“Is it Friday?” Charles* asked as we lined up outside the school. It was Monday afternoon. The bell rang and students were pouring out of the school eager to begin their after-school activities.
“It is not Friday,” I said, “It is Monday.” There were sighs of disappointment heard throughout the group.
“How many more days until Friday?” Charles asked.
“Four more days until Friday,” I replied.
On Tuesday afternoon as the students came pouring out of the school at the end of the day, Charles ran up to me, “Three more days until Friday, right?”
I looked at him and smiled, “correct, three more days until Friday."
The countdown that had begun on Monday would continue each day until the long-awaited day arrived… Friday! What, might you ask, were the students waiting for? Why did they count down every week longing for Friday? The answer… Perler Beads.
*This student's name has been changed for privacy.
Over the past six years, it has become a tradition at the RISE After School program to spend an hour on Fridays creating Perler Bead projects. Perler Beads, also known as fuse beads, are small hollow plastic beads, that come in a variety of colors, that are placed on peg boards by the children in whatever shape, pattern, or design they wish. The projects range in complexity and size depending on what each child wants to create. The best part about Perler Beads is that they’re not just a fun craft activity that the kids look forward to each week, but they are also an activity that helps us accomplish our mission to build strong, young lives.
First, creating Perler Beads helps the students develop better fine motor skills. Because the beads are so small, it takes a lot of control for the students to be able to place them on the board in the correct place. Second, these projects help students develop patience and perseverance. Individual projects take anywhere from a couple of minutes to a couple of hours to complete and because we only get an hour each week to work on the projects, this means that some students work weeks to complete a project. Undeterred by the amount of time it takes, the students work diligently week after week to see their projects through to completion. This delayed gratification is a valuable skill to learn in an era of increasingly greater instant gratification.
Lastly, Perler Beads provide the staff at RISE with many opportunities to help guide students through the strong emotions that come with disappointment. Almost every week we experience one meltdown, sometimes two or three, when it’s time to stop working. Because students invest large amounts of time and effort into their projects, it’s hard to stop working with nothing to show for their effort at the time. One might argue that if these projects cause us so much grief, why continue to have them do it? Yes, it might make our jobs harder when we must calm down and talk with a kid who is distraught, but the best time for kids to learn how to work through big emotions is when they have a caring adult present to help.
At SSYO our mission continues to be building strong, young lives so our community will thrive. Sometimes building a strong, young life is accomplished through providing a much-needed snack, offering help with reading or homework, spending quality time playing with a child, or offering them the opportunity to start and finish a craft project. As we continue to work together to build strong, young lives, we wait expectantly to see the fruits of our labor. Thank you for joining with us in the mission!