Powerhouse Science Center with a host of partners will offer an academic and social enrichment program called Learning Lab this school year aimed at K-12 students who are spending at least part of the week remote learning at home.
Jeff Susor, interim executive director of the Powerhouse, said when he realized more than 2,500 students in La Plata County would be spending some time behind computers at home this fall, he contacted partner nonprofits the science center has worked with offering summer programs for students. He wanted to see if a fall program could be assembled on the fly.
“The response was overwhelmingly positive. We basically put this together in five weeks,” he said.
Learning Lab will be five separate sessions, each session lasting about four weeks. Students will assemble in appropriate age-group cohorts for a full-day program split into a half day of academic support with a teacher present and a half day with students participating in enrichment activities.
The first session will start Sunday and the fifth and final session will start April 26.
Enrichment activities will be provided by Powerhouse partners – for example, visual art and theater classes will be led by Durango Arts Center and bicycle and mountain bike rides will be handled by Durango DEVO.
In total, the Powerhouse is working with 11 different nonprofits to support Learning Lab and the academic and social enrichment programs offered to students.
Some groups involved in Learning Lab will be Alpine Aerial Acrobatics, DAC, Durango Dance, Durango DEVO, The Hive, iAM MUSIC, Mountain Studies Institute, Nifty Nanny, Seed Studio and Stillwater Music.
“We started talking to parents, educators, the partner groups we work with, and we got really positive feedback for this,” Susor said. “I think I emailed people the last week of September, and we kind of put the program together in five weeks. There were just so many partners interested in participating in this. And we’ll be adding partners that maybe can’t participate immediately but they can down the road, in a month or two.”
The sessions will cost $50 a day, but financial aid is available that will cover 90% of the cost for students eligible for free or reduced lunch or 40% of the cost for children from families with incomes up to two times the poverty level, Susor said.
Five separate sessions are planned to run from October through May 2021. A registration page online has been created and it will soon be followed with a full website, Susor said.
Julie Popp, spokeswoman with Durango School District 9-R, said the district is loaning furniture to the Powerhouse for use in the Learning Lab, which will initially be in the Powerhouse, but in about a week should move into rented space devoted to the program in the nearby Riverhouse Center.
In addition, Alpine Bank and the Durango Educational Foundation provided computers for the Learning Lab.
Brenda Macon, executive director of DAC, said, “This went from an idea to reality pretty quickly because everybody was so excited about it, how we could help the kids.”
DAC will provide half day sessions about the visual arts and theater arts to students as part of the half day of enrichment activities offered to students to complement academic studies.
Learning Lab students will have an array of activities offered to them by Powerhouse’s partners.
Amy Haggart, Durango DEVO development director, said her organization has a long history collaborating with the Powerhouse – creating a cycling program that combines rides with classes looking at the physics and mechanics of bicycles and motion.
“There’s just such a need for kids to get out and do extracurricular stuff and be with peers and mentors, to get away from the computer, and get out on a bike,” she said. “So we’re really happy that we can do that in our community and really help parents and kids out.”