Earlier this month, the students and staff at Troup High ushered in a day of stress-free learning. Dubbed Winter Wonderland, the fun-filled courses were designed to pique student and teacher interest in hopes of continuing the excitement for learning at the mid-year point of the school calendar.
Troup High Principal Chip Medders said, “As we come back to school after the Christmas break there is a little bit of a slump in academics and attendance. At the beginning of the year everyone is excited to start school and at the end of the year everyone is excited about prom and graduation. We needed something to give our students a little boost in the middle of the school year. That is how the teachers came up with the idea of Winter Wonderland.”
Medders said the idea was shared with him by a group of teachers who attended the Model Schools Conference in June 2017. This teacher leadership group, called The Game Changers, enlisted the help of other school employees to help build the one-day schedule and draft over 100 possible classes for students to choose. The finalized course list included suggestions from teachers and students. Some of the classes were:
• Lip Syncing
• Vision Board
• Jewelry Making
• Marvel Comics Debating • Harry Potter Appreciation • Play Station 2 Game Room The two most popular choices for students were The Escape Room and Puppy De-Stressing.
Michelle Ashmore, Troup High AP Government instructor and Game Changers Leadership Team member said, “Winter Wonderland was incredible because it gave teachers an opportunity to meet kids we have never taught before, but it also allowed us to do things that we are excited about. For example, I taught a Meditation for Relaxation class where students learned meditation techniques. I can’t take the time to do that in my AP Government class, but Winter Wonderland gave me an opportunity to do something I enjoyed and I hope the students did, too.’
Any other school day Hannah Frady would be in her classroom teaching World History, but during Winter Wonderland she hosted the Puppy De-Stressing room. She reached out to colleagues who willingly volunteered to have their own pets in the classroom with students.
Frady said, “I got the idea of a puppy room from my time at University of Georgia. During finals week, they had an area where you could come and pet dogs to chill out and study. When the idea of Winter Wonderland came up, I thought it would be a good idea to bring dogs in so kids could play around and have fun. I love puppies and I knew some of my students did as well. It turned out to be a top selection for students.”
Troup High sophomore, Suzuna Kimura, loved her puppy petting experience. “I don’t have any pets at home and it was a long, rough week for me. I am glad I got the puppy room because I could pet the dogs and bond with them. Now I see why it is good for stress and it was fun,” stated Kimura.
On the opposite side of the building, Claire Hale’s room was full of future nail technicians as students designed each other’s nails, braided hair, and soothed their stresses away with relaxing essential oils. She said it was a marked difference from her normal routine as a Math and English co-instructor.
“I didn’t have anything in particular that I wanted to teach so I volunteered for rooms. I am glad I got that one because it was so much fun. I was able to see the kids enjoy being creative outside of the normal day. I also bonded with students who I do not see during the traditional school day. It was great to meet them and see everyone just truly enjoying themselves as they opened their minds to creativity,” said Hale.
Overall, Medders said he supports ideas his staff can implement, like Winter Wonderland, because it helps build school culture which leads to enhanced student learning, higher student achievement, and graduation. “I have a good group of people here that support each other and bring ideas to the table. It’s good to see Winter Wonderland come to fruition,” said Medders.
When asked about future events such as this, he laughed and said, “I submitted a Turkey Calling class but nobody signed up for it. Maybe next year it will get greater response.”
About Troup County School System Troup County School System is an accredited educational system with over 11,900 students in grades K-12. TCSS does offer a free Pre-K program at each elementary school. The system is comprised of eleven elementary schools, three middle schools, three high schools, one college and career academy, and one alternative learning center. Students within the school system are taught a rigorous and relevant curriculum that helps them make college and career choices beyond graduation and succeed in life. The system 2017 graduation rate rose 6.6 percentage points in three years to 78.0 percent. To learn more about Troup County School System, visit troup.org and the Troup County School System Facebook page.