Summer break from classes at Hardy Elementary school does not mean an empty building, as several of the popular after-school clubs continue to meet on Mondays during the summer, including a club led by our own GHC Community Coordinator, Nikki Lewis, and sponsored by Empower, the neighborhood outreach wing of green|spaces. This school year was the pilot launch of the Energy Club, and Nikki contracts with Empower to lead groups of kids in games that demonstrate simple science concepts, especially the connection between electrons, protons, and neutrons and those convenient appliances in the kids’ houses keeping them cool and cooking their food.

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The club has proven very popular with the Hardy kids, which is probably due to a mix of curiosity about the subject matter and affection for Nikki herself, who showers participants with encouragement, humor, enthusiasm, and discipline.

During a racing activity with a group of 2nd graders, Nikki timed each child’s turn as the leader, sending the charge of electrical current down the line, represented by two foam balls the students passed from hand to hand. The only catch: they had to start all over if anyone dropped the ball, breaking the flow of “current.” Competition ran fierce– and when disappointment overflowed into tears or anger, Nikki used the experience to drop in some social lessons as well. “They learn to go with the flow when working together, which is just as important as understanding how to use energy responsibly,” Nikki says. “They are learning that true leaders never put themselves first.”

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Because of the Energy Club, it was much easier to collect students to help program the colorful “pucks” that made up Jen Lewin’s “The Pool” art installation during our East Chatt Highlight Festival back in April. That was a rare opportunity for Elementary kids to collaborate with an internationally renowned artist, in preparation for the festival held in their own neighborhood!

It’s overall success has prompted Empower to sponsor the Energy Club next year as well! We’re excited to see more partnership between Hardy Elementary School and our neighborhood partners, and proud to read about continual innovation flowing from inspiring teachers there, like Brittany Harris and Colleen Ryan with The Passage mobile homework help bus, renovated locally by Studio Everything!