By Joanna Manning.
When the Charles Wright Academy junior kindergarten class rings the dismissal bell each afternoon, lower school students flood the hallways on their way to their various after school activities, including an assortment of lower school clubs.
Francesca Gallozzi took charge of the clubs program when she assumed her role of Lower School Assistant Director this year.
“Our hope is to create opportunities for children here at school in part so families don’t have to go elsewhere to get some enrichment experiences, but also to have our own staff have the opportunity to create something that speaks to their passions, which I think is a really nice way to model something,” she said.
Faculty members offer activities to suit a variety of interests, from art and drama to robotics and chess. The lower school has also formed partnerships with organizations such as the Missoula Children’s Theater, which will offer a one-week intensive theater experience in February, culminating in a production of Jack and the Beanstalk.
“One of the things we tried to do in the fall was expand our offerings for younger children,” Ms. Gallozzi said. “We had Christina Bertucchi from the upper school do the K-2 art, and it was really delightful to watch her lean into that because she has a young child so she understands the age group, but she teaches high school so it was a really nice way to bridge that connection, bridge that relationship and see her try to create opportunities for the youngest ones.”
While budding artists in kindergarten to 1st grade gain new skills in Ms. Bertucchi’s Art Adventures, older students take on more complex projects in Miz Candy’s X-TRA Art class. Art has also been woven into Ms. Crozier’s new STEAM club, which gives younger students an opportunity to hone their science, technology, engineering, and math skills while also recognizing that art and artistry are essential to the design process.
Also new to the offerings is a radio show club, led by technology teacher Joe Sparano. In this club, students learn about the process of creating a podcast from idea generation to editing, and they learn how to use SoundTrap to record and edit audio segments that will be included in a podcast at the conclusion of the club. Mr. Sparano gave students the freedom to choose how they wanted to approach their segments-some did interviews, while others produced a piece of creative writing or music–but all of the segments had to be related to the school in some way.
Third grader Henry Barcus is working on a segment titled “Who is Spike?” He conducted interviews with people around campus to see who people think Spike might be. He hasn’t found a definitive answer yet, but he’s still investigating.
Once the segments are finished, the students’ work will be available to members of the Charles Wright community. Mr. Sparano has plans to house the podcast technology in old fashioned radios that will be set up in the halls of the lower school, where anyone can listen to the students’ segments.
This kind of digital storytelling will continue into the winter session, when fourth grade teacher Carrie Cherek will offer a “technology and storytelling” class that will challenge students to create multi-media stories using iPads, apps, video and photography. “It’s a way to integrate all of that great language and narrative and technology,” Ms. Gallozzi said.
Ms. Gallozzi noted that a prevailing interest in technology has prompted the school to create more clubs of this nature. A new Beginning Lego Robotics course developed when members of the upper school robotics team had set up a station at Family Science Night last year.
Junior Ted Corddry was on the team that visited the lower school that night.
“I did a talk and we showed the robot, showed the kids an inspirational video about upper school robotics, and I got a lot of attention from parents and from kids who were excited about it. It reminded us that we do have an audience for that down here,” he said.
This year, upper school robotics team members have partnered with third-grade teacher Matt Weiner to teach students in grades 2-5 how to build and program a structurally sound robot using Lego Mindstorms.
Though the robotics class is designed for beginners, some students view the club as a stepping stone to bigger things. “Lego Robotics is a set-up for all of the difficult challenges we will face when doing the middle and upper school robotics team,” third grade student Theo Woolley said.
Ted agreed. “I think it’s a super fun way to get people excited for the upper school,” he said, “but also, it’s a fun way to get people excited about math and science and STEM.”Print This Post