Zoe Zingler had no prior teaching experience, but made a surprising discovery about working with students while running her Honors Afterschool Club at Norwood Park Elementary in Lincoln this semester.
“My biggest takeaway was that the students just wanted me to show up, have something ready, listen to their ideas and be intentional about the time I was spending with them,” Singler said. “They already had so much enthusiasm and wanted to immediately know what we were doing each day — I really appreciated that.”
The Honors Afterschool program is a paid learning opportunity that allows Huskers to teach an afterschool club on subjects they care about in elementary schools around Lincoln. Zingler’s club, Green Genius, focuses on sustainability.
While Zingler did use more household concepts like the “three R’s” (reduce, reuse and recycle) to teach students easy ways to make their lives a little greener, the junior from Elkhorn, Nebraska, also made sure to emphasize appreciation.
“We did this activity called ‘Appreciation Station’ where I’d have students stand up if they’d ever been on a hike, walk, had a dog, etc. Then they’d talk about what they liked about that thing,” she said. “I just wanted to get a dialogue going about things they enjoyed about nature and what they might want to protect.”
Zingler also incorporated coloring activities, crafts and group discussions into her club, which met once a week. Many students would come to class eager to share with her stories about the new habits they picked up from Green Genius.
“They got really excited about recycling at home,” Zingler said.
Her own studies as a chemistry and environmental studies double major have made her especially passionate about helping others get excited about sustainability.
“[Green Genius] was never about coming up with solutions to big issues, it’s just about learning to value what we see in the world and controlling things we can control,” she said.