Starting a Club

Students prepare to launch a high-altitude balloon with science payload.

I would like to contribute to the extra-curricular activities in my school, but I’m not sure what I can do. Do you have any suggestions? —T., Pennsylvania

Some of my most rewarding teaching experiences often centered around extra-curricular science clubs. The appeal of a club (for the teacher and students) is that it is not a formal class with the burden of marked assignments, reports, and so on. In general, you will get a natural grouping of people who at least are interested in the same thing. It is also a place that, if students do not want to participate, they don’t have to.

Clubs can have specific goals: robotics; high-altitude ballooning; science fairs. Others can be more open-ended and allow the students to choose their directions: “Science Olympics” or “Enquiring Minds” for example.

I think the trick to a successful club is to pick something that you are truly interested in. Second, don’t feel that you have to be the expert! Let the students have a say and help run things. I ran robotics clubs for years and when students came up to me and asked how to do something I would say, “I don’t know, I’ve never built a robot before! Where do you think we can go to find out?” Use the club as a shared learning experience where students will see you as a learner and can feel that they can make significant contributions. A club is also a low-risk environment for making mistakes during the learning process.

Hope this helps!

Photo:  Own work

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