A few years ago, I was teaching fifth grade. I had one student who wouldn’t come out of her shell. She wouldn’t participate in class discussions. She wouldn’t complete her assignments. She wasn’t being successful in school. By the end of the year, this student had changed. What was the difference?
This student had joined a program that I was running. Through this program, she became more open and out-going. She became respectfully assertive. The program that helped her was Destination Imagination. But, this isn’t the only program that will help students learn these skills.
I actively seek out programs that will help empower children. My children are still in elementary school, so their options are limited. Many programs aren’t available to the elementary school. But many are!
Here are some of the programs that I have found:
The science fair. The science fair is a great opportunity to help get kids out of their comfort zone. They have to report their findings to the judge and truly sell themselves to be successful. My daughter completed a wonderful science fair project last year on what candy dissolves the fastest. The idea for the project was hers, and she did all of the work. This really helped her to become more confident in herself.
The spelling bee. The spelling bee is hard for children. Their success depends on them and them alone. They have to walk to the microphone and stand in front of the judges and the audience and spell words that are hard. Even with all of the studying in the world, the pressure often affects students, and they misspell words that they know. And often, have to spell a word that they don’t know in front of an audience.
Destination Imagination. Destination Imagination is a creative-problem solving program. Students have to decide between seven challenges, ranging from engineering to science to music to improvisation. They have to work with their teammates and come up with a creative solution to the problem. They then have to present their solution in front of judges. They also have a separate part of the competition where they have to come up with a solution immediately while working with their group.
First Lego League. First Lego League is a robotics program, where the students have to work together to build and program a robot to complete specific missions. But, it’s more than that. They are also given a problem and have to work together with their team to create a solution. They then have to present this solution to judges. There’s another separate part of the competition where the team is given a challenge and have to solve it immediately in front of judges, similar to Destination Imagination.
Vex Robotics: This year, my students are trying another robotics competition. We are going to compete in the Vex IQ Challenge. I’ve never been to one of these competitions, but I’m excited to try it.
Every one of these programs has an aspect of students presenting material in front of judges. This process forces students to learn to present, and to not be scared of people. Every one of these programs, except the spelling bee, has a creative aspect to it. Children have to learn to think outside of the box to be successful. These are all programs that I have used, and that I know empower children.