The last 40 minutes of each school day at North Olmsted Junior High School in Ohio are devoted to an unusual "activity period." During this time, the school's 1,100 students read, write, and pursue extra-curricular activities.
In two of the periods each week, the entire staff of North Olmsted--faculty, administrators, and clerical workers--join the students in reading silently.
On another weekday, members of the local community join the school's staff in teaching arts, crafts, and hobbies to the students. The subject matter, determined by the instructor's interests, has included child care, "great books," engineering, rock-guitar playing, clothes designing, first aid, mural painting, and fencing.
One period is devoted to "intramurals." Playing on behalf of their homerooms, students vie in events such as jacks, marbles, and ping-pong, as well as volleyball and basketball. Points may be added to a homeroom's scores for exceptional attendance, few disciplinary problems, and the involvement of its students in musical performances or sports.
The remaining period is used by students and teachers for "silent writing." The program's guidelines define this as writing in journals, writing short stories, creating letters, and drawing cartoons. What is written is not as important as the process of writing, school officials point out. The material produced is not graded or criticized, but a student may ask for a teacher's comments. The teachers are also expected to write during this period.
Dianna M. Lindsay, principal of the junior high school, says that the program not only fosters a sense of self-worth in the students, but also provides an arena for informal and enjoyable relationships between teachers and students.
For further information, contact Dianna M. Lindsay, Principal, North Olmsted Junior High School, 27351 Butternut Ridge Rd., North Olmsted, Ohio 44070.
For a class of economics students at Everett High School in Boston, classroom "energy hearings" provided a useful forum in which to display the results of their investigations into the five major energy sources (coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, solar) and other alternatives.
To prepare for the hearings, the students were required to consider the social, political, economic, scientific, and geographic aspects of the energy needs of the United States. Included in their research were interviews with other students and science teachers.
Afterward, one student, who portrayed a senator, commented, "I realized how hard it is to find one form of energy that could fulfill all our needs. I also have a much better understanding of how the Senate works and how policies are made."
As a result of the hearings, the students drafted a bill encouraging the development of solar energy as the best long-term resource and natural gas for more immediate needs. Of nuclear energy, the students wrote, "It is too costly, too perilous, and it creates a major problem of waste disposal."
The program at Everett was based on a teaching format developed by Cabot Corporation's Energy Group of Boston, an organization that explores for, produces, and markets crude oil, natural gas, and natural-gas products.
Designed for high-school students, the program consists of instructional materi-als and a format that may be used in a variety of classes, including social studies, economics, science, political science, government, and debate.
Participating students assume the roles of senators and "energy-industry executives" and advocate their views in simulated Congressional hearings. The "senators" draft a bill outlining national energy policy after studying the gamut of energy sources and listening to opponents and proponents of each energy source.
Teaching materials for a class of 30 may be obtained by sending a $25 check made out to "The Energy Hearings" to: "The Energy Hearings,'' 888 Seventh Avenue, New York City 10106.
Displaying noteworthy mettle, the three principals of Warrensburg-Latham Community Unit School District Number 11 in Illinois will ask students and their parents what they really think of their schools. The opinion surveys are among several measures the district is undertaking to launch a new "public-confidence" program in its schools.
Last October, the principals and three of the district's teachers attended a staff-development workshop in central Illinois. To fulfill an assignment, the six conceived and outlined a program that would "improve staff self-image, develop a positive staff attitude, and develop better ways to communicate with the public." They decided to try the program (it has no formal name yet) in the district's three schools. Administrators, teachers, students, and the support and maintenance staffs will be involved.
Staff members have already been asked for their opinions, and parents will be polled before April 1. The schools' officials promise to consider carefully all criticism and suggestions.
Some have already been adopted: Each quarter, for example, one high-school student will be designated to receive a savings certificate for his or her exceptional academic achievement.
Officials are planning exercises in listening and communication to "show the staff how carelessly we listen and how things that are written and sent home to parents can be interpreted several different ways, depending on the perceptions of the readers."
To "advertise" the successes of the schools, bumper stickers and lapel buttons have been produced. In addition, students and teachers are being encouraged to write for the district's newsletter and local newspapers.
The planners hope such techniques of honest self-criticism and aggressive "advertising" will produce healthy pride in the schools, as well as more community support for them.
The officials will measure the effect of their efforts next year: They plan to repeat the survey of students and parents and hope it will show "genuine progress in marketing our product."
For further information, contact Dennis R. Clodi, Warrensburg-Latham High School, Box 247, Warrensburg, Ill. 62573.
Word of innovative, effective programs may be sent to SCHOOLS: WHAT WORKS, Education Week, 1333 New Hampshire Ave., N.W., #560, Washington, D.C. 20036. (When writing to others for more details, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.)