East Brunswick Schools Form Partnership with Mason Gross Extension Division

Melissa Denholtz, an instructor with Mason Gross Extension Division, speaks with her students at Robert Frost Elementary School, East Brunswick, during the Creative Movement class after school. Credits: Mason Gross
Melissa Denholtz, an instructor with Mason Gross Extension Division, leads the Creative Movement class after school at Robert Frost Elementary School, East Brunswick. Credits: Mason Gross
Josh Kesser, left,plays with Adrian Tosic, both fourth graders at Robert Frost Elementary School, East Brunswick, during the Creative Movement class. Credits: Mason Gross
Ashten Procaccini, right, and Jillian Bradley, both fifth graders at Robert Frost Elementary School, pretend to be crabs swimming in the sea during the Creative Movement class after school. Credits: Mason Gross
Samadhi Ranaweera with her sister, Tara, fifth and fourth grade respectively at Robert Frost Elementary School, East Brunswick, pause from activities. Credits: Mas

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ: The students at Robert Frost Elementary School crawled on the floor and roared like a lion in a pretend jungle, puckered their lips and swam like a fish in an imaginary ocean and hopped to pop invisible bubble wrap.

The group of about 20 third- through fifth-graders was participating in the Creative Movement class offered as part of Frost’s afterschool program.

The East Brunswick School District recently partnered with the Mason Gross Extension Division at Rutgers to bring the arts to its After School Kids (ASK) program. Mason Gross Extension Division provides arts education classes – from ballet and choir to visual arts and filmmaking – for the pre-college students.

Sign Up for E-News

"We have been aggressively working to extend teaching and learning into both our Early Morning Programs and After School Kids sessions. Our recent collaboration with the Mason Gross Extension Division of Rutgers offers our students creative opportunities to explore artistic interests. We are excited to have this opportunity for our students and are extremely appreciative of the talent Mason Gross brings to the East Brunswick Public Schools community, " Superintendent Dr. Victor Valeski said.

There are 1,200 students in kindergarten through seventh grade enrolled in the ASK program, according to Stephen Decker, principal of Early Learning and Community Enrichment. Decker said the district strives for the program to be an extension of the children’s daily instruction.

“This is not a babysitting program; this is enrichment,” Decker said. “Hopefully, we’re exposing them to something that they may never have exposure to and that creates a better educational environment for them to grow.”

Students can use the 2 ½ hours after school for homework instruction, to play sports or to take cooking classes. The partnership with the Mason Gross Extension Division allows the district to expand its program to include the arts.

“Our motto at East Brunswick is ‘Excellence in Academics, Athletics, and the Arts,’” Decker said. “My goal is to bring in the arts into our enrichment program so that we can expand our program.”

Creative Movement classes are offered at East Brunswick this fall, with plans to provide music and visual arts sessions in the spring.

“It’s a matter of building a community around the arts and we want to be part of that community,” Chris Kenniff, director of Mason Gross Extension Division, said.

Through partnerships like the one with East Brunswick, the division is able to extend its reach into the community, Kenniff added. Also this fall, the division began a partnership with Highland Park school district.  There, the Rutgers Children’s Choir & Scarlet Singers holds its weekly evening rehearsals at an elementary school and, in exchange for using the much-needed space, the division offers discounts to Highland Park families.

Decker worked with the district’s Out-of-School-Time Coordinator Karen Ector to coordinate the partnership and then launch and manage the program throughout nine schools. Both also happen to be musicians, who know the value of an art education.

“The arts are important because education isn’t in isolation; it’s the whole child,” said Decker.

The instructors for the Creative Movement classes at East Brunswick are candidates or alumni from the Master’s in Dance Education program at Mason Gross, Kenniff said. Those in the Master’s program study to become dance teachers in schools. “They already have a love for teaching,” he said.

Melissa Denholtz, who taught one of the Creative Movement classes in October, said she enjoys working with elementary-school children.

“It’s more fun to work with kids who’ve never danced before because dancers are so disciplined, they can’t get out of their owns heads,” Denholtz said. “These kids just explore.”

