2 Cool 4 School: Awesome School Programs in Metro Atlanta
It should come as no surprise that students in school are learning, but some metro Atlanta programs take traditional classroom learning to the next level. These organizations partner with schools to teach students life skills.
The Strider Education Foundation’s All Kids Bike wants to help every kid in America learn how to ride a bicycle. Implemented in kindergarten, their online curriculum features lesson plans and resources, and the program is taught in eight lessons. All Kids Bike places Strider 14x Bikes into the class and includes necessary items, such as pedal conversion kits and helmets.
“My favorite part is seeing the pure joy that kids have when the bikes are revealed to them and seeing their confidence and belief in themselves continue to grow as they progress from balancing on a bike to proficiently pedaling,” says Lauren Tadlock, Project Manager.
Kids’ screen time has increased, and families may not be able to prioritize exercise. “Seventy-five percent of American kids won’t ride a bicycle even one time this year. For many, it is simply because they don’t know how to ride,” she says. “Riding a bike is a developmental milestone that introduces a lifetime of confidence, mobility, joy and overall wellbeing.”
Remember your high school’s shop class? Jeffrey “J” Prothero was inspired to help students start learning woodworking and electrical skills at a younger age. Called the Young Apprentice Construction Club, it exists in all six schools which feed into Roswell’s two middle schools and completes the first elementary to high school construction technology pipeline in Georgia.
“The first project they build is a toolbox, and this toolbox is a metaphor for life skills,” says Prothero, Founding Volunteer. “We’re giving them tools they can use in life. We’re working on the kids in every category we can possibly impact.”
The students learn how the skills relate to their future, as Prothero explains that what they’re learning will help them if they’re ever homeowners. But they also practice life skills. At the start of each meeting, students and volunteers shake hands, learning how to greet others politely. Students also work in buddy teams, making them better peers.
“When they start building and you see these kids’ faces, it’s mind blowing to see them light up the way they do,” he says. “We’re impacting how kids feel about school and impacting their happy meter.”
Food and nature equal fun with the Wylde Center’s Farm to School education programs in City Schools of Decatur and Atlanta Public Schools.
In 2008, the Wylde Center teamed up with parent activists who wanted fresher, nutritious food in City of Decatur Schools to form Decatur Farm to School. The Wylde Center provided education in the classrooms and school gardens. The Atlanta Farm to School program brings the same model to 10 different Title I Atlanta Public Schools.
“Our programs are standards-based, and we work with our partner schools to follow their pacing calendar, so our programs generally expand upon what students are learning in the classroom,” says Andrea Blanton, Farm to School Manager. “For example, kindergarten students receive a three-class unit on rocks and soils, and first grade students learn about George Washington Carver by growing, harvesting and tasting sweet potatoes.”
Students gain hands-on experience in environmental science, sustainability, gardening, health and nutrition. “Our goal, first and foremost, is that students develop a love and appreciation for nature and a sense of ownership over their food choices. We want to give them the tools to make decisions about what they eat, and expose them to as many options as we can,” she says. “Seeing connections click in a child’s eyes is an incredible moment. We love tasting food with children, and hearing them say that they love something they were resistant to even trying before.”
Inspiredu’s mission is to help underserved youth develop the technology-based skills needed for education and career success.
“In March of 2020, when schools started to close, we were getting calls to see how can we help get devices into the homes of children,” says Oneisha Freeman, the Director of Partnerships & Programs. “We were fortunate that we were being proactive about getting devices into homes of students.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools moved to a virtual learning model. This hurt students who did not have access to technology at home. “The pandemic has exacerbated the need but propelled the understanding of digital inclusion and equity forward immensely,” Freeman says.
As part of their Family Learning program, families attend a workshop where they’ll learn how to leverage technology and digital platforms, safety, digital citizenship and troubleshooting. “We help a family unpack all that: Here’s how you can support a 21st century learner, and it’s not what you had in school,” she says. “Parents can get so left out. We can help our school partners and parents feel a little bit more comfortable engaging with the system, so they’re empowering themselves and their kids.”
How Can You Help?
There are so many ways to support schools through volunteer work or donations.
- Donate or find volunteer opportunities at toolbox.life.
- Donate unused technology items to Inspiredu, or volunteer at a workshop or in the warehouse. Find out more at iuatl.org.
- Support All Kids Bike with a donation. Every $10 donation teaches one child how to ride a bike. Find out more at allkidsbike.org.
- Donate or find volunteer opportunities at wyldecenter.org.
- Email your school principal to see what opportunities are available as a parent volunteer.
- Metro Atlanta has many opportunities for programs that you may be interested in or have talents in. Research volunteer programs to find something you are passionate about. Have an instrument your child is no longer using? Donate it to The Gift of Music; giftofmusic.org. Hands On Atlanta can connect you to schools in need; find details at handsonatlanta.org.
- Volunteer to help plan or chaperone school events.