Alternative clubs put extracurricular focus on learning

Community Editor


Offer students an opportunity to work on math problems or fine-tune some creative thinking skills outside of the traditional classroom hours, and some cringe. There are a select few, however, who welcome the opportunity for additional learning and actually find it quite fun. Those students are members of some nontraditional clubs offered at Forest Lake Elementary.

Math Masters is coached by Dave Sauer and features three teams of five accelerated math students.

“With so much other stuff going on outside of school, it can be difficult to get kids to find the time and interest for this kind of group,” he said. “However, we work with our Math Masters kids to accommodate their schedules as best as possible because they really are dedicated to the team and have taken a serious interest in math.”

The skills required to compete in Math Masters are at least two grade levels above where the average fifth-grade student should be, so it takes a special math mind to compete. There are group and individual categories, and students are tasked with completely difficult math word problems in 10 minutes or less.

“We have some extremely bright students who are very gifted, but they take their time in completing a problem,” Sauer said. “The 10-minute time limit is a real adjustment for them and kind of gives them a kick in the butt to get them going.”

Math Masters is a one-day competition and students are awarded based on performance at the end of that competition day. Forest Lake will compete April 28 in Shoreview.

“I believe in Math Masters because it gives us a chance to really challenge some of our higher level students,” Sauer said. “You expose them to some of this more advanced stuff and they just take it in like a sponge.”

Sauer works with Caitlin Miller to coach another unique club at Forest Lake Elementary. Future Problem Solvers is a club that encourages students in fifth and sixth grades to hone their writing, reading, and creative thinking skills in an effort to solve a specific future problem. The Forest Lake Elementary club features four teams of four students.

“We went into all the classrooms and explained the club and asked for good writers, readers and kids who liked to think creatively,” Miller said. “We then sent a newsletter home and they turned it in for an audition packet. The packet included brainstorming and writing activities to gauge writing strength and creative-thinking skills.”

Currently, the teams are working on a scene 20 years in the future and exploring the impact of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. The students brainstorm possible problems, choose one and focus on finding a solution for it.

“At competition, they will be given a new scene and a two-hour time limit,” Miller said. “They will then need to brainstorm possible problems, decide on one, brainstorm solutions, decide on one, write the solution, and perform a skit illustrating the solution for the judges.”

Forest Lake will compete at the regional competition near the end of January, and if successful will move on to the state competition later in the year.