Drake Library provides wholesome after-school alternative

Every other Wednesday, youngsters and their parents alike can find solace at the Drake Community Library—at least for a few hours. The new program called the Drake After School Happenings (DASH) features a fun and safe after-school program for children in grades three to six and provides an educational and enjoyable environment for elementary and middle school students on their early-out Wednesdays.

Drake Library - DASH Program

A group of kids gathered around for DASH activities at Drake Community Library on Wednesday - Aaron Barker

DASH, formed this September, holds sessions every first and third Wednesday of the month when students from Davis Elementary School and Grinnell Middle School have early dismissal days. The previous program for kids at the library was called Saturday Spotlight, which was discontinued due to dwindling attendance and lack of library staff to coordinate it. As an after-school program, DASH aims to overcome these problems with its main objective of providing children with a way to release their energy after sitting all day in school.

Furthermore, the program encourages productivity when the kids usually have nothing to do on early dismissal days, according to Brenda McDonald, program coordinator and leader. Without a program like DASH, “[The kids] sit around at home and play video games and watch TV,” she said.

Each session consists of a different educational theme, with various activities centered on each theme. The first session, which was on Sept. 1, consisted of penny science experiments that the kids conducted themselves.

McDonald recalled the commotion in the library when 35 kids showed up to the first session instead of 15 to 20 kids as she had expected.

“[It was] very, very busy and chaotic—but ultimately a learning experience,” McDonald said. “Twice as many kids showed up than we predicted so we felt unprepared and overwhelmed. Most of the kids had fun, but it was really chaotic because we didn’t structure the program for that many kids.”

Despite the overwhelming and hectic nature of the first session, the reactions of the kids and parents have been positive.

“I really liked that we have snacks and watch movies,” said Sloan Volkman, an attendee of age 10. “Me too,” chimed in his younger brother Parker, 8.

Their mother, Diane, also praised the program.

“I like that there’s a quiet, structured and safe place for them to go,” she said. “I’m glad that [Sloan and Parker] could be together and it’s just great that they can be at the library so they can check out books!”

In the future, McDonald hopes to have different activities at each program so that children with different learning styles can each do what they want. The library staff also expects upcoming programs to be more organized. “Next session we will divide the kids into groups so not all of them are here at the same time,” McDonald said.

The library staff hopes that the community gets more involved in the DASH program. “We are always looking for people with skills that they can demonstrate to the kids, like magic, juggling or hacky sack,” McDonald said.

Individuals interested in the DASH program can contact Brenda McDonald at the Drake Library or e-mail her at brenda@grinelliowa.gov.