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Three Fridays each year, Freeport (Maine) Middle School closes its textbooks and opens its doors to a different kind of learning. Students and teachers share exciting "Fab Friday" hobbies and activities and in the process learn to see one another in a whole new light. Education World writer Leslie Bulion talks with Freeport Middle School staff and students about why Fab Friday is more than just fun and games. Included: Chris Toy's tips for activity day success and a sample listing of Fab Friday activities.
During Chris Toy's first years as principal of Freeport (Maine) Middle School, he found that scheduling the school's daily activity periods just wasn't working. The 45-minute period had to run opposite band and chorus, and the time constraint limited the range and scope of activities offered. Six years ago, he developed the full-day Fab Friday program to meet both the logistical and content needs of his 340 middle schoolers.
In its current form, Fab Friday might take students to an art museum, to the kitchen for baking bread, or out on the slopes for snow tubing. Students can choose two half-day activities or one full-day event. Physical activities such as biking, bowling, and tubing are among the most popular. "These are opportunities for kids and teachers to interact outside their cerebral hemispheres," Toy tells Education World.
Fab Friday has helped Cassandra, an eighth-grade student, get to know the school's teachers on a more personal basis. "At school they seem a lot tougher, but on Fab Fridays you learn to respect teachers as people," she tells Education World. "Fab Friday has made it easier for me to talk with teachers if I'm having problems during the school day."
PLANNING IS EVERYTHING
"Fab Friday requires a lot of pre-planning," Toy points out. "People who don't understand the concept might think it's a waste of time or that we do it every Friday. Believe me," he laughs, "three times a year is plenty!"
During those three Fridays, students and teachers share enriching recreational experiences and experience one another as people outside their everyday school roles. That, according to Toy, is what makes all the effort worthwhile.
"A young man who was in my office a lot for being disruptive signed up for my Fab Friday kayaking class," says Toy. "He became a leader outside the classroom. His self-esteem came from showing other students how to get into a kayak or what to do if they got wet and checking to make sure everyone was keeping up.
"At end of the day he came over to me and said, 'Mr. Toy, you really are OK,'" adds Toy. "He responded to me as a person and not the principal, and after that Fab Friday his visits to my office for getting into trouble dropped 80 percent."
A TEACHER'S PERSPECTIVE
"Fab Friday affords me an opportunity to see other students," special education technician Connie Cross tells Education World. "I work primarily with a group of eighth graders. On each Fab Friday, I've been with some seventh and sixth graders, and other teachers too, in a non-academic setting. It's really wonderful!"
Cross has learned to play Frisbee golf, make candles, and even been on a trip to the beach. "I think students and teachers all try to select activities that provide opportunities to learn something new -- it's an adventure!"
STUDENTS LOVE FAB FRIDAY
Although some students choose Fab Friday activities with friends, "I pick activities based on my interests," says Cassandra, an eighth-grade student. "I like to meet and get to know new people."
Recent Fab Fridays have brought Cassandra to the bowling alley and to the Coastal Humane Society for a community service day. That day, chores included cleaning out the basement and walking dogs awaiting adoption.
This eighth-grader is looking forward to her next Fab Friday, which also will be her last at Freeport Middle School. "There are different activities offered each time," Cassandra says. "It's always a surprise!"