Op-Ed: Engaging students through choice at Perry Hill

One of the ways that students grow academically and socially is by having opportunities to make choices. At Perry Hill, Shelton’s fifth and sixth grade school, we believe in giving children the ability to have options to take ownership of their learning.

Student choice is more than simply choosing a topic. It is about empowering students as part of the learning process. Through choice, they begin to self-differentiate and become responsible for their own learning. Choice helps them connect with their strengths and interests. Choice gives them more autonomy, power, and control which boosts their motivation. Some of the options that enhance student learning in the classrooms at Perry Hill School include developing learning and behavior goals, book choice, problem-solving strategies, presentation formats, and the mode in which students can take a test.

As students get older and progress through the various school levels, they begin to have class choices. At the Intermediate School, they choose elective classes. Once they get to the high school level, they choose all of their classes. The power of choice helps mold all students to become well-rounded individuals.

At Perry Hill, we recognize that the transition from fourth grade to fifth grade is very exciting and can be stressful at the same time. Our club offerings are about bringing students together through similar interests. This way, they can explore one of their interests or even discover a passion that they may not have known existed. It is an opportunity to meet new students, make new friends, or even see friends from their former elementary school. Many clubs at Perry Hill encourage students to cultivate teamwork through interacting among peers, developing leadership skills, reducing stress, and promoting social development, all while having fun.

All staff and students participate in clubs. Students are offered a wide variety of club choices. Perry Hill School has a diverse selection of more than 30 clubs. These clubs meet the needs of all levels and interests. Most clubs fit into one of the following categories: physical activities, cooperative games, journalism, the arts, mindfulness, science, technology, engineering, multimedia, and hands-on creativity. Students at Perry Hill are very excited about making club choices.

One club, the “STEM” Club, focuses on critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and developing confidence. Activities in this club include flight simulators, drone building, and software and app development. Another club, the “Make a Difference Club,” focuses on helping the school and community through acts of kindness. These acts of kindness could include putting positive messages on lockers or tying scarves in local parks with notes of encouragement. In addition to club choices, students may also participate in the chorus, band, or strings orchestra.

Choice is one of the first of many steps that students take toward independence. Providing them with these opportunities at Perry Hill School helps students tap into their own interests and learning styles while getting to know more about themselves. This helps students develop confidence, adaptability, and enthusiasm to be prepared for a rapidly changing society.