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Draper Journal

St. John the Baptist Elementary offers electives to students

Oct 28, 2016 09:30AM ● By Julie Slama

St. John the Baptist students can choose to learn percussion as part of the new elective program at the elementary school. (Nevah Stevenson/St. John the Baptist Elementary School)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Draper, Utah - Every Wednesday, St. John the Baptist Elementary fourth- and fifth-graders could be engaged in learning Zumba or Scratch.

In a new elective program this fall, the older elementary students spend 50 minutes every Wednesday in one of their topic choices of classes to study this fall semester. 

Class offerings include Zumba, percussion, yoga, computer chess, computer coding and genius hour, which allows students to self-direct their learning as they research their own idea and work in a team to prepare and present it to the class.

“Students have seemed to love the interactive classes and it gives them a new experience outside the normal classroom,” said Nevah Stevenson, St. John director of advancement. “There are unique offerings that they may not normally have access to.”

Stevenson said many of the electives may be areas that faculty are passionate about or think students may like to learn.

As the computer teacher, Denise Page realizes that technology offers many options for students.

“We tried to narrow it down to both fun and lesson value for the future,” she said. “The students are excited to come in and learn. Unlike the core subjects, it allows students to choose to learn something new and fun that they might not have tried otherwise.”

One of the classes Page is teaching this fall is coding.

“Coding is an important element for our future children. I have read that there will be over 1 million job positions open for coding or programming by 2025,” she said. 

Although all St. John Elementary students engage in the Hour of Code in December, this class further explores the program Scratch as well as other opportunities on

“This elective allows my students to go deeper into programming,” Page said.

She also has introduced a chess club for fourth-graders using Chess Kids, which offers lessons at an individual pace as well as videos and tournaments.

“We once had an after-school chess program and the kids loved it,” she said.

In the spring, she plans to offer a yearbook club for fifth-graders. New electives will allow students to try new areas, Stevenson said.

Music teacher Amy Pernich remembered when she was younger her “band teacher only allowed the boys to play the drums and the girls all had to play on practice pads.”

Without having the chance to play real percussion, she quit after three months, but stuck with piano and majored in performance in college. Needless to say, she wants St. John girls as well as boys to have the chance to play on the real instruments.

“I chose to teach percussion because many of the students expressed interest and I hope students will have a great time learning some basic skills like working together, counting, keeping a steady beat and improvising,” she said. “Hands down the best part of teaching this class is the excitement and enthusiasm the children bring to their music — and it’s loud.”

Already the class is planning to showcase its talents in “On Our Way to Bethlehem” at the annual Christmas program.

Other classes already have selected their pieces to join the older students. Performances during the week of Dec. 12 include kindergartners with “The Polar Express,” first-graders with “The Littlest Angel” choir, second-grade students with “The Nativity” and third-graders with “Shepherds, Sheep and a Savior.”

Stevenson said the initial response has been positive.

“The students have been excited about this and parents are receptive. It’s been a good experience for students to be introduced into what they will be experiencing with classes in middle school,” Stevenson said.

She added that teachers who are not offering an elective can use that 50 minutes as preparation time.