Welcome to the Kids’ Adventures program at Excel Academy, a K-8 school in Arvada, CO. Program Director Karly Workman has created an outstanding before & after school care program that supports the healthy development of the kids who attend her program. She shared some of her favorite activities with us, most of which can be adapted to groups large or small, and we are excited to share those activities with you!
Karly has set up a flexible schedule for the kids in her program that allows them to know what’s on the agenda for the day while leaving room for adaptions based on the kids’ mood, energy levels, the size group she has that day and even the weather. Karly writes the schedule on the board because she feels that it gives the kids an opportunity to participate in the day’s plan through working on their own time management skills.
Since Excel is a K-8 school, Karly is charged with coming up with activities that appeal to very young children as well as middle school aged children. To address this challenge, Karly has encouraged the older kids to take on a mentoring relationship with the younger ones. To her delight, the older kids absolutely love helping the younger children however they can – with homework, craft projects or during group games.
Building a Sense of Community
Karly looks for opportunities to pull the kids together into group discussions that help build a sense of community. One of those opportunities is during their daily snack time. Often, Karly will write a riddle or a Wuzzle (word puzzle) on the board for the kids to solve during snack time. Sometimes, the kids will even come in with their own riddles for the board. Karly has been amazed and impressed by how good these original riddles are!
When things come up that the kids want to share or talk about, snack time is the perfect opportunity. For example, one day a child brought an arrow head with him to after school care. This allowed Karly to lead a discussion about what arrow heads are and where they come from that not only allowed the children to share their own knowledge about the subject with the group – it opened up a chance for Karly to teach them a few new things about our country’s history.
As with all Kids’ Adventures programs, mindfulness is a key part of the programing at Excel. Karly has found that one of the best ways to teach the kids greater focus and attention is through creative activities that require long periods of concentration and imagination. One of those activities is handing out printed pictures from intricate adult coloring books. As an incentive to finish their work, Karly will laminate their finished artwork to hang on display in their room or take home. Laminating these pictures gives them a “professional” finished look and feel that the kids love!
Another thing the kids love to play with is Perler Beads. Perler Beads are small plastic beads that can be ironed into shapes and designs. Projects take a while to complete and require long periods of focus, concentration and planning. It allows the kids time to relax with themselves and get lost in a creative activity.
Karly looks for any opportunity she can to teach the kids in her program about good nutrition, but has found that hands-on activities are the best way to keep the kids interested in learning about healthy food. For example, a few weeks ago the kids planted a variety of vegetables in pots. Some of the kids took their vegetable plants home, while others left them at the school so that everyone can watch them grow. They keep the plants in the cafeteria where they get plenty of daily sunlight and the kids have had a great time watching their little plants poke through the surface of the soil and start to grow. Karly feels that hands on experiences like this allow the kids to better understand where their food comes from and gets them excited to want to know more.
Another thing Karly has done to teach the kids about good nutrition is show them how to make homemade popsicles from fruit juice and berries. The kids loved participating in making their snack, and especially loved eating them!
As do most children, the kids at Excel love the opportunity to cut loose and just play. Karly tries to give them a good mix of free time and structured group games. She’s found that having time to stretch their legs and exert some energy really helps them concentrate on other activities – like completing their homework. When they go outside, the kids love playing Capture the Flag and games of tag and kick ball. But they have several favorite gym games as well.
One of their favorite gym games is called Treasure Island.
Here’s how to play…
Select one person as the “Captain”. Everyone else is a pirate. The Captain’s job is to shout out commands and the pirates’ job is to follow them. For example, if the Captain calls out, “Three men in a boat!”, the kids must scramble themselves into groups of three and quickly sit down in a row as if they were inside a small boat. If the captain shouts, “Mop the deck!”, the kids must all pretend to mop the boat deck. If the Captain yells, “Treasure!”, all the kids must run to the other side of the gym – where the treasure lies – as quickly as they can. If the Captain shouts, “Back to the boat!”, all the kids must run back to the boat.
Ready, Aim, Fire
The kids at Excel love to play dodge ball; however, school rules prevent them from playing this game on school grounds. So, Karly has come up with a great alternative! In Ready, Aim, Fire, one child is selected to run around a designated space with an empty plastic tub. All the other kids must stand behind one of the floor lines and try to throw rubber balls into the tub. If a child makes the shot, they get a turn at holding the tub.
The kids at Excel are not allowed to use any electronics while attending the Kids’ Adventures program at Excel, with the exception of Thursdays. On this day, the kids are allowed to do some activities on their phones or iPads. Often Karly will ask the kids to find some of their favorite songs on YouTube. Karly will play the songs for the whole group and start a dance party in the middle of the room with all the kids dancing and singing along to the music.
Karly has been working with kids since her last semester in college when she did an internship with the Boys and Girls Club. She loved working with the kids and was allowed the opportunity to study the optimal level of structure for before & after school programs, information that has served her well as a Program Director for Kids’ Adventures.
After graduating from UNC with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Psychology, Karly worked with non-profits providing support services to high school aged kids. She has also worked at the YMCA in their child watch department, caring for infants and toddlers.
A native of Virginia, Karly’s family moved to Colorado when she was just 5 years old and it’s here that she calls home. After moving around a bit after college, she decided that nowhere else in the country felt like home and moved back. She grew up hiking, mountain biking and skiing with her family and continues to enjoy those activities as an adult.
When Karly is not at Kids’ Adventures or enjoying the great Colorado outdoors, you can most often find her at home practicing a new song on the piano.
We are so grateful for Karly and all the work she does with our kids at Excel Academy!
For more information about the program at Excel Academy, please click here. If you are interested in exploring the option of a Kids’ Adventures Before & After School Program at your school, please click here to get the conversation started.