Two senior honors groups working on different projects have joined forces to create an educational and fun after-school program at Lincoln Elementary School. These groups — composed of honors students Rebecca Galuska, Danny Krasich, Theresa Milazzo, Ava Lalor, Timothy Sevcik, Noah Miller, Hunter Brehm, Kristin Anderson, and Tara Shingler—have combined their STEM and Walking Classroom honors projects into one after-school activity through St. Mark Youth Enrichment.

St. Mark runs after-school activities every day of the week. On Fridays, they set aside time for this group of Loras students to come in and work with the kids. The STEM group began implementing their project in April of last year, while The Walking Classroom group started in March. When the groups realized how well their projects fit together, they began to collaborate and create one unified project.

The STEM group focuses on education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as evidenced by the project’s acronym. The Walking Classroom group, on the other hand, had a little more structure to their project when they first began. The Walking Classroom is a nationwide program that publishes podcasts that kids can listen to while they are walking. St. Mark wanted to bring this idea to their own after-school program.

A typical afternoon at St. Mark includes a quick snack break and a half hour playing games and being active outdoors. On Fridays, the kids participating in the STEM/Walking Classroom project get together and start that program. The first part, directed by the Walking Classroom project, includes a twenty minute walk, where the kids put on headphones and listen to an educational podcast. Each podcast has a main lesson, a sub-lesson, and a “character value” lesson included within it. On Friday, Dec. 1, the kids learned about food chains and vitamins, and respect for nature was their character value. The group listens while walking up and down the halls of Lincoln Elementary School, or else outside on the school grounds, depending on the weather. The idea is that movement stimulates the brain, thus enhancing learning and improving memory. A grant that was awarded to St. Mark allowed the purchase of 13 headsets, so up to 13 kids and leaders can participate in the program every week.

“We hope to apply for more grants to get more podcast devices, so more children will have the opportunity to participate in The Walking Classroom,” Rebecca Galuska, a member of the Walking Classroom group, said. “We hope to hand over our project to the Education Club or to DuHealth, so they can continue it after we graduate.”

Once the kids have finished listening to their podcast, the STEM group leads them in an activity. They have carried out projects such as making solar cookers, vinegar and baking soda volcanoes, and explorations in electromagnets. These activities teach the kids about the four different academic disciplines in the STEM acronym. Last Friday, they played a game to reinforce the idea of the animal food chain. The game was a modified version of the classic Sharks and Minnows. There was one “plant” that provided food (in this case, containers of applesauce and yogurt) to all the “zebras.” There was one predatory “tiger” in the middle of the gymnasium who had to tag the zebras as they tried to get all the food across the gym floor. The kids had a lot of fun playing the game, while learning important lessons about predators, prey, producers and the food chain.

“As an elementary education major, this project interests me because I am learning how to integrate physical activity into my lessons, to help students learn, and encourage healthy lifestyles,” Galuska said. “I also work at St. Mark, so I enjoy working with these children in a different way and watching their growth through our project.”

Through collaboration, physical activity and education, these two honors groups are giving the Lincoln elementary school kids something to look forward to after school and making a difference in their education.

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Audrey Miller is a writer for The Lorian.

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