Learning how to decorate a cake or shoot better photos isn’t traditional middle school curriculum, but at Warm Springs Middle School in Murrieta, students have been learning these skills and many more during their extra elective classes at the end of the day.
For the past two years, students in grades 6-8 have enjoyed electives of their choice during Pride Period, a 30-minute, four-day-a-week enrichment program that allows students succeeding in math and language arts to select activities from a long list of classes that includes cooking, digital photography and sewing.
Students who need additional help in math or language arts instead receive assistance in those subjects.
Several band students said they have enjoyed the chance to take another elective.
“It’s been amazing,” seventh-grader Jillian Rawlins said of Pride Period. She’s in the running club during Pride Period and enjoys one- to two-mile runs around the school’s hilly Murrieta neighborhoods.
“We have a lot of routes. It’s fun. We get a lot of exercise,” said Jillian, who hopes to do track in high school.
Morgan Morales, an eighth grader, has taken photography and “Rock the Band,” which offers instruction in “non-band” instruments like the guitar and ukulele. She is currently in the Homework Club, which gives her a chance to get some homework done before she gets home. “The class is really quiet sometimes,” she said.
Seventh-grader Jayce Cereed is enjoying the Lord of the Rings Club, where he said students watch and discuss the popular movies. “It’s a class that’s stress-free,” he said.
Pride Period helped motivate students to do better in their academic classes, according to Principal Mick Wager.
“The students who are doing well are rewarded by taking an enrichment class,” he said. “And the students who need help are motivated to do their best in the intervention class, because if they do well, they get to take an enrichment class during the next session.”
That incentive appeared to be working, as Wager noted that with each session, the school has had to offer fewer intervention classes and open extra enrichment classes because more students are doing better. The school’s Academic Performance Index score is following a similar trend and has gained 42 points in the last two years.
Unfortunately, school officials said, Pride Period won’t be offered next year due to a contractual issue with teachers. However, other new opportunities for students in various performing arts will continue next year.
Drama was introduced two years ago, and with the help of teachers and parent volunteers, the 40 to 50 students who participate learn what goes into staging a production. They recently presented their third Disney musical, “The Little Mermaid.”
Drama will be available again next year, and so will Warm Springs’ new drumline, color guard and jazz band, all of which kicked off this year with after-school programs.
Seventh-grader Kelsey Bridges is one of 33 girls in the new color guard.
“I thought it would be fun,” she said, pointing to a photo on the wall in the band room of the girls in their uniforms. Color Guard meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays and performs on Saturdays, Kelsey said.
Band has been offered since the school opened in 2002, and this year, a record 340 students are participating, said Band Director Trent Newton. Band students perform in four ensembles – Beginning, Cadet, Intermediate and Symphonic.
For eight straight years, the Intermediate and Symphonic bands have earned superiors (the highest possible score) from judges at the annual music festival presented by the Southern California School Band & Orchestra Association.
Newton praised his school for having Pride Period and the other new performing arts courses that have allowed students to explore their personal interests. “It’s good for kids,” he said.
The jazz band, which has 22 members, will perform at Vista Murrieta High School with that school’s jazz ensembles on April 26, and the jazz band also will attend a major festival May 11 at Riverside Community College, where schools from throughout the Inland Empire will be competing.
Amy Bentley is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.