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Campus fun clubs offer life lessons, too

Leon Springs Elementary programs create tomorrow’s leaders

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child learning robotics
Understanding high-technology concepts such as robotics are skills now being taught in Texas schools to improve students’ career prospects in a global, digital economy. Educators also say learning another language should go hand in hand with teaching science, technology, engineering and math skills. File photo

You won’t find run-of-the-mill extracurricular programs at Leon Springs Elementary School, where new ventures reflect modern tastes while preparing students for what’s next, educators said.

Learners have several choices, ranging from hip-hop and Lego League to the Young Astronauts club.

“It is completely student led,” said Principal Gracie Espinoza. “We offer a variety of activities and when our kids leave us to go on to middle school, they tell us how much it helped at an early age to tap into strengths when they continue on to high school.”

The top after-school organizations are Student Council, EarlyAct service club, robotics, Scrabble and Girls on the Run. Each numbers about 30 participants, with second- to fifth-graders in EarlyAct and Scrabble, while older kids make up the council and robotics.

Espinoza said Student Council lets pupils become leaders.

“When parents take a tour of school, our student representatives take them on tour,” the administrator said. “That way they’re getting a student’s perspective and our students practice leadership.”

Teacher Terri Lowe, who worked in the ministry several years, is the EarlyAct adviser. She wanted to assist learners in giving back to their neighborhood. The concept aligns with the aims of the Rotary Club of San Antonio at the Dominion, which sponsors the group.

The Rotarians purchased supplies so youngsters could construct presents for residents at local nursing homes. The schoolchildren also volunteer at Ronald McDonald House, plus collect, donate and personally bring books to their sister campus at Glenoaks Elementary School in December.

“When we go and deliver something to the kids, seeing that compassion shared – it’s like they really get it,”  Lowe said. “You can tell they understand it’s better to give than receive. It blesses them as much as the other person receiving it.”

Colleen Socha sponsors Girls on the Run, an exercise module aiding third- through fifth-graders with self-esteem while training for a 5K. The focus is on more than just athletics, she said.

“I was so impressed by the weekly lessons on character and how these lessons were tied into reaching your potential and maintaining physical health,” Socha said.

She has experienced many moving moments with the club.

“(I love) watching the girls reach goals that they thought were unattainable and listening to the girls discuss ways to solve a problem using the tools we have presented,” Socha said.

Meanwhile, Student Council combines both service and leadership. Sponsor and teacher Amy Shipman said she wanted to contribute to the club from her first days in the classroom.

“When I came to Leon Springs, it was so awesome to see how the fourth- and fifth-graders took ownership of their learning and pride in their school,” Shipman said.

Pupils decide what projects to undertake. This academic cycle, they raised money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, gathered toys for Elf Louise, assembled items for hospitalized children, accumulated pet supplies for the Humane Society, and hosted a Veterans Day ceremony.

In addition, the learners manage the school store, lost and found, and act as campus greeters.

“(These) service projects have warmed my heart,” Shipman said. “Currently we are collecting turkeys and food for our own LSE community families in need. In the spring, the council will vote on our service projects, and we will begin planning how we will give back to our school.”

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