Why do parents and PTAs love us? Check out this video. (1 min, 45 seconds)
Welcome afterschool activity coordinators, PTA board members and parents who want to see our classes at your school!
Is your PTA tired of dealing with multiple after-school vendors, each with different policies? Having trouble finding volunteers to keep up with all the work of signing up vendors, providing rosters, handling registration and collecting checks out of dozens of backpacks?
The Great Adventure Lab is here to help. We are a top-quality, turn-key after school STEM enrichment program for K-7. Our classes provide hands-on fun and learning. We get rave reviews from students, parents and PTAs. And guess what? We do all the work!
Just call us at 240-442-1855. We can help you choose from our wide variety of class offerings. Then we design your flyers, reserve our own rooms and handle all registration and payment for our classes. We staff all of our classes with two adults for every 10 to 14 kids.
Your students get an excellent hands-on experience; your parents get full written reports after every class meeting, often including photos, videos and/or links for extending the lesson at home. And you get the credit for bringing an amazing program to your school.
Frequently asked Questions
What kinds of schools run your programs?We offer our programs at public schools, private schools and to home-schoolers. Our schools range from quite wealthy to Title I (We also run our programs at low-income housing communities managed by Montgomery Housing Partnership).
If you’d like us to come to your school, all we need is an invitation. Our schedules fill up fast, so call ahead. For details, contact our scheduler,
Some science clubs stuff 20+ kids into a room with one instructor. Do you do that?No!
We keep class sizes small so each child can fully participate in every class, as opposed to nodding off while a single, frazzled instructor is leading a demo somewhere on the other side of the room. Most of our classes have a student-adult ratio of 6:1; Mindstorms has a ratio of 4:1.
Because we keep classes small, we have plenty of opportunities to work with each student at her own level.
What’s the difference between the three robotics classes you offer?
Our Lego Robotics class is a great program for beginners and kids who’ve had limited exposure to robotics In this class, students follow step-by-step, on-screen directions to build and then program their robots – with our instructor’s guidance and supervision. We encourage students who are ready to modify their mechanical designs and their programs to make their robots achieve different tasks.
Robo Challenge is for older elementary school students who are new to robotics or younger students who have already taken LEGO® Robotics. In this class, we take the training wheels off: instead of giving students step-by-step directions, we give them a challenge and then ask them to design a robot and program it to meet the challenge. Challenges include: build a bridge that goes up when a boat approaches; build a robotic trap to catch a robotic hexbug …
Mindstorms is a great class for older kids, grades 4-7, who either have some previous robotics experience, or can focus on problems that require logic, mechanics and engineering. Lego Robotics is not necessarily a prerequisite for Mindstorms; on the other hand, many of our younger students who have enjoyed one or more Lego Robotics classes are not necessarily ready for Mindstorms.
For descriptions of all of our classes, including Video Game Programming, Crime Science, Young Engineers and Storybook Science, see Our Classes.
How often do your classes meet, and for how long?Most of our classes meet for one hour a week, once a week for seven weeks, though we’re happy to run longer or slightly shorter sessions to suit your school’s schedule.
Do we need to supply computers or a computer lab to run your classes?No. We provide our own computers for use during class. All we need is table space, so a regular classroom will do.
Programming? Can elementary school kids do that?Yup, and we’ve taught more than 5,000 of them how to do it. LEGO® Education’s WeDo is an award-winning, super simple, drag-and-drop programming language that was designed specifically for kids ages 7 to 11. Some MCPS elementary school teachers use WeDo in class. Even kids who have very limited computer experience can do this! Here is a screen shot photo from Wired.com, GeekDad column.
The program in the middle of the screen shows a motor power button (with a spe
edometer symbol) and motor direction button, ‘framed’ by a yellow ‘repeat’ order. The orange icon, which stands for a light sensor, is actually misplaced in this screen shot … Your kids will be able to explain what’s wrong with this picture by the end of the first or second session.
Is programming hard work for the kids?Not at all. It’s just plain fun. In our experience working with kids and WeDo over the last year, we’ve discovered that some kids have the most fun learning about building with pulleys, axles and gears. Some kids prefer playing with the WeDo software. And some kids love both.
