Churchill County Middle School’s Power Half Hour experiment wrapped up the academic year with success, as students discovered new hobbies and the opportunity to get involved with the community.
Every Friday, students attend a club of their choice for 30 minutes before they’re released. Students in seventh and eighth grades choose clubs during enrollment at the beginning of the year.
There are 27 clubs to join including gardening, cooking, crafts, and even chess. Principal Amy Word said the idea was inspired from other schools, such as Dayton Elementary School, which has a similar program.
“We have a higher attendance on Fridays because kids love it,” she said.
Local businesses, such as The Twisted Branch, donate gardening materials and seeds to grow. By the end of the academic year, students in the club were able to create their own fresh salads from the garden.
Not only do students gain new skills but they also gain the concept of responsibility; the science club focused on recycling items around campus and the crafting club recently donated handmade quilts to the local CareNet organization.
“I like to grow things,” said seventh grade student Lana Hittle, of the gardening club. “It’s nice because these are good responsibilities.”
Another example is the Chess Club, monitored by social studies teacher Gary Jamieson. While on some Fridays club members practice play, they also dedicate their time to teach special ed students how to play.
“Playing chess on a regular basis improves grades and analytical skills,” Jamieson said.
Studies have found chess to improve academic performance in general and mathematical capacity, as result show the effect of chess on math scores providing evidence that abilities and knowledge acquired during chess play can be applied to mathematical skills.
The most popular club among all in Power Half Hour is cooking. Word said 90 eighth graders have enrolled to the cooking club next year and it may be split into two.
Normally, clubs enroll 20 students or less.
Laura Lee Christensen, instructor and moderator of the club, said there are many reasons why students love the cooking club: they get to taste their own food and inspires them to interact at home. Guest speakers such as Louie Mori of Mori Meats also presented at the club to show students the science behind cooking meat and how to properly handle it.
Christensen also said food unites people — especially for teachers.
“We don’t have a lot of fun time with kids,” she said. “This is an opportunity for us to bond with our students in a non-academic way.”
Christensen added the clubs bring students together as friends; she said she didn’t have any behavioral problems all year during the half hour.
“In the beginning, they were not as close,” she said. “But once they were required to help each other out, they liked it.”
For next year, the middle school plans to expand the half hour to a full hour and add more clubs based off of student surveys.