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Draper Journal

Club Thursday offers Draper Park Middle School students after-school learning

Oct 18, 2018 01:13PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Club Thursday gives Draper Park Middle School students a chance to extend their learning, such as how to make crepes. (Photo courtesy of Annabelle Larsen)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

On Thursdays after school, eighth-grader Drake Larsen can be found hanging around Draper Park Middle School with teachers. The National Junior Honor Society student isn’t getting homework help; rather, he, and about 90 other middle school students, are enrolled in after-school activities as part of the newly formed Club Thursday.

“My first week, I picked robotics and we made Lego robots that we programmed,” he said, adding that he may want to pursue a career in computers or engineering and has previously taken part in programming classes and camps. “The second week, I picked cooking and we made crepes. I always like cooking at home, so it seemed like fun.” 

Drake’s first session was taught by a teacher and his second by counselor Kathy Bitner. He already is looking ahead to more sessions, including a stained-glass workshop with Principal Mary Anderson. Each week, he picks out which subject he’d like to learn about from a list provided on the school website by the counseling office, and students are enrolled on a first come, first served basis.

“I like how students and teachers are doing this together. It’s super positive. I also like being able to meet new people and learn new things, not just going home and sitting around,” Drake said.

That connection — to the school and the people — is part of the goal of Club Thursday, Bitner said. 

“We want students to have a connection to the school and discover that learning is fun,” she said. “This fits so many desires of our community. Our School Community Council said students wanted more electives and our PTSA said that students wanted more activities and service after school. It also gives students a chance to get to know one another more and our teachers outside of class.”

Bitner also said it also serves students who can’t fit in the electives they want, so this is an opportunity for them to learn woodshop, robotics, coding, photography or some other areas they want to — or maybe learn something totally different and create iMovies, learn about social networking or gourmet popcorn making. It also appeals to students because they will be active during the entire hour, with no homework or grades.

“We use the expertise and talents of our teachers and staff, but also extend it to our parents and community to come teach an area of their interest,” she said. 

With several people teaching, Club Thursday offers more subject possibilities — from teams competing in a chocolate chip cookie bake-off to learning photography from a teacher who is a professional photographer on the side. 

In November, some of the choices will include a holiday project in woodworking, a stained-glass ornament of a Utah college to decorate the school tree and tie into college week, a rotation involving crafts and the history of the Day of the Dead, and a service project of making games for children to do at the Festival of the Trees.

Anderson said that teaching students stained glass develops a different aspect of the principal-student relationship.

“Students pick what interests them, and then this is allowing them to take the extra mile in their learning and developing outside the classroom relationships,” she said. “It’s allowing our students to explore their interests and possibly extend more opportunities that are tied into our curriculum, from coding and sewing in CTE (career and technical education) to robotics in science to soccer and volleyball in PE. It’s enforcing our school climate into one where they’re discovering learning is fun.”

Anderson said the teaching is voluntary so the only costs involved are the workshop supplies, which are paid for by the school fundraiser.

Through Club Thursday, Bitner said students are learning college and career readiness skills, advocacy, teamwork and social skills as well as building friendships.

“Our students are connecting to the school academically and through relationships. They’re making friends and doing activities and uniting through common interests,” she said. “They’re realizing what school is about — the culture, the individual and that learning is enjoyable.”