By Emily Rasmussen

Projects engage children and come in a variety of forms, ranging from science fair competitions, entering crafts or photography in local fairs to volunteering for a long-term cause. Whether it’s a friendly competition between peers or collaborating as a team for an ultimate goal, working on projects teaches children and teens how to manage time, be responsible for their work and take constructive criticism.

Long-term benefits of projects can help children build resilience and learn how to set appropriate benchmarks, said Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist and parenting educator in Los Angeles, in a PBS article titled, “How to Help Your Child Set and Reach Goals.”

According to Hurley, working on projects with long-term goals teach children:

  • Responsibility: Success or failure depends on what they put into it.
  • Time management: Kids learn how to manage their time to meet their goals.
  • Confidence: Nothing beats the feeling of meeting your own goal.
  • Resilience: Kids learn to cope with the small setbacks that might stand in their way.
  • Perseverance: They learn to keep trying and rework their steps until they meet their goals.

There are a myriad of opportunities in Orange County for students to become involved with a goal-based project, whether it’s independent or with a group.

One option to foster team building skills is with the Boys and Girls Club of Capistrano Valley, which includes education, art and physical programs. An example of a unique program to the Boys and Girls Club is their character and leadership development clubs, such as the Keystone Clubs or Torch Club.

“Helping youth become responsible, caring citizens and acquire skills for participating in the democratic process is the main thrust of these programs,” the Boys and Girls Club of Capistrano Valley website said. “They also develop leadership skills and provide opportunities for planning, decision-making, contributing to (the) club and community and celebrating our national heritage.”

For more technical projects and goals, OC Science—a student-run nonprofit organization that focuses on science and engineering—is an example of a challenging educational program. OC Science is affiliated with the Orange County Science & Engineering fair, but also has more frequent projects for students.

One of the OC Science projects is Problems of the Week, which engages elementary and middle school students to challenge themselves with sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics and earth sciences.

“As opposed to traditional competitions, OC Science allows students one week to think out their answers and come up with creative solutions to free response questions,” the OC Science website said.

With the program running from October to March, students who perform well and show a deep understanding of the topics are invited to compete in the Science Bowl, which takes place in April.

Extracurricular projects and goals aren’t limited to competitions. With volunteer opportunities that can range from working with faith-based groups or helping the environment, there’s interests for any field your child may be interested in.

Plus, some volunteer groups allow adults to join, so parents can use this as an opportunity to bond with their children while doing a fun and productive activity. OneOC.com is a resource that families can use to find volunteer organizations, with some that will satisfy service-learning hours.

Regardless of the resume-building skills that children or teens will learn while being involved in goal-based projects, the personal knowledge acquired will prepare them for an array of challenges both inside and outside of the classroom.

Read more of our 2018 Summer Camp and Activities Guide HERE:

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