Counselors arrive at Parts and Crafts at around 8:50. They lock up their bikes, turn on the lights, make themselves some coffee, tea, and putter around. They look at the schedule and check in with each other’s plans. Kids arrive between 9 and 9:30 and typically immediately start playing board games, computer games, playing with Scratch, hanging out on the couches chatting with staff and each other. A handful of kids have math tutorials scheduled, and they sit down on the couch to get started with them before the rest of the day gets going.
By 9:30 most of the kids have arrived and the parents have left and people are talking, playing games, reading, generally hanging out. There are about 20 kids and 5 staff from Parts and Crafts, some of whom are hanging out or helping kids with projects, and some of whom are planning or doing class prep or writing emails, making phone calls, organizing logistics,, and generally keeping our small ship afloat. Some parents leave immediately upon dropoff to work, others stick around briefly to chat and check in or sit in on meeting.
Morning Meeting: 9:30-9:45
At around 9:30 we’l have a brief morning meeting to talk about what everyone’s various plans for the day are. Meeting is divided into two sections: “schedule” and “announcements.
First, announcements — “don’t clean up our game of Ticket To Ride, we’re planning on finishing it right aftter meeting” and “The Red Sox won last night!” and “we have a visitor this morning let’s introduce ourselves!” Usually there are a handful of informational announcements and a handful of silly ones before we move things along to scheduling.
Schedule primarily consists of going over the preplanned schedule for the day, which we determined in one of our class-brainstorms. Today we have a computer programming class on computational modelling and simulatons
called “Modelling the World” and a history/current events class on the Civil Rights movement and its echoes in contemporary America. In addition to the formal schedule, though, kids will announce things they’re planning on
spending the morning doing — “I’m making origami dragons!” or “I’m trying to find four people to play bughouse chess!” and “I’m looking for players to join my Dungeons and Dragons game.”
Morning Workshops: 9:45-11:15 am
At 9:45 we break for classes and workshops. Today there are two of them: “Modelling the World” at the upstairs whiteboard where we’re working on programming simple spring+particle physics simulations in Java/Processing, and “Civil Rights” downstairs focusing on mass incarceration and the war on drugs. Modelling the World is a project-based programming class where we’re all working on building a computational framework for certain kinds of physics simulations, and consists mostly of writing code together. Civil Rights class is usually a combination of formal presentation and informal, seminar-style discussion.. Some topics and projects are more conducive to independent-study, some more conducive to groupwork and collective discussion, and we try to let the particular topics (and the particular personalities and interests of the participants) dictate the study-format.
We break for lunch at 11:15. Lunchtime is an hour long, and is the time that we’ve set aside for certain kinds of activities that we’ve decided, for various reasons, we want to limit in some way: at the moment this is primarily playing video games, but it could be anything that we think is worth making time for, but in danger of taking over the culture of the space and crowding out more various activities.
After lunchtime we have an afternoon meeting. It takes much the same form as morning meeting — announcements and then schedule — but afterwards we have a midday “5-minute clean” which can take as little as 2 minutes or as long as 20 based on what needs to get cleaned up and how earnestly and effectively everyone cleans.
Unfortunately, this afternoon there’s a lot of milling around and goofing off and general refusal to clean during cleanup time. After a bunch of initially friendly and increasingly exasperated attempts to get everyone cleaning, one of the staff members has had enough, and calls a council meeting.
A council meeting is our catch-all final conflict resolution procedure. If anyone in the space has a problem that they can’t solve on their own, they can either call a justice league meeting or a council meeting. A council meeting is generally called for a problem that involves “the whole space”, whereas a justice league meeting is generally called for a problem that is between a small number of individuals.
For a council meeting, everyone has to drop what they’re doing and sit in a circle and participate in a facilitated group-meeting until we figure out a way to solve the problem that the group finds fair, effective, and satisfying. People resent council-meetings so there’s strong social pressure not to cause them. But people cause them anyway, of course. So we dutifully sit down and talk over the problem and cleanup time happens and life goes on.
Justice league meetings are very similar, but involve a smaller subset of the space — everyone involved in the problem, plus whoever happens to be “on the justice league” — a kind of rotating jury-duty consisting at all times of one staff member and 3 kids.
Afternoon Workshops: 12:15-2:00 pm
Afternoon workshops are much like mornings ones. If the weather is pleasant we will usually take a group of kids outside to the park to run around and play for an hour or so. This afternoon there is a short trip to the park (it’s drizzling), a debate class, and a field trip to SCATV — the Somerville Community Access Television station in Union Square where we are using their film equipment and green screen to film some scenes for _Parts and Spacecrafts_ the movie that we’ve spent a lot of the year working on.
End of Day/Read-Aloud 2:00-2:45 pm
After the second workshop period, before the end of the day, we have about 45 minutes where we usually do something low-key and pleasant and relaxing — usually reading a book out loud or watching a documentary. This afternoon we’re watching a the first half of the “Shallow Seas” episode of David Attenburough’s _Planet Earth_.
And then it’s the end of the day. We make more coffee. Pick-up and drop-off both provide ample opportunity for parents and teachers to connect and talk about questions, concerns, enthusiasms, and just generally stay in touch. Kids from other schools who come to afterschool start to arrive and CSCL kids who aren’t staying for afterschool depart. We set up a project for afterschool based on whatever the theme of the day is, and tomorrow we do it all again.