Promoting peer engagement through afterschool programs - Tucson Local Media: Seasonal

Promoting peer engagement through afterschool programs

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Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:32 am, Mon Aug 4, 2014.

(BPT) - As summer winds down, inevitably kids’ nerves begin to show with the thought of the upcoming school year. The changes that lie ahead, be it a new school, teacher or a grade level, can create anxiety in many children.

Interacting with their peers in an afterschool classroom setting can help alleviate some of those fears. Whether a child excels at athletics, academics, is a musician, or an artist, finding the right enrichment program does not have to be a daunting task. Many parents are familiar with S.T.E.M. terminology and with the inclusion of arts in the mix, STEM has evolved into STEAM. With science-, technology-, engineering-, arts- and mathematics-focused programs, children have the opportunity to learn afterschool what many curriculum cuts have depleted during regular school hours.

One standout program, Bricks 4 Kidz, helps to boost self-esteem in children with an award-winning, STEAM-based curriculum that boasts both learning through creative play and playing to learn with LEGO Bricks. “Engaging with their peers in afterschool classes, students collaborate outside of their structured class, allowing for a broader scope of retention and participation,” says Dan O’Donnell, COO of Creative Learning Corporation, the franchise developer of Bricks 4 Kidz.

Integrating these condensed classes into busy back-to-school schedules should be a priority for parents looking for project-based programs designed to improve social interaction, in-classroom engagement and academic performance.

When signing up for an afterschool program, look for one that:

* Emphasizes cognitive development, while building self-esteem in a fun environment.

* Implements relatable tools for children to learn with, such as LEGO Bricks.

* Allows children the opportunity to work with peers as well as individually.

* Promotes creativity through engaging lesson plans.

“Our certified teachers guide students through model builds using cooperative teaching techniques as well as allowing for individual construction time for visionary thinkers,” says Michelle Cote, founder of Bricks 4 Kidz. “Every new school year gives us a perfect chance to expose children to more creative learning with our proprietary model builds that we develop throughout the year.”

LEGO Bricks have become the ultimate afterschool teaching tool, illustrating the principles and methods of engineering with age and skill-appropriate lessons ranging from kindergarten through middle school. With the addition of gears, motors and robotics, children grasp technology through hands-on participation in these enrichment classes. Hours that were once lost to afterschool boredom can now be filled with a multitude of learning opportunities.

After-school enrichment programs with an emphasis on STEAM-based fundamentals allow children to collaborate with their peers, teaching teamwork and organization while improving fine motor skills.

To find a Bricks 4 Kidz program in your area, visit the interactive map at You can learn more about the programs and new afterschool programs by searching for a location by state or zip code.

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