As many metro Atlanta private schools returned to in-person learning, they found ways to provide the normalcy that kids, teachers (and even parents) craved, blending the traditional offerings that students love with new and unique learning opportunities amid the ongoing pandemic. read more
By Alexandra McCray
In classrooms, performance halls, art studios and more across metro Atlanta, you’ll find students furthering their academic learning through complementary co-curricular courses and activities created to encourage them to discover their passions and apply their knowledge. Offered as part of the school day and beyond, these programs reflect the unique style and approach of the institutions behind them. Here, we take a tour of co-curricular options at local private schools.
A 3K through 12 school following the renowned International Baccalaureate (IB) system, Atlanta International School (AIS) features many co-curriculars that continue to get children thoughtfully interacting with the world around them. Field trips and events gradually take students farther from their regular environments, starting with simple outings to the “big school” library for story time in students’ immersion languages like Spanish and Chinese. As students mature, these journeys evolve into trips around and out of the country, such as theater visits to Broadway and Model United Nations team voyages to The Hague.
According to Director of Innovation Peluchi P. Flores, PhD, “All of our co-curricular programs are designed to expand our student’s experiences beyond the classroom. As an IB school, we value the important role they play in developing IB learner attributes—and as an international school, we know that trips and visits give students a wider perspective of culture and society, connecting their classroom learning to the world outside.”
One co-curricular offering AIS especially treasures is its formalized two-week STEAM internship program. Rising juniors and seniors can receive first-hand experience in a field that’s piqued their curiosity. Through the associated STEAM Parent Organization, parents also help match the school with internship hosts. “We partner with over 24 institutions and companies in Atlanta, making it a true community-wide partnership,” explains Flores.
Other programs built into the curriculum of grades six through 12 put students in leadership roles, requiring them to devise, participate in and reflect on projects first centered around service, then also focused on creativity and activity.
At Lakeview Academy, the goal is for students to think and advocate for themselves in addition to believing in their abilities. Available for all ages at the pre-K through grade 12 school, co-curriculars are designed to give students the tools to achieve all of the above while forging strong interpersonal and leadership skills. The additional programming mainly takes the form of an abundance of before and after school offerings, such as a selection of clubs and activities like continental math league, student council, literary team and interscholastic athletics. Specific co-curricular classes—like innovation in the lower school, public speaking in middle school and theater in upper school—are also woven throughout the day. And every offering is carefully curated to meet the needs of its age group.
For example, Wade Hanse, Ed.D., director of curriculum and alignment, says, “For our youngest learners, we keenly recognize the connection between gross and fine motor development and writing and literacy development. In addition to bolstering the linkage between early physical and academic growth, we design lower school co-curricular programs to help develop resiliency and self-efficacy from an early age.” Hanse also considers the school’s size—558 students—an advantage. That advantage not only allows it to have an 8:1 student-to-teacher ratio, but also enables it to be adaptable to students’ changing needs and interests, especially when it comes to co-curricular offerings.
Among co-curriculars at The Lovett School, fine arts offerings shine bright. Through collaboration with classroom teachers, fine arts faculty at the K-12 school develop programming that reinforces what students are taught during other parts of the day—one way the school emphasizes learning through doing.
“There was recently a wonderful collaboration between visual arts, orchestra and STEAM teachers in the lower school where students built their own instruments which they could play. In middle school this year, sixth grade pre-algebra teachers partnered with visual arts to design a Piet Mondrian fraction project,” notes Janie Beck, chief marketing officer.
A plethora of fine arts opportunities before, during and after school are available. Chorus, stage design and production, student art exhibits hosted by the High Museum of Art and more are offered. These activities prepare students for and pair well with honors-level fine arts courses like photography and the Lovett Singers. Those more interested in STEAM can join groups such as the Society of Women Engineers (SWENext) and an architecture club. Lower school students are also exposed to coding, engineering and technology through InGen classes, and middle and upper school students can take STEAM electives.
Finally, a robust selection of civic and global engagement co-curriculars, including more than one dozen upper school student-sponsored service clubs, are poised to get youngsters thinking about their fellow world citizens. On top of that, community visits and a service day built into the academic year further connect students to the city around them.
Out to help children find and grow their divinely given talents, Mount Paran Christian School (MPCS) offers a range of co-curriculars, including service clubs and multiple state championship-winning sports teams. Academically driven co-curricular activities, many of which harmonize with the school’s Project Lead the Way® STEM/STEAM curriculum, are available for all school divisions. Offerings include fishing club, Eagle Robotics First® LEGO League and more for kindergarten through fifth graders; Black History Bowl, National Junior Honor Society and beyond for middle schoolers and astronomy club, French National Honor Society and others for high school students.
