Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Creative Clubhouse: A Unique Learning Experience

Baby bookworm and I had the pleasure of learning at the Creative Clubhouse recently, a space where children are "encouraged to explore, create and learn" through activities and classes.

We attended an "open studio" session where various stations were set up for the children to do exactly what their motto suggests!  From play dough, to Legos, to painting, to puzzles, to gluing little pieces of colored pasta on a wooden picture frame - there was fun, playful, creative learning occurring in every corner of this "cozy spot" nestled in a storefront in Havertown.  Even the windowsill at the front of Clubhouse was being used quite ingeniously as a play space for wooden blocks.

It was a truly enjoyable morning that had baby bookworm buzzing with excitement from her new found toys, playmates, and precisely crafted pieces of artwork that are currently being displayed in her bedroom.

Since baby bookworm and I do spend a large amount of time learning together one-on-one through play and books - I think it's important to "get out" and be social.  And, I am not the craftiest or most artistic mom on the block (or in the blogosphere), so I like to leave the heavy duty stuff (and conveniently the mess) for the true professionals like former elementary teacher Amy McClements, owner of the Creative Clubhouse, who holds a master's degree in Early Childhood Education.

What can I say about our experience?

We loved the open session. And by "we" I'm speaking of my mom persona, and my "Dr Marissa" educational psychologist persona.

Why did "we" love it so much?  Why do I think you should visit the Creative Clubhouse if you are in the Philadelphia area?

Because the Creative Clubhouse provides a unique learning opportunity that sometimes we as parents (I'm including myself here) overlook, or one we can't always recreate at home.

Here's what I mean.

The Creative Clubhouse is an environment that encourages parents to engage with and take part in their child's learning.

I mean, I try to do as much of this as I can at home, but how often do I get distracted by the dishes piling up in the sink, or the laundry staring at me in the closet, or that blog entry that just needs to be written!  In the clubhouses space, you can play and create and learn with your child.  You can pull up a bench and build that Lego house together.  You can show your child how if you mix yellow and blue together, you get green. You can spread out on the floor and provide guidance as your child puts together a new puzzle.  The clubhouse provides the space and materials necessary so that your child can be the focus of your attention, and that's a beautiful thing.

It's also an environment that encourages self-initiated and self-directed learning.

In the open play session we attended, there was no agenda.  Baby bookworm was free to take her curiosity where she so desired; she was in charge of her own learning, and I followed her lead.  I was there, sure, to guide her along the way, but she chose what to play, or what to create, or what to build, and when to stop.  Self-initiated and self-directed learning shows a child: "Hey, your interests and passions and opinions matter."  And that's a very important part of learning.

Her curiosity led her to building with blocks

The Creative Clubhouse's activities allow children to engage in critical thinking.

Playing with puzzles, blocks, Legos, and paint is not just fun.  It helps children build an essential skill needed throughout life: critical thinking.  It's the ability to reflect, analyze, reason, plan and evaluate.

Using critical thinking while putting together a puzzle

And where would the "Creative" Clubhouse be without creativity, right?

Yes, (and maybe most importantly) The Creative Clubhouse is a place that encourages children to be creative.

Creativity matters.  Creativity is what takes learning to the next level.  It's the ability to think outside the box, and engage in higher level thinking skills.  And believe it or not, creativity is an important aspect of "academic" subjects like math and reading. While at the clubhouse, baby bookworm was able to joyfully create a play dough sculpture or painting by using her imagination.  There was no "right" or "wrong" way to use the paint or the play dough utensils; there was no script for decorating a frame with pasta (in fact, she glued pasta where the picture is supposed to go); there was no manual for building a Lego castle.  Her creations were hers.  Which I could tell made her proud.

Using her imagination to make a Lego creation

We can't wait to visit the Creative Clubhouse for another open studio session, especially since their motto stresses all of the educational philosophies that I support.

What's your favorite place to engage creative learning outside of your home?  The Creative Clubhouse is now at the top of our list.

To find out more about the Creative Clubhouse, their membership, open studio, and classes offered please visit here.

Disclosure: We attended this open studio session free of charge, but no other compensation was given.  

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