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Paw Power Hour Keeps Students Engaged

student sewing

Central Elementary second-grader Ariana Stewart’s favorite part of her morning is getting to Judy Vosburg ’s classroom to see what they will be cooking up for the day in home economics. Sometimes, they actually get to cook, which is her favorite, but other times they sew or learn household skills. Cooking the eggs was my favorite,” she said. “I like eggs.”

The morning home economics lessons are part of Central’s Paw Power Hour, 40 minutes set aside each morning so that students in second through fifth grade can either get individualized intervention in a subject area or spend time learning a new skill.

“The main goal was to help those students who may need intervention in a certain area and give teachers the chance to work with them in smaller groups or one-on-one,” Assistant Principal Molly McCormick said. “To do that though, we needed something to do for the students who don’t need intervention, so we asked a few of our staff members to think of enrichment courses students might enjoy.”

Paw Power classes currently offered include home economics, chemistry club, yoga, athletics, embroidery, teacher helpers, CE News, office workers and beautification. The time also gives the chance for the campus PALs (Peer Assistance and Leadership) and student council members to meet with their groups. The students stay in the group for the entire nine weeks and then have the chance to switch to a new subject.

Fifth graders have the most freedom to pick from the list and go to their favorite, with fourth and third graders getting some flexibility as well, McCormick said. Second-grade teachers select for their students, but they try to keep in mind what the students would enjoy or choose something they don’t think the student has tried before, she said.

“We want them to get a little out of their comfort zone and give the different classes a try,” McCormick said. “We had one student who did not want to be in yoga at all, but after a week or two, he was telling me it’s his favorite part of the day."

Fifth-grader Trae Latimer has cycled through several options, including athletics, chemistry club and teacher helpers. His favorite so far has been chemistry club, because he had fun with his friends doing the different experiments, but he’s also enjoying being a teacher helper and mentoring younger students.

“It’s fun to learn how to talk to them and help them understand it,” he said.

Vosburg said she’s been surprised with how dedicated her group of students has been to learning about cooking and cleaning. Her current group has students from each of the four grades in it. She and Jennifer Helfrich, who also teaches the class, said students didn’t even shirk when the lesson was folding clothes or cleaning the kitchen after use.

“They didn’t even mind doing the dishes after each day of egg week,” Helfrich said.

Egg week was what they called the week that the two teachers taught different ways to prepare meals with eggs.

“It was probably because they enjoyed the eggs so much, and we explained that if you cook, you have to be prepared to clean. We haven’t shown them how to clean the bathroom yet though; they may not like that one as much,” she said with a laugh.

McCormick hopes that as more teachers and students see the benefits of the enrichment time, students will work harder to get out of intervention and more teachers will have the chance to show students about their own hobbies and interests.

“It would be great if all of the students could enjoy these classes, and this really acts as an incentive for them to get their work done and get caught up,” she said. “We’ve also had teachers ask about adding other courses because it’s fun for them to teach something outside of the curriculum that they enjoy. We’re very excited to see where this will go in the future.”