Before the doors open: Engaging students through a network of clubs
This is the second entry in a weekly series that takes a peek into preparations for opening the newest Baltimore County school – Lyons Mill Elementary.


A video of the rising fifth graders at the soon-to-open Lyons Mill Elementary School shows them singing "Lyons Mill has it all" and attempting to list the school's many special features. Prominent on that list are some of the 21 clubs that will be available to students when the school year begins on August 24.

“Our amazing team of teachers has created a full menu of clubs and activities for our students,” says Maralee Clark, principal of Lyons Mill. “We are very proud that our selection of clubs will give students multiple opportunities to enrich their academic program during the school day as well as before and after school. It also is going to be a great way to build relationships with our students.”

Teacher McKinley Broome who will be involved with the school’s Chess Club, Student Government, and Math 24 Club says that 21 clubs sounds like a lot… until you get to know the “awesome” staff of Lyons Mill. “Everyone is on the same page here,” he says. “We have common goals, and everyone shares their strengths. All of us want to do something outside of the classroom. Ideas for student clubs and special activities just multiplied.”

Teacher Travis Russell, who will coordinate the SLIME club along with his colleagues Kate Anderson, Monica Barlow, and Sara Wink, says, “We aspire to impact our community, nation, and world, by having Students Lead, Inspire and Mend our Environment. I was interested in creating this club to get kids outdoors. Too often, children are sitting in front of a screen. My hope is to create a passion that will get kids exploring the world outside of their homes. Our club hopes to work with local gardeners and others who share our passion for going green.”

Broome – who created the “Lyons Mill has it all” video mentioned earlier – wants to share his enthusiasm through the school’s chess club. He explains that his interest in chess began just a year and a half ago.

“I decided,” he says, ”that my classroom had too many rules, and I decided to narrow it down to one rule. That rule was ‘THINK.’ But, students need practice learning how to think. One of my students, Rasheem Khalif, told me that his dad taught him chess to help him think more strategically. So Rasheem taught me, and I began teaching other students.”

Broome says that he needs community members with more expertise in chess to help him take student play to a new level.

Community members already have taken a lead role in establishing the afterschool VEX Robotics program at Lyons Mill.

As a judge at various robotics competitions, Doug Handy, coordinator of Career and Technology Education for Baltimore County Public Schools met a group of engineers and professionals interested in involving more students, especially students of color, in robotics programs. Handy connected the group to Lyons Mill, and plans for VEX Robotics at the school resulted.

“I'm excited about partnering with community members to engage students in challenging collaborative learning opportunities,” says Michelle Webster, the club’s sponsoring teacher. “The VEX Robotics Club will empower students to lead and compete in an arena with other elementary school students around the county and state. VEX Robotics combines creating global friendships with 21st century learning.” 

Another club with a strong academic focus is the Bibliobabblers Book Club, sponsored by teachers Shelly Mitchell and Lauren Levine. "I'm excited to start Bibliobabblers,” says Levine, “because it will be a dynamic way to engage students in literature outside of the classroom. Book clubs tend to foster a love of reading and encourage independence in young readers. As a language arts teacher, I'll do anything I can to get students excited about reading!"

In addition to helping students build academic strengths, clubs and programs will support them in developing other skills and interests.

Teacher Melissa Daniels says that she is sponsoring the National Elementary Honor Society “to provide students with leadership and service opportunities.” 


Teacher – and band member – Michael Poissant is forming a jazz/pop band because he knows “students will love being able to play music they hear on the radio."

“Everyone has different talents,” says Broome, “and we don’t get to explore them all during the school day. These clubs will give students another reason to really like school.”

Russell adds, “Our aim is to help our community grow as we grow as a school.”

Lyons Mill Clubs and Special Activities

5th Grade Ballroom All Stars, Grade 5
Art Explorers, Grades 4 & 5
Bibliobabblers, Grades 4 & 5
Chess Club, Grades 4 & 5     
Dance Team, Grades 4 & 5
Girls on the Run, Grades 3 – 5 
Jazz/ Pop Music Band, Grade 5
Junior Makers Club, Grades 1 & 2    
LEGO Robotics, Kindergarten – Grade 5
MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement), Grades 4 & 5
Maryland Science Olympiad, Grades 3 – 5 
Math 24 Club, Grade 5
NFL Play 60, Kindergarten – Grade 5
National Honors Society, Grades 4 & 5
Safeties, Grade 5
SLIME: Students Learning, Innovating, and Mending our Environment, Grades 3 - 5
SLIME Jr., Grades 1 & 2
Student Government Association, Grades 2 – 5  
Student Technology Squad, Grades 3 – 5
TV News Crew, Grade 5
Vex Robotics, Grades 3 – 5  

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