Friday, July 31, 2009

A Look Inside Learning Club

This post was contributed by MuseumCorps Educator Paul Fenton.

Sometimes I wish I had a one-line answer to the question, “So, what do you do?” But I certainly wouldn’t trade my experience in Learning Club this year for all the one-line answers in the world.

In short Learning Club is a series of after-school programs. We invite kids ages 6 to 11 from local community centers to come to the Museum for a series of programs and to play in our exhibits. At the end of the series we host a “Family Night” where the kids and their families are invited back to play, eat pizza and sign up for a free membership.
A major goal of Learning Club is to help kids have a positive experience of learning. We hope to bring them a little closer to being people who love to learn. Mostly, the kids love being at the Museum and our activities are designed to be less like lessons and more like exploration so helping them have fun isn’t usually much of a struggle.

My teammates, Melissa and Whitney, and I decided at the start that things were going to be science-focused in Learning Club this year. Especially at a young age, being told about science can be ineffectual but a more open, hands-on exploration of how objects behave in water (for example) can help illuminate the concept of density. Even though we try to keep the “teaching” to a minimum, we are committed to presenting the science accurately and spend a lot of time giving each other “science headaches” trying to make sure we have our facts straight!

One activity involved making paper airplanes, whirligigs and parachutes. To an outsider it may very well have looked like kids messing around. It was a little loud and a little chaotic but I’m confident that at least some of the kids had an experience that helped them understand the way air resistance affects a falling object.
That’s Learning Club – wrangling the exuberance of the kids we work with to aim them toward a little learning. It’s often challenging, but never boring!

Last night, Paul and his team welcomed nearly 70 children and families to their final family night, where they enjoyed dinner, signed up for free year-long family memberships, were recognized for participation in the program, and had plenty of time to play and explore.

Congratulations, team, on a successful night and year!

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