School electives a popular change at Progress Elementary
For Progress Elementary students, Thursday is the best day of the school week.
The school began experimenting with class electives this year. Each Thursday, students spend part of the school day in classes like photography, gardening, forensics or coding.
“I sat down with our staff and asked what they want to see with our kids and they talked about engagement increasing student engagement and curiosity in kids,” said Progress principal Matt Chisholm.
Students suggested and chose the electives they were interested in taking. Chisholm says the value of that choice can be seen in the continued curiosity of the older students.
“[When they get higher in the education system} Kids don’t ask the same questions. They’re not as curious as they used to be. We’re starting to hear more questions and kids really….that inquiry and that wondering going on, and that draws them into the learning,” he said.
During a ‘Micro:bits” class on Thursday, coding students worked to code a Rock, Paper, Scissors game for their devices. Across the hall, another group of students explored photography- alternating between learning how to use a camera outside and researching photographers inside.
“We try to create opportunities for students to take what they’re learning in the classroom and bring it to life,” said Ross Johnson.
Johnson is a teacher of innovation at Progress, and often works with students in a room knows as MakerSpace, which is another new addition to the school this year.
“It’s pretty much a room where students can take supplies and materials and build anything they want” he said.
Sometimes that’s a car propelled by a fan, or rollercoasters with marbles. On Thursday, students pulled supplies from the various classroom bins to make instruments.
“Their energy level is so high when they come in here is at an all time high because there is just so much freedom,” he said.
Both Johnson and Chisholm point to the success of the new additions so far. Kids appear to love the class opportunities and a survey of Progress parents found that students took that excitement home with them.
The programs also appear to have an impact on school attendance.
“Our attendance numbers are the highest on Thursdays and our discipline is the lowest on Thursdays,” Chisholm said.
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