At Briarcliff School District, when students talk, we listen.
Last spring, Todd Principal Jessica Michaelidis came up with an idea to have clubs meet during recess. The clubs, which are available for students in grades three to five, are held during recess every six days. And while the clubs are optional, over 80% of the students choose to participate in them.
During the back-to-school picnic in the fall, fourth grader Robert Dubitsy approached. Michaelidis and suggested the idea of having a school newspaper. “The Todd Times Club” is now among the others that meet during recess.
The clubs are run by three Encore teachers:
Art teacher Paul Villanueva runs the Chess club, the Digital Photography club and the Art Journal club.
Teacher-Librarian Tara Phethean runs the Hola club, the Todd Times club, and Jumping into Genres club.
Music Teacher Jenna Stufkosky runs the Singing club, where students celebrate their passion for singing with vocal exercises, songs and singing games.
The clubs are driven by student interest; students vote on the clubs they are interested in, so not every grade gets to participate in every club.
Villanueva runs the Chess club, which is designed to accommodate players at any level.
“There are a few players with no prior knowledge, so each week I introduce a new piece on the chess board, and we play modified games,” he said. “The first week we played with only pawns and rooks, and we slowly added pieces. The advance players play a classic game. In Art Journal club, we recently wrote poems about the rain and drew a matching picture, and in Digital Photo club, we are going to hunt for interesting photos to take with the iPads around school, and then students will edit them.”
Phethean’s Hola club is also a club for students at all levels.
“It is a club for learning Spanish. Some students have some knowledge of the language, while others have no knowledge whatsoever,” she said. “The main idea is to have fun while learning a little bit about the language – everything from numbers and the days of the week to colors and other basic words, including greetings.”
Phethean also runs the “Todd Times” club, where students will interview someone from the community.
“I can’t disclose who it is; it is top-secret,” she joked.
“The Jumping into Genres club allows students to explore and share their favorite literary genres,” she said. “It’s all about the love of reading and possibly getting peers’ recommendations to try new genres.”
Michaelidis is thrilled that her idea has come to fruition.
“I began having conversations with the three Encore teachers last spring because I wanted to initiate an opportunity for students to be engaged in enjoyable activities that enrich their educational experience, while interacting with peers from classes across the grade,” she said.
According to Michaelidis, they developed creative, exciting options that appealed to students
“I was excited to be able to offer Robert’s idea of a newspaper,” she said. “His enthusiasm was contagious.”