BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville Elementary School students love clubs, and they have several from which to choose. The school has three book clubs, a lefties club, a math club and an engineering club.
And more on the way.
"They want to be a part of something," said principal Mary LeDoux. "If it doesn't exist, they make it up."
That's what happened when some students decided they wanted a writing club. They wrote a petition and about 15 students signed it.
"It was the kids' idea," said writing coach Michelle Barnes. She asked them who they thought should be their teacher adviser. She was the obvious choice to them, so what could she do?
"Once I saw this interest, I wanted to keep going with it," she said.
She looked at her calendar and couldn't find any open times, except Saturdays. Thus, with the principal's permission, began the Saturday writing club.
When her students want to meet before school, after school and on Saturdays, LeDoux said, "How can I say 'no'? It's wonderful to me."
The club met from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday from the beginning of January until the end of February, finishing in time for the writing FCAT.
Barnes didn't do it alone. Writing teachers Katie Reynolds and Joli Deleveaux and paraprofessional Sylvia Sunday pitched in. "I just love helping children," Sunday said.
"We want the students to know they're important to us and we're willing to give up our time if they're willing to put forth the effort," said Deleveaux.
The sessions have had varying number of attendees and LeDoux said she was been surprised to see the number of children who showed up every Saturday.
Barnes said the meetings helped fine-tune the students' expository skills and narrative writing. But the teachers provided plenty of fun, too. The sessions were built around themes.
LeDoux explained that many of the students have limited experiences to provide them with general background knowledge, which makes it hard for them to write successfully about some topics. The themes helped build their experiences.
During an island theme, the teachers opened a coconut. "They sampled the milk right from the coconut," Deleveaux said.
The children were surprised at how different it looked from the milk with which they are familiar.
"It was so nice for them to experience something that simple," she said.
They also sampled pineapple, guava, plantains and mango.
"What I like is they're expanding their vision way around their immediate surroundings," Barnes said. "We want to give them every possible opportunity to do well and we have seen tremendous growth throughout the year."
Barnes is appreciative for the support she and the other teachers have received from their principal. "I want to give her accolades because she allows us to be as creative as we need to be," she said.
The teachers and LeDoux encourage the students wherever they can to help them be successful on the FCAT. Besides providing the extras, like Saturday meetings, they have incentives in place for students to try their best.
"When we get the scores back," Barnes said, "those who earn 6's (the highest score) will get MP3 players, trophies (and) lunch with Mrs. LeDoux." Students earning 5's will receive movie tickets and those getting 4'swill get a pizza party. "All of these are compliments of Mrs. LeDoux," Barnes said.
In a previous year, LeDoux took kids to lunch at Golden Corral, where the kids ate for free. "There are some very kind merchants in Hernando County," she said.
Reynolds and Deleveaux are hoping to get permission to provide stylish transportation for the children going out to lunch with LeDoux. Deleveaux had the idea of renting them a limousine. "We're willing to pay the cost," they said.