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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Starting a Schoolwide Enrichment Cluster Program -Part 2

Note: This is the second installment of a three-part series.


In the last blog, I began telling my adventure of launching a schoolwide enrichment cluster program. In this second installment, I’d like to dive into the part of the story, where I discuss how I overcame challenges with space and training coaches.

The school where I work is located on a very compact campus. It’s vertical in design, third-stories, but very narrow.  Worse, despite several pleas, classroom teachers-who in their defense have students arrive early—did not offer use of their classroom for the before-school program. So I had to be creative, real creative.  I reserved the school’s several computer lab classrooms, booked the music room and media center, and we even used picnic tables outside the school’s cafeteria to house the approximate 250 students in the program.

If I were to do it again, I would have broken the program up into two days, rather than try to service all the students on one single morning. This move would have reduced the number of students, from 250, to about 125 that day, which would have made finding space for the clusters much easier.

Also, when deciding where to hold certain clusters, consider the type of cluster and the resources that will be required. For instance, I housed the animation and web design clusters in the computer labs since we needed the technology while the school’s music room, with its carpeted floor, served just fine for the yoga cluster.

Training coaches for a cluster program is another challenge. If you use parents or other volunteers, you need to understand that they will likely have little or no experience teaching or coaching. This means you must train them.  My first attempt at training the 40 university students that helped coach the program was a noble attempt. However, I learned some better ways to train them in the cluster model, which I’d like to share. First, pick yourself up a copy of The Art of Schoolwide Enrichment. So you know, I do not receive any royalties or perks from pushing this book, though I have met one of the authors, Nora Friedman, during a conference workshop. The book is a great manual for implementing schoolwide enrichment programs and it provides a training simulation for coaches, which has them go through the steps of forming their own cluster. If you want your coaches to understand what a cluster is, it makes more sense to have them go through the process.

Finally, you must be prepared to provide ongoing training to the coaches after the program has started. Pre-training is not enough. You have to circulate through the clusters, providing support, possibly modeling lessons, fielding concerns. Remember, these people are volunteering to coach the program (unless you have a budget to pay them). You want them to feel supported every step of the way.

During the next blog, I will explain how the program was designed to culminate in a final showcase, where students show their products and services to parents and the community. Until then, thanks for reading!