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South Mountain YMCA Helps Students Enjoy Homework-Free Family Time

Greg Albers/Metropolitan YMCA

Friday, August 22, 2014 • 11:54pm

SOUTH MOUNTAIN, N.J. - With an eye toward freeing up family time, the South Mountain YMCA will begin using Kindle Fire tablets at its after-school programs so schoolchildren can complete their web-based homework before going home.

“Helping students complete their online math and literacy assignments will remove the stress of having to get homework done during family time,’’ said Eric Stoddard, the South Mountain Y’s senior program director.

The 40 students enrolled at the Civic House will be the first to use Kindle Fires to log into the website of The School District of South Orange & Maplewood and access their assignments. If the technology pilot proves successful, the Y will implement it at additional sites later this year and next, Stoddard said.

The effort comes in response to requests from parents, many of whom commute to New York City for work and have limited time in the evenings to spend with their children, Stoddard said.

The South Mountain Y, one of six branches of the Metropolitan YMCA of the Oranges, provides before- and after-school care to more than 700 children in Maplewood and South Orange at nine locations. The Metro YMCA serves 738 children at 38 after-school locations, which all run curricula in nutrition and physical activity.

Several other enhancements will debut at the Civic House in September, Stoddard said. It will serve third through fifth graders only, with children in lower grades attending the program at the Y’s main building on Jefferson Avenue in Maplewood.

“Studies have shown that grouping children by age and encouraging physical activity maximize their ability to learn,’’ Stoddard said. “By separating the older children from the younger children, we can challenge the older group and give them more ‘voice and choice’ with programming while also providing a well-rounded, age-appropriate program for the younger group.’’

The Y will take advantage of the Civic House’s location inside Maplewood’s Memorial Park to run more outdoor games such as soccer, basketball, Frisbee and creative play, he said.

The Civic House will also become a laboratory for budding scientists.  The South Mountain Y will use the successful Afterschool Science Plus curriculum, which is designed to pique children’s interest in science, technology, engineering and math (known collectively as STEM) through fun, hands-on experiments. The STEM curriculum will be rolled out to all nine locations during the year, Stoddard said.

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