Thank You Todd Elementary CLC!

12 weeks. 31 students. 8 goofy ice breaker games. Countless memories.

Allow me to introduce my wonderful 2nd and 3rd grade after-school crew at Todd Elementary. Every week, we expel our energy outside playing games and crafting while investigating questions like “How do birds fly?” or “Which tree is older?” 

This semester, we discussed topics such as the differences between deciduous and coniferous trees, bird migration, and habitat requirements for plants and animals. We also got our hands dirty after a rainstorm and dropped all planned activities to discuss why we were seeing so many earthworms and mushrooms popping out of the ground! It was great to see their creative sides as they decorated paper birds or discussed how humans harness and use energy in their homes. Unsurprisingly, their favorite pastime was the newly introduced game Zip, Zap, Boing!

November 2021: Students created and decorated hand turkeys. Surrounding their turkeys, they listed things they were thankful for, such as, but not limited to: God, family, friends, Minecraft, pets, nature, Mrs. Darien, Mr. Duke, potatoes, fidget spinners, and ice cream.

It’s intriguing to take a simple game like Red Light, Green Light

As an educator, it’s intriguing to take a simple game like Red Light, Green Light and give it a slight twist to introduce an ecological concept. In this case, I would indicate that the caller is a light source like the sun and turn “red light” into “night time” and “green light” into “daytime.” Suddenly, I’m introducing the idea of phototropism (the phenomenon of plants growing in the direction of a light source), or photosynthesis (the process of turning light into energy for plants to grow). It may seem like a small change, but the reward is watching students have fun and be goofy while learning because they are running around outside rather than reading the same content out of a textbook.

…and give it a slight twist to introduce an ecological concept.

We end with a lesson wrap-up, because all of the running around can cause students to forget the goal of the exercise–but in my experience, these kids get it! It’s great that we have multiple weeks to spend with these students,  because each week’s theme can build from the previous week, leading to deeper understanding and initiating further curiosity.

The dynamic of this group is always fun, energetic, and ready to learn. I remember doing our Rafters of Thanksgiving craft, where students drew pictures of things they are thankful for in 2021 (surrounding their hand turkey suited with feathers and googly eyes). My heart was so full when students would call me or our Beloit College Duffy intern, Duke Ding, over for help, and they would ask how we spelled our names because they were thankful for us.

Without a doubt, my friends, the feeling is certainly mutual.

Darien Becker
Environmental Educator, WEC