As fourth-grader Modou Sanneh worked on a knitting project, he said learning the skill was his first choice when he picked from among 14 different Friday Fun Clubs at his school.
“I’m doing new stuff,” said Modou, who was learning to finger knit, which is a form of knitting using hands and fingers instead of needles.
Principal Sue Abplanalp said she started the clubs when she came to Schenk Elementary School in 2017 because they were so popular at Allis Elementary School, where she previously worked. The clubs meet at the end of the day on Fridays and are open to second- through fifth-graders.
Abplanalp said she asks teachers what they want to teach. Students also are asked for suggestions for the club topics, and popular ones are repeated. Current clubs include keyboard, nail polishing, makerspace activities, jewelry making and miniature painting.
In its first two years, the club used money from the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools endowment grants program to pay for supplies, but now relies on other donations to the school.
Abplanalp likes giving students another outlet for creativity.
“It’s all about well-rounded children,” she said. “We have the older kids taking care of the younger kids.”
Teachers also like the clubs, she said. In some topics like keyboard, the teachers also will work with students before school and during lunch.
“I think it’s really great. All the kids are involved and pick whatever their interest is,” said Jodi Shaw, an art teacher at Schenk, who is running a club in which students work with clay.
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“I really like making stuff,” said second-grader Kelton Brelie, who was busy cutting out clay “cookies” for his mom on a recent Friday.
Fourth-grader Alantis Eubanks, who was creating a clay giraffe, said she was glad to be able to make Christmas gifts in the club this year instead of buying them.
“I really love to knit,” said third-grader Stella Peterson, who was using pencils for knitting needles. “It’s actually not that much different from knitting needles.”
Fourth-grader Nancy Lee was using hot pink-colored yarn to finger knit a cord longer than her height.
“I want to learn about knitting and I can show my mom what I learned at school,” Nancy said.
At least two fourth-graders, Derrick Toro and Jack Degrood, chose the knitting club because their teacher was running it.
Elizabeth Ebert, a fourth-grade teacher who is running the knitting club, said she loves the clubs and had hoped for them at her previous school but they didn’t get set up before she left.
When the club first started, she sensed that students were eager to make something quickly, but they had to learn the skill of being able to deconstruct it if necessary and try again.
Ebert likes interacting with students away from the classroom, and working with other students she sees in the hallway. She also likes seeing the students chat with each other as they knit.
“It’s cool to see my kids learning and producing something and it’s nice to work one-on-one with them,” Ebert said. “I like the idea of being able to meet new students.”