At Universal American School, we have been running our learning enrichment after-school program (LEAP) program from Elementary to Grade 6 since September 2019.
What is LEAP all about?
LEAP is a bespoke after-school program for all Elementary and Grade 6 students. Through LEAP, students can participate in sports and after-school activities, be supported individually with academics, build relationships, and have fun!
The purpose of the LEAP program is to create a personalized extended day for students, based on their individual needs and goals. Through close collaboration with parents and homeroom teachers, the LEAP program sets goals and design meaningful learning experiences specifically for each student. Whether our learners need to be challenged academically, or additional support in a specific subject, LEAP has it covered!
(Ms. Rianne Fox, Elementary School Principal)
Personalized learning goals and success
The main reason behind LEAP’s success so far is the personalized aspect of the program. LEAP has proven to be very beneficial for our students since all their learning goals are personalized. The parents share their goals for their child, and these individual goals are then developed with the students, the homeroom, and the LEAP teacher. The LEAP teachers are in close contact with the homeroom teachers who tell them everything they need to know about each student and their individual learning needs.
On the social-emotional side, LEAP also adds a lot of benefits through a strong and collaborative team of teachers. The homeroom teacher can alert the LEAP colleague about students who might have had a bad day and need extra help or attention during the LEAP afterschool program.
LEAP is a great setting for those of our students who need extra help when it comes to developing social skills and building friendships. With LEAP, we have created a learning environment that stimulates social skills for our students and makes them feel comfortable so they can communicate and play with their friends – and make new friends, too.
There is also a strong physical element to LEAP. Instead of going home to sit with their iPads or TV, students can be active in a new setting and spend time with their friends while engaging in both extra sports and physical learning activities.
LEAP – uncovering hidden talents and skills
LEAP offers wonderful cross-grade level bonds to be formed between your younger and older students from school. Some of the “specialist” students in Grade 12 can act as role models and instructors for certain learning activities, for instance for music, and thereby create a whole new social and academic connection. This way, our older students become both excellent role models and “leaders” for our younger students, adding value and great experiences for both parties in this dynamic learning setting. Through LEAP, we are able to discover both hidden talents and hidden confidence in all our students. Some of our students display “transformed” behavior in the LEAP setting and reveal new skills and personality traits that are then reported to the homeroom teachers.
LEAP also creates a stimulating learning environment where our students can both play with their friends and find time to work on their Passion Projects. Passion Projects are investigative activities focusing on something the child is working on or interested in. The Passion Projects are driven by students’ interests in particular topics. For instance, if the student is really interested in learning about more about space, we can stimulate that interest and create a Passion Project about space. The LEAP teachers will then facilitate project-based learning around the project where the student can read, research, plan, and design their Passion Project. Over time, the students apply their research skills to develop their LEAP Passion Projects. Sometimes new friendships develop when LEAP students discover they have similar interests or Passion Projects, so these projects are also important for developing social skills.
With LEAP, we enrich everything we already do through our homeroom teachers during the day through our PYP framework.
Added flexibility for parents
LEAP attracts students and parents who are looking for added flexibility both at school and at home. For instance, if parents are working late, LEAP can be customized to solve that challenge. The LEAP program also creates quality home time for our families rather than worrying about other things related to schoolwork. In this way, LEAP is a great service to our school that also has resulted in happy students who are returning to the program each academic year.
Research shows that students who participate in after school programs show improvement in the following areas:
- Academic achievement
- Social and emotional development
- Overall health and wellness
The LEAP program also:
- Builds stronger academic, social, and emotional foundation for students
- Builds endurance for learning
- Engages students in various activities that support their regular classroom learning
- Some examples include long-term STEAM projects, 1:1 music and language lessons, hands-on activities with high-school IB students, gardening activities, and supervised homework
The feedback we have received from both parent and teachers has been really good. We have also grown to offer the program from PreK-Grade 5 to also include Grade 6 due to increased demand from our students. The current retention rate for our LEAP program is above 90%.
“Both my kids are having an amazing time attending LEAP and LEAP Junior. My son is in LEAP Junior, and he is super happy and comes home every day with a big smile on his face, wanting to share how he spent his time in LEAP Jr. My older daughter is also so happy and well supported academically on a very high level while everyone treats her with so much love and care.”
Our teachers also appreciate the special teaching community that LEAP has created at UAS:
“What’s really special about the leap program is that it is like a family. Your children will be a part of a program that is supportive, tight-knit, and builds their confidence and social skills.”