REDSTONE ARENAL, Ala. -- Princesses are fluttering around the Drama/Music Room at the Myra M. Garriott School Age Services Center.

They are dressed in all kinds of glorious attire. The Chinese, Hispanic and African princesses as well as Pocahontas and Rapunzel are dancing, giggling and checking out their "look" in a full-length wall mirror. Also in attendance are two nurses and a doctor, ready to care for them when they don't feel well.

"We are dressing like princesses today," child and youth program assistant Donixsa Convers told her students, ranging from kindergarteners up to fifth-graders, as she helped them into their costumes.

"We are going to combine the princess outfits with the puppets we made, and we will play with all those things. We will also need a doctor and nurses because princesses get sick."
With a bit of instruction, the girls are ready for their debut in a skit about princesses, friendship and helping each other.

Such is the scene on any given day at the School Age Services Center, which offers before-school and after-school programs through Family and Morale Welfare and Recreation's Child and Youth Services Programs. After-school activities are planned daily to involve students, teach them about character and allow them to share fun time with friends.

The after-school program, which begins at about 3 p.m. when the first bus of students arrives from Williams Elementary School, starts with a snack. The students then plan their afternoons by selecting which areas - sports, drama/music, arts/crafts, activity room, computer lab and homework lab - they want to spend their time in.

The Homework Lab is a busy, but quiet place where several of the older students spend time on math, English, science and social studies assignments.

"We have to do our homework so that we don't get in trouble with our teacher," said fourth-grader John Reid, as he worked on an English paper. "But then I want to show my friends some of the books I've brought with me."

John and his friends, Kamardi Humphrey and James Willard, are all excited about reading "Real Life Monsters," and two of the "Who Would Win'" series, one book comparing polar bears and grizzly bears and the other comparing killer whales and great white sharks.

"Then we are going to the Activity Room!" said Kamardi, who went on to list the activities - a Wii, Wii Fit, Playstation 3, Skateboard and other electronic games -- that fill the Activity Room.
In the arts/crafts room, second-grader Jarea Parker, fifth-grader Kylie Courtland and kindergartner Paige Jordan are painting milk-box radios in bright colors.

"We do a lot of fun stuff," Paige said.

Arts/crafts teacher Ashley Keith offers a different project for her students to work on every day. Those projects are selected by her students.

"We look through our books and catalogs, and the children decide what we are going to do. They do the planning and I order the supplies," she said.

Mary Washington, director for the School Age Services Center, said about 50 children attend the center's activities every day. Since the new center opened in the spring of 2009, it continues to get new equipment and supplies for the children.

"We're still expanding our outdoor playground area," she said. "We've added sewing machines and more stuffed animals, books and digital games. We are in the process of adding more cooking activities. Many of our additions and new programs are decided on after surveying our children and finding out what they want us to offer."

Besides providing activities, the center's teachers also concentrate on helping the children develop their character and instilling positive character traits, such as sharing, honesty and politeness.

Before-school and after-school care is offered every school day, from 5 a.m. until children are picked up by their school bus, and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. School Age Services also offers weekend activities during the school year, summer care and camps during school vacations.

The center is open to children of active and retired military, and Department of Defense civilian employees and contractors. Fees are based on income. Registration must be completed at Central Enrollment Registration, building 1500, Weeden Mountain Road, phone 876-3704.

The center is accredited by the National School-Age Care Alliance and the National After School Association. It is located on Youth Center Drive and can be reached at 876-6595. Visitors are always welcomed.