Enriching Lives with Legos & Volunteering

March 26, 2018

“Thank you. Best Day Ever.” – from a thank you note from a LINKS for Learning student.

 

We know that volunteering in the community benefits both the volunteer and those the program is serving. But when you combine volunteering with donations of program supplies it can have an even greater impact. When Community Closet recently received a large donation of legos, CEO and founder Caron Cooper immediately knew where they could best be put to use. Livingston’s LINKS for Learning uses legos in their robotics program and when the 50 pounds of donated legos were recently delivered to their classroom, the kids were beyond excited. The students immediately began delving into the collection, picking out pieces and putting them together. Every single child – regardless of gender and personal interests – was fully engaged. 

 

“Dear Community Closet, you are being the Best. Thank you for the legos, we all appreciate you.” – from a thank you note from a participating student.

The mission of LINKS for Learning is to provide after-school and summer enrichment activities for Livingston’s youth designed to encourage success in school, a lifelong interest in learning, and a commitment to community involvement. In their after-school program LINKS offers homework assistance, reading support, physical activity and a variety of enrichment opportunities including art, drama, science explorations, cooking and mentoring. They serve children in grades K-5 and currently have 105 students enrolled (50% are from low income households) with a waiting list of 18. This is a crucial program not only for the children, but for working parents who need affordable after school and summer programs to benefit their children. LINKS strives to offer all programs at a low cost and offers full and partial scholarships to families who qualify and is available to all Park County children.

 

People with varied talents and interests are welcome to share with the group whether it’s once or as a weekly volunteer. People have shared magic tricks, presentations on birds, Yellowstone, electricity, NASA, nutrition, cooking and more. The greatest need at the moment is regular volunteers to help children with reading or math skills either one-on-one or in small groups an hour a week in addition to enrichment activities like the lego robotics program. LINKS after-school program operates Monday-Friday from school release time to 6:00 pm and summer programming operates from 7:30 am-5:30 pm Monday-Friday for 7 weeks during the summer. Volunteers are required to have a background check which requires fingerprinting that can be done by appointment through the school district’s administration office. Get involved by emailing Program Director Terri Hartly at Terri.Hartly@livingston.k12.mt.us.

 

Community Closet got involved with the program and founding a robotics program in 2006 when Cooper’s son Bill was in grade school and itching to program lego robotics.  After taking a robotics class at the college in MSU Northern, Cooper taught a robotics class at LINKS in 2007 and the Community Closet board funded the program’s first robotics kit.

 

 Participating students have taken part in Montana State University Bozeman’s FIRST LEGO® League Tournament nearly every year since then and this year we collaborated with 4-H forming a group team and Ashley Sites co-coached with LINKS robotics team coach Margy Dorr. “We usually have one of the youngest teams in the annual tournament,” says Dorr, “Exposure to this program gives our students 21st Century skills for the workplace while teaching communication, collaboration and teamwork.” Learn more about the annual tournament at http://www.montana.edu/first/FLLtournament.html

 

“Legos bring joy” – comment by a student upon receiving the recent donation.

Dorr says “We teach students to measure success by how much they’ve learned and how far they’ve come, not by whether they come in first place. We also use the program to teach them how to step away if they are frustrated and come back and try again.” She’s observed that all the students benefit from the lego robotics program, even if they are not on the team that competes that year.

 

Community Closet earmarks donations of items, like legos, for local groups and programs as often as possible in addition to annual cash grants in Park County, which have totaled $400,000 since 2005. Learn more at communitycloset.org or email Caron directly at communitycloset@yahoo.com. 

 

 

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