MACHIAS, Maine — The Maine Seacoast Mission’s Cherryfield-based EdGE program, which offers after-school activities for students, is expanding to the Rose M. Gaffney Elementary School in Machias, beginning Feb. 25.
Since 2002, EdGE has been providing students in Washington and Hancock counties with after-school and summer programs that include visual and performing arts projects, leadership training, science and technology workshops, skill-building in math and language arts, and outdoor activities.
EdGE programs are already in place in six Washington County elementary schools and the Narraguagus High School in Cherryfield. Two Hancock County schools — Peninsula School in Prospect Harbor and Mountain View School in Sullivan — also host EdGE activities.
The program, short for Ed Greaves Education, is named after the late Ed Greaves, a wealthy summer resident of Addison. He endowed the program after seeing how few activities were available to Down East school-age children.
The expansion of the program into Machias is being funded through a $660,000 federal grant from the 21st Century Fund that will be allocated over five years to provide staff and resources required for the program’s educational activities. In Machias, EdGE activities will be offered 2:30-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday at no cost to students.
During a typical afternoon, students in Machias will be provided a healthy snack before participating in an opening activity designed to promote team building.
Rose M. Gaffney teachers paid by the program will facilitate homework labs and small group tutoring sessions, offering teachers and students opportunities to strengthen their relationships. EdGE teachers and staff will oversee as many as seven different group enrichment and fitness activities that include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, basketball, ultimate Frisbee and soccer. Arts activities include drama, dance, sculpture, pottery and painting. Science and technology activities include Lego robotics, and digital photography and video instruction.
Each EdGE session ends with students playing a group game, discussing their projects and often holding demonstrations for the larger group.
“We had been running our own program for 13 to 14 years, initially under our own 21st Century Fund grant, but that money dried up,” said Mitch Look, the elementary school’s principal. “We kept it going with the help of donations from local businesses, but that money started dwindling. So we had to charge more than we wanted to — $20 a week per student — which is prohibitive for some families.”
Look said EdGE program officials approached the school about hosting a new program there.
“The timing was perfect,” Look said Thursday. “Not only is this a free program, but it runs until 5 p.m., whereas we used to go only until 4:30, which is less convenient for parents who work. This program also provides transportation home for the kids, which we couldn’t do before, and there were some kids who weren’t able to attend because of that.”
Parents of the 350 students who attend the pre-K-through-grade-8 school were offered EdGE program applications and invitations to an informational meeting.
“So far we have 140 applications that have come back,” Look said. “It appears that about half the school will be involved. This will be the only EdGE program that provides activities for pre-K through third grade students. Their programs are usually limited to students in grades four through 8, so this is something new for them as well.”
Look said the program that starts later this month will end when school is out in May, but that EdGE plans to offer four weeks of summer programming, both at the school and off-site.
“Among the summer program activities they do is a one-day ‘passport camp,’ where kids learn about other cultures, from their history to their cuisine,” Look said. “They will be doing that here at our school.”