I had been waiting several months for this past week of school. That is because the first course in our Enrichment Program began on Monday. I’ve been intrigued by Enrichment since the first time I heard about the program. I couldn’t wait to see it finally in action!
The Enrichment Program at Assets might be best understood as “electives” at other schools. There are differences though. To start with, Enrichment consists of classes that are in addition to the Fine Art, Performing Arts, Physical Education, and Technology courses that all students are already scheduled for weekly. Enrichment is scheduled for 50 minutes each day, except Wednesday, and is a time for students to explore other areas of interest or strength. We start by providing students a “menu” during the first week of school of roughly thirty class offerings. Students then rank which classes they are most interested in pursuing. Enrichment classes last for three weeks at a time at which point we rotate to the next session. By the time the school year ends, students will typically have participated in eight or nine different enrichment classes! These classes are not graded, and simply focus on having fun and learning as its own reward.
For this first session, we offered classes in Minecraft, Sports & Games, Hip Hop Dance, Free Drawing, Basketball, Football, Paracord Survival Bracelets, Canine Crafts, Legos, Rocketry, Computer Games & Challenges, Cooking, Glass Etching, Jewelry Making, Hands-On Science, Mudworks, and Yoga. That’s an impressive list! Additionally, like all other aspects of our educational program, Enrichment embraces the school’s pedagogical commitment to experiential, hands-on and multisensory learning.
Against the National Trend
The past 15 years in education have been largely defined as an era of standards-based accountability, highlighted by the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). This isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison because Assets does not need to comply with the same mandates as the public schools, but it is informative to see how public education has shifted nationally. According to a 2007 report from the Center on Education Policy, since the enactment of NCLB, 44% of school districts reduced the amount of time they spent on science, social studies, art and music, physical education, lunch or recess at the elementary school level. This has largely been attributed as a reaction to the fact that Language Arts and Math were the only two subjects initially tested for accountability under NCLB. At a time when the national trend had been to decrease the time spent on subjects other than Language Arts and Math, it’s been refreshing to see Assets hold firm in its commitment to a full education.
The Power of Enrichment
Why was I so excited to see this program in action? Because I think, it’s one of the school’s most distinguishing features and one that embodies so much of the Assets philosophy. Quite honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it before.
While we always welcome parent involvement at our school, the power of Enrichment is the student choice. Even our youngest students, our six-year olds, are directing their learning and telling us what they want to study. It’s important for children and adolescents to learn that education is not something that happens to you; instead, learning occurs when you are an active participant in the process.
According to the staff members I’ve asked, the Enrichment Program at Assets has been around as long as they have been at the school. This fact is even more impressive when you consider some staff members have served here for over 30 years. This makes Enrichment a living testament to the vision and understanding the early Assets educators had for the type of program our kids need and deserve.
One of the program’s many beauties is that it is equally important in our approach to serving the various student learning profiles we have on campus. What I think those early Assets educators understood was that Enrichment reassure students that they are capable learners. It helps remind, maybe even reignite in them, that learning is full of awe and wonder, and should be a joyful experience.
Mahalo to our Teachers
When describing this aspect of our educational program, I must take time to mention our wonderful faculty and staff who make this program come alive. Mahalo to our student services coordinator, Kenneth Powell, for scheduling all of the students’ requests and preferences. Another reason I love Enrichment is because it allows a space for teachers to share areas of their personal interest and talent with our students. However, we also offer enrichment classes solely because they reflects the interests of the students; we may not have a faculty member with particular expertise in this area. When this occurs, our teachers work hard to learn more about their topic so they can in turn help guide our students. Through their study, our teachers are acting as the best models for learning that we could expose our students to.
For example, we offer enrichments at both 1:20 and 2:05 pm. I’ve seen teachers assigned to teach the 2:05 class sacrifice their prep period and join the 1:20 version of the same enrichment course. Our teachers join so they can learn from their colleagues and provide an even richer experience for our students. This is just a microcosm of the dedication our faculty show all the time. When we join a student’s class as an adult learner, we are communicating to our community that learning is an endless journey. We also reinforce that adults are not always the gatekeepers of knowledge and there are many topics our passions will guide us toward that we can only engage in if we agree to be vulnerable and learn together.
I feel lucky to work with such a talented and committed group of educators. Please join me in thanking them for their good work with our students.