Sunday, May 19, 2013

Program: American Girl Club

Our final session of American Girl Club for the 2012-13 year was held in April. We chose Addy, as a number of girls had mentioned that she was their favorite in earlier sessions. Here is what we did!

Opening presentation: we always have a PowerPoint presentation at the beginning of our American Girl Club meetings. We introduce the doll and her story, and then talk about the time period in which her story takes place. Our presentation for Addy was probably our shortest one yet. As I'm sure many elementary teachers know, tackling the Civil War with kids is a tough job and my colleague and I felt unsuited to the job. So, we asked the girls what they knew about it (and some of them knew a little bit) and then we gave them pretty much the absolute basics. We talked briefly about the Underground Railroad and how many slaves fought for their freedom. Then we explained the rest of the activities we were going to do.

Mancala: our first activity was a tiny bit chaotic (these programs always seem to be): we taught the girls to play mancala, a traditional African game, believed by some to be the oldest game in the world. The problem with mancala is that there is almost no wrong way to play it, so it can be a bit difficult to explain the rules. We had fashioned mancala boards out of old egg cartons and given the girls sets of pony beads to use as stones. I explained the rules as best I could (it is hard to hold the attention of 30 girls at once) and then walked around the room helping any pairs who needed extra explanation or clarification. I'm not sure any of them played a complete game but, when we had a bit of extra time at the end of the program, a few pairs went back to playing, so I think they had fun with it.

Shell necklaces: after everyone had tried their best at mancala, we all made our own shell necklaces, similar to the one Addy wears. Each girl got a piece of necklace rope and one cowrie shell, with unlimited access to more pony beads to make their necklaces unique. A lot of girls used the pony beads to create rainbow patterns on either side of their shell - they were really beautiful necklaces in the end. As they finished up making their necklaces, they returned to the center of the room and awaited their snack.

Benne candy: I like to make snacks for American Girl Club - actually, I like any excuse to make snacks. Providing food is always a good way to boost program numbers (there, I said it), but I also like the opportunity to give the girls some kind of snack that they've probably not encountered before and that each doll could have eaten herself. Benne candy is supremely simple to make: toasted sesame seeds, sugar, lemon and vanilla extracts, and that's basically it. You melt the sugar into a caramel and then toss everything else in, pour it onto a lined sheet and let it harden. It is surprisingly delicious for how easy it is to make. The girls really loved this one.

As I mentioned, we finished up a bit early, so some girls teamed up to play more mancala, while others just sat and enjoyed their candy. While we had some time to spare, we asked what dolls the girls wanted to see next year. Responses were overwhelming for Caroline and Saige, so we'll be taking that into account as we plan next year's programs. We won't be meeting over the summer, and the girls were pretty sad about that, but we encouraged them to come to other upcoming programs. Overall, this year of American Girl Club (and Adventure Club) has been exceedingly successful, and I look forward to continuing it next year!

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