Coach Temi Bailey with 3rd grade students, AJ Jasilli, Ezra Bodner, and Dov Bodien at basketball club during the after-school program./EPSTEIN HILLEL SCHOOL

Epstein Hillel school after-school program gives kids the chance to grow

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Epstein Hillel school after-school program gives kids the chance to grow

Coach Temi Bailey with 3rd grade students, AJ Jasilli, Ezra Bodner, and Dov Bodien at basketball club during the after-school program./EPSTEIN HILLEL SCHOOL

Epstein Hillel School, the North Shore’s only Jewish day school, has launched a new, revamped after-school program that offers a wide range of clubs, activities and fun learning opportunities for kids of all ages.

The Marblehead day school has had an after-school program for around three years, but last year, Head of School Amy Gold appointed Jessie and Lea Winkler – two sisters who have worked at the school for more than a decade – as the new co-directors of the program.

Since then, the Winklers have been working tirelessly to create a program that not only supports working parents, but also gives the kids enriching educational and social spaces to continue learning and growing, even after the end-of-day bell rings.

Jessie Winkler explained that the after-school program is designed to expand the breadth of experiences that EHS offers its students, providing the opportunity for grades K-8 to play sports including basketball, lacrosse, and soccer, or learn a new skill, such as songwriting, cooking, Minecraft, and more.

“This is an opportunity where kids who are interested in those things can get the experience,” she said.

The program consists of activities ranging from pottery to basketball to the school play. This session (there are three sessions a year with some different offerings each session) there are nearly a dozen different options scheduled on different days of the week, including the daily option of “Homework” or “Free Play” – less structured options for kids who aren’t interested in the available activities.

This year, the first year of the revamped program, there are 68 kids registered. Forty students participate in one club per week, and 28 participate in 2-4 clubs per week.

Cassie Bruner, a longtime EHS parent, has two daughters in the after-school program. Right now, they are enrolled in “Yoga and Mindfulness” and “Be in a Band: Music and Songwriting.” Bruner says that the updated program has been a game-changer for both parents and kids.

“I think it’s magical for families with young kids,” she said, noting it can be hard to know where to bring small children for after-school supervision. “Being at school with the same safe, warm teachers and keeping them in that same environment is such a win.”

For her girls, who are 10 and 12, the songwriting/band club has been particularly influential. “I think it’s helped them build confidence,” Bruner said. “They’ve worked with other kids in the grade above. There’s a professional person that teaches these classes, so they really learn some skills. I think they are life skills – instruments and music is a life skill that not everybody gets.”

That’s another boon of the program – the instructors. Ranging from outside professionals to EHS teachers to even some parents, each club or activity is supervised or taught by an experienced adult.

Eva Mintz is one of these instructors, and an EHS parent. Along with Upper School Hebrew and Jewish Studies Teacher Miri Sharon, Mintz teaches the ever-popular pottery course in the after-school program. Mintz has been a potter for most of her life, and she loves being able to share her passion for ceramics with her kids and their peers. When the program began at EHS, they purchased a brand-new pottery wheel, which the students have gotten the chance to learn how to use.

“The kids have been super into it,” she says. “We try and really keep it interesting and relevant to them.”

Each week Sharon and Mintz come to their Thursday sessions (one each for the upper and lower school kids) with a set project in mind. They give a demonstration, and then kids go from there, taking advantage of what Mintz says is “the opportunity to use their own creativity, and their own unique ideas as well.”

Most of the projects also have some kind of Jewish theme or idea attached – for Passover this past month, the kids made Seder plates that they glazed and then fired in the kiln that EHS was gifted several years ago. They’ve made kiddush cups for Shabbat; menorahs and dreidels for Hanukkah; apple and honey dishes for Rosh Hashanah; and even a ceramic floral wall hanging for Tu Bishvat.

“Miri and I have had a shared goal not only to teach pottery skills to students but to help imbue a love and understanding for Jewish values and traditions through the creation of their unique and creative ritual items,” said Mintz. “It’s a really exciting opportunity for them to make their own pottery and use them with their families as well.”

Said Winkler: “I think it’s a good way for kids to explore those different interests outside of the school day.” Θ

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