When the afternoon bell rings at Hilliard Horizon Elementary School, the classrooms don't become any quieter.

At times, they are even louder, as dozens of students in various classrooms unleash their creative energy – with sound effects – on a variety of challenges and tasks designed to enrich them academically and socially.

Called "New Horizons," students have the opportunity to stay after school until 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., depending in the day of the week, to engage in those activities.

"We are creating experiences they wouldn't otherwise have," said Amberly Helm, a teacher at Horizon who oversees the afternoon programs.

Horizon students also have the opportunity to attend "Power Hour," an academic-based intervention program that provides at-risk students with focused tutoring in math and literacy for a one-hour period before the start of school each day.

"About 50 kids are part of Power Hour, and different students pass through as some 'graduate' and we fill in with new students," said Holly Meister, a teacher at Horizon who oversees Power Hour.

This is the third year that Horizon has offered the intervention and enrichment programs.

Both programs are funded by a federal grant from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

It provides Horizon with $200,000 each year in a three-year period, said Horizon principal Hilary Sloat.

This is the final year of the grant, and school officials plan to re-apply for a new three-year grant, she said. The application deadline is June 23.

The grant pays for materials, programming and the staff required to operate both programs.

Staff members include Horizon teachers and those from other schools in the district, high school students from Academy EDU at the McVey Innovative Learning Center and even parents or other adults who lead classes in their fields of expertise or recreation.

"These programs benefit our kids in so many ways, and not only academically, because it gives them the experience they don't normally have," Sloat said.

One class of students is rehearsing and producing a stage musical this spring. Other classes include building with Lego blocks.

About 100 students are enrolled in the afternoon classes, according to Sloat.

Different sets of classes are offered each semester. Some have included engineering-based learning and even veterinary medicine.

"It's about teaching your passion," Sloat said, adding classes are as much fun for the teachers as the students.

Allyssa Sanders, a 17-year-old senior at Bradley High School, is enrolled in Academy EDU, which is for students pursuing a career in education.

"It's been really cool working with these kids. They are so amazing," Sanders said.

She said she plans to return next year when she is a student at Columbus State Community College.

Last week, Cody Hunt, a a kindergartner at Horizon, was working on making a "spy car" with Lego blocks.

Teacher Tabatha Stover said the students are challenged to use the blocks to solve a problem they are presented.

In one instance, they were told the needed to build something to help a Lego character cross a river.

Helicopters, jet packs and bridges were some of the objects students made.

One even made "a digger" to tunnel beneath the stream.

"That was a little out-of-the-box and clever," Stover said.

Horizon's programs recently received national recognition.

The National School Boards Association last month awarded Horizon a Magna Award.

It is presented to districts for "exemplary, innovative practices in advancing student learning," Sloat said.

Fifteen Magna Awards were presented at the Association's conference in Denver, where members of the Hilliard school board were in attendance.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

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