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From pot holders & pancakes to sports & science

‘What I Need’ seminars equal big WIN for students

Kent City — Eighth-grader Kevin Espinoza speaks both Spanish and English, but he really wanted to learn another language, so he added German.

Classmate Mya Carter wanted more time to perfect her jewelry making and expand her business.

Planning to pursue a career as a game designer, eighth-grader Courtney O’Hare is learning to code.

Seventh-grader Zoee Randall did a project on veterinarians, and sixth-grader Eliana Max built a volcano.

Classroom opportunities are endless because of Kent City’s “What I Need” seminars. 

The WIN seminar is new this school year. Every sixth- through twelfth- grader is scheduled for one period each day.

The idea was to provide students an opportunity to identify what they would like to work on or learn, said middle-school and high-school Principal Jordan Stuhan. 

There is no credit earned, and the only requirement is that the student consults with the classroom teacher about their topic choice. At the end of each marking period, classroom rosters are shuffled, and students share what they learned or accomplished during the seminar period.

The purpose of the WIN model is two-fold, Stuhan said. 

Seminar hours traditionally provide time for students to work on homework or missed assignments. WIN teachers monitor daily progress and check to make sure each student is caught up in regular classes.

With many students busy at work on individual interest projects, teachers have more time to assess individual needs. “This approach should give us an opportunity for more robust tutoring as needed,” Stuhan said. “This could be student to student, or teacher to student.”

The new model also allows all students to do something they always wanted to, he said. “The seminar teacher will take on a more nurturing role, as the students have time to research and share their passions.”

Teacher Nicole Lindeboom is just finishing up the first group of WIN seminar students and says the concept is promising. 

“We have been better able to help students manage their overall progress where needed, while giving students a chance to show off something they are passionate about,” she said. “I think this also ties in well with the new career exploration component for graduation requirements.”

Following Passions 

Some students use their WIN time to brush up on skills. 

Eighth-grader Sienna Larson is on the volleyball team and used her time sharpening those skills. “I definitely learned to serve better,” she said. 

Julio Sanchez reviewed films from his football coach, teaching him to take correct steps before the kick. Julio also said that he was grateful for the extra time to catch up on missing assignments.

Zoee, who hopes to be a veterinarian someday, agreed. “Sometimes with six different classes, it is easy to get behind and I can  really use this extra time.”

Mya Carter, 8th, working on jewelry

Eighth-grader Brandon McCullough is one of several students learning sign language. 

“I really wanted to learn how to communicate with other people; not everyone can speak English,” he said. He spent his WIN periods teaching himself first the alphabet and then simple greetings and phrases. He plans to continue learning in the next session.

Isiah Stuhan, seventh-grade, spent his time figuring out how to solve the Rubik’s Cube. “My dad did it, so I knew it was possible,” he said, pointing to an internet guide of seven difficult steps. He plans to continue sharpening his brain power, solving another puzzle during the next seminar.

Eighth-graders Emily Rivera and Sarah Beth Low wowed their classmates and teachers making pancakes in varying colors and designs. 

“They were wonderful,” Lindeboom said.

Dakota Riscili, another eighth-grader, said he always wanted to write stories, so he wrote a book. He plans to use his next WIN seminar to continue working on it.

And Zechariah Lain renewed his passion for painting. 

“I had pretty much put it away,” he said. “WIN is a cool idea. I like the idea of trying new things.”

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio

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