Will you turn students into Einsteins?No, but we will help them discover and explore the world of robotics in a super fun way. Lots of parents tell us their kids come home and explain everything they learned in great detail, and then start experimenting on their own! Check out our reviews!
What happens in Lego Robotics classes for beginners?
Working in pairs (we provide one computer and robotics kit for every two students) , students will:
- get a fun introduction to basic mechanics and elementary programming concepts
- build machines & robot using LEGO® bricks, motors, gears, pulleys and/or motion/tilt sensors
- program their machines and robots using LEGO®’s award-winning WeDo software.
Beginning students will follow step-by-step instructions, while more advanced students will be challenged to build robots that accomplish certain tasks.
May students take their robotics projects home?
Sorry, No. Our robotics equipment is extremely expensive; we’d have to charge a LOT more for classes if kids took our equipment home! But, kids in our robotics classes still have lots of fun!!
Some of our other classes do include take-homes. In our Video Game Programming class, we upload their final projects to a server so they can continue programming at home. In our Young Engineers class, kids take home toothpick bridges, egg drop contraptions and a huge catapult! Our Storybook Science class pricing includes take-homes for each child after each class.
How many students do we need to form a class?The minimum enrollment for most of our classes is 11; the max is 12-14. (Exception: Mindstorms forms with eight students). We can form smaller classes by raising tuition accordingly.
Any child who is interested in either LEGO®s or computers will want to sign up for our robotics classes. Doesn’t that include just about every kid?
When you say you’re a turn-key STEM enrichment program, what does that mean?
It means we can do ALL the work, so you don’t have to. Our founder once organized clubs for her PTA, so we know what a pain it can be to gather registration info, find checks in the backpack system and deal with flyers and invoices. Those days are over. We make your life way easier with:
- Flyer design. We design flyers that list and describe the classes you’d like to offer. We customize these flyers for your school. We email them to you so you can do further customization, before sending the flyers home and/or over your listserv. If you like, we can also deliver printed flyers to your school.
- Online registration if you want it. We set it all up and email you the link = a lot less work for you! Parents click on the link to register and pay online. No more worries about lost or bounced checks!
- Class rosters. When you take advantage of our online registration, we generate rosters for each class and share them with you. OR If you prefer to handle own registration, we’ll give you a link to an online template where you can type in students’ and parents’ names and info – we’ll have live access to your forms as you update them, so no need to email updates back and forth! With one click, you can share the link with your school office.
Do you have any reviews from PTAs?
Yes!Thanks! The kids had a lot of fun with you!
-Activity Coordinator Linda von WernitzK. has been loving robotics. Thanks so much for all you do!It was a great class and I am happy everything went so smoothly on the first day. The kids loved it!
-Mary Gregory, after school activities coordinator.Thank you! You are doing great work with our students!
-Khanny Yang, Principal, Parkland Middle School
Editor’s note: The Great Adventure Lab offers afterschool programming at Parkland Middle School five days a week. We provide Engineering on Mondays, Robotics on Tuesday, Video Game Programming on Wednesdays, 3-D Design on Thursdays and Hands-on Science projects on Fridays.I don’t know what else he teaches, but the kids absolutely LOVE him. I’ve had two parents approach me about his class just in the past week.I am really impressed with your work thus far. Keep it up.
Thank you much. The kids really enjoyed you all.
We appreciate your fabulous instruction! Your class is terrific, and the kids are enjoying it immensely.
What great photos….and how informative are these follow up newsletters from the robotics instructor?…. So happy w/ this after school program 🙂Thank you so much for all your hard work at Bannockburn! Your class got rave reviews and we are excited to offer more classes in the fall.You were terrific!My daughter is in the class this session. I wanted to let you know that sending out the photos each week from class is a very effective way to get parents to feel good about this class. I am over the After School Activities for Gorman Crossing PTA. I will be recommending this to all of our vendors.
