Models Column

February 08, 1984 4 min read

While most students are relieved to have a break from school on Saturday, 90 K-12 gifted pupils in Arlington Heights, Ill., choose to spend the day learning about such subjects as drama, Japanese culture, personal development, Spanish language, and science.

In a program sponsored by the Northwest Educational Cooperative, students come to Rolling Meadows High School to participate in one of the 15 nongraded classes designed to offer them a deeper look into some of the subjects they study in their regular classes, according to Larry Chase, executive director of the cooperative, which serves 10 public-school districts near Chicago.

“Saturday is a day of the week [when] parents often are looking for something for their kids and are often dissatisfied with cartoons,” Mr. Chase said. “Our goal was to begin to look at ways to provide programs to kids to meet interests that are not being served by the regular programs.”

Students attend one class--of one to three hours in length--for 11 weeks. Their instructors are teachers from Rolling Meadow High School who have chosen to spend an extra day in the classroom.

“We’ve hit a goldmine,” Mr. Chase said, adding that because the courses are so popular, the next semester of Saturday courses will include programs for nongifted students and parents. The cost for the courses is $30 for a one-hour class and $55 for a three-hour class.

A North Dakota business-education teacher has devised a grading technique that uses the tools of the marketplace to further involve her high-school students in the world of commerce.

Maxine Beckwith, an instructor who is also the principal of Golden Valley High School, tells her business-education students that they are employees of the Business Education Company, has them fill out W-4 forms as part-time employees, and issues “paychecks” every two weeks that correspond to grades.

“Paid” by the hour, students receive $5 for an A, $4.05 for a B, $3.55 (minimum wage) for a C, $3 for a D, and $2.50 for a failing grade. At the end of the semester, Ms. Beckwith converts the “wages” to grades.

“It’s more work for me,” she said, “but it’s always fun to see their faces when you hand them the check.”

The system, which Ms. Beckwith designed while attending a seminar sponsored by the Greater North Dakota Association, a business group, and Dickinson State College, could be used in business and economics courses to help students understand the working world, she said.

The Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Schools have initiated a pilot program to help teen-age fathers better understand child care, parenting, and their future employment options.

Funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation and contributions from local businesses and foundations, the program provides pre- and post-natal training and offers vocational guidance to fathers, who attend afternoon and evening classes.

The program is part of the Emerson Teen-Age Parent Program School, a school that enrolls 350 teen-age mothers a year; the new project has a first-year budget of $32,773, according to Darlene Brockie, an official in the principal’s office. In addition to attempting to help teen-age fathers, the program is designed to collect information on the social, medical, and educational services such young parents need.

At Deer Park Junior High School near Spokane, Wash., a student who has a problem and wants to talk to someone is likely to turn to another student--in this case, one who has been trained to be a “natural helper.”

The Natural Helpers Program, which several area schools are experimenting with, is based on the premise that teen-agers are often able to talk more freely with their friends than with adults when they have problems. “Their own friends are the ones that listen and show caring,” suggests Darell Cain, principal of Deer Park Junior High School.

Among the school’s 300 students, 65 were chosen from various social groups to serve as helpers and to participate in a two-and-a-half-day workshop to learn listening and other counseling skills from guidance officers and social workers, Mr. Cain explained.

According to the confidential log that is kept by the adult counselors, students talk to the helpers about problems with relationships, families, and money, Mr. Cain said; drugs and pregnancy are discussed much less, he noted.

“They are not mini-counselors,” said Mr. Cain. “They’re just listeners.” The students are given referral information for those problems that need specialized attention.

The project, which is also underway at Deer Park High School, is funded by a grant from a local group called the Community Health Education Consortium.

Puppets with disabilities are helping 3rd-grade students in Boise, Idaho, learn about handicapped people in a program called Puppet Pals.

Based on a national handicapped-awareness program called “Kids on the Block,” the Boise project trains community volunteers to visit about 40 elementary schools each year, according to Christa Cherin, director of the Boise School Volunteers. Members of the district’s special-education department developed scripts and local puppeteers designed the six “handicapped” puppets and two “nonhandicapped” puppets.

The program attempts to show children how various handicaps limit people and how handicapped people resemble, rather than differ from, those without handicaps, according to Dick Lagerstrom, a special-education consultant with the district.

Using props such as wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches, the puppeteers portray children with such handicaps as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, visual and hearing impairments, and mental retardation.--ab

A version of this article appeared in the February 08, 1984 edition of Education Week as Models Commentary