Choice Block. Those two words form a unique quality of Innovation Academy Charter School. IACS is a unique school from the minute you enter 72 Tyng Road. Whether it’s the 200-acre campus, the project-based learning, or the interactive classes, IACS is definitely a unique learning environment for all students.
One thing that makes IACS unique is Choice Block. Choice Block is a time for students to pursue an activity that is not necessarily academic, but still an enriching, learning experience. I remember writing down my options for this year’s 1st trimester Choice Block. My advisor, Ms. Staples, connected her laptop to the projector and started scrolling through all of the options. I was astonished by how many options were offered. There were almost too many options to choose from.
Choice Block was something new for me last year as I continued on from the IACS Middle School to the High School. But this year I had the same feeling. Perhaps, this was because of all of the changes made to Choice Block. Last year, Choice Block occurred once a week on Tuesdays. There were definitely a variety of options, but not too many. This year, Choice Block occurs two days a week, on both Tuesdays and Fridays, with one of those meetings intended to be also used for all-school meetings and other all-school events.
I asked Ms. Kelly, Dean of Students, about these changes. “Last spring, the [High School] staff developed a few different versions of possible 2015-2016 schedules that would allow [them] to incorporate PE and Wellness into our Academic Program,” said Kelly. “The decision to run with our current bell schedule was based on a variety of factors and one of the results was including a second Choice Block period into our weekly schedule.”
In addition to the change of having Choice Block two days week, there were many more Choice Block options offered this year. Choice Blocks like The Innovator and Student Government continued to make their yearly appearances on the list, however new options like Debate Club, Math Club, Meditation, and Drivers Ed, surprised students while making their decisions.
I asked other sophomores what they thought of these new changes. When asked whether they like the idea of having Choice Block on both Tuesdays and Fridays, sophomore Alexandra Dunn replied that she “[likes] it because it gives a little more ‘down time,’ [and because] we are still doing things, but [not] necessarily hitting the books.”
Sophomore Rebecca Mckiel also said that she “[thinks] it’s fun having two chances every week to…do something that’s not 100% academic.” They also enjoyed the new options provided. Mckiel, a part of the Drivers Ed Choice Block, said that she thinks it’s “a nice addition because it…will help students obtain all the requirements needed.”
Dunn also said that it’s nice that Choice Block provides time during the school day to take part in additional activities. “A lot of us have very busy schedules and cannot fit in time to, for example, play Quidditch,” said Dunn. “However, with the two choice blocks, I can now play Quidditch and have another choice block to do something useful.”
With IACS being a Charter School serving students from many different towns, transportation and timings can sometimes tend to be a little problematic. For this reason, it is often hard to arrange extracurricular activities that many students will be able to collectively participate in. Choice Block is what solves this issue, because if it’s during the school day, a time when all students are present, after-school timings and transportation are in no way affected.
Junior Sarah Mayotte, Head Editor of The Innovator this year, is also happy with the two days a week Choice Block idea. “I love the idea of having choice block two days a week,” said Mayotte. “Last year [The Innovator] had problems with not always being able to meet which made getting things done difficult at times. By having more time to meet, I think The Innovator will be able to get more done as a student publication.”
However when it comes down to all of the other options offered, she wasn’t too overjoyed: “Being Head of a work/academic based Choice Block, I tend to shake my head at more recreational or frivolous Choice Blocks. I understand it’s important students have time to relax; I don’t think Choice Block is the time for that.”
With students’ opinions varying about these new changes, I decided to ask Ms. Pratt, a teacher who is new to IACS this year,what she thinks about the idea of Choice Block: “[It] is awesome that students get two blocks out of their busy school schedule to participate in an activity they enjoy…Not only is it fun, but it seems to support the sense of community that I have felt since starting at IACS. Teachers get a chance to see their students participating in something they enjoy, and students get to see teachers out of the typical teacher role that occurs in the classroom…” Pratt made a great point that although Choice Block isn’t necessarily an academic activity, it still impacts both the students and the teachers at IACS. I know from personal experience that students are also able to learn more about their teachers’ interests based on the Choice Blocks their teachers choose to lead, helping bring students and teachers closer together.
In the end, although not all students share exactly the same opinion when it comes down to the changes made to Choice Block, they all agree that the changes made were surely positive ones. As Dunn said, “This year’s formatting is an improvement. We get two [Choice Blocks] instead of one…What’s not to like!” 100% Agreed.