How to help your tween become involved at school
Educators claim that middle schoolers are the toughest students to teach because they're so distracted by hormones, changing friendships and emerging cliques.
Help your child secure a good group of friends — and stay on task at school — by encouraging her to get involved in a great school activity.
Schools are making great strides in the environmental arena. "It's important for our kids to understand how their actions today affect their world tomorrow," says Nikki, a parent volunteer for her school's environmental club. "They can't change something unless they're aware of it."
At Nikki's school, students contribute environmental stats to the school newspaper and host green programs, such as recycling ink cartridges and juice pouches. "Once a year, the students work with the State Department of Transportation to clean up local parks and highways," says Nikki. "It's so rewarding for them."
The environmental club at Nikki's school is tied in with the school's science program, while other schools operate the clubs independently. "A couple of fifth graders approached the PTO and asked us to help them create a green club," says Debbie. "How could we turn them away?"
"By far, my best school memories were from drama club," says Rae. "I was involved from seventh grade until I graduated and loved every minute of it."
There is a place for everyone in the drama club! Your child doesn't have to be an aspiring actor to participate — there are so many ways to get involved.
In fact, Rae never set foot on stage. "I helped the director with everything from makeup and costumes to designing programs and selling tickets," she recalls.
Encourage your child to attend informational meetings to find out where your school's theatrical team could use a hand. Technical types might enjoy working with sound and light boards. Budding artists can help with set design and advertising. And musical types might get a chance to sing on stage or play in the orchestra pit!
Reading competition team
Book lovers get competitive when their school's reputation is on the line. Reading competitions* are interscholastic show-downs that give kids a chance to pin their collective knowledge against their brainy opponents.
As a member of the team, your child is given a list of books — and reading competition teams from neighboring schools receive the same list. Kids select the books they wish to read and track their progress (and understanding of the books) with their team's advisor.
Then, as the end of the academic year nears, all of the participating teams meet to compete! "Our daughter loves the competitions," says Kerri. "It's all day on a Saturday, and there's dancing and food and real competition."
Moderators pose questions about the books from the list, and the members of each team collaborate to answer the questions correctly. "It's actually very exciting!" exclaims Kerri.
*Note: Some schools call this the Battle of the Books club.
Each year, more than 6,000 middle schools participate in MATHCOUNTS competitions and activities. Thanks to the MATHCOUNTS Foundation, teachers and volunteers have the materials they need to coach student Mathletes® in the classroom and/or as an extracurricular activity.
Through teamwork and competition, MATHCOUNTS builds math skills, promotes logical thinking and sharpens analytical abilities. Schools can opt to create a MATHCOUNTS club and/or a competition team for students in the sixth through eighth grades.
Creative writing club
Standardized testing is stifling the natural creativity in our children! That's why developing skills such as creative writing is more important than ever.
Many schools offer creative writing clubs for the younger set. While the concept sounds lofty, it's really ideal for middle school students.
"We're always looking for different 'prompts' to get the kids thinking," says creative writing advisor Laura. "For example, we might have them tell a traditional story from a different point of view, like Cinderella from the stepsisters' perspective."
Thanks to dedicated teachers and volunteers, more and more creative writing clubs are cropping up as budget cuts are forcing schools to drop such classes from the curriculum.