Step inside a random classroom and you could find students solving in depth math problems, sculpting a clay mask, learning a new ballet dance, playing soccer or volleyball, programing robots for LEGO League, or performing a new number on a xylophone.
Jacksonville Country Day School offers a variety of after school enrichment programs tailored to introducing children to a variety of academic, athletic, and artistic disciplines. Fourteen total programs are offered for the spring term as well as three additional musical lesson options by appointment.
Four of these programs begin at 1:30 p.m. and are designed for PreK-4 through Kindergarten students. However, Playball is an option for PreK-3 children through Kindergarten. Playball focuses on fine and gross motor skill development, movement, listening, ball skills, sportsmanship, and teamwork. Soccer is also offered for both boys and girls every Wednesday at 1:30 in the cafeteria.
The enrichment program has flourished over the last eight years with over 100 students participating in an after school program of their choice taught by a highly trained staff. Plans for the future include growing the competitive athletic program, improving the existing programs, and gaining participation all around.
JCDS has even gone so far as to cultivate an independent schools sports league called the North Florida Independent Schools Athletic Conference (NFISAC) to help foster athletic development in the community.
Auxiliary Services Director Drew Upchurch believes introducing students to a variety of activity options is crucial to their development going forward.
“Making the after school programs an extension of the school day brings an added value to an already great curriculum,” said Upchurch.
He added, “The forward thinking put into these programs not only develops our students for the future, but teaches important life lessons along the way.”
Two main programs offered for students at early dismissal time, mainly Pre-K 4 and Kindergarten students, are Art Sharks and Dance.
The Art Sharks aim to give students a positive art experience and build on what the children have learned in their daytime art class. They get introduced to new mediums of art, and learn good habits like clean up and taking care of their tools, skills that can’t be heavily stressed in a short class time.
Alli Flores, one of the Art Sharks teachers, says this program is very beneficial for pre primary school students.
“Their motor skills improve leaps and bounds and they get better and better the more time spent doing art, even if it’s only one extra time per week,” explained Flores.
The benefits of Art Sharks make it an enticing program for parents with younger children. They give students the opportunity to grow and gain experience above their grade level, they’re empowered with their own tools and are in a smaller group size with more emphasis on individual attention, and they incorporate literature and more in depth mediums like clay and cutting skills.
Another program offered for the younger ages is dance. Many different dance classes happen throughout the week including ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, and cheerleading.
Dance has been at JCDS for nine years and they have two recitals per year, one in the winter and one in the spring. Children as young as Pre-K 3 participate in the recitals. Pre-K 3 students are offered a creative movement class where they learn the beginning steps of ballet and dance.
Lead dance instructor Emily Gray shows a great passion for the art form. She explains the goals of the program are to most importantly learn to love dance while mastering technique.
“We want to foster a fun, feel good place where kids, both girls and boys, can come to dance with their friends from school and find a passion within the art,” said Gray.
Many students are involved in multiple classes. The students practice in the Smith Center and perform their recital in the auditorium, which gives that added benefit and comfort of doing it all in a familiar, safe place.
These programs build on so many strong elements that prepare children for a bright future. JCDS excels in extending the school day into a school wide fun learning experience beyond the classroom.