NEW YORK CITY — Back to school season is almost here, and parents scrambling to find the best after-school plan are in luck. DNAinfo has tracked down some of the best classes for elementary school students, with programs featuring everything from robotics to slam dunks to mosaic-making.
Free and Low-Cost Programs
372 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn
The New York branch of the famous writing center, founded by writer Dave Eggers, offers free drop-in tutoring for students Monday through Thursday from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. The focus is on homework help, but tutors can also help with a range of other projects, including, "writing assignments, creative writing, and publishing projects." Interested parents should fill out a registration form at the office.
For $4,200 for the entire year, a child can go to the Y's after-school program from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., with pick-up from local schools. Snacks are included as is homework help and a large range of enrichment classes like chess, world cooking and yoga.
The city's Parks Department runs a free after-school program for children 6 to 13 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays.
Parents can register by contacting borough directors to inquire about participating rec centers near them.
Bronx: Debra Edwards, (718) 430-1847
Brooklyn: Jostin Rodriguez, (718) 965-8938
Manhattan: Durice Jones, (212) 408-0246
Queens: Cristin Leoutsakos, (718) 520-5916
Staten Island: Chris McCormick, (718) 816-6172
"Our mission is to enable all New Yorkers to lead physically active lives through sports, fitness and outdoor adventure. In keeping with this mission, the NYC Parks Afterschool Program teaches children to be active and fit, get outside and have fun," said spokesman Dan Murphy.
Paid Programs: Manhattan
La Petite Ecole
159 West 82nd Street, Manhattan
45 White Street, New York, NY 10013
For parents who want the benefit both language immersion and enrichment activities for their children, La Petite Ecole offers classes in singing, theater, cooking and painting, taught exclusively in French.
The school offers classes including teaching students to cook with "the freshest seasonal and wholesome ingredients," as well as creative arts courses such as set design and puppet making " inspired by French and Francophone writers."
Classes are relatively on par in cost with other after-school programs in the city at $525 for a 9 week period and run from 4:30 - 5:45 p.m. Pick-up is available from local Chelsea and West Village schools.
Shine! at the Hothead Studios
56 West 45th Street, Manhattan
While karate or French classes seem to be a dime a dozen in the city, classes for the aspiring filmmaker are far rarer.
Stepping inside the Hothead Studios in Midtown Manhattan, an actual working production studio, will be a brag-worthy experience in itself, but then kids get the benefit of industry pros teaching classes in stopmotion, animation, claymation, voiceovers, and music and music video production.
And, as if they weren't already, your kids will far outpace you in technical skills by the end, using software such as Dragonframe, After Effects, Adobe Premier, and Final Cut Pro over the course of the month and a half long sessions.
JCC in Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Avenue, Manhattan
If you're looking for variety in your child's after-school experience, the JCC in Manhattan has a wide array of classes, for everyone from the sports fanatic to the budding chef.
The Center's "Slam Dunk" class, featuring 14 sessions of drills and games at $504 for members and $644 for non-members, is always a hit, said Afterschool Director Caroline Weinstein.
But then it might be hard to pass up "Glow-in-the-Dark Yoga" or fencing, for the same price.
And it's not all sports and physical activities, either, said Weinstein, there's also "Electronics and Robotics," and a big selection of art, science and cooking classes, including fashion and construction courses.
"Parents also enjoy the ease of being able to customize their child's after-school experience on a day to day basis with a variety of activities to choose from," said Weinstein.
Plus, busy or working moms and dads with children at an Upper West Side school can sign up for pick-up services that spare them having to hire expensive caretakers just to shuttle their child to a class.
Or if you're looking for less expensive care, the JCC offers a "Clubhouse," where kids can do creative projects and get homework help between 2:45 and 6:00 p.m. Parents can sign up for a weekly session meeting on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday that costs $240 for members and $288 for non-members.
Paid Programs: Brooklyn
Brooklyn Design Lab
413 7th Avenue, Brooklyn
The lab offers small, focused art and design classes that run for an hour and a half to two hours for kids in grades K- 6 and also preschoolers. The ethos of the lab stems from founder Amy Yang's multifaceted experience working with kids and in the art and design worlds. She's worked in top city preschools, is a professional artist with a BFA from NYU's Tisch School for the Arts, a Parsons instructor, a photographer, a clothing designer and a Park Slope mom.
The class descriptions will make parents jealous. An eight session class for $265 invites children to create their own miniature world in jars, boxes and small containers using "toys, plants, sand, clay, fabric, found objects and other materials to build rooms, spaces, and environments."
And what about your Lego fanatic? The lab offers a $350 class, also eight sessions, in which kids use legos to make "mosaics, picture frames, necklaces, [and] working clocks."
Other classes include a class that works exclusively with different types, and terrarium, clay and drawing classes for preschoolers.
Online registration begins August 26.
Brooklyn Robot Foundry
303 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn
Growing up in the suburbs, Jenny Young spent a lot of time in the garage helping her dad with projects, fostering her interest in how things work, which later led her to become a mechanical engineering. It's an experience she now views as a privilege that urban children risk missing out on.
The Brooklyn Robot Foundry was born in the spring of 2011 initially as "a place for city kids to be able to build things and make things with their hands," said Young.
Classes, at the end of which every student leaves with something they've made, are divided by age groups, including kindergarten and first graders, second through fourth graders, fifth graders, and a new fall class for fifth through seventh graders.
Projects range from making "a jack o' lantern light-up car" to "vibrating zebras," said Young.
The two-hour $520 classes fill up quickly, said Young, in part because they appeal to kids who often aren't sports stars or who have social and behavioral issues that she said her staff handles particularly well.
"We want to have this space where kids can excel in other ways that’s aren't the norm," she said.