Juggling, scrapbooking and building 7-foot-long roller coasters out of K’Nex aren’t typical homework assignments, but they are just some of the skills Buck Lodge Middle School students are learning in their enrichment program classes this year.
The special non-credit classes are how students at the Adelphi school decided to spend the 40-minute middle school day extension Prince George’s County mandated in 2012, said Stacey Gaines, co-director of Buck Lodge’s enrichment program.
Now in its second year, the program separates Buck Lodge from other county middle schools, many of which designated the extra time as study hall, Gaines said.
“It’s such a different model than what [the county] is used to seeing with this extra time,” she said.
This year, Buck Lodge re-offered some of the most popular classes from the 2012-2013 school year, including model rocket building, yoga, soccer and engineering, Gaines said. Students select their favorite 10 classes from a list, and are placed into one of them for the entire semester.
The classes are led by Buck Lodge’s classroom teachers, who select topics based on their own passions and the students’ interests, she said.
Susan Creamer instructed a knitting class of about 20 students from August to December. She said many students learned additional stitches through online tutorials after learning the basic stitch in class, and one student taught herself and several of her peers how to crochet.
Creamer, who instructed a journaling enrichment class last year, is the school’s technology teacher.
“That’s one of the wonderful things about the enrichment program,” she said. “Teachers can select something that is very different and students are able to see us in a different light. You learn things about your colleagues too which is fascinating.”
Erica Ponce, 13, of Adelphi took a scrapbooking class last semester, and said she would like to be placed in the same class during this year’s second round of enrichment programming, which begins Jan. 21.
“I like being creative,” she said. “We made pages and we also paint. You could duct tape your binders and journals and stuff.”
The eighth-grader said she plans to use her new scrapbooking skills for fun outside of class.
Eighth-graders Nelson Romero, 14, and Wayne Campbell, 13, of Beltsville spent four months building a mini carnival out of K’Nex in their mechanics class. Last school year, the boys took the same class and helped classmates build a ball factory.
“Something I would say that was really great in this class to take away was just the way of your mindset working to work with other people and have the determination to finish it all,” Nelson said. “It makes you feel great finishing it.”
Gaines said the classes are a way for students and teachers to work side by side and learn more about each other.
“It gives you an opportunity to interact with kids in a way you don’t interact with them during the normal school day,” she said. “It’s more about learning how to communicate with people — it’s learning how to collaborate.”