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Child’s play returns to Weathersfield school

Staff photo / Mason Cole Dexter Wadley, a fifth-grade student at Seaborn Elementary, sets up Connect Four.

WEATHERSFIELD — With most schools diving headfirst into all of the latest technological advances, one local district is giving some students a weekly chance to step back for a bit.

Seaborn Elementary, in the Weathersfield Local School District recently began hosting a weekly get-together called the Disconnect Club. At the club, students rid themselves of electronic devices and spend an hour playing board games and socializing.

Stephanie Dota, a fifth- and sixth-grade social studies teacher at Seaborn and student council adviser, said the club was created as a way to let the students “get back to the basics of childhood.”

“We want kids to disconnect from their devices,” Dota said. “Get off their computers. Put their phones away.”

The club’s most recent meeting was Thursday. Approximately 30 students packed the library room at the elementary school. Kids from student council began setting up the games — Connect Four, Jenga Giant and various card games.

The students were organized into several groups playing different games. After a few minutes, they rotated to a new station to play another game. Competition was fierce from time to time with both cheers of victory and groans of defeat echoing throughout the library.

While the students at the get together seemed like experts at their specific activities, Dota said it took some time for the kids to learn the games.

“Even as a mom, my own kids don’t know basic games,” she said. “They didn’t know how to play Rummy, they didn’t know how to play War, and I was like ‘these are games we have to play.'”

The Disconnect Club was started by 5th and 6th grade student council. The first meeting was on Feb. 1 and the club runs through the end of March.

“We had a lot of parents actually offer donations of games because they loved the concept,” Dota said. “We got a ton of donations from families.”

After a tutoring session, Dota said the kids caught on quickly to the basics of the board games.

By the second get together, the student council members were leading the club.

“Their role is to pretty much run the show,” Dota said.

Lola Shaffer, a 6th-grade student at Seaborn, said she and the other students on council have enjoyed helping out with the club.

“Basically, we help them with the games and explain what they’re supposed to do with them, the rules and everything,” Lola said.

The club has been popular since it began earlier this month. Dota said when the group was opened for sign-ups, it had space for 30 students. She said the club was completely filled within the first day of registration.

The Disconnect Club is one of several after-school programs offered at Seaborn. Disconnect is the first club created and offered by student council.

“Seaborn offers a lot of other clubs through the art program and the music program,” Dota said. “Student council kind of wanted to have something of their own. This was something we came up with.”

Dota expects the popularity of the Disconnect Club to continue. Fifteen students are already on the waitlist for next session.

“It gives the students an opportunity to socialize,” Dota said. “When we’re at school it’s very (regimented), books — study — focus, this allows them to talk to each other. We have 3rd grade through 6th grade here at the Disconnect Club so it allows kids to connect that are not in the same grade. We’ve got some of our older kids working with younger kids. It’s just a way to get to know your own classmates.”

As one of the several members who enjoys the Disconnect Club, Lola said she thinks all students should take time out of their week to put away their electronic devices. She said the games at the club are more than just fun for the students.

“Some of them involve talking, writing and a lot of them use thinking,” Lola said. “I think that it is good for their own mental health. It’s really fun connecting with other kids and doing things that don’t involve electronics and the internet.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Mason Cole by email at mcole@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @masoncoletrib

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