1. The Education Gradebook

Students learn about games from around the world in Explorer K-8 club

In the classroom

SPRING HILL — Hailey Crawford paid thoughtful attention to Spanish teacher Nelsida Sierra-Diaz as Sierra-Diaz explained how to play the Italian card game Cassino.

Eight-year-old Hailey, a third-grader, and her table's game mates — eighth-graders Renata Masterson, 13, Skylar Charron, 13, and Emily Hilley, 13 — are all members of a fun after-school adventure at Explorer K-8 School: the International Games Club.

The club is open to middle-schoolers, though their younger siblings can also belong if they are mature enough to understand the games and their older siblings are present. The group has about 20 members and meets twice a month, on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.

"This is our third year," Sierra-Diaz said. "I started the club because I thought the students need to do something extra."

Being together in this setting allows them to socialize and learn about games from around the world, she explained.

Plus, games are fun.

"I like playing games," Sierra-Diaz said.

She teaches games she learned as a child. Also, some students suggest games, then teach others how to play.

There is a stockpile of games in Sierra-Diaz's room.

"It's not just table games," she said. "We play marbles outside and jacks and escargot, which is the French hopscotch, which is outside also."

The club was seeded by the school when it started, but now the group has to raise its own money.

"We do fundraisers throughout the year for games we want to buy," Sierra-Diaz said.

Their next will be Locomo Skate Night from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 2, from which a portion of the proceeds will go to the club.

Sierra-Diaz picks up some games at thrift stores. Others are homemade, including an African mancala game that involves colored stones and egg cartons.

"It uses strategy and math skills," Sierra-Diaz said, "so it's an educational game."

They play a German game called Settlers of Catan and Dutch shuffleboard, which Sierra-Diaz said is a professional sport in Holland.

She said that one of the school's custodians was a marbles champion when he was a child in the Dominican Republic, "and he came and showed how to play the game."

The club has officers. The president is eighth-grader Kellie Wangenstein, 13. She was a founding member of the group.

"I was just bored after school (and) wanted to see what the club was like because I heard it on the announcements and it sounded interesting, and I already had senora as a teacher and I knew what she was like," Kellie said.

Eighth-grader Kyron Alvarez, 14, is the vice president. He said he joined last year along with a friend. The friend had to move after the first meeting, but Kyron was already hooked and stayed with the club.

The treasurer is sixth-grader Alexis Osborn, 11. She has a pretty tough job, keeping inventory of the games.

"I'm still organizing right now," Alexis said. "So in the morning (when she has Spanish), I will do it and during club time.

She joined, she said, because "I actually wanted to do a school activity. I really liked it. It was fun, and I volunteered to be an officer."

At the end of each meeting, after the games are put away, the students don't just run off. First, they must demonstrate sportsmanship.

The students shake hands. Then they go home.