While COVID-19 has sidelined face-to-face interactions with youth, University of Nebraska–Lincoln honors students are working to continue and expand the reach of the Honors Afterschool Clubs.
Normally supporting nearly 30 after-school programs in Lincoln Public Schools, the more than 60 University Honors Program students leading the project are offering lessons via the Honors Club Repository; expanding their service-oriented mindset to keep serving students; and offering lessons via the internet.
Riha Karney, a sophomore from Omaha, is among the honors students working to improve the after-school program during this closure period.
“I really hope that my inquisitive students are still asking questions about the world around them and staying passionate about what interests them,” Karney said. “I’m taking this time to do a lot of reflecting and revising my curriculum so that I can make it better — hopefully — for clubs in the fall.”
While many of the honors students have returned to homes in and outside of Nebraska, they’ve continued to stay involved and make a difference through the global reach of the Honors Club Repository. Offered online, the repository allows honors students to have a global impact by uploading lesson plans and making them available to the public.
In the last month alone, honors club curricula have been downloaded in communities across the United States and in more than 20 countries.
Lessons in the repository offer parents an opportunity to entertain and educate youth without leaving home. Nearly all materials needed for the lessons can be found around a house or at a grocery store. Each lesson is available for free and includes directions on how to execute the activities.
Honors students leading the Afterschool Clubs program are also brainstorming ways they can continue to make a difference from afar.
“I’m thinking about making online instructions or fact sheets for different science activities that I can send to my site coordinator for students to access,” Karney said.
Others, having realized the impact after-school programming has made in Lincoln, are working to offer lessons in their hometowns, reaching out to childcare or community centers and sharing the curricula remotely.
“Instead of in-person sessions, I’ve been creating videos for students to watch at home,” said Kate Gaulke, a freshman from Woodbury, Minnesota. “The videos include yoga poses, mindfulness activities like nature walks, mediation exercises and a scavenger hunt.”
While they would rather have spent the semester developing relationships with LPS students face-to-face, the students are relishing the opportunity to adapt and expand impacts of the Honors Afterschool Clubs.
“One thing I have always loved about Honors Afterschool Clubs is the ability of the program to adapt to meet students’ needs,” said Maddie Beck, a sophomore from Wichita, Kansas. “This semester has proven no different.”