Program Profile: DuQuoin CUSD 300 Makes Math Meaningful

The DuQuoin Community Unit School District (CUSD) 300 21st CCLC program serves some 250 students at its elementary Arrow Academy and high school Arrow High sites. The 21st CCLC helps students discover math through a range of hands-on activities. 

The 21st CCLC exposes students to mathematical concepts through a range of enrichment activities. For example, during the junior chef program, students take cooking classes with an instructor from the University of Illinois Extension. In addition to learning a recipe, they must measure and convert fractions correctly to create their meal. Other activities focus more explicitly on math through hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) projects. Arrow Academy offers Camp Invention, which introduces youth to invention and innovation through ocean navigation, mock DNA tests, and personalized robots. Arrow High offers an engineering club during which students design, build, and test a cardboard boat. The project culminates with students attempting to launch their boats at the Duquoin state fairgrounds. Some school years end with up to three students climbing into a floating vessel, while others end with the cardboard seacrafts taking on water and sinking. 

Project Director Kailah Kelly says that the varied enrichment activities help students who struggle with math in school explore new ways to master concepts. “Learning hands-on is very helpful,” she says. “Just watching the teacher do the problem doesn’t work for everyone.” In the 21st CCLC environment, students also have an opportunity to learn from mistakes. When one of the cardboard boat regattas ended with the boat sinking, students quickly assembled to identify their design flaws, determined to create a seaworthy boat the following year. 

The 21st CCLC team keeps students engaged by soliciting youth input and offering programming based on that feedback. For example, when the 21st CCLC program expanded to include a high school site, students who had participated in K–8 21st CCLC programming requested teenage-appropriate versions of the STEM activities they had enjoyed at Arrow Academy. The 21st CCLC leaders gladly complied. 

Kelly also notes that the DuQuoin CUSD 300 is a tight-knit community, which has fostered supportive relationships and open communication among students, families, and community members. Parents have asked about their elementary students remaining in the 21st CCLC program to continue enjoying enrichment activities and receive academic supports as instruction and homework become more rigorous. 

The 21st CCLC leadership provides planning and professional learning opportunities so that staff are comfortable leading activities that include math enrichment. Every fall, the team plans for the upcoming school year, deciding what programs and activities they want to offer. In subsequent meetings, staff develop more detailed program plans. The 21st CCLC team then builds staff capacity by asking staff members to lead professional development sessions based on their areas of expertise. Instructors then have job-embedded opportunities to practice new skills. For programs like Camp Invention and Engineering Club, for example, staff attend professional development and assist with program implementation until they are confident leading. 

For 21st CCLC leaders who want to expand their program’s math enrichment offerings, Kelly encourages them to be creative and build on instructors’ interests and experience. Just as instructors do with students, afterschool leaders encourage staff to discover and enjoy math in everyday activities, which helps everyone become comfortable providing math enrichment. “There are so many things out there that use math, and you don’t even realize it,” says Kelly.