Class: Lego Robotics, April 2014Your tables were highly popular – the kids just wouldn’t leave! You were excellent as a room contributor and educator. Well done!”The kids had a blast and so did I. Many children continued to ask after you had left when you were coming back!“Thanks so much. The kids really enjoyed themselves We are grateful for the program and you giving the kids so much to look forward too.”Whatever class dates you have are fine with me. You have a great program so it will fill up no matter what day it’s offered. (June 2013)Thanks! You and your team were impressive today! And the children were totally engrossed in their project. Well done.Thank you for these awesome updates and pictures. … I am a big believer in this type of STEM programming and so pleased to be part of bringing it to Westbrook through the PTA. The kids are learning a lot from you!That was simply a wonderful class. Thank you so much for your excellent teaching. And your great communications with families. You have set a high standard for other clubs.
How can this be a fundraiser for my PTA?
When you do the work to form any club that runs seven weeks or longer, and pay our invoice on time, we will donate 7% of collected tuition to your PTA (9 percent for Title I schools). What’s the work? Reserve the room and sign up parents and collect money, so we can send you one invoice that you can pay with a single check). Here are some of the donations we’ve made so far.
If you prefer, we can organize the clubs and handle registration and payment.
We also offer:
- free tuition to one qualified parent aide per session – if we need an aide from your school. We prefer to provide our own aides.
- if we ask you to supply a parent aide and that person chooses to waive her free tuition, we will donate that waived tuition to your PTA, in addition to the 7- to 9% of tuition collected.
- When your school or group runs our classes, we can donate a free birthday party to your school’s silent auction or other fundraiser! We only do this for schools who run our programs.
Do you offer evening classes?
Yes! Our evening classes have been a great success. Some parents prefer them because by the time they start, their children have had a chance to rest, eat and do homework. These classes start between 5:30 and 6:30 pm, depending on the class. Tuition for classes that start at 6pm or later is slightly (usually $5) higher than tuition for after-school classes, because it costs us more to rent rooms in the evening.
Evening classes are open to children from any school. We reserve our own rooms and handle all registration and payment for evening classes, so we can offer these classes independent of your PTA.
What kind of experience do you have doing this?
Since fall 2010, we’ve taught more than 10,000 kids how to write their first programs. Almost all of these kids had no previous experience with robotics or programming. We have a very good sense of what elementary student can do; how to give extra help to kids who need it; and how to help more advanced kids experiment independently instead of following step-by-step instructions that our beginners find so useful.
Many of our instructors work or have worked as certified teachers.
ALSO, back in 2008, our founder started the Silver Spring, Md. chapter of the Jr. FIRST LEGO League, where kids learn about basic mechanics and how to design cars, windmills and other simple machines that move. In other words, we don’t just love LEGO® robotics. We live it!
What kind of instructors do you have?
Our instructors include a few college juniors and seniors and many science or engineering professionals who are either switching careers or saving up to go back to graduate school. We only hire folks who are smart, competent, punctual, friendly; have previous paid experience in a classroom or camp setting; and can pass our rigorous background check, which includes FBI and state fingerprinting.
We pay and perk our people better than any other similar organization we know of, so we get the best. Each and every one of our instructors has passed a background check, and we’re all certified in first aid. All of our summer instructors are also certified in CPR.
We regularly poll our parents for feedback on our classes and our instructors, and how their kids like us and our classes. In other words, we do our very best to engage each child in a fun way, and if we see any sign that we are failing, or if parents express concerns, we fix the situation or refund the parent’s money.
Do you offer scholarships?
Yes. If your PTA prefers to handle registration and payment collection, we donate back 7 to 9 percent of collected tuition. You can use this for a single full scholarship, multiple partial scholarships, or anything else that’s important to your PTA. See complete details here.
Don’t forget, we offer free tuition to the child of one qualified parent aide per session. If the parent aide doesn’t need the money and offers to pay the fee anyway, your PTA can also use that money to offer one single, or multiple partial scholarships.
I’m ready to bring The Great Adventure Lab programs to my school!Great! Contact us as soon as possible! Our schedules fill quickly.