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Discovery Zone: CHP Resident Services Launches Reimagined After-School Program

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With the start of the 2017/2018 school year, Resident Services was proud to launch Discovery Zone (DZ) at 15 CHP properties in both Virginia and Florida. The program aims to engage elementary school kids in four key areas to help them not only succeed in school, but in life. The fundamental areas focus on literacy, character building, life skills, and of course fun!

“Discovery Zone is special as an after-school program because it focuses on the child as an individual. It allows each child to look at themselves as a productive part of their environment,” said Atalaya Parker, Resident Services Assistant of The Woods in Yorktown, Virginia. “Not only does the program focus on literacy, but also on self-awareness which covers everything from emotions to having a growth mindset. It incorporates life skills that help the child respect the environment around them by caring for the community that they are in. DZ strives to build a culture that can be taken out of the community center’s walls and be shared with everyone in the participant's life.”

DZ has an emphasis on social and emotional learning and offers children in first through sixth grade lessons and activities that help them explore and express themselves, their emotions, and their relationship with others. The program aims for youth to begin investing in themselves and preparing for the future where they can apply these lessons, be proud of who they are, and strive to make a positive difference in their communities.

“Through Discovery Zone, the kids have learned self-value, how to take care of themselves emotionally, their surroundings, where they live, and others in their community,” said Wendy Schleich, Senior Resident Services Coordinator of Linden Green Apartments in Christiansburg, Virginia. “My kids made a poster with their portrait and shared something that they love about themselves, and we placed it on the Community Center door so they could share it with their community and family. They also did activities centered around self-awareness and read books about kindness.”

The program just finished up with its first eight-week series—with four more planned for the rest of the academic year and summer. “The children here really love the Discovery Zone program,” said Diane McElveen, Resident Services Coordinator of Parkside Garden in Ocala, Florida. “The kids are having fun and they are learning so to me that’s an A+.”

Prior to DZ, many CHP properties offered an after-school program, each with their own curriculum. In May of 2016, Resident Services saw an opportunity to create a standardized after-school program to serve the children of CHP communities. Within Resident Services, the Youth Education Taskforce (YET) was formed. The team, comprised of Parker, Schleich, and McElveen, also included Resident Services Assistant of Meadowview Stacy Taylor and Resident Services Manager Tiffany Slusher. “YET has be instrumental in the success of the implementation of DZ,” remarked Slusher.

The team met weekly the develop the program. Each member focused on, and became the expert in, one of four main program areas: literacy, enrichment, life skills, and “brain breaks” (movement-based activities). In addition to developing kits to help staff implement the program at their property, YET members serve as mentors to help when concerns arise.

Discovery Zone is currently being offered at the following properties: Ansell Gardens in Portsmouth, Virginia; Belleville Meadows in Suffolk, Virginia; Cross Creek in Portsmouth, Virginia; Dolly Ann in Covington, Virginia; Greenstone on 5th in Charlottesville, Virginia;  Nature Walk in Crystal River, Florida; Lafayette in Williamsburg, Virginia; Linden Green in Christiansburg, Virginia; Maplewood in Martinsville, Virginia; Meadowview in Pulaski, Virginia; Parkside Gardens in Ocala, Florida; The Woods in Yorktown, Virginia; Woodlawn in St. Augustine, Florida; and Yorktown Square in Yorktown, Virginia.