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West Jordan Journal

Got an interest? There’s a workshop for that

Dec 03, 2020 02:41PM ● By Jet Burnham

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

West Hills Middle School has after-school activities to meet a range of interests.

For students who crave an artistic outlet there’s an art workshop and a drama workshop. For students who have something to say, there is a songwriting and production workshop. Students can find activities to explore science (MESA), serve their community (National Junior Honors Society) or to play sports (various intramurals.) And for those who just want to play games with their friends, there are workshops (chess, Minecraft, Dungeons and Dragons) for that, too.

“We're just trying to broaden the scope, hoping that there's at least one activity for every student that they feel they can participate in and belong to,” said Michael Draut, head of the WHMS extracurricular committee.

Matthews Jones, math teacher and instructional coach, started a songwriting and production group this year to provide a resource most students don’t have access to.

“I wish I had something like this when I was in middle school and had someone to show me the ropes when I was young so I could have started sooner,” he said. “And so, when my school's activities committee sent out an email asking if people had ideas for after-school activities, I knew it was time.”

Jones provides general songwriting and production instruction and works individually with each student, answering questions and offering tips for their specific pieces. His songwriting background and experience recording music with several bands throughout his life gives students a real-world example of what they can achieve.

“I want for all the students to be able to write the kind of music they want to, record it and share it with their friends and family—or even on their social media,” he said.

During bimonthly workshops, students have access to equipment (microphones and keyboards). Jones teaches them how to use software to record and edit music on their Chromebooks.

Art teacher Ashley Mackall, who runs the after-school art workshop, engages students in her workshop in using their creative skills to improve their school.

She said when she first came to WHMS, she noticed something was missing.

“I did not see much that was created by the students or art that was student-focused,” she said. “All designs and artwork was professional or hung in frames.”

Art workshop students are currently designing and painting artwork to decorate the stools used in the art classrooms and will soon begin work on a temporary installation piece and a mural in the library.

“The goal of the art workshop is to create art that betters the school and represents the current student population,” Mackall said. “I am hoping that this workshop gives students a connection to their school. I hope that they show their friends the art they create and are proud of their efforts.”

For those who enjoy drama, Draut teaches improvisation games and acting skills in a drama workshop.

“My plan was to have a variety of things that they don't have to feel like they have to come every week but a very loose, fun place to learn a few interactive games and skills,” Draut said.

The after-school program has been popular with students. Activities are set up to be inclusive and have no prerequisites for participation.

“The goal for our after-school programs is to increase students’ connections and positive experiences within the school,” Mackall said. “If students are able to make a meaningful connection with an adult figure, their chances of academic and behavior-based success increase. With these activities, students are more likely to report that they feel like they belong and their academic, behavior and mental health tend to improve.”

Some activities, such as intramurals, have been held until spring to accommodate COVID safety restrictions. All activities were put on hold in November when Gov. Gary Herbert announced restrictions to after-school activities through Thanksgiving. Draut said if the restrictions are extended, they will look into ways to offer the activities virtually or possibly try new activities that will work well virtually to ensure students are still able to participate.

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