Samadhi Ranaweera, a fifth-grader, participated in Denholtz’s class with her younger sister Tara, who is in fourth grade.

“It’s really, really fun,” the older sibling said with a wide smile. “You get to do all these crazy, fun things. It’s OK to be crazy once in a while.”



TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Brunswick

East Brunswick's Girl Scouts Work with a Young Woman's Busy Schedule

March 21, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Have you wanted to join a Girl Scout troop, but just don't have the time? Check out this out. Busy teens can be Independent Girl Scouts -- all the programs and awards without the scheduled troop meetings. Teen girls can do badge work, attend events, travel, earn awards or do community service on their own time. (And ...

Murphy’s Puerto Rico Relief Commission Looks to Connect Families to Resources

PERTH AMBOY - Stephanie Márquez-Villafañe, president of the student-based Puerto Rican action group Rutgers Unión Estudiantil Puertorriqueña, offers a sobering assessment of New Jersey’s Puerto Rican student community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. territory in recorded history.

"University students have ...

12th Annual Interfaith Conference – Women in Islam on March 25

March 23, 2018

 MONROE, NJ -  Muslims for Peace, Inc. proudly announces the presentation of the 12th Annual Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Interfaith Conference – Women in Islam: A Dialogue.

The Conference will be held on Sunday, March 25, 2018 at Rutgers’ Cook Campus Student Center, 54 Biel Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. This year’s Conference will be hosted by Anisa Diab and ...

Upcoming Events

Sat, March 24, 8:30 AM

East Brunswick

Spinathon 2018


Sat, April 7, 2:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Arts & Entertainment

Thu, April 12, 5:00 PM

East Brunswick

Family Event / Camp and Childcare Open House


EBPL Book and Media Sale April 9-14

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—The East Brunswick Friends of Library hos their 44th annual Book and Media Sale in the Centre Court of Brunswick Square Mall (755 State Route 18, East Brunswick) this April 9-15.

The sale runs through the mall's normal hours of operations. Monday, April 9 through Saturday, April 14 (from 10 am to 9:30 pm) and Sunday, April 15 (11 ...

EBPL: Addressing Sexual Violence through Education & Empowerment

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) hosts a special two-part program “Addressing Sexual Violence through Education & Empowerment” on Wednesday, April 4 from 7 to 9 pm.

The first part of the program is the presentation ”Sexual Violence” with Jennifer Kurdyla, MSW, of Middlesex County Office of Health Services and ...

East Brunswick Public Library Hosts “The Jews of Tsarist Russia and Bessarabia Before the Holocaust” Program

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) presents the fifth installment in the series “The Jews of Eastern Europe Before The Holocaust” on April 8 at 2:30 pm.

“The intent of the series is to bring to light the legacy of my Jewish ancestors, prior to their annihilation during the Shoah,” said Dr. Michael G. Kesler, ...

Need a Passport? Save Money by Getting It Before April 2

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—If you are planning to get a new United States passport, you can save $10 by submitting your application at the East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) before Monday, April 2.

The cost of a passport’s execution fee is rising from $25 to $35. The fee increase is mandated by the Department of State for any passport application submitted to ...

Queen Mary and the Cruiser

Queen Mary and the Cruiser by David A. Thomas and Patrick Holmes (Naval Institute Press, 1997)

“Had the forenoon watch and after eating went out onto the fo'c'sle. Just arrived at the top of the ladder by the PO's heads when the wave hit me---waist high---and knocked me over. Looking astern---through the bulkhead door which was open, saw the stern of a ship sticking up out of ...

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)


In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...

'Trying' explores age, youth and points of history in poignant production

‘Trying’ explores youth, age and points of history in poignant production

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The George Street Playhouse presents an engrossing, two-character play based on the real life of Francis Biddle, former Attorney General.

Biddle, a Harvard educated lawyer, served under Franklin Roosevelt and later Harry Truman during the Nuremberg Tribunal. His ...