Jamestown Public Schools administration and staff are making efforts to prepare incoming freshmen for their impending high school experience.
This was the purpose of Jamestown High School's annual Curriculum Showcase, which was held on Thursday evening.
The showcase welcomed current eighth-graders and their families to the high school to learn more about what to expect as a high school student. The event started off with a brief presentation by Mike McElrath, JHS principal, in the auditorium. Attendees received a handout detailing what a typical schedule looks like for students in grades nine through 12. The handout also mapped out the difference between the three types of diplomas that JHS offers, as well as how to obtain them. The three types of diplomas are regents, advanced regents and academic advanced regents.
According to McElrath, the showcase is intended to smooth the transition for students who will be entering a new environment.
"The more we can do to ease that (transition) process for the middle school kids, the better," he said. "We really want the parents to understand this idea (that) picking classes and choosing a major can help the students get a little more engaged in school by feeling like they have a pathway to take. So, it's (about) starting earlier. You can never do too many of these transition activities."
McElrath also said that this year's showcase was formatted differently and was better attended than showcases in the past.
Attendees of Jamestown High School’s annual Curriculum Showcase browse through various displays of the different clubs offered by the school. Pictured at left, members of the JHS science club perform experiments to attract visitors of the Curriculum Showcase held on Thursday.
P-J photos by Gavin Paterniti
"I think in previous years, (the showcase) was more for the high school students," said McElrath. "Last year, we put a subtle invite out to the middle schools. This year, we made a more concerted effort to do a mailing, make sure teachers handed things out and ask the middle schools to make some phone calls to do a little publicity for us. I'm very impressed and pleased with the turnout."
After the assembly, families were invited to take an optional tour - led by volunteers from the National Honor Society. The tours provided a glimpse of some of the classrooms in the building, including: business; videography; a machine shop, where small-engine repair is taught; art rooms, including photography and studio art; and a woodshop, which was recently renovated.
On a tour in Larry Bentzoni's small-engine repair shop were James and Tabatha Frederick. The Fredericks came to the showcase with their daughter, Kaylee, who is an eighth-grader at Persell.
"(The showcase) kind of opens your eyes to what the school is all about," said James. "It's good to see some of the stuff that will prepare these kids for the real world."
"I graduated from (JHS) and it's been 20 years, so it's amazing to see the differences in the classrooms and things they do with the kids," said Tabatha. "It's going to be a good experience (for Kaylee), I think. It's nice to have an idea of what your kids are going to be doing, what (the school) expects and what (the students) need to do to graduate."
The showcase itself was held in the school's old gymnasium, where several displays and props were arrayed to show off the various clubs and programs offered by JHS. According to Charlie McKenna, an 11th- and 12th-grade English teacher, the showcase has had an impact on student involvement in clubs.
"Every department put together their own display and it kind of becomes a little competitive," said McKenna. "The (idea) is to get the kids excited about what they're going to do - and hopefully we'll get there. We had a few clubs cut when finances were going down, but now we've got a little bit set aside to build up the clubs."
He added: "The main idea (of the showcase) is that, with our upper classmen, we're kind of catering to them in-house. And so we're looking at where the weak link in the chain is. A lot of it is (a situation) where the kids come in from eighth grade and they think that it's just going to be another step. But they don't realize that they have choices. If they get things straightened out as freshmen, they can then go onward (to) a path that will take them exactly where they want to go, instead of just following the crowd."