For some local children, learning doesn’t end when school isn’t in session.

The University of Idaho Extension Office and 4H program have been utilizing non-school days to keep children engaged with STEM based learning.

The program is called Ignite Your Spark and is scheduled during school holidays or professional development days during the week. The program usually runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Milling Center building.

During that time students are exposed to a variety of different projects that are hands on and within the fields of mathematics or science.

Coordinator, Polly Grasham, said the program has been useful for students from school districts throughout the area.

“Our goal was to provide something for non-school days and the children can can still do learning. It’s been pretty great so far because we have gotten kids from the Heyburn Elementary, Kootenai School District, the private school and event home-schooled children.”

Earlier this year the University of Idaho extension office received $80,000 in federal funding through Idaho Health and Welfare to support a community program to address learning loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money is for use between September 1, 2021 through July 31, 2022.

“This program is to address education learning loss and to provide activities that support student learning and socio-emotional development,” extension educator Gail Silkwood said in a previous interview. “We plan to have the educational opportunities outside of school time which includes holiday breaks, weekends and afters school.”

Silkwood said the age range they are focusing on is who she sees was affected most by not being able to attend a large chunk of the 2019-2020 school year due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

Grasham said so far the children have gotten to do hands on projects that include making and working with polymers, learning about soundwaves, doing engineering projects by testing how much weight a straw can hold between two chairs and more.

“Children tend to learn best when doing hands on projects and they learn about the scientific process,” Grasham said. “When we work on these projects and fail we get more more information and it teaches the kids to try again.”

The program costs $20 a day and that pays for snacks and supplies for projects. Grasham said longer programs are planned for Thanksgiving and winter break as well with the week-long winter program slated to cost $70.

She said the group also hopes to schedule some outside activities for spring as well.

Those who want to help help run the program are also in luck as the University of Idaho extension office seeks to hire one more person for the Ignite Your Spark program.

For more information on how to enroll your child or to apply for a position, call the extension office at 208-245-2422.

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