You may have heard of Community Night at The Thinkery…it’s hosted every Wednesday for families to come and visit for a pay-what-you-can donation. But did you know that Summer Wednesday nights also boasts our Summer Spark Club? This program, designed for kids aged 8-13, gives older kids a chance to build and grow. I attended Spark Club to check it out for myself and I was very impressed.
While I was there, the kids were making batik pillowcases using glue and acrylic paint. They started out in the Spark Yard, adding designs to blank pillow cases using Elmer’s Washable No Run School Glue. (Not an endorsement, but it seemed to work really well!) A couple of enthusiastic Volunteens were stationed there to help the kids with their designs. The Volunteens said that they enjoyed volunteering at Spark Club because they liked talking with the kids and getting fun answers to their questions. They also mentioned that they liked getting the chance to experiment with the activities themselves.
Once the glue on the pillow case was dry, kids could bring it inside to paint it using a mixture of acrylic paints. One girl I talked to was mixing blue and white together to make light blue “moon jellyfish.” She said that she’d been to Spark Club a few times before and that the week they learned how to knit was her favorite. In addition to the pillow cases, kids also got to make their own pixel bead creations. Everyone–kids and parents–seemed to be getting into the bead making.
If you want to make a batik pillowcase of your own, here are the instructions. “Let the paint and glue dry completely–wait overnight. Soak your pillowcase in warm water for an hour or more. The glue will start to dissolve. Any glue still remaining should be able to be rubbed off pretty easily. Then, you can wash and dry your pillowcase normally.”
Before attending Spark Club, I asked our Associate Director of Education Adam Nye a few questions about the event.
Gretchen: What is your favorite part about Spark Club?
Adam: Spark Club gives us an opportunity to truly serve the older child audience in a very effective way. As children get older, they crave more opportunities for independence, and seek out experiences that are challenging and provide them a chance to be with their peers. Spark Club satisfies all of those desires. It gives them a private space away from the younger children, and oftentimes their parents, that allows them to explore, tinker, and create with other children their age. I also like that the structure of the program allows us to test our new ideas, try different activities, and see how the older children respond. This is somewhat of a new audience for us, and it takes a lot of patience and prototyping to truly understand what they want.
Gretchen: In your opinion, what’s been the best Spark Club activity so far?
Adam: I think all of the activities that we have done so far have been really great, but the activities that involve more sophisticated tools seems to be getting the best response from staff and visitors. They really appreciate the opportunity to be trusted with more advanced tools, and you can tell by the way they behave very carefully and thoughtful, and by the amount of time they end up staying there! Our staff seems to love it, too, because it gives them a chance to try new things and get into more involved projects.
Gretchen: What else does The Thinkery have to offer older kids?
Adam: We have a wonderful menu of workshops that we offer for the 7 and up audience. The topics include woodworking, soldering, cooking, sewing, biology, and more! We will also be launching a more formal after-school club in the fall. It will take place after-school on Tuesdays, and will involve three series of workshops that focus on sewing, electronics, and woodworking. (More info on website). We are also working on some exciting new exhibit plans that will be launched next year – stay tuned!
Thanks, Adam! We’re excited to see what else is in the works.
The summer version of Spark Club will continue through August 13th. In the fall, Spark Club will be an after-school program on Tuesdays, offering advanced STEAM activities over a four-week series. Summer Spark Club is free, but space is limited so get your tickets in advance to reserve a space! Registration for After-School Spark Club is now open- check our Spark Club page for more details.