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Learning Network keeps workshops going

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WELDING: Students participate in the Welding Workship of the Learning Network of Clinton County's Summer Kids' Workshops last month. Clinton Prairie hosted the welding class for grades 4-12, with most other classes held at the Learning Network at 1111 S. Jackson St. in Frankfort.
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ECOSYSTEMS: Students in the Ecosystems program of the Learning Network of Clinton County's Summer Kids' Workshops catch crawdads and frogs at Camp Cullum.
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PUDDING TIME: The pudding club enjoys a snack provided byRyder ConAgra for students and teachers at last month's Summer Kids' Workships held by the Learning Network of Clinton County.

By ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

The Learning Network of Clinton County finished up another successful June of supplementing youth education with its Summer Kids' Workshops despite having to find alternative funding this year.

Sponsors stepped up to fill the void when grant money dried up for the program in its 11th year.

“This year we lost the grant funding and so we partnered with these group sponsors,” program director Louisa Hoffman said. “That's where part of the funding came from. This is about a $30,000 program.

“In the past, funding came from a federal grant through the Department of Education.”

When that 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant became unavailable, the nonprofit organization had to become creative to keep the program running this year. Several organizations stepped up with sponsorships, including Bailey Trucking, the Chamber of Commerce, ConAgra-Ryder, CTB Inc. Brock Grain, Del Real Automotive, DSM, Indiana Minority Health Coalition, Isgrigg Allstate Insurance, Indiana University-Kokomo, Ivy Tech, Perdue Farms, Skiles Electric and Stoeller Automation.

Those sponsors covered most of the cost for the summer program in teacher salaries and transportation, but the free or reduced rate for participants had to be changed. “We had to charge a $50 fee (for 15 hours of a week of a morning or afternoon program),” Hoffman said.

“That's a lot less expensive than babysitting or a program in Lafayette or Indianapolis.”

That money covered materials with all the teachers licensed that taught the classes thanks to the sponsor funds. Most classes were held at the Learning Network, 1111 S. Jackson St. in Frankfort, with the exception of classes on farming and ecosystems, as well as welding which was at Clinton Prairie High School. 

“We had 247 participants and we had a wide variety of classes available to them,” Hoffman noted. “All of the classes involve hands-on learning experiences. That's important.”

The program offered 25 classes for first- to ninth-grade aged students.

The first session from June 10-14 included two sessions of a Mini-Farm Experience for first and second graders, Spanish for Kids (first to fifth), LEGO Simple Machines (third to sixth), LEGO Robotics (fifth to ninth), Welding Workshop (fourth up), Operation Fit Kids (third to fifth), Spectacular Science of Art (first to third), Games Galore! (first to fifth) and LEGO Young Engineers (first to third).

June 17-21 featured a WeDo Robotics class for grades three and four and two sessions of Future YouTube Stars that showed fourth to eighth graders how to create, edit and produce their own videos. Other classes included Crazy Science (first and second graders), Ecosystems (third to sixth), Kids in the Kitchen (third to fifth) and LEGO Young Engineers (first to third).

Classes in the final session (June 24-28) of the Summer Kids' Workshop included Learn to Sew-Beginning (fourth to ninth), Recycle Crafts (first to fifth), WeDo Robotics, Art Explorers (fourth to ninth), Digital Photography (fourth to ninth) and Jr. Scientist (first to third).

The 247 participants nearly equaled last year's number, which was encouraging considering the funding changes.

“That is a good number,” Hoffman said. “We were concerned because in the past we didn't charge fees. I think we had 256 participants last year, so we had very little (change). We basically maintained.”