Kellen H., Site Director- Franklin Middle School
To kick off Boys & Girls Club Week we highlight “Opening the door to education.” Across the country after school programs are providing students with valuable education time that would otherwise be wasted. As a Site Director for the Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay I know the struggles of getting students engaged in education during out of school time. Here are my 5 tips to helping students get more engaged in education:
1) Give them with a project: Rather than give kids worksheets and board games give them a project to work on over several days or weeks. This past year our STEM Club (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) worked on a project to send a weather balloon into outer space. They spent three months building a capsule to hold a camera and GPS unit and calculating projections of where the weather
balloon would travel. Giving them a project to work on keeps them coming back each day to challenge themselves as they know they have something they have yet to finish.
2) Encourage their creativity: When students were building the weather balloon they came up with different ideas o
n how to make it successful. One of our concerns was keeping the electronics warm in the atmosphere where temperatures drop below freezing. One student suggested hand warmers. Another suggested wrapping everything in newspaper. Rather than shutting down ideas let them experiment and test their creativity. By working together as a team they can come up with their own solution-which may be better than the idea you originally had.
3) Make it fun: Sometimes staying focused on a project for months can lead to a loss of interest. We took breaks from our work to visit a planetarium, watch documentaries about the stars, and play games related to space travel. If a child is excited about something they will be more likely to participate.
4) Let them fail: I still find it tough as an educational professional to allow my students to fail. However, students have to learn that
failing isn’t bad. Recovering from our mistakes is something we must always do. With our weather balloon we had several issues on the day of our launch. We didn’t fill up our balloon with enough helium so it had trouble taking off and ended up getting stuck in a tree. Rather than give up we empowered the students to find a solution to get past this. Twenty minutes later, our students had duct taped a rake to a long stick, got the balloon down from the tree, filled it up with more helium and launched it into space.
5) Celebrate their accomplishments: I always make sure to recognize students for the work they do. This can be as simple as a high five for an awesome essay they wrote. After we launched the weather balloon, students celebrated with a pizza party and told all of their friends and teachers about the launch. They laughed when telling people about it getting stuck in a tree and gleamed with pride when they talked about getting it out. When students take pride in their work they have higher self-esteem, confidence, and look forward to conquering the next project they are presented with. With this students can overcome any barrier they may be presented on their way to reaching their full potential.
Learn more about Boys & Girls Club Week or the unique ways the Club prepares children for success http://www.bgcgb.org/