Electives prove to be 7th-period salvation for middle schoolers Fidgeting takes back seat to fun CARROLL COUNTY EDUCATION

October 12, 1992|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

In most schools, the last period of the day is poison. Teachers and students alike are itching for the dismissal bell to ring.

That is one problem solved by the elective classes offered at New Windsor Middle School.

The last 40 minutes each day offer students such courses as hunting and fishing safety, model building, crocheting, video aerobics, first aid for baby sitters, photography and classic films.

A student can take a different course each day or take just one a week and have a study hall the remaining days.

"It helps take the edge off" the last period, Principal Jeffrey Kimble said.

That benefit is a consequence, rather than a reason, for starting electives.

It wasn't until this year, the fourth one for the electives, that they were moved to last period.

At first, the electives were a solution for students who didn't have band or chorus and got bored in study hall while their counterparts were singing and playing.

"In some cases, that time was not being wisely used," Mr. Kimble said. "If they didn't have homework to do, they were wasting time."

The School Improvement Team, composed mostly of teachers, saw a program in a Frederick County school that inspired it to start the electives, Mr. Kimble said.

School officials called them activities at first but changed the designation to electives to eliminate any notion that the courses were just for fun.

Mr. Kimble said he wants the students to know that the purpose of the electives is to learn something. "These are all things that are developmental," he said.

For example, the emphasis on math electives was a response to the school's performance on standardized tests.

"Our math scores indicated we need to improve," Mr. Kimble said. "We thought it would give students a look at how to use math."

Among the electives are math puzzles, math tutoring and creative construction, which challenges students to build things using rulers, pencils and other easily obtained items. The math comes in through geometry, measurement and calculating scales.

Students learn that some careers, such as architecture, rely heavily on math, Mr. Kimble said.

Two boys in the math puzzles class said they enjoy it, although they took the class for different reasons.

Seventh-grader Jeffrey Sutton said he is good at math, and classmate Ricky Morris took it to improve his Cs and Bs in the subject.

Ricky said his grades result from his placement in the highest level of math class the school offers.

"Really, it's fun, and you learn more stuff in math puzzles than in the other [electives]," said Jeffrey, the son of Kathy and Dick Sutton of New Windsor.

Ricky, who took math puzzles last year, said his favorite is one in which hundreds of numerals are written into the shape of a pumpkin or some other seasonal item. The puzzle is to try to add together all of the numerals.

"You add three numbers at a time and cross them out," Ricky said of his strategy. It takes him about a week, working about 10 minutes a day, to finish the puzzle. Ricky is the son of Rick and Debbie Morris of New Windsor.

Although most students choose their electives, Mr. Kimble reserves the right to require students who need more academic help to take a study hall or a tutoring elective. Students with expertise in an area can do the tutoring.

For students who don't need such long-term help, the school offers a "PM help" session during the elective period.

"PM help" is a room where students can go to teachers or volunteers for short-term help with a particular type of math problem, science unit or other assignment from any class.

For variety, the electives run in 12-week cycles, so students get a chance to try a variety of things.

Even band and chorus students have at least one day a week when they can take an elective class.

Jeffrey's elective schedule, for example, includes hunting and fishing safety Monday, chorus Tuesday, middle-school team day Wednesday, intramural sports Thursday and math puzzles Friday.

Students can opt to take no electives and take study hall every day.

"But they have to do homework or read a library book," Mr. Kimble said.

"They can't just sit there and read Seventeen magazine or write notes to their boyfriend or girlfriend."

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