The Clever Kids Foundation aims to encourage youngsters to innovate, implement and dream big.
There’s much more to life and learning than just “The Three R’s” — reading, writing and arithmetic. “School is kind of blocked out,” says Jessie Krupkin. “You spend the entire day just sitting at your desk, and that is not great for independent thinking.”
Along with her husband, Eric, and sister and brother-in-law, Stephanie and David Baron, Krupkin, a dental hygienist, is taking steps to ensure that area elementary school-age kids get a chance to flex their creative muscles and think independently.
Together, the Krupkins and the Barons have launched the Clever Kids Foundation, a nonprofit effort to encourage creativity and independent thinking among youngsters. The goal is to empower young people to think in an innovative manner.
Clever Kids sponsors workshops, funds kids’ creative ideas through its “Idea Challenge” and leverages volunteer events as opportunities for young people to think outside of the box.
The Stevenson-based foundation has raised about $10,000 since its launch last summer and has attracted a strong roster of community partners, including Fort Garrison Elementary School, local author/illustrator Richie Frieman, Jewish Volunteer Connection of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the Reisterstown-based food blog Afooda and the Baltimore Improv Group, among others.
So far, Clever Kids has participated in 10 outreach projects, drawing 86 volunteers and involving more than 160 kids and families.
“It is such a pleasure to support and work with the Clever Kids Foundation — a unique and hands-on platform that gives children the opportunity to explore and spark their creativity,” said Huppit Bartov Miller, founder of Afooda. “They have successfully implemented learning through meaningful activities.”
Alexandra Ade, community outreach and volunteer associate for JVC agreed.
“We love that Clever Kids Foundation empowers their participants to use their skills and passions to serve others,” she said. “We are proud to work with them to connect to the needs and opportunities of our community.”
The Baron and Krupkin families bring their own child-rearing experiences to the table. The Krupkins live in Ellicott City and have two kids. The Barons are raising three children in Pikesville, where they attend Beth Tfiloh Synagogue.
The founders say creative expression needs to be constantly encouraged in young people.
“If we don’t open kids’ minds to the concept of creativity and innovation, we will always just be stuck with what we have and never [be able] to build or improve upon it,” says David Baron, an information technology project manager at Johns Hopkins University and Health System.
The foundation’s monthly Creative Workshops help to get the juices flowing. “We have done a creative writing workshop. We partnered with Baltimore Improv to give kids a chance to do improv classes,” says Stephanie Baron, an employment attorney at Miles & Stockbridge law firm. “We did a pottery workshop where kids got the chance to actually make pottery on a wheel.”
Another workshop introduced kids to Eric Krupkin (aka the science entertainer “Eric Energy”), whose hands-on science demonstrations encourage youngsters to take a creative approach to matters connected to science, technology, engineering and math.
“It’s about giving them the opportunity to act creatively, to develop those skills and to try something new that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do in school,” Stephanie Baron says.
The foundation also sponsors an “Idea Challenge,” which aims to make mini-grants (up to $500) in support of kids’ creative solutions to practical problems. This was an outgrowth of the Baron family’s own experiences.
“During Earth Day, the children are often asked to come up with ideas to improve the green footprint of the school,” David Baron says. “One of our children came up with the idea of cleaning out [discarded juice packets] and reusing them as snack packs.”
That’s a marketable idea, he says, and there are probably lots of others like it waiting to be discovered and fleshed out.
“There are places where seed funding could help show the kids that even a small idea could potentially be turned into something that gives back,” he says
Giving back to the community is a central theme of the foundation’s efforts. Volunteer events have included craft projects in conjunction with the Hannah More Emergency Shelter in Reisterstown, performances in area nursing homes, participation in JVC’s “Good Deeds Day” and creative projects in support of the Howard County Animal Control and Adoption Facility.
These community-interfacing efforts are integral to the essence of Clever Kids, which encourages young people not only to develop their own creative resources but to leverage those in support of the greater good.
“It’s all about giving the kids the confidence to speak their minds and put forth their own ideas,” says Stephanie Baron, “while also doing good and giving back to the community.”
For information, call 443-738-4999 or visit cleverkidsfoundation.org.
Adam Stone is an Annapolis-based freelance writer.
Top photo: Members of the Clever Kids Foundation participated in a cleanup project at Middle Branch Park during the recent “Good Deeds Day” program sponsored by Jewish Volunteer Connection. (Photo by Steve Ruark)
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