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On-Site Staff / Program Design, Development, and Quality

How ‘Little Ole’ Baskets’ Can Inspire Your Kids


Welcome to the place where I spend my mornings and afternoons. The place where I share laughs, and tears, and everyday moments with 90 kiddos each day.

The place that each day challenges and helps me develop and to be the very best for the students that I get to serve.

And this month’s challenge? Engaging students during check in and announcements. Emphasis on engaging.

At my specific site, students in our program spend the first 20 minutes in our cafeteria before other spaces are also open for us to utilize. Now, 90 kiddos in one (not so large) room can be quite the hot mess. And if I’m honest, last year, was often the hardest part of our day. Trying to keep ninety kids seated and safe, felt like the biggest, never ending game of Whack-a-Mole – you’d get one kid seated, and ten more would pop up out of their seats.

This year, however, I’m DETERMINED that it is going to be the best part of our day.

So… how is this time best spent? This time, in these first twenty minutes, I wondered, can they help us build community, and grow as a group, while at the same time solving last year’s problem of wandering kids and disengagement?


In these first few weeks, we have been using rotating table baskets. Each labeled for the grade they are meant for. Each stocked with a different activity. And, this simple yet effective change in our routine has done wonders for our little group of learners! Do I still have some wanderers? Absolutely. But it’s no longer the norm.

The new norm is kids working together on their table activity.

table baskets-engaging students         table baskets-engaging students         table baskets-engaging students

Some of them use whiteboards to draw and tell stories. Others use Legos to build and create. And others still create inspirational posters or read a new book.

I have such BIG plans for these table baskets. As our year continues, I can’t wait to make baskets that share a common theme or teach to a certain topic. I can’t wait to be able to differentiate activities based on age level or classroom teacher suggestions. I can’t wait to throw in social skills lessons and team building activities. And more than anything, I can’t wait to experience all of these things WITH my kiddos, because it’s amazing how much more time you have when your students are engaged and the Whack-a-Mole problem is contained.

Is this your program too? How can you engage your kiddos during check in? Would table baskets work for you?

For breakfast today I had coffee. Always coffee.

Author: @lexiwolkow

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Lexi is a Site Facilitator at The University of Missouri’s Adventure Club – a before and after school program that is in each of Columbia, Missouri’s 21 elementary schools. Over the last two years, she has worked at four different sites and has seen a whole range of programs and students. Currently, she is the facilitator for a program that consists of 90 of the most fun kiddos she has ever met and loves doing life alongside them and their families. In her free time, Lexi drinks way too much coffee, listens to CDs on repeat, and reads the latest in YA fiction books.

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