Starting in the fall of the 2019-2020 school year, McNicholas will implement Explore Bells into the schedule.
The Explore Bells last 55 minutes. They are the last period at the end of 17 Thursdays, so they will occur about twice a month. All school liturgies or assemblies will utilize the period when there is not an Explore Bell.
Director of Educational Technology Emily Materna, who is part of the team organizing the Explore Bells, said, “It’s supposed to be a time for students to gain real world experiences [with] off campus opportunities like tutoring and internships, and some things like gardening, chess, geography, kickboxing, and knitting.”
Principal Dave Mueller said, “It’s for both students and teachers to have learning experiences that pique their interests and that don’t fit into the regular departments of learning. It depends on students’ suggestions and if students are willing to step forward and offer a session with a teacher.”
Materna encourages students to share their ideas with her. “Each teacher gets to propose ideas, so really it’s the teachers [in charge]. Mr. Royal is going to be in charge of organizing the whole thing, and there will be some student input too. I went to Student Council and asked them for some ideas. If anyone has an idea, they are more than welcome to talk to me. We are willing to work out internships for a company to fit their schedule.”
The time is meant to be spent in a few different ways.
“We could bring in outside adults that we would like to have share their expertise. They could give brief presentations about a career and then provide time for the students to ask them questions,” Mueller said. “We can think about opportunities for students to be in a faith sharing group, or participate in a spiritual development opportunity like a retreat.”
Mueller added, “Some teachers are interested in having this Explore Bell connect with the period just before it. It will be the last period, and the teacher can have the opportunity to have field experiences with that class that can take place without disturbing anyone else. Not too long ago I had the wonderful experience of joining the gaming class at the escape room. Mrs. Esz could have close to two and a half hours to go to a place and come back and students wouldn’t have to miss any class.”
FlexTime Manager, a newly purchased software program, will be used for signups. Students will have to sign up for each session ahead of time, or they will be signed up for a session they did not choose.
Mueller said, “ In a nutshell it’s supposed to provide some engaging exploratory study, a choice of learning with the hope that it energizes students and faculty, and it enables them to share talents, and learn. Every student and faculty member will need to be involved in this, everybody needs to pick something. What you want to participate in is somewhat optional, but you do have to participate.”