Extracurricular education

Our Focus Feature this week gives us pause to think again about the local school district and some of the fine programs it offers its students. In particular, we are drawn to the topic of extracurricular education. We use the word “education” here, instead of the now-common “activities,” since any extracurricular program should be, first and foremost, educational in nature.

The feature reminds us there are extracurricular programs other than sports in the district, many of those activities more clearly directed to the educational side of the spectrum. It is in this type of extracurricular program where many students receive the additional, higher-level experience that, in an increasingly standards-driven education system, might be lacking in the regular curriculum.

The feature highlights the Destination Imagination program. More than 40 students participated. DI “challenges” are received in October and teams begin practice in November for the first competitions in March. At least one of the teams practiced five days a week, including work on Saturdays, beginning in December. Local students were incredibly successful at the recent regional competition, with five of six teams qualifying to attend a state level meet in Denver and winning special event awards. Last year, a local team made it to the “Global” event, held in Tennessee. Read the feature for more details about the teams and what the events include; it is obvious our Destination Imagination participants must be knowledgeable, creative and resourceful in order to succeed – all qualities much valued in the wider world.

Then, we have the spring musical at the high school. This year’s show involves more than 40 students as cast members and more than 20 as members of the crew. Music, dance, stagecraft, practice, dedication, skills and long, hard work are part of the process.

And, there is the Fine Arts Magnet Academy at the high school, created to serve students interested in the creative arts — visual arts, music, theater, stagecraft, video. There are currently 17 students in the program. Accomplishment in any of these areas requires intense concentration and long hours of skills development and effort. To paint, draw, play a musical instrument, master the technical and creative dimensions of video production, requires as much time, and in most cases, more time, than does initial mastery of a sport. There are four master classes each year. The students will make their presentations May 4, 5 and 12 at 7 p.m., most at the high school. Each student has worked in a concentrated area the entire year and now each is collaborating with a group of students drawn from all areas of emphasis. They will present their work in unique interdisciplinary performances.

These are but three of the non-sport extracurricular programs offered by the local school district. We are proud our children can take advantage of them, but we need to ask if support of these educational programs is on an equal level with other extracurriculars. For example, the DI teams have adult “managers.” These individuals work many hours, over a long period of time, without pay. They are, in effect, the same as sport coaches — as are those individuals who work with the theatre program and the teachers leading the FAMA program — and should be compensated the same. There should also be equal per capita funding of all programs by the school district, with funds collected for support of extracurricular programs — such as those derived from concession sales, etc. — distributed to all.

In the end, we can say our local district has been supportive of the creation of these non-sport programs, and we urge the support continue, with equality as a goal. We need to give our youngsters a maximum number of choices of programs in which they can develop the types of skills needed in an increasingly intellectually competitive world and the DIs, the theatre and music programs, and the FAMAs are doing just that.

Karl Isberg