Majors: Chemistry, environmental studies
Hometown: Elkhorn, NE
Honors Program student Zoe made a surprising discovery this semester while running an Honors Afterschool Club at Norwood Park Elementary, one that took the pressure off what felt like an intimidating new challenge.
“My biggest takeaway was that the students just wanted me to show up, have something ready, listen to their ideas and be intentional about the time I was spending with them,” Zoe said. “They already had so much enthusiasm and wanted to immediately know what we were doing each day — I really appreciated that.”
The Honors Afterschool program is a paid learning opportunity that allows Huskers to teach an afterschool club on subjects they care about in elementary schools around Lincoln. Zoe’s club, titled Green Genius, focuses on sustainability.
“The goal was to have these third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders understand that sustainability is something that they can do every day and easily integrate into their lives," she said. "It’s not some big, scary thing.”
While Zoe did use more traditional concepts like the “three r’s” (reduce, reuse, and recycle) to teach students easy ways to make their lives a little greener, she also made sure to emphasize appreciation.
“We did this activity called ‘Appreciation Station’ where I’d have students stand up if they’d ever been on a hike, walk, had a dog, etc. Then they’d talk about what they liked about that thing,” Zoe said. “I just wanted to get a dialogue going about things they enjoyed about nature and what they might want to protect.”
She also incorporated coloring activities, crafts and group discussions into her club, which met once a week. Many students would come to class eager to share with her stories about the new habits they picked up from Green Genius, a heartwarming feeling for Zoe.
“They got really excited about recycling at home,” Zoe said. “It was never about coming up with solutions to big issues, it’s just about learning to value what we see in the world and controlling things we can control.”