To most, the word “activities” is simply the plural form of the noun “activity,” which refers to something that is being done. For Upper School students at Waynflete, Activities refers to a slate of co-curricular options. While students do not receive grades or transcript credit for participating in an Activity, a student’s “activity” very often becomes a meaningful and important part of his/her Upper School experience. The Upper School schedule includes two activity blocks. While students are only required to participate in one activity, many choose to fill both blocks. In fact, though theoretically a scheduling impossibility, some students manage to be involved in more than two. As further testament to the value of Activities, they often choose to highlight an experience that is associated with an Activity for a college essay.
Of the thirty-three Activities offered to students this year, some, such as Yearbook, Student Government, and the Math Team, are sponsored by the School and typify what one would expect as offerings in a high school co-curricular program. The vast majority, however, were originally proposed by students, including now yearly staples of the Activities Program such as the Reiche Mentor programs, the Waynflete Environmental Action Group (WEAG), and Racial Awareness at Waynflete (RAaW). New Activities introduced over the past few years include Car Club, Robotics, Equine Activists, Dream Factory, and this year’s addition, the Entrepreneurs’ Club.
There is a huge range in the offerings. On one end of the spectrum, there are Quiet Work Study and One Breath (which makes time in a student’s week for poetry reading, meditation, and reflection). On the other end, there are the Finance Club and the Ethical Leadership and Service Group (which helps to channel the energy of students who are intent on improving the world around them, on the other hand). Some of the largest offerings actually take place outside of the Activities blocks, including Mock Trial, Science Bowl and Science Olympiad, Project Story Boost, and Model UN.
In addition to giving students choice, a hallmark of the program is that it cultivates student leadership. In addition to having the opportunity to propose Activities, student leadership is prominent in each. Under the guidance of the faculty sponsor, students learn to guide how each activity functions. Thus, in addition to learning from the unique focus of each Activity, students learn how to lead and a group and to work together as a team. In short, through the Activities Program, students have the opportunity to choose an experience and then shape it.
When I am watching students present the Activities they are leading during Upper School assemblies at the start of each year, I sometimes think that the reach of the program is so vast that if the School cancelled all of its classes and just focused on the Activities offerings, our students would still get a pretty good education. Watch for articles running in USNOW throughout the year featuring the exciting exploits of students in the Activities Program. Such stories will serve to illustrate the power of what happens when students are encouraged to take the reins in pursuit of their passions.