Trained high school and college students serve as peer instructors at Zaniac, an academic enrichment program that focuses on science, technology, engineering, design arts and math for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade youngsters.

The after-school classes based at the Biltmore Park Town Square campus are small enough to provide individualized attention in a supportive learning environment, says Lynn Porter, Zaniac campus director and co-owner.

With five to six students per class, there is a lot of one-on-one involvement,” says Reed Bilbray, Zaniac managing partner and co-owner.

“We are so inclusive,” Porter says. “Everybody is truly working together.”

Working from detailed lesson plans, instructors use innovative and game-based techniques to engage students who are gaining technical skills in coding and engineering, as well as architectural design, principles of physics and mathematics.

“We’re exploding in the technical age,” says Porter.

And it’s important to introduce youngsters to scientific and technical learning at an early age, she notes.

“If you leave it until high school, it’s too late,” she says.

Porter says she is especially gratified to see girls who take classes at Zaniac actively involved in scientific learning traditionally associated with male students.

“They’re breaking stereotypes,” she remarks.

When the students arrive after their school day, they spend time completing homework assignments before beginning 90-minute selected classes. 

Fall semester choices include those designated as Scientists, Coders I and II, Engineers I and II, Designers and Explorers.

The scientist classes focus on earth and space, coders will learn scratch and game design, Python and Java and engineers will study simple machines and circuits, robotics and drones in level one and two classes.

The designer classes include basics of 3-dimensional printing and GarageBand and the explorers classes use the Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program as a tool to teach math, science and technological skills.

Along with classes, students can also receive tutoring in areas including math and reading comprehension, says Porter.

 “We feel that we’re the only enrichment center in North Carolina with a full curriculum of math, science, programming and engineering,” says Bilbray.  “There is only so much that schools can do,” he remarks.

Accountability is important for the Zaniac program, Bilbray adds.

Parents receive emails from the instructors giving them information about progress made by their youngsters, which also allows parents to become more engaged, Bilbray says.

Instructors are selected through a fairly rigorous interview process and are thoroughly trained before working with students. 

“All the instructors are at the top of their class,” Bilbray says.

An essential service of the Zaniac program is after-school care for working parents. Zaniac also offers classes for students when their schools are not in session, including vacation times, snow days and early release days.

And Zaniac offers weekend activities as well as a place to birthday and school class parties and celebrations.

To ensure that students have transportation, Zaniac operates a van to bring them to the campus. 

Bilbray has a professional background in the educational software business. After moving to Asheville with his wife, Sandra, he found Zaniac, a national franchise, and bought into it. Porter is an experienced teacher who formerly taught English in Spain before relocating to the Asheville area several years ago with her husband.

Bilbray and Porter are neighbors who decided to go into business together, and opened Zaniac in 2016.

In addition to helping youngsters gain essential skills, Bibray says this educational enterprise is a way of supporting the community. 

“We will bring our programs to schools,” he says. “We have worked with Elida Homes and the YMCAs.”

And nearly 10 percent of all students who come to Zaniac are assisted with scholarships, Bilbray says. 

Zaniac also offer pop-up events with educational activities to inform parents about STEM activities—or STEAM, as the program is called because of its design component designated by the letter “A.”

 “We’re really proud of the way we’ve helped,” he says. “Our goal is to ignite the love of learning.”

Zaniac is at One Town Square Blvd. in Biltmore Park Town Square. For more information about Zaniac and its programs, visit the website at ZaniacLearning.com/Asheville or call 828-575-0355.

 

Cutlines:

 

These are by Sandra:

 

Zaniac 1: Left to right, Sandra and Reed Bilbray and Lynn Porter are proud of the Zaniac learning enrichment center in Biltmore Park Town Square.

 

Zaniac 4: The computer area of Zaniac is filled with stations for students who come to after-school classes.

 

 

These are submitted:

 

Zaniac 2 and 3:

Students at Zaniac work in the computer room of the center with their instructors.

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