When the average person envisions a tutoring center they're not going to visualize a tech bar, plush couches and trendy decor. But that's what students get at the BrainStorm Learning and Art Center in Franklin Lakes.
“Parents and students use the word 'surprised' when they see our learning space,” said owner Scott Doty.
From animal print furniture to beanbag chairs, the Learning and Art Center is decorated to help cultivate a “want to be there” feeling from students, according to tutor, and the center's interior decorator, Cheryl Anderson.
Unlike other tutoring businesses that favor assessment tests, BrainStorm’s philosophy focuses on an interactive and collaborative approach. Parents are asked to bring in samples of their child’s schoolwork and answer a questionnaire.
“We launch a portfolio on each student and learn about their time management skills, learning style and personality traits,” said Doty.
Brainstorm Learning and Art Center is divided into grade designated learning lounges. The K-2 and 3-5 areas offer numerous games for learning. Clearly labeled and boldly colored cubicles address the auditory, visual, tactile, kinesthetic learning style of individual students.
Similar to the stop and go cubes used at rodizio restaurants, students use a non-verbal device to signal help from tutors.
“If a student is unsure about a problem or subject they are working on a tutor will notice the color change and offer guidance and assistance to ensure success and confidence,” said Anderson.
High School and middle school students also have designated learning lounges.
“There's a Zen-like reading room for students who want a quiet space,” said Anderson.
Doty on the other hand, loves tutoring students for the SAT in one of the lounges. His personal comfy chair sits as the centerpiece for the room design and has become a source of humor among students and staff.
“It's like hanging out with friends in a funky living room without actually being at your house,” said Doty.
A graduate of Tufts University, Doty feels the influx of after-school tutors and tutoring centers in the area is due in part to insufficient learning in the classroom due to budget cuts.
“In this area parents value education and can afford to offer their children academic assistance,” said Doty. “Students have to compete globally to get into colleges and after that for jobs in the marketplace.”
The foreign language program is increasing popular with students.
“It's important to immerse students in the language in order to become fluent,” said Doty. “One of our tutors speaks six languages.”
BrainStorm offers an after-school "two eyes" program. Parents can drop students off in a safe space for academic enhancement, homework help, personal exploration and discovery, as well as study and life skill development.
“We enjoy fostering academic strength through use of technology, as well as conventional methods,” said Doty.
Texting isn't permitted on premises, Doty said, and internet filters are in place to make sure students stay focused.
Christine Weber an eighth grade student at Academy of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Franklin Lakes, received enrichment tutoring in geometry at the Learning Center.
"I interviewed Cheryl Anderson and her personality was so compatible with my daughter, I knew it was a good fit,” said Christine's mother Sharon Weber. “She loves coming to this learning space and I know when the time comes this is where she'll receive her PSAT and SAT prep tutoring."
Plans are underway for additional visual art classes for children and adults, as well as performing arts workshops in playwriting and improv dance.
“BrainStorm Learning and Art Center is committed to taking the judgment and stigma out of tutoring to create an environment where students can find a mentor and have fun in a place made for learning,” said Doty.