Academic Enrichment Activities

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Catch 21st CCLC

Colleen Brandt-Schluter

4424 South 188th
Seatac, WA 98188



Activity Description

Violence prevention Americorps volunteers come to talk with students about various issues. These discussion take the form of Socratic seminars; they discuss topics such as the economics of drugs‚ diabetes‚ mental health‚ sexual orientation‚ racism‚ teen pregnancy‚ suicide‚ eating disorders‚ and other systemic problems the students see. These topics are decided by the students through questions asked by the volunteers (the same volunteers come throughout the year). Examples of questions are: "What do you see yourself being most concerned about in five years?‚" "How do you feel about graduation?‚" and "What concerns you most as an individual in society right now?" Experts on the chosen topic are brought in to participate in the discussion each week. Participants are not assigned to the discussion group (it isn't remedial help); they are chosen and suggested by certain faculty‚ other staff‚ or are self-selected. These generally are at-risk kids‚ but high-achievers are also included. Students are INVITED‚ not told to come.

Number of Students Involved in This Activity: 24

Range of Student Ages: Middle/high school (12 from each)

Duration of Activity: Twice per week‚ two hours‚ all year long; activity lasts one hour and fifteen minutes of this two-hour period. The remaining 45 minutes is for talking and hanging out.

Relevant Contextual or Demographic Information: The students in this area are from high-violence neighborhoods and are often from single-parent families. The students who come are generally very‚ very poor and are commonly well below grade level (some 40 percent of the ninth grade fails one or more classes‚ and many in this same age group read at a fourth grade level). Many of these kids struggle with health problems stemming from inadequate health care or instruction.

Academic ContentWhat is the academic content of this activity? Literacy
Of course‚ the students learn a great deal directly from the subject matter being discussed (e.g.‚ students learn fiction/fact about STDs‚ politics of racism‚ economics‚ etc.). The students regularly research the topic beforehand; this is driven in part by a motivation to "not look stupid in front of peers‚" but also by an intrinsic need to be able to contribute to the discussion. Perhaps one of the most valuable results of these discussions is that students learn the difference between credible and shaky source material. They learn the methods of quality research and what makes a good source even as their views are discussed‚ and they receive feedback/questions from the adults or other students. Simply speaking‚ these conversations teach how to think well and how to listen/respond to others.

Strong RelationshipsHow does this activity create strong relationships?
The volunteers from Americorps are the same people throughout the year‚ so the kids get used to seeing them‚ interacting with them‚ and can develop relationships with them. There are also good opportunities for relationships between older and younger students to develop during these sessions.

Decision MakingWhat opportunities are there for authentic decision making?
The students choose the topics they want to discuss and very actively participate in the discussion itself. These discussions are often about real-world problems the students face‚ so the outcome of the discussion relates directly to their real-world choices and actions. The discussions are designed to create an informed base from which to make good decisions.

Student LeadershipWhat student leadership opportunities are there?
The students control the conversation and its outcome. Older or high-achiever students are put into a position where they can help other students who are struggling academically or simply in life.


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