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  • Writer's pictureBrian Karsten

Dedicating Time to Enrichment: Unleashing the Potential of High School Students

For busy high school students, where standardized tests and core curriculum often take center stage, it's easy to overlook the importance of enrichment opportunities. Rightfully so, ensuring essential learning should be a school’s top priority, but what about the students that crave more? Enrichment offerings, which extend beyond the traditional classroom setting, can play a vital role in shaping the academic and personal growth of secondary high school students. Whether the goal is challenging students who are excelling in their classes or offering activities to promote interest in a subject or discipline, enrichment offerings are key in keeping students engaged. As a result, schools looking for enrichment time should consider flexible scheduling as part of their school plans.


Enrichment Ideas for the English Classroom and Beyond


In my AP Literature and Composition class, I’m so focused on challenging my students in their writing and textual analysis, that fostering the joy of literature can sometimes feel secondary. An eight-period unit on Shakeseare’s Macbeth races through plot, characters, meter, and motif with little time to play with performance or visualize how things might actually look on a stage. There’s no time to stage scenes in class, and the idea of comparing film adaptations—from Michael Fassbender to the Coen Brothers to Polansky’s classic—seems like a luxury I can’t afford.


Every September and October, Senior students in our building flood English teachers with requests to read over College Application Essays. As teachers, we want to help our students, but finding time to conference them is a challenge. Not every student can come before or after school and teachers can’t be expected to carve time into already packed classes.


And in my Speech and Composition class, we spend so much time researching, outlining, writing, and presenting speeches, that impromptu speaking and speech analysis get minimized when they are important skills as well.


Beyond the English classroom, Science teachers pick and choose labs that fit between the bells, but have additional ideas for activities that would make their discipline come to life. World Language classrooms would definitely benefit from having new learners converse with upper-level students, but the typical bell schedule doesn’t allow for easy collaboration. And History teachers would love to have time to show film and television depictions of their material, or to bring in guest speakers and experts, but there’s already too much material to cover in too little time.


Dedicating Time to Enrichment: A Necessity


Enrichment opportunities should not be seen merely as extra activities. And it’s a shame they are the first things to go when the schedule gets tight. Without a school-wide flexible schedule initiative, enrichment gets lost when it should be a fundamental aspect of education that deserves dedicated time within the school day. Here's why:


Integration with Academic Goals: Enrichment programs can complement the core curriculum by providing real-world applications of classroom learning. For instance, a student interested in engineering may benefit from added time in a robotics lab or to work with a school’s 3-D printers, where they can apply math and science concepts learned in class.


Holistic Development: Enrichment opportunities contribute to the holistic development of students. They can, if planned well, nurture creativity, critical thinking, leadership, and teamwork skills—all of which are essential for success in academics and life beyond school.


Passion and Engagement: When students are given dedicated time for enrichment, they have the space to develop and deepen their passions. This can lead to increased motivation and engagement in their academic studies.


Equal Access for All: Offering enrichment before and after school is an option; however, dedicating time during the school day ensures that all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background, have access to these opportunities. It levels the playing field, allowing every student to explore their interests and passions.


Preparation for the Future: Many enrichment programs can be introduced to show students potential career paths and help them make informed decisions about their future. This preparation is invaluable as students transition to higher education and the workforce.


Conclusion


In conclusion, enrichment opportunities in high school are invaluable for students who are eager to explore their passions and talents beyond the traditional classroom setting. Dedicating time in the school day for these opportunities shouldn’t be a luxury—it's a necessity. It ensures equitable access, enhances academic learning, fosters holistic development, and prepares students for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Focus Periods, flex periods, and What I Need Times (W.I.N.) which allot time for both intervention and enrichment are one way of achieving this vision. Look into revising your school schedule with flexible time, giving staff and students room to grow.


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