In my years as an elementary teacher, I can honestly say some of my favorite moments with students were during after school clubs. It was a time we could focus on the fun, but still learn critical, 21st century skills. If you are reading this, I am going to assume you are investigating starting an after school club of your own. Kudos to you! Of course there will be prep involved, but here is all you need to know to successfully start a STEAM or Coding club PLUS free, editable files to help.
Establish a Purpose
To stay on track and achieve what you set out to do, establishing a purpose for your after-school club is critical. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- Do you want to create a space for creativity and problem solving?
- Do you want to focus on collaboration and creativity?
- What is your focus? Exposure to STEAM and coding? Introduction to future careers? Supplement learning in core subjects?
You can then create a clear vision statement based on your defined purpose. Example: A STEAM club with collaborative design challenges to solve real-world problems.
What is the best age group to achieve that? Many after school clubs focus on older elementary and above, but there is opportunity with younger students to start building STEAM and coding skills. Watching those students grow over several years of STEAM or coding clubs is rewarding for them and for you.
How many students can you successfully support? Do you need to cap the number based on first-come, first-serve or will you ask for additional teacher support? Either way, make sure to let potential club members know there will be a limit.
Now, you should be ready to name your club. Don’t stress about this step! Just make sure it ties to your purpose. A little alliteration doesn’t hurt either. For example, STEAM Squad. Need more name inspiration? Check out this guide https://ideasfornames.com/cool-unique-team-names-perfect-for-your-group/
Now that you have a vision, you can define what you will use and create a budget. Consider what technology you will have access to and what consumable materials you will need.
Plan access to technology needed and reserve for all club dates. Think about how you will make sure those devices are charged and ready each time. If you do not have access and students are bringing technology from home, make sure your district allows for outside devices to join wifi.
Establish if you want clear, defined challenges or more open-ended projects that follow an inquiry-based learning model.
Not sure about project ideas? Our Solutions page has information on STEAM, Learn to Code and Maker solutions that will work for this purpose AND you can use them in the classroom as well. The best part, they include curriculum you can use to make planning a snap.
How will you pay for materials? It may be with grade-level money or your principal may have funds that have not been allocated. There are also grant options available. You can even go to your community and parents for sponsorships. Make sure you have a budget planned out before asking for funds from any source.
Just like a school day lesson, plan out all aspects, including transitions. You could include snack time at the beginning, so you can check in students and go over directions or introduce the focus for the day. If you invite multiple grade-levels, how will you structure your time together and student groups? Often, age-alike groups are most productive, but an opportunity to develop leaders with multi-age groups can be effective.
Create Forms and Expectations
When announcing your club, be sure to include your vision, targeted age group, and time and money commitment per student.
After school clubs often leave students hungry. Decide if you will allow snacks, and if you do, will you provide them or give permission for students to bring them? Keep in mind that students may have allergies, so you will want to include that question on your forms as well.
Create a permission form with clear dates and times for the semester or year, purpose of the club, and behavioral expectations. Make sure to have a place for them to include the way they go home from the club and if picking up, please be prompt.
Want parent help? Be sure to create forms for them to submit to help as well.
Lastly, include your contact information.
Routines and procedures for time together will be the key to success. At your first meeting, spend time establishing and agreeing to norms for your club. Areas to consider are as follows:
- Where backpacks, snacks and water bottles go on arrival
- Norms on working together, staying on task, material usage (no throwing), one speaker at a time, respectful language
- Clean up procedures – consider a song to play or specific jobs for members (check the floor, put materials away, wipe down tables)
- Dismissal procedures – where does each student go before exiting the room/building?
Don’t forget to clearly label all materials for easier clean-up.
Clearly defining all procedures will help eliminate stress, confusion, and wasted time. Review these procedures at the beginning of every meeting.
Time to Reflect and Share
Having time to reflect and share bolsters enthusiasm and provides clarity on what groups and students may need additional help. This can be an exit slip, group share time, turn and talk, really any strategy can be used for a quick wrap up.
Tackling a STEAM or coding after school club can be time consuming, but it is rewarding! Following these key steps will keep you on track for success. To access our FREE after school club editable forms, letters, lists and more, click here.
Want to hear more about starting a STEAM or coding club? Register for our FREE webinar!
Interested in competitions for your students? Check out more information here: https://tsaweb.org/competitions-programs/tsa
Shaunda Douglas is a former educator with over 15 years of experience in all levels of education. In her free time, she reads, plays with her dogs, watches baseball, and loves a good nap.