Wildwood Middle is always looking for ways to enhance the student experience. Last year, the school began a program that does just that.
On early release days, students take part in a program called “E3.” The three “E’s” are empathy, explore and engage. E3 activities are based on student interest and use a hands-on approach to learning.
“We surveyed all of the kids and asked them: If you were given the opportunity one day per month to follow your own interests and passions, to do something to give back to the community, to take something good and make it great, and to create something that’s never been created before, what would you do?” said Dr. Allison Klouse, principal at Wildwood.
This prompted students to think creatively about what they would like to learn or do for their school community. Students developed a list of 90 topics they were interested in exploring, which were then grouped into themes by staff. Students requested the topics they wanted to explore after seeing the list of choices and were placed into their E3 groups.
As part of the project, staff members moved away from their typical role of bestowing knowledge to a different role as facilitators. Their job during group time is to help the kids explore their own interests and passions.
“This gives students a chance to be leaders in their own learning,” Klouse said.
E3 days bring the school and the community together. Professionals come to Wildwood to speak to students about the topics they have chosen, and community members donate their time to lead the groups if they have knowledge in an area of interest.
“I thought it would be cool to learn some board games since I don’t play them very often,” said Sean Carl, a seventh-grader at Wildwood. “It’s nice to socialize with people and get to know them better. You make new friends.”
The Save the Planet group is making a splash. Not only do its members use recycled materials to make art, but they’ve also met with Wildwood cafeteria staff and asked them to switch from plastic silverware to reusable metal silverware. The school will make the switch starting in January.
Some of the E3 group topics include: music composition, dance, basketball, games around the world, interior design, ceiling tile painting, comedy, film critique, child care, gymnastics, ukulele, reading, sewing and knitting, podcasting, and journalism.
“The kids have done a great job of picking their own crafts. They enjoy being able to choose what they want to do and go with it,” said teacher Kayla Semple, who is part of the Pinterest Crafts group.
During E3 days, students mix it up at lunch. The mixed grade level groups eat together. Students engage with classmates they don’t typically see during the day. The guidance team does mix-it-up activities with students during their extended lunch period.
Simple activities such as Rock Paper Scissors get kids laughing and talking to each other.
Building a sense of community at Wildwood is part of the goal of the E3 groups. Students who wouldn’t ordinarily have any interactions during school days meet up. It brings students out of their day-to-day box and makes them think creatively.