Celebrating the power of Community Learning Centers

When you think of afterschool programs for elementary students, you probably don’t think of lessons in basic engineering concepts. But that’s exactly what happens every Tuesday from 4:15 to 5 p.m. at the Lakeview Community Learning Center (CLC), located at Lakeview Elementary School in west Lincoln.

Students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Baja Society of Automotive Engineers, which consists of students who build off-road vehicles for national competitions, visit Lakeview CLC for a club dedicated to learning about engineering and how to build motorized toy cars. It’s one of hundreds of clubs offered at CLCs across the city.

Nearly 30 elementary students participated in the engineering club’s most recent hands-on meeting. Older students met in Lakeview’s gym and learned how to assemble motorized cars, while younger students gathered in the cafeteria and assembled basic parachutes to learn more about why the size of the parachute affects how quickly it falls to the ground.

The club has been meeting at Lakeview for three years. One of the UNL students, junior Andrew Johnson, said he loves interacting with the elementary students.

“It definitely gets me out of my comfort zone - as engineering majors this is not what we expected to be doing,” he said with a laugh. “But the kids are great. They really get into what we do and have fun.”

Nola Derby-Bennett, director of Lincoln’s Community Learning Centers, said the engineering club is a perfect example of the power of CLCs.

“We know that the best way to keep our students engaged after school is to give them opportunities to put their hands on the kinds of things that they're learning in the classroom,” Derby-Bennett said. “The hands-on learning clubs are always the first to fill up because the students know they're going to be active and engaged with a subject that they're really interested in or passionate about. It's so fun to see their faces light up when they get to put their passions into practice.”

And in cases such as the engineering club at Lakeview, she added, there’s even more long-term benefit. “When our CLC students have the opportunity to spend time with UNL students, they begin to see themselves as college students. The possibility of attending college becomes a reality.”

Lakeview is one of 26 CLCs, located at 19 elementary schools, six middle schools and one high school. They offer a variety of afterschool programming and resources through partnerships with 12 lead agencies and hundreds of community partners. The Lincoln Community Foundation, the City of Lincoln and Lincoln Public Schools share oversight of the CLCs.

CLCs are the catalysts for developing successful youth, thriving families and strong neighborhoods. The CLC strategy facilitates and sustains intentional partnerships that address the diverse needs of youth, families and neighborhoods. They are the hub for connecting and promoting the efficient and effective use of our community’s wealth of resources. 

This Thursday, Oct. 25, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., the community is invited to celebrate CLCs as part of “Lights on Afterschool,” a national day dedicated to ensuring that all children have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs. The CLC at Belmont Elementary School will host a free event centered on the theme “Families in Community.” The event will recognize the many community partners that make Lincoln’s CLCs possible and will feature performances, free dinner and a t-shirt for everyone who attends.

Published: October 24, 2018, Updated: October 26, 2018

"We know that the best way to keep our students engaged after school is to give them opportunities to put their hands on the kinds of things that they're learning in the classroom."

Nola Derby-Bennett, director, Lincoln Community Learning Centers