Pursuing Passions: Extracurricular Learning at MFS

Click the photo to enlarge.

The concept of “extracurriculars” remains familiar to students of all ages. Participants flock to these activities to explore new subjects, take part in meetings and discussions, or connect with friends, new and old, over shared interests. At Moorestown Friends, students directly influence the idea of what an extracurricular is – or can be. Each division approaches the idea in a unique way, always placing an emphasis on choice and exploration. In fact, the “extra” portion of “extracurricular” is not entirely valid, as the topics and experiences contained within clubs and activities are integral parts of student life at MFS.

In the Lower School, after school clubs are offered for a fee, with new clubs added or changed every season. Most clubs meet once a week for eight weeks, and each season’s roster includes a wide range of activities, from yoga and Science Olympiad to chess and dance.

Middle School students choose semester-spanning “activity periods,” built into their course schedules on particular days. They select their top choices from a list of offerings and receive activity placements based on grade level and class size. All activities are ungraded, further encouraging students to explore and customize their schedules to their liking. Some clubs that fall outside the activity umbrella, including the PRIDE (People Recognizing Individual Diversity and Equality), Diversity, and Book Clubs, meet during lunch.

There are over 30 clubs in the Upper School and students can propose new ones by presenting them at Agenda Committee and Upper School Meeting for Worship for Business. Clubs meet during lunch and are distinct from, but in some ways similar to, “minor courses,” which allow students to explore specialized subjects several times a week during a semester or full year.

Above all, these unique methods of offering programs allow MFS students to experience a range of educational, social, and personal benefits. “There are so many different opportunities through our club system for kids to explore interests, find ways to relax outside of the classroom, or do something different during their lunch period,” says Upper School Director Meredith Godley. “I think it’s a really healthy time for kids in the school day.”

Clubs and activities have a rich history at Moorestown Friends and their role has only expanded over time. Enjoy taking a step between the present and the past in this overview, including perspectives from current Upper School minor and club leaders.

Clubs, Committees, and Minor Courses in the Upper School

Diversity Committee

Clubs in the Upper School are typically student-generated and student-led. When proposing club ideas to the Agenda Committee, students must demonstrate that there is an interest within the community. They are then asked questions at Meeting for Worship for Business and the Upper School student body determines whether or not to approve the idea. Once a new club is confirmed, the club’s officers find a faculty advisor and meetings can begin.

Upper School Dean of Students Mike Brunswick believes that this process provides its own set of important experiences. “It’s very Quaker-based,” Mr. Brunswick says. “The students do a great job of talking to each other and working things out. I love the fact that the more they talk through issues, the more it gets to a place where it needs to be.”

Most clubs and committees meet during the Upper School lunch block. These group meetings are distinct from minor courses, which are graded and take place three times a week during scheduled class blocks. Most minor courses span the length of a semester, but several full-year minors (such as Yearbook, Journalism, and several performing arts ensembles) include additional opportunities and meetings outside of the school day.

In describing benefits of the club structure, Mr. Brunswick emphasizes the balance between advisors and student officers in club leadership. “The advisors let students run the clubs, and adults can affirm rather than saying ‘Hey, this is what you need to do,’” he explains. “It’s really neat to see the students thinking, talking, strategizing, and then coming up with the great final product.”

Click here to view a list of clubs, committees, and minor courses for 2018-19.

Activity Periods in the Middle School

Middle School Robotics

In the Middle School, the range of activity periods (along with several lunchtime clubs, such as the Diversity, PRIDE, and Book Clubs) is a testament to the diverse interests of students.

Tina Corsey, Science Teacher and Director of Middle School Student Life, witnesses this firsthand as she builds schedules for students at the beginning of each semester. “Middle School is about trying to figure out who you are and what your interests are,” she explains. “I think that the more activity selections you have, the more you’re able to reach different kids and allow them to try out different things.”

Fifth grade students can select a performing arts ensemble (string, choral, or instrumental) and begin to experience the role that activity periods play in their schedules. Sixth graders are required to complete one performing arts activity and otherwise have access to the full roster. Seventh and eighth graders can choose whatever combination of three activities they wish.

Eighth graders can also participate in committees to play active roles in student government. These small groups – such as Dance Committee and Recess Committee – allow students to directly shape events and Middle School policies.

Middle School Director Kimberly Clarkson emphasizes the impact that such opportunities provide during this crucial time in students’ educational lives. “Activity periods are a really important part of our program because they allow students a place during the week where they can explore something they’re passionate about or interested in,” she says.

Click here to view activity offerings from the second semester of the 2018-19 school year.

After School Clubs in the Lower School

Lower School Theater Club

In the Lower School, after school clubs provide additional learning and engagement opportunities for a per-club fee. Director of Extended Day and After School Programs Norma DeGroat coordinates offerings for each of the three sessions (fall, winter, spring), and clubs generally meet in the same time slot once a week for eight weeks. Martha Cameron, Director of Auxiliary and Summer Programs, manages online registration and has facilitated partnerships with outside organizations (such as The Knight School, which runs the Chess Club).

Several clubs, including Science Olympiad and Chess, are mainstays offered every season. However, teachers can also suggest brand-new topics based on their interests. This year, for example, Jenny Torgerson and Ted Quinn ran the Lower School Theater Club and staged its first-ever play; club members attended weekly meetings in both the fall and winter to permit additional practice and preparation.

Many after school clubs admit students from multiple grade levels, providing opportunities for students of different ages to collaborate and learn with each other.

Ms. DeGroat and Ms. Cameron also cite the benefits of offering these activities within the MFS community. “There’s the social-emotional enrichment that’s beneficial for the child, and there’s also the logistical benefit for parents or guardians,” Ms. Cameron says. “When we offer these clubs, it’s so much more convenient for kids to stay here after school. Parents and students know the teachers, they know they’re safe, and they know they’re well cared for.”

Click here to view after school clubs from the fall and winter of 2018-19.

Next: Student Spotlight – Girl Up Club