At TCI, learning extends beyond the classroom. This was the case for twenty middle school students who learned to swim at the Caldwell Community Center, and a group of active middle school students who participated in a weekly yoga class, as well as upper elementary school age students who studied science in an after-school 4-H science program. All of these innovative programs enriched their lives. School Principal, Therese O’Donnell, stated that these activities were important to insure our students were provided experiences similar to those in the local schools and the community and that they received the support they needed to succeed. "Learn by Doing" is the motto of the 4-H Youth Development Program, which has partnered with TCI to empower students to grow and "Make the Best, Better." During a recent after school 4-H class, instructor, Phillipa Myers, explained the science behind a balloon powered vehicle and the students created their own prototype. A combination of cardboard, paper plates and small washers yielded ten cars, which were then lined up in the hallway for a "test drive." Using a balloon inflator, the students, with Ms. Myers’ help, as well as TCI staff, inflated the balloon and attached them to the back of the cars. The clasps on the balloons were released and the pent up air pressure propelled the cars down the hallway. The students beamed with pride at their achievement.
Samara, a peer volunteer who attends the Mount Pleasant Middle School in Livingston, was amazed as well. "I wanted to see how air power could help move the cars and I had fun learning and helping my friends here at TCI. I look forward to being at TCI each week and learning new, cool things that I could tell my friends at my school," said Samara.
In addition to the balloon powered cars, the students made a giant roller coaster, and studied soda science. Next on the list was learning how to wire a house. Ms. Myers, a teacher for over fifteen years, enjoyed teaching using the hands-on approach. She found it to be a successful way for TCI students to easily remember complicated scientific information and to get them interested in other subject areas. Every week at the Caldwell Community Center, Aquatics Director Jessica Blechar, provided group swim lessons to the TCI students in the center. The Director of the Community Center, Robert Paterson, was thrilled to have TCI students. He said that he believes programs like this one put the "COMMUNITY" in the Community Center.
The sessions began with all the students in the class taking a swim test. In order to pass, they had to swim the length of the pool (25 meters) by themselves. After the test, they broke into groups according to ability and spent the first portion of the class learning different swimming techniques. These techniques included arm strokes, ways to align their feet, and special ways to breath. Kick boards helped some students focus on using their feet to swim, and others practiced picking up magnet rings at the bottom of the pool to help them learn how to hold their breath underwater. The students also jumped off a diving board and swam half way across the pool. After such an intense work out, the students got the chance to have some free time in the water and enjoy batting beach balls to each other or just splashing and laughing with one another. Jessica was assisted by additional Caldwell Community Center swim instructors, who were also in the water with the students and certified life guards were present to ensure their safety. TCI staff were also in the water providing students with assistance and support.
TCI is pleased that the Caldwell Community Center has provided such a valuable resource for many of their students. These classes not only taught them to swim, but helped them learn how to interact with unfamiliar people, to listen to authority figures, and to practice locker room etiquette. They will ultimately be able to generalize these skills into their home community.