You might not think there’s anything unusual about having playdough in an after-school program for kids. But you might be surprised to find those kids experimenting with it as a conductor for electricity.
That’s what kids at Ceres Way did in Jamboree’s after-school program. REACH Kids encourages the success of kids living at our properties and in the surrounding neighborhood, both academically at school and practically for work and life. As an acrostic, REACH frames our approach to deliver customized services that enrich the lives of residents – kids, families, formerly homeless, veterans, seniors, and those living with special needs – by focusing on five key values. Playdough as an electrical conductor is an example of the A value – Active and Engaged Learning.
Resident Services Coordinator Tara McCarthy and volunteers Monica and Esmeralda planned the great “Playdough Electrical Challenge,” which included having the kids make playdough from scratch, then use small LED diodes, 9-volt batteries, and battery clips to learn how electrical circuits function and electricity is conducted. Tara plans the overall activities but then gives the children options and input as they go along that allows them to have ownership in the programs and exercises. In this way, the kids have an active voice in each activity, and are more involved in the learning process.
In the community kitchen, Tara first read through the recipe for homemade playdough. The children then took turns with the various tasks: checking the recipe, measuring flour, water, food coloring, and cream of tartar, and stirring over low heat to cook the ingredients into playdough.
Moving to the community room, Tara demonstrated how an electrical circuit works, explaining the positive and negative sides of an electrical battery, and answering questions. She thoroughly explained the process of connecting the batteries to the LED diode using the playdough, but let the children explore how best to manipulate the playdough to light the diode. The kids collaborated together, watched each other’s success in getting their lights to turn on, asked questions, offered suggestions, and encouraged others not to give up.
Active and engaged learning encourages “what if?” questions that help children understand opportunities by analyzing scenarios or solving a challenge, as nine-year-old Jaiden thoughtfully asked, “This is so cool… what would happen if I put another light on it?”
REACH Kids helps students succeed through hands-on experimentation, thinking through obstacles, trouble-shooting, and finding successful alternatives – useful habits to develop for success in school, work, and life.