BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. – Schools have to cram so much learning into the school day, sometimes it's hard for students to have some fun.
One local middle school is trying something new that's working for teachers and students.
"I'm learning teamwork," said Madison Moock, an 8th grade student at Central Academy Middle School who is taking cardboard engineering.
"It's really fun. Playing against classmates is a new experience for me," said Tim Wilson, an 8th grade student who is taking chess.
Students love the three dozen enrichment classes they have to choose from.
"I think they are really awesome. They get us in a different environment, rather than just sitting in a classroom all day," said Moock.
"It's a break from constant classes and it's a fun experience," said Wilson.
Through creative scheduling the Botetourt County principal was able to find extra time in the school day. Twice a week, for a total of an hour and a half sixth, seventh and eighth graders are all in these classes together. It allows for some mentoring to happen naturally.
"I think enrichment gives them an idea of whether they are more of an engineering type where they can build something and then problem solve or whether they are more of a creative type where they want to be a writer or more of an artistic person where they want to draw," said Kelsey Sellers, a 7th grade science teacher who adds the classes are paying off. "You see it in class where they come up against something very difficult, they are able to think about it, maybe work with someone and collaborate and then be able to come up with a solution."
Other teachers say it helps students who may have trouble paying attention.
"Core classes can get rigorous at times and they have a lot put on them so this is a break where they can learn different things, have fun with their friends and it's way more laid-back than normal classes," said Nathan Yandrick, a U.S. history and chess enrichment teacher. "I definitely hope they're learning something and the big thing is that school is not one-hundred-percent boring. They're learning and having fun at the same time."
The principal says this helps attendance rates because students want to come to these classes.
It's also motivation to do better in math and reading so students can take these fun classes instead of the mandatory strategies classes that happen when enrichment is going on. They have not had to teach 7th grade math strategies for three years, and the principal believes this may be one of the reasons why.