Our young numismatists' club operates during the academic school year, so our club "new year" starts each September. Although we communicate a little over the summer, the active portion of our club year ends with our Awards Ceremony on the last day of school, which is usually near the end of May. Our members earn medals during the school year for achieving certain levels of participation, and we present them before the entire elementary school. This is a great way to recognize our dedicated members, and serves as a great recruitment tool for the next school year.
Our membership is open to students at our school, and local home school students, who are in 3rd through 6th grade. At the end of the 2018-19 school year, we had 21 members. 8 of those members were 6th graders, several of whom had been with the club since its inception in February 2017. Those 8 members were enthusiastic leaders in the group. It has been fun watching them mature as students and young people, and it was bittersweet to have them "age out" of the group. We knew we would miss them. With such a significant chunk of our membership graduating, I thought there might be a chance we would decrease our club enrollment for the first time in its history.
Not so! At our first meeting of the new school year, we had 26 students in attendance, with 25 of them signing on as members for the year. By our second meeting, we had 27 official members, and a 28th in the process of joining.
What's our secret? A number of factors are probably at play here. We have a lot of bright young minds at our school, and maybe numismatics is attractive to them as an intellectual hobby: there is so much "history and mystery" to explore. As a school-based club, this is an opportunity to have fun with classmates in an extracurricular activity. We offer opportunities for recognition through our activities and awards. We break up the lecture meetings with participation activities and fun events like parties with cookies and games. And of course, we give things to our members. Members get coins, coin books, etc. when they join; we have monthly drawings for donated coins, currency, and other items; and we have a big auction each May of donated items where the members use "club money" they earn by attending and participating all year long.
I don't have statistical studies on which to base the following assertion, but I believe there are a certain subset of young people who would be interested in numismatics, but don't join an existing coin club or participate in its youth outreach due to a number of barriers. I feel like school-based clubs have some built-in advantages which can contribute to success in forming young numismatist clubs and promoting numismatic interest among young people.
1. Preexisting group affiliation. Shyness is a common trait among kids. They are still developing social skills. Some are prone to embarrassment. Fear of strangers or unknown situations is common. A club made up of primarily familiar schoolmates and friends their age helps them feel comfortable and more likely to show up.
2. Time consolidation. Extracurricular activities are time commitments. Ask any "soccer mom": this also means a time commitment for responsible adults who are on the hook to drive the students everywhere. Our school is a private school where the majority of students are picked up by their parents at the end of the day instead of riding a school bus home. We hold our meetings immediately after school on school property, so our members do not have to go home first, then be driven back out somewhere later. Unless there's a non-driving sibling that has to get picked up at the end of the school day, the extra two hours we keep a student after school amounts to two extra hours before the parent has to pick up the student, perhaps freeing time for errands (or a nap!) once a month.
3. Facility availability. Holding our meetings at the school negates the need to find another meeting place. Rented places would add expense the club would have to pay. Donated meeting space often comes with limitations. A school already comes with restroom facilities appropriate for the kids, tables and chairs that don't need taken down and stacked or stored, etc.
4. Built-in support for its natural educational affinity. Numismatics supports so many different aspects of a child's educational and social development, that it's a natural fit as an extracurricular activity for a school... and school faculty, staff, and administration see the value in such activities and are likely to be supportive. Some may even actively contribute to the club's functioning, whether helping with activities or providing logistical support (making copies, distributing meeting flyers to the classes, etc.).
These aren't the only reasons for our success by any means. We have supportive parents, a great coin shop right in town, and some generous supporters that help take our club beyond basic and to the next level. We also take advantage of benefits available to member clubs of larger numismatic organizations, such as the ANA and the Central States Numismatic Society.
I would encourage anyone who really enjoys helping kids grow, succeed, and have fun, to try starting a school-based numismatics club. Just make sure you really enjoy kids and that your first priority is helping kids grow and have fun.