Enrichment, Enrichment, Enrichment
It's worth the time, money, and resources... I promise.
We reeaaallllly care about enrichment at Arete.
We've implemented enrichment activities in so many different ways since we got started... daily activities, independent projects, enrichment clusters, frequent field trips, expert guests, lighting stuff on fire, maker spaces, clubs, yada, yada, yada. There may be a sliver of readers who are interested to read our exhaustive history of operationalizing enrichment, but they'll have to wait.
There is a lot of great research out there to rationalize the implementation of enrichment programs, particularly for gifted and 2e learners... just Google "Sally Reis" as a starting point and you'll be off to the races! It's important that there are people out there conducting sound research and building objective rationales for why schools should implement programs. I won't do that with this blog post. It IS why we do enrichment at Arete, but there's another layer to our why...
... it's that gut feeling that parents and teachers get when they can see a light in their students' eyes. You can tell when a student is delighted and surprised. You can tell when they're locked into a task at school. You can feel their disposition shift... and a high level of excitement and engagement is NOT guaranteed among 2e students throughout the course of a school day so it's a BIG DEAL.
It's huge for 2e students to feel that excitement- it opens up possibilities and the potential for a new passion. And it's a huge win for us educators to see that energy in our students too! Sometimes we need that joy to muster our own energy to come up with the next thing. I don't think there's any shame in admitting that.
I haven't defined the term, "enrichment" yet because I think it's a boring way to start a blog post. When I say enrichment, I mean activities that foster the expression and growth of our students' interests, passions, talents, skills, and strengths. Sometimes these activities fit under the umbrella of a typical class and sometimes they're harder to define. It's not uncommon for enrichment activities to exist in a vacuum, where they aren't included on any transcripts, there are no grades, and no assessments.
Here's a short list of recent enrichment activities that we've hosted at Arete:
Adventures in Cardboard... Guests from AiC helped our students fashion cardboard weapons, tools, and armor. There were blades. There was tape. There was cardboard. There were games. There were no injuries!!
Cuttlebone Casting... Guest artist, Sara Hanson, came to teach our students about using cuttlebone to carve molds for lead-free pewter casting. Blades, bones, and molten metal... what else do you need, really?
Textile Center... We have gone to the Textile Center in Minneapolis multiple times to explore fiber arts with its experts.
Dungeons and Dragons Clubs... Bi-weekly D&D groups built around student personalities and experience with a basically professional Dungeon Master.
If you look at those recent activities, it seems like the common theme is art and that's not entirely inaccurate, but our students' personalities are deeply embedded in all of these enrichment activities... that's the real core of it. Many of our students have attended Adventures in Cardboard camps for years. Our students often enjoy using special tools and participating in potentially dangerous things. I mean, molten metal? Come on! Fiber arts aren't an immediate "win" for all of our students, but going on repeated trips to the Textile Center has helped students feel comfortable there and take some creative risks.
Each one of these activities allows encourages connections with personal history, facilitates creative expression, and provides a platform to share experiences with peers. Our students aren't assessed on these skills and there aren't enrichment credits on any high school transcripts. But the personal growth is there and that's worth a lot.
I'm not going to say it's easy to plan enrichment activities... it's almost always time intensive and it's rarely free of cost. We keep doing it because we know that it lights fires in our students and when our students are on fire, amazing things can happen! Figuratively.