Joined: 19 Oct 2011
As an educator, ask yourself this question:
When is the last time your students got to pursue their own interest during the school day?
If you are like most teachers, and honest with yourself, the answer is probably never. With standardized
testing dominating class time and so many standards to teach, classroom teachers cannot be blamed for
the lack of time children have in school to pursue what they love. However, with a little creativity, and
yes, a little extra effort, I believe we can create opportunities for students to develop their interests and
feel good about school again.
One such strategy is called an Enrichment Cluster.
First, a disclaimer: I did not create this concept of clustering students for enrichment. The concept has
been around for years and was pioneered by gifted gurus such as Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reis.
However, I am a true believer and, as of this writing, I am organizing enrichment clusters at the school
where I work.
The clusters essentially work like this: A time is provided during the school day, and students join
together into groups based on their interests. The purpose of a group is investigate how professionals
in a particular area go about working and to produce a product that will be presented to a
real audience. Students do not receive a grade but rather are judged on their product and its effect on
the intended audience.
There is no end to the types of clubs that can be formed. Journalism, robotics, poetry, photography,
community service, and the list goes on. Once you compile a list of clusters, you can have students
choose their top three then assign them to groups based on their selection. Rather than using grade
levels, students are clustered together based on their interests, which reflects the real world workplace.
Also, when working on products, students may assume different roles or use their individual talents to
complete portions of the product, again reflecting the work environment.
Probably the two biggest challenges you face will be finding time to offer the clusters and finding people to lead the groups. Currently, at the school where I work, we have decided to offer the clusters one morning per week, before classes begin. Many of the students are already at the school at that time, waiting in the cafeteria, anyway.
In regards to finding help, I am recruiting parents, who have more flexible schedules, to coach the
clusters. As the enrichment specialist, it will then be my job to circulate among the clusters, providing
guidance and support.
I am excited about the idea of providing students with a time during the school day, where they can explore their interests and use their talents. To me, it is worth the extra effort.
If you like more information on starting your own enrichment cluster, please e-mail me at email@example.com.