It’s the last Wednesday of the month at Sterling Elementary School on the southeast side of Tooele City.
Instead of her usual set of third-grade students, Diane Schofield’s room is full with a group of mixed-grade students who are listening to soothing music while they write the alphabet in calligraphy.
Schofield’s calligraphy club is one of several clubs at Sterling Elementary that meet on the last Wednesday of the month.
The clubs are a pilot program called Eagle Hour Club Day. During Eagle Hour, students can branch out and learn about hobbies, subjects, and interests that are not taught during regular school hours.
Eagle Hour is proving to be a success among students and teachers, according to Laurie Paige, first-grade teacher and Marianne Hollien, Sterling Elementary secretary.
The two Sterling staff members brought Eagle Hour to Sterling Elementary after attending a convention in Long Beach, California, in February 2016. There they met teachers from William Reeves Elementary, a school in South Carolina, who told them about Club Day at their school.
Paige and Hollien decided to bring Club Day to Sterling Elementary.
“This is a program that we needed to bring back to Sterling,” Paige said. “It gets every student in the school involved.”
Together, Paige and Hollien decided that they would organize the program and introduce it to their school in January 2018.
Paige and Hollien met with all of the staff at their elementary, including the custodians. They explained the program and told the teachers that Eagle Hour Club Day would be a day kids could go to a club and learn something that they normally would not learn at school.
Teachers were encouraged to pick an activity that they were interested in teaching and clubs were created.
This year, 23 clubs were created including yoga, puzzles, Minute-to-Win-it, chess, etiquette class, plastic canvas sewing, photography, living wax museum, rockets, fractured foods, crocheting, novel writing, gardening, and many more.
“It’s about getting the kids involved in something that isn’t just academics,” Paige said. “It’s an opportunity that maybe they wouldn’t find elsewhere.”
Schofield chose calligraphy for her club class. Often her students have asked her to write their names for them in calligraphy.
Because of the popularity of the class, Schofield decided to repeat it again this year.
“Last year I had a student ask that I make a sign for their mother’s living room with their family’s names on it,” Schofield said. “She was so grateful.”
With a minor in art, Schofield wants children to know, “they don’t always have to draw or paint well to have an interest in art.”
Schofield includes a bit of history of calligraphy with the course. She enjoys teaching something she loves.
“Club Day gives the kids something different and perhaps for them to find a hidden talent of theirs,” she said. “It also gives the kids and the teachers a chance to get to know others that aren’t in their class or aren’t their teacher. Sterling is a large school and we don’t always see everyone.”
Before Club Day starts, each student gets to pick three clubs that they would be interested in trying. First- through sixth-graders all participate and the 700 students are then organized into clubs.
Teachers wear red T-shirts on Club Day that have the words “Eagle Hour Club Day” on them.
Next year, Hollien is hoping that the students will all have Club Day shirts, too. Right now, Club Day is only offered once a month, but in the future, Sterling Elementary is hoping to have it more frequently.
The biggest challenge for Paige is getting the students into their clubs and to the right class. With that out of the way, she is looking forward to a successful year of Club Days.
The students will stay in their clubs for four months, then switch to new clubs for another four months.
A few of the clubs have given the students opportunities for service.
Last school year, the school had a Fleece Blankets Club that donated finished blankets to Primary Children’s Hospital. Sixth-grade students were also able to help mentor younger students.
Supplies are purchased using Title One grants.
For the photography class the school purchased cameras, which they will use again. Another club that required money was the hiking club, which purchased backpacks and made a home-made granola mix.
This year the school has looked to Home Depot and other local businesses for donations. With Club Day in the beginning stages, Paige and Hollien are hoping to get more community involvement.
“In South Carolina they’ve brought in firefighters, doctors, and different members of the community to talk about their jobs, and that is one of the club days,” Hollien said.
Sixth-grade teacher Denny Millward has taught for 32 years and moved to the newly built Sterling Elementary School last winter. He did the Goosebumps Club, during which the students wrote and illustrated scary stories.
“It was a little tough to get some of the younger students to generate ideas and put them on paper,” Millward said. “This year, I chose to do a puzzle club. With the puzzle club, I can have students from all grade levels in the club. I have many levels of difficulty and design in the puzzles I’ve purchased.”
Millward started out the Club Day by sharing strategies with the students about working on puzzles.
“For 50 minutes, I had students from all grade levels quietly working together to solve puzzles,” he said.
Not everyone finished their puzzles, but they enjoyed the time to work on something they enjoyed.
“I love the variety of talents our teachers have and are willing to share, Millward said. “The enthusiasm and experience they have is well worth the time it takes to make Eagle Hour successful.”
The excitement of Club Day is spreading through the school and the students. Hollien and Paige see a bright future and hope to expand Club Day at Sterling. They also encourage other schools to branch out and try it.
“It’s a lot of extra hours,” Hollien said. “But the teachers are willing to do it, so we succeed together.”
Paige looks forward to someday having students return and tell her that they enjoyed Club Day.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” she said. “It’s gone well and to see the kids light up about it, makes it worth it.”