October 20, 2021

School’s out, kids play

Photos by Catherine Wilde/contributing photographer

Jacob Griffin, left, a fourth-grader at Cortland Christian Academy, and Tyler Hilts, a fifth-grader at Homer Intermediate School, build Lego ships Monday at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex in Cortlandville. The two were playing during the Cortland-Homer After School Mentorship Program, “School’s Out,” offered after school and during breaks.

Tenth-grader Alijah Seamans spent Monday afternoon in the sunshine, playing basketball with some friends at George Vernum Memorial Park in Homer.

Seamans, who just plays for fun, was enjoying the first weekday of his spring break outside, while otherwise he would have been stuck in class at Homer High School. He planned to do more of it throughout the week, weather allowing.

It’s spring break for most of the school kids in and around Cortland County. It fell, coincidentally, on the most-springlike day so far this year. It was too nice to just hang around, and Seamans wasn’t the only one enjoying the sunny, 66-degree weather Monday.

At the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex, physical education teacher Josh Mayer led 16 mostly elementary-age children back to the complex from Smith Elementary playground, where they had spent an hour playing.

Mayer was overseeing the crew as part of a Cortland-Homer after-school mentorship program, which the sports complex hosts. The program is held during any school holiday or break for $35 a day, said Tatum Knapp, communications manager for the sports complex.

Kadince Allbright, a sixth-grader at Homer Intermediate School, tests how high he can build towers and then how quickly he can crush them into neat stacks Monday at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex during spring break.

The group on Monday included students from the Cortland Christian Academy, Cortland and Homer school districts as well as further afield: Cincinnatus, DeRuyter and Tully school districts.

The sports complex isn’t the only place offering programs during spring break. The Cortland YWCA offers licensed day care for school age kids, said Child Care Director Jami Bistocchi. It is open to the children in the center’s before and after school program, and there are also additional gym and swim times available.

The YMCA has its usual open pool and open gym hours, said YMCA Executive Director David Hamilton.

Some of the children Monday were at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex program for the whole week, others just a few days. Homer seventhgrader Madison Allbright, who has been coming to the program since last year, said she loves it.

“Other places are not as great,” she said. “The kids (here) are very well behaved and it’s organized and they don’t tolerate a whole bunch of screaming.”

Her brother, sixth-grader Kadince Allbright, was stacking speed-stack cups, trying to stay patient when his towers crumbled. The game, he explained, was a test of reflexes and speed, as he tried to make as high a tower as possible, before crushing each row down into neatly stacked rows of cups as fast as he could.

“Hey, at least I got it,” he said as his huge tower fell to the ground a second after he placed the last cup at the top.

What to do

Here’s how to keep the kids — and you — from going nuts with boredom this week:

Kid swap: Good for the working parents. Find a friend, pick a day when you take all the kids and a day when they take the kids. The more friends, the more “free” days you get.

Be a tourist: Check out the museums — the 1890 House, the CNY Living History Center, or maybe some of the kidfriendly places in Ithaca or Syracuse.

Geocaching: It’s warm enough. Grab a Smartphone or GPS unit and check this out: Experience Cortland – Adventures in Geocaching

Experiment: Elephant toothpaste, rainbow carnations, naked eggs — easy experiments you can find on the internet.

Family game day: Everyone picks either a board or video game. Two rules: Everyone plays; have fun.

Tie-dye day: T-shirts, sure. But try tank tops, socks, bandanas or maybe a dress shirt.

SOURCE: Livingonthecheap.com

Kadince Allbright was on his best behavior during the day, trying to help the group earn back its “Nerf war” privilege. The war, he recalled wistfully, was held each day all week long last year, and participants built cardboard forts and chased each other around in the iceless ice rink. But the privilege was taken away for things “uncalled for,” he said.

The program focuses on physical activity, Knapp said. The kids spent the day playing games like tag, going to the playground for some fresh air, before returning to the complex for more games.

After coming in from outside, Mayer led the students to a classroom to calm down for a bit before afternoon snack, urging them to play cards, games or draw, as they relaxed before the rest of the afternoon’s activities.

The only limitation was no cell phones or electronic devices, as he said the kids get enough electronic stimuli.