Students at Caprock Elementary in the Keller school district find learning fun at a club that focuses on science and photography.
On a recent Monday, students made “volcanoes” by shaping Play-Doh around paper cones, filling them with baking soda and adding a mixture of vinegar and food coloring.
Kids cheered as they saw the chemical reaction bubble up.
Each week, more than 20 children attend Caprock Clover Kids, part of Texas 4-H and Prairie View A&M University’s Cooperative Extension program.
“I like that you get to do a lot of fun experiments,” said second-grader Andrew Umanzor.
Josalynn Patnode, a first-grader, said she liked taking pictures while lying on the ground and getting close-ups of flowers.
Mari Navarro, teacher for a second-grade bilingual class, said the club has taken off since she helped start it during the 2012-13 school year. Clover Kids began as a fun extracurricular learning activity for kindergarten through second-grade students. This week, Caprock will add a Texas 4-H robotics program and a sewing program for kids in third and fourth grades.
Navarro volunteered to manage the club at the request of former Caprock counselor Danny Ross.
Navarro began her teaching career at Caprock last year after serving in the Marine Corps and working in the healthcare industry. As a first-year teacher, she was a little leery of taking on additional responsibility but wanted to give it a try.
“I knew they didn’t have any clubs for younger kids,” she said. “I didn’t think it would get to the point it is now.”
Clover Kids began with a handful of students from Navarro’s bilingual class. As teachers and parents learned more about it, attendance grew.
Shannon Johnson-Lackey, a Tarrant County extension agent who coordinates 4-H programs, helped get the club going. The county office loaned the club digital cameras, and Johnson-Lackey visited the school to help with the photography unit at the beginning of the school year.
“We start with the basics of photography, because it’s fun for the kids and it’s one of the most popular 4-H projects,” Johnson-Lackey said.
At the end of the unit, students received a compact disc with their photos, a printout of thumbnails and a certificate of completion.
For all the 4-H programs at Caprock, the county extension office provides curriculum and some supporting materials.
Caprock Elementary is a Title I school, meaning more than 40 percent of its students come from low-income families. For some students, the free club may be their only extracurricular activity, Navarro said.
“What I like about the program is the kids have that excitement about learning,” she said. “For me, that’s the biggest reward, to see their eyes light up as they make the connection with the real world to what they’re learning.”
Navarro was honored with the November IT’S Award, which stands for Innovative Teachers inspiring Students. The new honor for Keller school district educators is awarded at monthly board meetings.