peggy Leonard and media specialist Eileen Thomas hated to think that the gains made by students enrolled in the school’s twice-a-week Homework Club could backslide during the summer.
So the two volunteered to lead a program called “Art with a Story” that continues the Homework Club held at Orchard Grove Village, a manufactured home community off Wagner Road.
“Art with a Story” is held on Thursday afternoons throughout the summer, and focuses on art and literacy.
During the first minutes of the hour-long class, which runs through July, Thomas reads a story, and then Leonard leads an art project.
“We started it the week after school got out and we’ve had 10 to 12 kids every time,” said Leonard. “We’ve had a good time.”
About a dozen children show up in the business office at the complex, which community manager Patrice Du Bose has opened up for the programs. During the school year, there is space for a small computer lab, and about 20 students show up.
Courtney Runchey, mother of Lakewood students Connor and Morgan, has seen the success of the weekly Homework Club, and was happy that it continues during the summer.
“Homework fights (at home) have disappeared,” said Runchey. “Before, it was like pulling teeth to get them to do homework. Now they come and see that everyone’s doing their homework, and everyone’s doing it together.”
She said many of the kids in the neighborhood don’t have much to do when their parents are working all day in the summer.
“So this gives them something to do,” said Runchey, whose daughter, Morgan, loved making a clay turtle the week before.
The Homework Club is supported by SIP (School Improvement Plan) money, and is the realization of a longtime dream to have such a program at Orchard Grove Village. The summer program is done strictly on a volunteer basis.
“I am so pleased that teachers care so much about our students that they will volunteer their time during the summer to maintain the good relationships they foster during the school year,” said Lakewood Principal Michelle Seals. “Mrs. Leonard and Mrs. Thomas are classic examples of good teachers in Ann Arbor.”
Thomas said she’s happy to volunteer her time because building relationships is important. And because everyone has a good time.
“It’s fun to have fun together, and if we have fun together, then we do better teaching and learning in the fall and the winter,” she said.
Leonard’s son, Tyler, 21, is also a volunteer.
“I’m a lunchroom supervisor at Lakewood, so I know some of these guys and I just like hanging out and helping them, having fun,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea because it gives them something to do over the summer and keeps them involved in the school.”