I'll take that: Unique electives at Fairfield middle schools offer a real-world connection

Fantasy Sports Math is among the offerings
I'll take that: Unique electives at Fairfield middle schools offer a real-world connection
Posted at 7:00 AM, Oct 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-02 07:00:18-04

FAIRFIELD, Ohio -- Random acts of kindness are more than a way to spread positivity in the Fairfield City School District. They're the basis for a class.

The Random Acts of Kindness middle school course is one of various new elective offerings at the district's two sixth- through eighth-grade buildings. Among others, the list includes Fantasy Sports Math, Mandarin and Green Architecture.

"We wanted a good variety of electives,' said Karen Albrecht, a counselor at Fairfield Creekside Middle School.

Albrecht was part of a committee that spent two years helping redesign the district's middle schools. The schools this year split between two buildings and added sixth grade along with seventh and eighth.

The process included expanding students' options to accommodate course loads that now provide two electives a day rather than one. 

"It really tailors more to students' interests," said Erica Green, a middle-school guidance counselor for Fairfield City Schools who served on the redesign committee.

Selecting which electives to offer begs not only the consideration of engaging students, but whether there are staff able and willing to teach the courses.

Redesign committee members in Fairfield surveyed teachers, gathering input from all departments prior to selecting the new electives.

"We had to come up with specials that normal teachers could teach," said seventh-grade science teacher Laura Siebenburgen, who served on the redesign committee.

In addition to the new offerings, students also can choose from traditional options, like band, choir and Spanish.

Some of the new electives might sound more like extracurricular clubs or personal pastimes, but their ultimate purpose is career-readiness. 

"They take kids' academic interests and show how they could possibly use that," Albrecht said.

Some electives even lend themselves to real-world applications beyond regular classroom learning, said Siebenburgen. She teaches a science elective dealing with water and weather. 

"It's hands-on," she said. "It really follows the scientific process."

In the class, students write daily in science journals and develop skills like data interpretation. 

"If they want to go into the science field they need to know how to do that," she said.

Even electives that may not seem as tied into core curricula have real-world applications, according to Fairfield's middle school educators. Random Acts of Kindness teaches youths the health, school and community benefits of sharing positivity. Fantasy Sports Math builds on concepts from core subjects while highlighting possible sports-related careers.

"So much of sports is math-related," Albrecht said.

Fairfield isn't the only district getting creative with elective offerings in the Tri-State. West Clermont Local Schools offers Sports Medicine, History of Cincinnati and Holocaust Studies. Sycamore's electives include Social Media Marketing and International Foods. At Waynesville High School, students can learn about astronomy and botany.

For Fairfield students, changing schedules throughout the school year mean even more opportunities to experience different electives. Operating on a quarterly schedule, sixth-graders can potentially take up to eight electives in a school year. Seventh- and eighth-graders' semester-based schedules can accommodate up to four electives a year.

More opportunities to explore various electives means more chances for students to figure out what their interests are. When they've identified those interests, it means more opportunities to develop them.

"A student who thrives in that area … can have an opportunity to have that time in their day to expand their skills," Green said.