Solar Jitterbug

Students learn about solar energy

The beginning of spring starts the countdown to summer. Just ask any parent, student, or teacher. This is the time of year teachers focus on covering required course work before the year ends. It is also an active time for camps and youth organizations such as Scout groups, one of the oldest and largest after school providers in this nation, gearing up for summer camp and after school activities. Providing the fun, memorable summer experiences that lessen summer learning loss is one of the many critical roles of this group of out of classroom educators.

Hands-on learning activities are recognized for engaging and inspiring learning inside and outside the classroom. After school providers extend the critical learning and 21st century skill-building that take place in the classroom. RAFT (Resource Area For Teaching), a member-based education non-profit founded in 1994, has recognized the important role after school providers play in the education of the children in their care. Julie DiMaio, a longtime RAFT member, is a 4th grade teacher in Millbrae, CA and is also a Cub Scout leader.

“I can’t begin to count the number of times RAFT has been the answer to the creative challenges I’ve faced as a teacher, a cub scout leader, and as a trainer of Cub Scout leaders,” said DiMaio. “RAFT activities and kits are often the perfect solutions to help scouts work on a concept for an achievement.  There is even a chart to help you pick the right one. Best of all, you don’t have to be an expert to use them. Understanding the needs of learning, both inside and outside the classroom, I know RAFT kits are engaging and make learning a fun experience that scouts and leaders both remember.”

Among the 12,000 educators RAFT serves each year are members affiliated with the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. These groups have long recognized RAFT as a creative and indispensable source of hands-on learning ideas and materials to use with their troops and packs. Many of the 700 free RAFT Idea Sheets of hands-on activities map to badge requirements, including the Boy Scout NOVA program which focuses on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Principles inherent to Scouting organizations, such as the Boy Scout Leave No Trace principle and the Girl Scouts Care for the Earth nationwide environmental service project, are shared by RAFT, an organization that was built by “upcycling” or recycling materials donated by businesses in the community. It is this business model that enables RAFT to provide affordable hands-on education tools that make it possible for all children to benefit from learning that is engaging and increases comprehension.

While RAFT’s hands-on teaching resources are ideal for year-round use, scouting groups have discovered that many  hands-on activities are best performed outside, taking advantage of warm weather. Some RAFT activities that move learning to the outdoors include the Auto Sunshade Solar Collector, the Solar Jitterbug, and the ever popular Bug Pooter Idea Sheet, which gives a detailed account of how to collect and observe small creatures in a safe and humane way.  A timely hands-on learning activity to try in celebration of Earth Day on April 22nd is the “Grow it and Wear it” Idea Sheet with detailed instructions on how to sprout a seedling in a wearable necklace or pin.

Scouts and other youth groups that use RAFT hands-on learning resources in their programs are already familiar with the fun, affordable, and enriching ongoing opportunities boys and girls of all ages experience as they learn and practice essential skills. By empowering students to learn through doing, campgrounds become classrooms for kids and give them a memorable summer and learning skills to take back to the classroom in the fall.

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