It’s a busy Tuesday at the Green Room. As Dan Sullivan, site coordinator, explains the different offerings each day of the week, he fields a steady stream of questions from adults and students starting their afterschool day. All are quickly answered and everyone moves to the day’s activities.
The Green Room at Greenfield High School is one of thirteen 21st Century Community Learning Center after school and summer programs run by the Collaborative for Educational Services (CES), in Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties. The Green Room day starts at dismissal, when students sign in, get a snack, and decompress from the day of classes. During this first hour, each student also fills out a homework help ticket and checks grades online with the assistance of homework help center Program Leader Lisa Dusell. This check in time lends itself to an organic discussion about any particular work a student might want to focus on that day.
Students then settle in to the various rooms for their choice of focus for the afternoon. Tuesdays offer Esports, Gamesmithing (tabletop gaming) choices and Barbells. Each semester’s options may change depending on what the students’ interests are. Some students are at the Green Room all year, others step away when a particular sport season or other commitment starts.
Students make suggestions about what might be offered – Esports is a great example of this – In the summer of 2019 a rising senior emailed the superintendent with an impassioned plea to have Esports at the school, explaining that it was a burgeoning interscholastic activity with career pathways, noting the social and emotional learning and STEM ties, and the possibility of scholarships for college esports teams. The request received the approval of the Superintendent, who moved it via the Principal to Sullivan in August of 2019. At his first DESE meeting, Sullivan was asked about what students were initiating, and he shared the Esports story, generating excitement from all attending. One of the DESE team assisted in the growth of Esports at the Green Room by connecting Sullivan The North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF) a non profit organization with the goal of helping schools to strengthen their esports programs with focus on “esports as a platform to develop STEAM-based skills and social emotional attributes such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving abilities needed to thrive in work and in life.” This was perfect timing, as the next school year saw schools shut down due to the pandemic.
“The thing that I’m really proud of, is that we had Esports and gamesmithing and they converted to virtual tabletop Role20.org so easily during Covid. It is similar to Google classroom where everyone can just log into that person’s map and there’s a chat option which was monitored by an adult…our campaign just moved on to virtual. So when nothing else was happening in school we were still going. “ The DESE team saw this and encouraged other schools throughout Massachusetts to mirror this program, and even suggested other facilitators call Sullivan for his advice.
Sullivan brings deep experience working with students and as a counselor to his work at the Green Room, having worked as a social worker for over 10 years including time at an therapeutic after school program. After this, he “really decided to mix things up” by signing up for the outdoor leadership program at Greenfield Community College. This 9 month intensive brought multiple certifications once complete. He then spent a year in Connecticut at The Wilderness School – A Connecticut DCF program which was on an outward bound model. On Wednesdays, he pulls from these certifications and leads Rock Climbing for Green Room participants at a climbing site in South Hadley.
The previous instructional leader at the Green Room had been a classmate at the Outdoor Leadership Program, and he hired Sullivan to run a one day team building program outdoors for students. And it perfectly lined up after that as he loved the work, and when the position of instructional leader opened up, he felt it was a great fit for his experience and skill set.
According to Chris Taggart, Director of the 21st Century Learning Programs at CES, of the thirteen 21st Century Learning programs run by CES, 11 have been designated “Exemplary” and the last two are only in their first cycle, so can’t yet be considered for this status. The program at Greenfield High School was renewed by DESE as a 21st Century Learning “Demonstration” site in 2022. The highest quality level a 21st Century Learning Program site can achieve is that of the ‘Demonstration’ site. A Demonstration site has excelled at multiple levels of programming and there are only a handful of Demonstration sites in the state of Massachusetts. These sites also act as mentors that can provide technical assistance and coaching to other after school programs.
An additional Special Education grant (the SPED 245 Grant) gives the Green Room a behaviorist on staff, adding to the strength of the program, and better ability to serve students who may need to work on social skills and working with others in a group setting. “So many times we are the only place they can practice social skills where they can fail, because this is a safe place to learn about failing without a big audience”, noted Celeste Lunt, the on staff behaviorist. Lunt also leads staff training focusing on current best practices for behavioral interventions, and builds specific action plans for students who need them. “This allows us to enroll much higher needs students and has earned us a great reputation with school faculty and administrators. Because of this, the Green Room is very often mentioned in IEP meetings and we often get referrals from the guidance and adjustment counselors,” says Sullivan.
On this Tuesday, some students move to Gamesmithing. Program Leader Anna Hartmann works with students playing Poetry for Neanderthals, a tabletop game which exercises students’ ELA skills and a large plastic inflatable club. There is a great deal of laughter and shouting of words in this room. A second Gamesmithing room has multiple students focused intently on a classic and complicated Dungeons & Dragons set up. Students intently focus on the game. Students play individually at screens in another room, while the fourth room finds the Esports team – Students are broken into two smaller teams, both playing matches online against a high school in Virginia. Sullivan observes, sharing comments from the Virginia school’s team and adult leader as they post on his screen. The students remain focused, but respond positively to each comment. The room erupts in happy noise as the Green Room team wins the matches.
Taggart notes of the team at GHS, “The learning staff at Green Room is inspirational. The program is designed to be student centered giving all participants multiple entry points for learning.” Sullivan concludes that “The Green Room offers what students are willing to do, what they are interested in, what they have passion for, what they dream of doing.”
Learn more about the Collaborative for Educational Services 21st Century Community Learning Center and other After School programs here.
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