Teaching young people is about more than history, math or literature lessons. It’s about educating the whole child, and the public and independent schools in metro Atlanta offer numerous opportunities for growth in their schools, whether it’s an after-school science club, baseball team, music lessons or 4-H.
“Georgia is working to expand the definition of readiness to include a more holistic approach to public education — one that provides fine arts, science, technology, engineering, mathematics and extracurricular activities,” says Georgia Superintendent of Schools Richard Woods. “Education is about life. A high-quality education includes options for students that are necessary for students to experience a high quality of life as they become adults. A strong foundation of the fundamentals in the early grades, coupled with a system that identifies and cultivates the strengths and passions of students in the later grades, is key to ensuring that every child graduates ready to live.”
Offerings in public schools include career and technology student organizations; SHAPE Act/Power Up for 30 groups, which encourage healthy and active children; a variety of sports; STEM clubs that give students first-hand experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; theater and performing arts; and student government associations. Information about specific school activities can be found on district and individual school websites.
Area independent schools offer an abundance of options as well. Check out many of these opportunities below, in addition to checking each school’s extracurricular information online for programs that may not be listed. Websites for more than 30 area independent schools can be found in KNOWAtlanta’s list.
St. Martin’s Episcopal School
Supporting the school’s mission of educating the whole child in a loving, Christian environment, St. Martin’s Episcopal in Atlanta has made it a priority to provide a wide variety of extracurricular offerings for all students. “Extracurricular activities provide students the opportunity to both discover new areas of interest and dig deeper into new-found passions, and are essential to the successful and fulfilling education of the whole child,” says Blythe Marsau, St. Martins’ director of admission and financial aid.
Through its Explorers extended-day program, St. Martin’s offers enrichment classes, including dance, karate, chess and arts and crafts; and academic activities include Odyssey of the Mind, Crazy Eights — a math club for first through third-graders — computer coding, Science Olympiad, foreign language, Warrior TV, newspaper, yearbook and chess club.
The school’s extensive fine arts program offers opportunities such as drama clubs, chorus and art. St. Martin’s successful athletic program includes intramural sports for elementary-age students and competitive sports for middle school students in cross-country, volleyball, soccer, basketball, tennis, golf, baseball and flag football.
Service opportunities also teach the value of giving to others and giving back to one’s community. At St. Martin’s, students may participate in service learning clubs, and middle school students can apply to serve on the school’s student vestry that supports the school’s chaplain. There are also options that are just pure fun, like knitting club and an edible art class.
At Whitefield in the Smyrna/Vinings area, juniors undergo extensive testing with Leadership Development Company and the Johnson O’Connor Institute to underscore understanding of their innate gifts, abilities, interests, aptitudes and much more. That information is presented to the individual student and parents in terms of possible vocational and avocational pursuits. The college department at Whitefield then takes that information and works with the student and parents to focus on college choices and the types of college environments that would best suit the student — taking into account athletic or fine arts opportunities, financial situations, etc. “This program has been in operation for more than a decade and has had great success in offering some guidelines for students ready to launch to college and beyond,” says Jayme Geeslin, Whitefield’s director of college counseling.
In addition, the school offers chess club, robotics, ballet, piano lessons, all sports, art club and photography to add up to a very robust after-school program.
Strong Rock Christian School
Strong Rock Christian in Locust Grove offers a great deal of extracurricular activities and electives, says Academic Dean Judy Johnston. For middle and high school students, athletic opportunities include football, cross-country, softball, baseball, volleyball, basketball, wresting, cheerleading, soccer, track and field, tennis, golf, equestrian team and shooting team. Elementary students can participate in flag football and cheerleading.
Clubs and after-school activities are also important to students. These include 4-H, Archery Club, Student Government Association, Beta Club, Foreign Language Club and many more. In fine arts, students express their creative talents in marching band, concert band, jazz band, art, drama, class piano and choruses. Private lessons for voice and instruments are also offered.
A wide variety of electives are available to students as well. In technology, students can study web design, marketing and graphic design, just to name a few. A new and exciting elective offered this year is aviation class.
Holy Spirit Preparatory School
“We have a robust roster of athletics, arts and after-school programs,” says Timothy Durski with Holy Spirit Preparatory in Atlanta. “In addition to after-school clubs, HSP sponsors a unique docket of ‘apostolates,’ clubs devoted in faith to service. Our most popular apostolate is St. Joseph’s Cohort, a group that works with impoverished families in Kentucky, in the most impoverished region of the United States. They support a host of resource drives — clothes, canned food, hygiene products — but also do field work in the region, home construction and rehabilitation, mostly. We also have a Pro-Life Apostolate; a Bridge apostolate that forms relationships between our upper and lower school students through leadership training; and a handful of other apostolates.”
With “Harry Potter” in mind, HSP also has a house system that resembles the fairytale in that students receive fancy ties with their house crest on them. “Students are grouped into four houses, each named after different Ecumenical Council of the Church, that each have students in fifth through 12th grades,” Durski says. “It intentionally and strategically fosters friendships and mentors relationships between students at different age levels, and creates leadership opportunities at every grade level.”
Greater Atlanta Christian School
Encore Kids, Greater Atlanta Christian School in Norcross’ new after-school program, brings an “enthusiastic demand for more” once the regular school day is finished. Kids in grades pre-K3-fifth enjoy guided activities and learning units each day that are engaging and fun. Encore Kids encourages afte- school students to try new things that they might otherwise not have access to, such as creative art projects, hands-on science experiments, building projects using engineering concepts, group ZUMBA classes and much more.
Here’s a glimpse of learning units for the 2015-16 school year:
• Help NASA classify cloud types each day for atmospheric and earth science projects
• Watch and take notes on bird activity for the Cornell Institute of Ornithology
• Classify local bugs for Colby College
• Create with technology using Google CS
• Grow cognitive functions and get outdoors with the Walking Classroom program
There’s more than just Encore Kids for after-school enrichment, though. Swimming lessons, dance classes, private music lessons, athletic clubs and teams — all on one campus — are available to students.