Enrichment is the action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something.
Middle school can be a challenging time for many students. There are several factors that can influence the path students travel down. It only takes one teacher, one lesson, or one field trip to completely change the future of a student. Sometimes, students can slip through the cracks, but the leaders in our middle school realized something needed to be done to grab their attention.
New Program, New Opportunities
In the fall of 2018, our school launched an enrichment program. This was an additional class for students to take that was built into every Friday morning. The intent was to reach students from all walks of life and give them something to be excited about, regardless of their abilities, grades, or behavior. Every teacher was given the option to pick an innovative, fun, or unique hobby or skill to teach, and students were asked to sign up for the classes that interested them the most, such as quilting, calligraphy, photography, brain games, dance, and more. Even the teachers were being enriched as many of us hadn’t taught anything outside of our normal curriculum!
Thanks to a Pitsco grant received during summer professional development through Oklahoma Education and Industry Partnership, just weeks prior to school starting, I was able to purchase Pitsco products to use for my enrichment class, Flight Institute.
Learning Takes Flight
The class was popular and enabled students to learn about the basics of aerodynamics while building bottle rockets and balsa wood gliders. There were 19 boys and one girl in the class for the first semester. But getting girls interested in a predominantly male-led career path is important to me, so right before the second semester I encouraged more girls to sign up, and it worked!
During class, students worked in pairs to research bottle rockets, collected materials to add to the design, and collaborated on ways to protect a raw egg during launch and upon landing. We discussed the importance of rocket safety and of keeping the astronauts safe throughout their missions.
After all the rockets were designed and built, we had fun launching them high into the sky. Students were thrilled when their rocket launched the highest or their egg survived. Some students were disappointed because their egg didn’t make it, but then we would discuss what design changes might improve the chance of survival. Seeing students get so excited about launch day was also invigorating and motivating for me.
Skill Building in Action
This class enabled students to practice skills in following directions, and they learned the importance of precision while building the balsa wood gliders. It also gave them a chance to be creative while making colorful designs and giving their gliders exciting names. Many students experienced trial and error as some would trim only one glider wing, which caused the gliders to veer to one side or the other during flight. Some students would try adjusting the weight on the front or the back of the glider or launching it at just the right height with the correct amount of force to make it stay in the air longer. They would jump for joy when their glider stayed in the air longer, then go and make more adjustments. The students gained an essential lesson in learning from failure that also led to a brief review about the history of flight.
My favorite part of this whole experience was to see all the students (not just from my regular classes) get excited and interested in a topic that requires a lot of thought, skill building, and patience. It was truly a delight. I can’t wait to continue using Pitsco products next year as I enhance Flight Institute, making it better than ever!