FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska -- Fort Wainwright parents have a new resource to turn to if their youth and teens make the all-too-familiar claim this summer, "There's nothing to do here" - the Child, Youth and School Services' Experience, Develop, Grow and Excel program.

Offering free programs for youth and teens 11 to 18 and classes for a small fee for children 6 to 10, the EDGE program is a "quick one-two punch" into a subject or activity for youth and teens, said Brandy Ostanik, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation partnership specialist and EDGE program manager.

"So rather than signing up for two months of dance classes (or some other activity) and finding out that it's not something they're interested in, with EDGE kids can just choose something two, three or four times in a month and find out if they have that interest or skill," Ostanik said.

"It's an inexpensive way to experience something new."

Introduced in early 2009 throughout the Army, the first EDGE classes launched here in December 2009 with programming that targets four main areas - adventure, art, fitness and life skills. Some classes even incorporate more than one area, like this month's comic book drawing program at the Arts and Crafts Center for youth and teens 11 to 18.

"The comic book drawing (class) we're doing this month could fall into art and life skills because someone could take that on to a career," she explained.

Some of the most popular classes have been the "pedal on" class at the Auto Skills Center during which children worked in groups to build a bicycle and each took one home at the end of the month, and the "create a skate" class at the Arts and Crafts Center which allowed participants to design and build their own skateboards.

While taking away a product they made like a bicycle or skateboard is one great aspect of the program, Ostanik said another benefit is the skills and confidence they gain from joining EDGE programs like the recent rock-climbing class.

One parent told Ostanik that she likes the EDGE program because it allows her children who might be intimidated by a new skill or large class to try new things, like rock climbing, and decide if they want to pursue them further.

"It's that introduction into something," she said. "They don't have to be good at it already. And if they really like a new activity, like rock climbing, they can pursue it further since Outdoor Recreation offers weekly rock climbing at Melaven Gym."

EDGE has grown from 15 participants in the first month to more than 75 in last month's programming and Ostanik said the upcoming summer activities like kayaking and "fit for life" will encourage even more participation.

"Fit for life" for 13 to 18 year-olds will meet two days per week this summer and tackle building life-long nutrition and fitness habits.

"It's basically showing them the right ways to work out and how you don't necessarily need a gym to work out," Ostanik said. "You can do things outside and do things at home. They'll talk about nutrition, too. And then they do progression every month. We have some teens who have been in the program for four months and recently ran the two miles from the Youth Center to Melaven Gym and back to do their workout there."

Other programs she is looking forward to include the "green-thumb academy," which will teach participants about gardening and then work with them planting outside FMWR facilities. A new class for 6 to 10 year-olds is the "crime-buster academy," which partners with the Fairbanks Police Department and will offer a "CSI" experience for participants, she said.

"We talk to the kids at the end of each class and find out what things they're interested in and then look at what our (FMWR) partners have to offer," she said.

Programs for youth and teens 11 to 18 in June include: hot shot skeet, remote controlled car-building, kayaking and the green-thumb academy. Teens 13 to 18 can also participate in fit for life throughout the summer.

Programs for children 6 to 10 in June include: crime-buster academy, puppet master and laser tag.

Classes and programs for teens throughout July and August will include: kneeboarding, acting, paintball, watercolor painting, boot camp, recycled raft-building, create a skate, outdoor teaser, walk the walk and mountain biking.

Classes and programs for children 6 to 10 throughout July and August will include: nail-art, bike maintenance, Mr. and Miss Manners, books to movies and bowling.

"I just wish they had this kind of stuff when I was younger," Ostanik said. "Because there are so many different (challenges), especially being an Army kid. For some of them, it's hard to assimilate at a new post or to figure out what the community has to offer and this is a quick way for the kids to learn it and the parents to learn it at the same time."