Play More, Learn More: After School at MCDS
By Maggie Pilloton, Kite Writer/Editor

Play more.

That’s what PM, MCDS's after-school program for students in grades K-4, stands for. It’s the PM motto, but it also applies to MCDS's other after-school programs. In ASAP, the after-school enrichment program, and in Forte, the after-school music program, we also believe in the power and impact of play.

The benefits and lessons learned from play are endless. Maggie Pilloton, PM Lead, explains, “PM stands for Play More for a reason. In after school, we highly value play, as messy as it can be sometimes. It encourages kids to be active, be creative, try new things, meet new people, use their imaginations, and have fun. And those are all powerful characteristics of an after-school program.”

In after school, the mission is to ensure that our students are having fun. We provide the students with many different opportunities and options in order to establish this across all of our programs.

Heather Nunn, the Director of After-School Programs, describes this very notion, “If you walked through the after-school neighborhood on any given day, you might see students making potions in the art room, working on their balancing skills at ASAP’s Gymnastics class, learning to play the piano in a Forte music lesson, playing dodgeball on the playground, or playing the board game HeadBandz. You will see joy and hear laughter when you walk through​ after school at MCDS.”

As Heather said, when we hear laughter and see joy across campus after school, we know it’s been a good day. Our after-school programs at MCDS are more than a place for students to go once they finish their school days. After school is a community. We take our community values and teaching practices from during the day and provide a smooth transition into the next part of a student’s day.

The fun in after school extends across the community. The students aren’t the only ones having fun. The after-school teachers are committed to engaging in play with the kids, and that is highly beneficial. When the adults in after school are having fun, the students are having fun. Whether we’re playing tag with the students, showing them an exciting new art project, or playing a board game with them, we want to enrich the students’ after-school experience and make it memorable. 

A regular PM parent said about the after-school team, "PM is a necessity for our working family but has become one of our favorite parts of MCDS. It’s not just a typical after-school program. The kids are engaged in activities they love by the most awesome, loving, and fun group of staff. It’s clear they take pride in the program, and we all benefit from their care of our kids!"

The after-school team is tightly knit and are all incredibly dedicated to providing a safe, fun environment for everyone involved. We work together, we have fun with the kids, and we have fun with each other. That’s a recipe for success. 

As PM Coordinator Lauren Williams explains, “The teachers help to create a great program not only for myself but for every student involved. Their ability to coach and guide students in such a natural and comfortable way is inspiring to me. Our students see the teachers in after-school enjoying themselves, teaching subjects they are passionate about, playing games, and not being afraid to make mistakes. This energy is contagious and allows our students to learn by example.”

In after school, the teachers are able to develop unique, special relationships with the students since we are with them for five years. We also are able to connect with the students on a different level since their interactions are more play-based and outside of the classroom.

For an after-school blog posts last year, the after-school team asked the students what some of their favorite parts of after school were. Some of their favorite activities included “playing basketball every day,” “playing tag with my friends,” or “scooter races.” Some of their favorite memories in PM were events like “the kids vs. staff dodgeball game," "my first Movie Day as a kindergartener,” or “Root Beer Float Day!” And some mentioned their teachers as a favorite part of after school: “helping in Maggie’s basketball class” or "hanging out with the PM teachers."

When describing PM, the students also said, "PM is a place where I feel comfortable. You get to do many fun things and explore the outdoors." And "I love getting to play with the older kids, and the people who take care of us are super nice!"

Our after-school programs are a special part of our community. After school is a safe place where we foster creativity, learning, positive socialization, mindfulness, and our community values of curiosity, empathy, and action. Students learn the power of being in a community. As teachers, we see the magic that can happen after school on a daily basis. 

PM Art teacher Shannon Brady perfectly summed up the after-school programs by saying, “There is something so magical to me about a program designed to enhance kids' learning, inspire creativity, and teach positive socialization. As a child, I grew up attending extracurriculars and after-school programs. School was where I learned how to work with other students, read, engage with different ideas, and focus. After school is where I learned how to be a team player, create games, cultivate friendships with different age groups, and be resilient.”

That is among the many lessons that can be learned in after school.