Interest Groups Let Students Lead

Written by Peter. Posted in Education, Interest Groups

On a Thursday afternoon at Unity Charter School, you might peek into a classroom where students are creating artwork with recycled materials, standing on one leg in tree pose, or cleaning and organizing the lost and found in the Common Room.  As you walk into the room and sit down, it might be difficult to determine who the teacher is.  Of course the adults in the room are easy to spot, but frequently a middle school student will be leading the discussion or activity, brainstorming service projects, teaching chess, or helping choose fair teams up for a game of kickball.  You might also notice that there are students of many different grades and ages working together on the task at hand.  Welcome to Interest Groups, Unity Charter School’s multi-aged, student-chosen learning experience.

Here’s how it works:  Students, community members, or teachers submit ideas for an interest group and offer a brief description of the activities involved.  Once the list of interest groups is generated, students select their top three choices of the interest groups offered.  From those picks, students are placed into a group for the five or six week cycle.  Groups can be run by students (even in primary grades), parents, grandparents, teachers or by volunteers from the community.  Activities can be sports, volunteer groups, science and technology or performance based.  They run each Thursday for 40 minutes.

The Interest Groups offered this round are Winter Art, Building with Blocks, Chess, Football, Yard Games, Eco-Schools – School and Grounds Community Service, Youth Summit, Board Games, Felting, Drop Everything And Read (D.E.A.R.), Knitting, and Yearbook.

Each cycle has some different options, though favorites can be repeated.  Some past favorites are Animal Community Service, where students bake dog biscuits and collect items to donate to animal shelters, Duct Tape, where students make different creations out of the versatile tool, and Readers Theatre, where students perform the story they are reading.

The best part about Interest Groups is that they are student driven, student selected, and at times, student directed.  Some of the best-received interest group ideas come from the youngest students in the school.  It is very empowering for students to come up with an idea and see it through to fruition.  Some students just enjoy participating in the activities, and that is great too.

Unity is currently in its third Interest Group session, with a new session starting on February 7, 2013.  If you’re interested in suggesting an idea or running an Interest Group on Thursday afternoons, contact Michael.  Your only limitation is your imagination.