The halls are quiet after school gets out at Northlake Elementary, but Patti Brown’s room is still buzzing with sounds of learning—and constructive play.
Malea and her dad, Chance Pacora, sit at a table flipping playing cards with Brown, a math specialist, and paraeducator Connie Greeley.
“Can you make ten any other way?” Brown asks, and Malea selects various cards from a deck—a four and a six, then a seven and a three.
Pacora watches how Brown coaches Malea and smiles. “I’m learning too,” he says.
This is Eagle’s Nest, a Northlake program where teachers and specialists take turns staffing a classroom after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Their mission is to help families boost their students’ learning.
“The goal is to show parents easy strategies,” says Holly Davis, a Northlake reading specialist.
“It’s showing them how to bring joy back into learning,” Brown adds.
Their tactics involve number and word games, and a variety of learning activities that can be checked out to use at home. One key strategy is doling out lots of encouragement—to both students and parents. Research has shown that when students are stressed out it’s hard for them to learn and remember, so they want families to find ways to make learning enjoyable.
“It isn’t just a bunch of flashcards and notebooks you have to suffer through,” Brown says.
Pacora says the time they spend at Eagle’s Nest makes a difference. “We work on stuff at home too, but I don’t know all these tricks and games they know,” he says. “It’s fun.”
Greeley, who also helped with Parent Connection, the predecessor of Eagle’s Nest, says she has heard stories about the difference these programs make.
“Last year, one family was targeting math, and they felt that when the student did testing, they saw an increase in their scores,” she recalls. “They were telling their friends, ‘Hey, you guys need to come and work on whatever skill your student needs work on.’”
And that’s the point of the program.
“We’re just trying to meet the needs of the kids,” says reading specialist Davis.