This is a guest post from Franziska Lee, one of our volunteer tutors. Franziska is a student at Hamden High / ECA Creative Writing.
On a Thursday afternoon in July, when I stopped by NHR’s Willow Street location, the Arts & Crafts Club was making God’s eyes–squares of yarn twisted around popsicle sticks. Kidz Bop played on the radio, and the sun gilded the room like honey. After a couple tries, everyone had a luminous creation of their own. In the time remaining, some of the kids moved on to folding paper fortune tellers. Most, happy with their newfound skill, started twisting second and third God’s eyes, in different colors than before. The fluffy multicolored yarn was in highest demand, but nearly every shade of the rainbow found use. For an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays, attendees of the Arts & Crafts Club meetings get to try out a new craft and flex their creative muscles. Last week, one girl told me, they painted with watercolors.
During the duration of the six-week summer session, in addition to tutoring, New Haven Reads offers a diverse program of academic clubs. Most are run by interns and fellows, with the help of the staff and other volunteers. The goal is to prevent “summer slide,” or the all-too-easy lapse into forgetfulness that can occur during the prolonged vacation from a school environment. For example, in Math Club, the children use Khan Academy’s leveled online math program and grade-appropriate worksheets to refresh and prepare for the fall. When I visited, the club used its last fifteen minutes to play multiplication bingo. The game created a fun incentive to think fast. Kids were giddy with excitement, bursting to shout out the answers.
Other clubs offered this year include animals, drama, science, and chess. All operate on the principle of engaging students’ minds over summer break. Like any muscle, the brain needs to be exercised, and New Haven Reads provides a fun and reliable way to do so.