Like many kids these days, Jenna Trafford, a fourth-grader at the Wentworth School in Scarborough, is super busy with out-of-school activities.

She takes four different dance classes each week, and her siblings are also involved in various activities. All of which means it’s difficult to find a quiet block of time to do class work at home.

That’s why Trafford is happy to belong to the Homework Club at Wentworth. For two days a week she gets the chance to complete her classroom assignments in a supportive, academically focused environment.

The Homework Club has been a mainstay at Wentworth School for the past eight years, but this year, for the first time, the school is offering two different sessions per week. One session is offered on Monday and Wednesday and the other is held on Tuesday and Thursday.

Each session is an hour and a half and staffed by two teachers who offer assistance, provide guidance and mentor the students.

Due to the disruption associated with the opening of the new Wentworth School this fall, the Homework Club did not get started until early December. However, the sessions will now be offered regularly through the end of May.

The club is the brainchild of Susan Hackett, the grades K-5 gifted and talented teacher at Wentworth, who started a similar club when she was teaching in Windham.

Hackett said it became clear to her that some type of after-school homework help was needed because these days, “there are so many distractions at home that it’s hard for students to hunker down and do homework in the evenings.”

She also said the Homework Club is designed to help students learn to take charge of their own studies. Hackett said the club helps to build good study skills, independence and pride in a job well done.

“It’s a good, safe place where the students and the work they are doing are respected,” she added.

In promotional materials for the club, Hackett wrote, “We want to give every child an understanding of how to study and organize their time so they can use these skills successfully in other settings. Students in past years enjoyed the positive atmosphere of the club and the terrific feelings of success when they accomplished so much each day.”

Hackett also said that the Homework Club could help with parent-child bonding, especially if they are free in the evenings simply to spend time together without being stressed about making sure that class work is done.

“I think what’s great about the club,” she said, “is that you do your work and when you’re done, you’re free.”

The Homework Club is open to any child in any of the three grades at Wentworth, but each session is limited to 50 students each, Hackett said.

She said students either join the club based on a referral from a teacher, because parents think it’s a good idea, or sometimes students even ask their parents to sign them up.

That was the case for fifth-grader Antonio Mancini, who discovered that as an older student he now has a lot more homework. He felt the extra study time provided by the Homework Club would be good for him.

Third-grader Rachel Anderson likes that the Homework Club provides a quiet place for her to complete her school work, and the club also means she doesn’t have do her class assignments at home.

While she does not have any hard data, Hackett said anecdotally she knows the Homework Club is a big help to students and families.

“I know the teachers feel it’s a solid success, and I also get a lot of notes from parents thanking us for the work we do with their kids,” she said.

Hackett said like any other endeavor, the key is to have consistent attendance. She also said the other key to the success of the Homework Club is that the staff use “a lot of different methods and techniques” to adapt to the different learning styles of each student.

The kids usually spend about 15 minutes outside playing before settling down to their work, Hackett said. A snack is also offered, and then quiet time begins.

She said the younger students in the club may have only one item of homework a night, but the school department also requires each student to read for at least 20 minutes a day outside the classroom.

So, if students finish their homework, they are encouraged to read, Hackett said. She said there are many books available at all different skill levels of reading.

All three students the Current spoke with said they enjoy taking part in the Homework Club and would “definitely” recommend it to other kids.

Jenna Trafford, a fourth-grade student at Wentworth School in Scarborough, reads during a recent session of the school’s popular Homework Club.Students taking part in the Homework Club at Wentworth School in Scarborough pursue various activities. Staff photos by Kate Irish Collins

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