It’s a blustery Thursday afternoon in January, but the 15 students at Hoover Elementary School’s Imagination Foundation program don’t mind at all. Kelly McMahon, a member of Hoover’s teaching staff, enters the room with a box of snacks for the kids. “Watch me Whip!” to which the kids respond with a quick “Now watch me nee-nee,” and the fun begins. While the students munch on their after-school treat, Miss Kelly takes attendance, asks who is planning to eat dinner (provided through the 21st Century Community Learning Center – 21CCLC grant program), and starts pulling out materials. Miss Kelly begins with a reminder to the students that today’s lesson will involve them using their creative minds to turn a large pile of recyclables until anything and everything they want.
The purpose of the Imagination Foundation is to do just that…to pair creativity with 21st Century skills such as problem solving and collaboration. This program is one of the student learning enrichment opportunities of the 21CCLC grant and is available to 3rd-5th graders. The group of 15-20 youth meets weekly in the school’s media center. Some of the youth have been involved with the program since the beginning of the year, while others have joined along the way. There are two new boys in programming today so Miss Kelly offers to set up a video on one of the computers in the media center for them to watch and gather some ideas. While the video plays, you can overhear the boys’ comments of, “That’s way cool, but I think I’d make the bottom box bigger so you could put more attachments on top.” The video appears to have done its job as a few minutes later, the boys have decided to partner together to make what will become some kind of a racetrack for matchbox cars.
“The kids really enjoy this program,” Miss Kelly tells me as the kids are busy with boxes, plastic containers, and an assortment of other items, “it allows them to learn problem solving skills that they’ll use in other ways too.” Some of the activities done in the past include taking apart old household electronics. “Kids are curious. They want to know how things work, and this program allows them to do that.” The group will also be tackling larger social and community issues this spring. “We’ll give them a social issue or problem to solve and they’ll have to work together in groups to find a solution. They are very creative with their ideas,” Miss Kelly shared with me.
I begin wandering around the room, looking at projects and asking questions. One girl is using a safety saw and a ruler to cut longer strips of cardboard. When I ask her what she’s doing, she replies, “I’m making a bookshelf because I love to read, but don’t have anywhere to put my books. That’s why I love coming to Imagination Foundation time.” The shelf she’s making has a good base and should be able to hold quite a few books; you can tell she’s putting some effort into it as well as planning – the bottom shelf will be able to accommodate her taller/heavier books. When I ask her about her favorites, she mentions that she just finished Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt – a story about a girl who struggles with dyslexia and learns to use strategies to cope; a book that I have just read too. We both agree that that the character in the book would like coming to the Imagination Foundation and would probably like to partner with this young lady. She tells me the plan for decorating it with many colors and book quotes, a fitting design for a bright young girl.
By: Crystal Hall, 21CCLC Project Coordinator