Join the club

Skyview gets students engaged

Posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2006


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  Skyview students Lucas Thein and Greta Danielson cut a rug during the swing dance club meeting. Photos by Will Morrow

Skyview staff member Joanne Wanwright leads students through a yoga routine during a club session last week.

Photos by Will Morrow

How do you get 550 high school students engaged?

At Skyview High School, the answer is, join a club.

“It kind of goes back to our original idea at Skyview that environment, attitude and atmosphere in the building is going to lead to better academics,” said Rob Sparks, a teacher at the school. “The idea is, let’s bring back a little bit of that environment at Skyview that has been, traditionally, the learning style of our school.”

Statistics and studies have shown that students who don’t feel connected to their schools struggle academically and are at higher risk to drop out of school altogether. To battle that trend, staff at Skyview have made getting students engaged a priority this year. To that end, staff and administration as Skyview has found a way to get every student involved in a club.


Skyview students Lucas Thein and Greta Danielson cut a rug during the swing dance club meeting.

Photos by Will Morrow

Two obstacles to getting every student involved in a club presented themselves, but both have been addressed. The first involved the logistics of creating enough clubs to pique the interest of the entire student body; the second involved the logistics of getting a geographically diverse student body — students at Skyview come from as far away as Cooper Landing and Ninilchik and don’t always have the opportunity to stay after school — to those clubs.

“It sounds pretty easy to have clubs, but with 500 people, it’s a little tougher to get rolling,” Fischer said.

Skyview’s solution is to take some time out of the school day for clubs and to get every teacher in the school involved in the project. Clubs meet for 35 minutes every Wednesday, and results of surveys given to teachers and to students were used to come up with a wide range of clubs — everything from yoga and tai chi to snowboarding and paintball.

“We give up about two minutes out of each class, and kids give up part of their lunch and part of their break,” Skyview activities director Matt Fischer said.

Fischer said he was worried students might not end up in their first choice of clubs, but said distribution between all the different clubs has been fairly even.

“The kids are pretty evenly spread out. We’ve got 30 kids in yoga — who would’ve thought that?” Fischer said.

He said enthusiasm and support from the staff is what is making the venture work.

“One hundred percent, the staff is excited, on board and having fun,” Fischer said.

Another important component is that students have been given ownership of their clubs. Teachers are there as advisers, but club members get to determine what their club does for the year.

“When (students) went in, all the teachers said was, ‘This is your club, what do you want to do?’” Sparks said. “They got excited because this is something where we’re not going to to tell them what to do.”

In fact, Sparks said he intends to get something out of being part of the club himself. He’s signed on as the adviser for the snowboard and skateboard club, and while he’s not an experienced rider, he’s looking forward to the opportunity for students to show him how to grind a few rails.

For their part, students also have approached their new clubs with enthusiasm and an open mind.

“A lot of teachers don’t go (to school activities). This gets them more involved with students, other than just teaching. It’s exciting,” said Chantal Schefers, a Skyview senior and student council member.

Jordan Grant, also a Skyview senior, said the clubs have been a good way to make sure freshmen feel like they’re a part of the school.

“It’s an effort not to isolate freshmen, which happens in school. ... We’ve gotten freshmen out of thinking, ‘Oh they’re seniors, I can’t talk to them.’ We’ve made everything more open,” Grant said.

“It’s not just seniors dominating everything. We’re getting the whole school in-volved,” Schefers said.

Schefers also expressed some pride in Skyview’s approach.

“Clubs are something unique to our school,” she said.

That attitude is what Sparks said he had in mind when the idea originally came to him.

“It is mainly trying to return Skyview back to our atmosphere and environment and make it a place kids want to be,” Sparks said. “One of the biggest surprises has been the reaction of teachers the first day we met. Overwhelmingly, people said to me, ‘That was fun, that was great.’

“... At the beginning of the year, this kind of enthusiasm can take you places.”

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