Smarty Pants Are Leaders | Workshops
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For all children to be nourished by healthy, joyful eating habits at every meal, every day.


Smarty Pants Are Leaders’ primary goal is to accomplish grade improvement and increase school attendance. We believe by setting these standards early, children will continue to have better attendance into middle school and high school ensuring more successful graduates from high school. With a strong foundation of leadership skills at an early age, we can contribute more significant young leaders to the world community tomorrow.

Nutritional Standards (Set by Dr. Suzen Moeller)

SMARTY PANTS ARE LEADERS ARE HEALTHY EATERS. It is an important aspect of the SPAL program that children learn to be healthy eaters so that all children are nourished by healthy, joyful eating habits at every meal, every day. Each day, the participating children will receive a snack. SPAL has established nutritional values to support the food that will be grown as part of the program, which will be cooked and eaten by the children. All foods provided to the children is organic, including both grown and purchased items.

Curriculum Overview

SPAL has aligned its curriculum with the applicable Illinois Learning Standards, which are promulgated by the Illinois State Board of Education and are applicable to all public in Illinois. SPAL believes that “thinking outside the box” isn’t just a phrase – it’s a way of life. SPAL therefore offers a challenging but engaging interdisciplinary curriculum comprised of “Art Reflects Life” (artistic self-expression), “Kinder Gardens” (urban farming), the scientific study of Family History (Genealogy), Theatre Play, Poetry in Motion (body movement), and Quiet Time (expressive and reflective meditation). While most after-school programs present one subject, SPAL’s multi-faceted approach keeps the students absorbed in its alternative art based programs. By motivating the mind, body, and spirit of each student, each child also learns a new set of soft skills (such as multi-tasking and accountability) that will, in turn, benefit his or her everyday life and future prospects.

Core Curriculum

  • “Art Reflects Life” enforces hand eye coordination, critical thinking skills and brain development
  • “Kinder Gardens” and the study of urban farming incorporates natural and life sciences, and nutrition

Complementary Curriculum

  • Family History or “grass-roots genealogy” connects students personally with the landscape of American History
  • Theater Play teaches communication skills, confidence, and conflict resolution
  • “Poetry In Motion” helps to combat childhood obesity, and teaches the importance of self-responsibility and nurturing self-care
  • Quiet Time, or Meditation, decreases school behavior violations, reduces criminal activity by quieting the mind and central nervous system, promotes emotional health & wellness
  • Homework Time is a time for tutoring and the reiteration of the importance of academic achievement.

A Note About “Quiet Time” – Once a day, everyone gathers together for Circle in a Square. This is a time for community and discovery through both group discussion and private reflection or meditation. Although meditation is not mandatory it is highly recommended. Although the term “mediation” often carries a religious stigma, it is simply a time for the students to focus on their breath and become quiet to tune into themselves without distraction. Often the stress that young people carry is realized in violent ways because they are unaware of ways to manage their frustrations. This type of quiet thought has been proven to minimize stress immediately and provide long-term benefits as well.

Curriculum Benefits

We believe that once a person can find beauty in art imitating life (Art Reflects Life), develops a relationship to nature by getting their hands into the soil (Kinder Gardens), and eating the fruits of their labor, they will become confident leaders on every level and not follow the path of others. Furthermore, when a student knows a little about their family lineage (Family History), has a better understanding of body language (Poetry In Motion), knows how to enunciate and project when communicating (Theater Play), connects with their breath and with each other (Quiet Time) the possibilities for growth are endless. Other benefits include:

  • Confidence and Sense of Identity – SPAL strives to show each student that they are much greater human beings than they may give themselves credit.
  • Artistic Outlets and Exposure – Through these classes we will expose youth to new things they may develop new passions or skills. We will also discuss how they learn, feel, dislike or love each new experience.
  • Personal Reflection and Insight – Every student gets a journal at the beginning of the program. Studies show that journaling improves everything from everyday mood to standardized test scores. This book is used by the students to track their feelings and experiences. It is for their eyes only and theirs to keep.
  • Academic Improvement/Achievement – SPAL strives to increase academic attendance by adding value to their total day. Each subject presented ultimately intersects, which inherently teaches young people on a subtle level how to multi-task.

Curriculum Support

SPAL is dedicated to helping children improve in the areas they need most. For this purpose, interaction with family members, teachers, and school administrators is key.

  • With Schools: They must attend their daily classes in order to receive the additional special benefits of our after school program. Additional benefits are rewards to keep them committed to each other (the team) and to their program.
  • With Teachers: Students will be evaluated in the areas of academic performance, attitude, and personal strengths prior to, midway through, and after SPAL programming to track progress. Teachers may also set specific goals for each student.
  • With Parents/Family: SPAL seeks to create young leaders, inspired to give back to their communities – and community begins at home. Twice a month, SPAL opens its doors to family members of students so they can take part in our curriculum and share in the learning experience.

The Final Project

Final projects are presented to team members and the student group as rehearsal then presented to parents during an evening event. Students are given an opportunity to choose how they want to express or perform their final project. The oral presentations are standing or performed.

  • Art Reflects Life: Here students may present a painting or drawing that depicts their experience in the program. They can choose a family member from Family History or they can choose a subject from the garden. They are encouraged to use elements from the garden like soil and leaves in their paintings.
  • Kinder Gardens: The students may choose to present a picture or live plant of which they have grown in the garden. They are encouraged during this final project to discuss what they learned and tricks of the trade that they can pass on.
  • Poetry In Motion: The students are asked to perform without words their emotional growth and transformation that occurred during their program. The student must provide a written poem or story that accompanies their silent expression. The instructor will read the peace while the student performs. This is a free form of expression that will be somewhat guided for performance quality but for the most part the student will orchestrate their poem through movement.