Maximum from the mini-mum

By st. peter’s school staff

St. Peter’s School offers choices through mini-courses
UTICA — School days can become routine — religion, math, science, social studies, English, and physical education. But some days are definitely different at St. Peter’s School in North Utica. Those are the Fridays that mini-courses are offered.

The premise of offering mini-courses was to encourage creativity in both the teachers and the students. Many times the curriculum becomes dry and dull if it has been taught for several years. Many times teachers wish that a unit on dinosaurs was offered on their grade level because they just love teaching it.

Students often do not have a lot of choice when it comes to their education, especially someone as young as a first grader. Most of the time, the curriculum dictates what is taught in the classroom.

With the mini-courses offered at St. Peter’s, teachers and students can investigate topics that they have a particular interest in. Both the teachers’ and the students’ creativity is nurtured.

This year students in grades one through three have been offered classes in games of long ago, puppetry, PowerPoint, folk dancing and sketching. Students in grades four through six have been involved in understanding the parables, crafts, map reading, cooking, and forensics. Each class is offered for four sessions, the last of which culminates in some use of the skill or topic discussed. For example, the map reading class spent three weeks learning the parts of a map and how to read one. On the last day of the class the children were given maps of the city of Utica and were asked to devise a route to a particular local landmark. Using their maps and with chaperones in tow, the group proceeded to find the landmark and then their way back to the school.

One of the highlights of the mini-course is to show off the skill. The folk dance group performed both a Polish and an American folk dance for their peers. Although the dance steps may have not been perfect, the smiles on the faces of the performers said it all — this was the best class they had ever taken.

Teacher returns as published author

Dorothy Stacy retired from St. Peter’s in June 2006. One of Stacy’s favorite classroom activities was to have an author’s tea. The children invited their parents to come to their classroom and listen as each child read excerpts from their best writing. The children in her classroom prepared for this event months in advance. They honed their writing skills until they had a piece of work that was worthy to be published. Finally, after the final draft was written, a day was set aside where parents were invited in to hear the polished work.

Now the tables will be turned on Stacy because she is the author. With the publication of her new book, Erie Canal Cousins, she will read excerpts of her book to the children and give writing tips to the students when she returns to St. Peter’s May 24. The children will then share with her and their parents, their best piece of work. The parents will be treated to refreshments consisting of cookies, juice and, of course, tea.

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