Digital Climbers is an after-school program put on through the Muncie Library.
The program allows Longfellow Elementary students to continue their learning in a new setting.
All they have to do is walk across the street after school to Connection Corner, where Stuart Cotton hosts the program. He provides the kids with projects they can work on to challenge how they think.
“I get to say to them on a daily basis, ‘You feel smarter, don’t you? And I say yeah that’s awesome and I just saw it happen,” Cotton said.
The program dedicates worktime to STEAM learning programs. Cotton describes STEAM based challenges as science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
“Every challenge here is educational in some way,” Cotton said.
Cotton does not want this program to remind kids of the work they do at school.
"After 8 hours of doing that you just kinda wanna be free for second and explore the world you want to,” Cotton said. “So, we offer this opportunity to do that."
Kids choose their own tasks, complete them independently, and earn points which they can use to climb the “STEAM mountain.” By working on something for just 10 minutes, they can win one point.
"Once they've completed that challenge I write down on a slip what they've completed and at the end of the day I put all of these in the computer so the next day or the next month whenever they come back next we can know exactly how many points they have, they've spent, and how many they have left to spend," Cotton said.
The program has been ongoing for over a year. In that time more than 200 kids have earned 8,000 points.
That is roughly 100 hours of voluntary work from kids.
Stuart says his favorite part of the working with Digital Climbers is helping them gain skills they’ll be able to use in the future.
"I got a rule around here where I say use your words not your hands,” Cotton said. “So I won't pick up the thing and show you how it's done but I try to walk you through the logic of why this thing is being put together this way.”
Digital Climbers runs Monday through Thursday at Connection Corner. Monday through Wednesday the kids work on the their challenges and homework after school. Thursday is used as a free day for students to hang out with their friends, play video games, and use their remaining points.
Any child is welcome to join the climbers; they can just come in after school, once they’re signed up they can get started.
For more information you can call 765-747-8216.