Students need opportunities to translate lessons into real-life situations. A good place to do this is in after-school clubs. When organizing clubs, choose club leaders who have a passion for particular avocations so that ideas will come naturally in areas such as gardening, chess and community service. These club leaders keep children safe and supervised and fill their time with productive activities that develop social skills and improve academic performance.
Nature Club or Gardening Club
The Children and Nature Network reviewed studies conducted over a two-year period to conclude that exposing children to nature boosts their physical and mental health and contributes to an overall sense of well-being. This translates to better learners and more cooperative and self-confident kids. Projects could include gathering seeds from spent plants and learning to prepare and store the seeds over the winter for spring planting. Students can gather flowers and leaves and arrange them in picture frames or create rubbings. For a community service project, have your nature club sponsor a plant swap in the fall when people are thinning and transplanting their perennials. To keep costs down, search yard sales and thrift stores for supplies such as flower pots and picture frames. Check with local nurseries and environmental agencies and organizations to see if they are willing to work with your club by donating supplies or sending a guest speaker.
According to the Susan Polgar Foundation, students excel in math and science when chess is offered widely in schools. Start your chess club by teaching students the basics. As students gain proficiency, challenge other community groups to chess matches. This could include residents of a local senior center, students from another school or even parents. As students’ skill and interest progress, keep club members challenged by sponsoring tournaments. Contact other schools and invite them to participate.
In cooking club, members learn basic skills relevant throughout their lives. Besides learning important lessons in nutrition and cooking techniques, kids in the kitchen have the added benefit of participating in activities that support math, science and communications skills. Young students can start with something as basic as cutting bread shapes with cookie cutters and creating different sandwich fillings to stuff them with. Older students can learn more complex techniques like making a roux or soufflé. Have some fun with students by offering cooking challenges. For instance, give each student a fork and a few eggs whites and have them race to see who can beat their egg whites to stiff peaks the quickest.
Community Service Club
Through community service, students have the opportunity to address real-world issues and develop skills in leadership, organization and problem-solving. Students can research local charitable groups, report back with their findings and vote on which organizations to support. They can gather food, clothing or toys for distribution. Support the school community by having service club members tutor younger students or organize a bake sale to raise money for school projects. Recognize community service providers, such as baking cookies to drop off at the local fire station with thank-you notes from students.
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