New BLAST Director Dives In - from The Messenger
By: Brandon L. Summers
Tamara Holman is the new director of Butler Elementary's BLAST program.
Butler's Learning After School Time combines both activities and structured learning time.
Holman graduated from Missouri Western State University with a criminal justice degree in law enforcement, administrative emphasis, and a minor in psychology.
"I started my work at the juvenile office, doing preventive programs for them, " Holman said. "Then I went in to be an intake officer, a probation officer, truancy tracker. And then I was with the child abuse and neglect unit in Missouri."
Holman also served as an elementary literacy tutor in Minnesota. In Fort Dodge, Holman started at Butler as a substitute and a paraeducator last year, working with students who have "significant behavior needs."
BLAST, which has about 50 students, provides a place where students can go after school and also where they can receive extra academic support.
"We have students who use it for both," Holman said.
After school, students have a snack and activity time, and then begin their "power hour" focusing on math and reading.
"During that time, the first part of it is to work on homework," Holman said. "We're reading with the kids. We're working on sight words. We're helping with that math homework until it's done."
With BLAST, the studying time is just as fun as the activities.
"I like to use a lot of hands-on games, centers that support the Iowa common core standards," Holman said.
Every day there is a different enrichment activity.
Mondays, the students do crafts. Students who don't enjoy crafts do technology challenges. Tuesday, the students practice STEM skills. Wednesday focuses on boy scouts and girl scouts. Thursday, students travel the world, learning about different countries, trying different foods and doing presentations.
"Friday is our science experiments and cooking," Holman said. "So tonight we're making fried rice."
BLAST also has guest visitors.
"We have the conservation department coming in monthly. We have nutrition that comes twice a month from the Webster County Health Department," Holman said. "Last time she did jump ropes and taught them how to make a healthy snack."
Since starting in August, Holman has already seen BLAST have a positive impact on students.
"Especially just having to learn their sight words," she said. "Not only now do they have to be able to spell the sight words and now the words, they also have to know how to write them"
Participation has declined since BLAST began charging a sliding-scale fee in 2013. For students who quality for free lunch, the cost is $30.
"Some of our families can't afford it," Holman said. "I've had two families who have lost jobs, so they can't afford it anymore. Right now we're working on trying to get funding for scholarships for those families so they don't have to quit, so we can keep them here once they've come in."