Mini Experiment

For November and December this year, I am trying a  little experiment in Secondary Enrichment.  It’s not earth-shattering or ground breaking, but it’s new for me and I want to see how it works.

We’ve already had 3 field trips out (with a 4th in early December) so for the bulk of November and December, I am focussing on in-school events.  I like to have a mix of activities. I have been very conscious of factors that may affect attendance.

So far this year, I have had a mix of cost for activities. They have ranged from *free* up to $185 for the big field trip.  I have combined both near, medium, and far destinations. I have also considered different disciplines – social, science, social science, mathematics, arts, humanities, history, and creative thinking and problem solving. I have rotated days of the week, morning and afternoon, early start, later return, and during class only.  This may not seem like much, but when students are involved in a myriad of activities, not missing the same class every time is a factor to consider!

Back to my experiment.  For our in-school events, I am trying a “rotating”  system.  That sounds strange, because in this first year of trying, very little is rotating.  The foundation of my calling it a rotating system is that I’d like a number of schools act as a “host” for different activities or events.  If I can accomplish this over the course of a few years, most or all schools will get a chance to have an event in their school in which they don’t have to travel or arrange special transportation. These are meant to be free or lost cost events right down the hall.

All the events are open to all secondary enrichment students, but to cut costs, I am not providing transportation.  The reality is looking like the bulk of attendees will be students at the host school.  This is the risk I’m willing to take.

Each student will have at least one opportunity to attend an event without having to travel far, miss full days away, and with very little cost.  I’m hoping this feels like I’m making enrichment accessible for all my students.

Now, maybe this year, the event at your school isn’t in your particular area of interest. This is where the “rotating” part comes in.  If you don’t participate in this in-school event, maybe next year’s will pique your interest.  My idea is to change up the presentations or speakers – whether it is subject discipline, length of event, or time of day.

There are a couple of factors as to why I chose to try this experiment this year. Big obstacle one: transportation.  The cost of bussing is becoming so expensive, that it almost immediately cuts off a certain percentage of students interested in an event.  Bussing also adds length to the day, as it would likely need to make 2 or 3 stops before arriving at a destination. My students often don’t want to miss a lot of class time, and sometimes the shortest time away means no bus.

Big obstacle two: numbers.  What is almost funny about some of my events, is that I pitch an idea for students and 2 or 3 come forward with interest. Seems low, but then factor that in across 11 other schools. So while only a few at one school seem interested, that is matched across the district. I know my students are interested but how to I plan an event for 30 students where the distance between might be over 100 km away from each other?  Since my school board is quite spread out, even getting to an event at another school could be a hardship. Even if we cut out the bus, it  just may not be possible for a student to get to and from a location during the time an event is running. While these numbers easily match a “class size”, rounding them up proves to be the issue.

This is why I thought to try to rotate offerings at different schools. A student may have to wait a year or two, but an event will show up at the school in cyclical fashion. I also have to weigh factors of switching these events.  Some students don’t want to see the “same old same old” and want new and innovative events and workshops. I also have to consider the students who have waited patiently for an opportunity to attend at their own school, only to have it switched up and skip a year? Hard to pin down.  What I’ll have to do is keep a record of student interest in certain topics and in which geographical location the continued interest exists.

It becomes more than just finding 4 events and hoping I can spread them over grade 9-12 to meet the needs of students.  It is finding workshops in multiple school disciplines, for low cost, for 12 secondary schools, in 2 districts, that are current, relevant, interesting, hands-on, and interactive, making sure each of over 300 students has accessibility to events over the duration of their time in secondary school.

So, why not try an experiment and see what happens? The results might be fantastic or they might explode in my face. I won’t know until I try.  Right now, I’m pleased with this year. I have been able to find 4 workshops and duplicate them across my districts. This means planning 8 events at different locations over the course of 5 weeks. I’m ok on my end, it is just a matter of keeping communication WIDE open with host schools and teachers, because I’m invading their space and they still have a school to run!

It might turn out that it is just too much happening at once. Scaled back, it looks like 4 events near the students over those 5 weeks. That might be more than necessary.  If I am to reflect on what is happening – maybe I don’t need to offer multiple disciplines each year, but just make sure I rotate locations each year. Maybe instead of thinking each school will host EACH year, I look at more than  just rotating topics, but also rotating location years. This may also not be feasible, I’m a work in progress!

I’ll update you when it’s all been rolled out over the next few weeks. I’ll try to take what I’ve learned and apply it for second semester, when I had imagined myself doing it all over again. It might look very different or it might not happen at all! That’s the excitement of living in an experiment – waiting to find the results. Stay tuned.


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