To complement its rich in-school arts programs, the school, which is located in Kennesaw, also features clubs such as the International Thespian Society, National Art Honor Society and drumline. The latter offerings are likely especially appreciated by high school students pursuing a specific concentration within the arts through the Dozier School of the Arts magnet program at MPCS. Afterschool music, dance or drama training is also available through the school’s Murray Arts Academy.
For families seeking co-curricular activities that focus on Christian life, the school includes programs such as weekly chapel, daily bible study and spiritual retreats. Clubs like Christian Life Council and Fellowship of Christian Athletes are offered as well.
Incorporated into learning at The Mount Vernon School beginning in third grade, three signature co-curricular programs—iProject Mini, Impact Design Lab and Interim Term— embolden students to be change-makers.
The initiative starts in lower school with iProject Mini, a weekly gathering for third through fifth graders that gets students to initially identify and form groups around their interests, direct their exploration of those subjects and then share with fellow pupils what they’ve learned. In eighth grade, the daily Impact Design Lab (IDL) course comes into play. Focus expands to include pinpointing problems and creating solutions that benefit the community. Students can then move on to the optional upper school successor of the IDL program called the Innovation Diploma, where teens further develop their skills and put them to use in projects for the professional world.
“We believe students have big ideas that grow from their sense of wonder. When teachers encourage and connect with their students’ curiosities and developing passions, incredible things happen,” explains Kristy Lundström, head of school. “Building on a strong foundation of core educational methodologies, we pair an inquiry-based learning approach with a design thinking process guiding students to be solution seekers and problem solvers through work that has direct application to an actual challenge.”
All upper school students participate in an advanced iProject program. They also take part in Interim Term, where students experience activities such as cultural expeditions, service opportunities or language immersion while embarking on a one-week domestic or international trip.
Child empowerment is at the heart of co-curricular programming at Springmont School, which serves children 18 months through eighth grade. Students ages 4 and above are encouraged explore their interests, participate in hands-on learning and practice cooperation through afterschool programming. Elementary and middle school learners can also enjoy open art and music studios designed for solo and small group work throughout the school day. Additionally, the school features an accessible outdoor education department and a before school strings program included in tuition.
Students also can participate in a host of afterschool enrichment classes and clubs, which cover categories ranging from sports such as ultimate frisbee and basketball to more creative endeavors like carpentry and video production. Youngsters interested in Spanish, STEM or gardening are also in luck.
To give students the time and space to discover what truly excites them, four afterschool sessions are held throughout the academic year, allowing them the freedom to follow multiple passions. Program leadership is also kept within the school community for the most part, with dedicated staff, faculty and parents often taking charge.
Creating a win-win for parents and students is what it’s all about at Trinity School. Along with summer camps, more than 60 co-curricular activities are available after school for Trinity’s 600 students ages 3 through sixth grade. Offerings are created to enhance social, emotional and academic growth while providing pickup time flexibility.
Within the school’s Extended Programs (EP) are two plans parents can choose from based on their needs and goals. Special classes allow students to pursue one or more specific interests through offerings such as Vet Academy and Cooking with Ms. Fine. Core classes provide a variety of activities based on age and can last until 6 pm. Students can also drop into an EP class. The familiar faces of EP instructors also appear during abbreviated school days. On those occasions, students can participate in a half or full Camp Day, during which EP teachers host art projects, games and special guest visits for students.
“At any point throughout the year, you can peek into Extended Program classrooms or playgrounds and see additional foundational layers being laid for a lifelong love of learning,” says Kayleen Whitmer, director of extended programs. “Whether students cross the monkey bars for the first time, program their team robot through an obstacle course, create and play their stop motion animation video or use their creativity and negotiation skills as they battle to win World Domination during a Camp Day, they are having fun and growing their knowledge at the same time.”
At The Walker School, a PK3 through grade 12 school in Marietta, co-curricular programs are offered for all ages and contribute to the development of students as empowered, whole, healthy beings, in addition to complementing academics. Beginning with young learners, in- and afterschool programs are created to help students further build foundational skills like problem-solving, integrate their studies and uncover their interests.
For middle schoolers, co-curricular programming extends beyond standard afterschool offerings and also covers social-emotional learning daily so they better understand and treat themselves and others. Michael Arjona, assistant head of school, academics, says, “We have weekly assemblies that hit on a variety of different topics, from appropriate humor to being an upstander to addressing gossip and rumors to digital citizenship. In advisory, students have intentional programming around everything from substance abuse prevention to brain science around how we learn. Healthy relationships, self-care, mental wellness and consent and boundaries are intentionally taught.”
The school’s emphasis on well roundedness sets students up for success as they progress to upper school and continue to participate in activities outside of the classroom, such as the award-winning robotics team, an internship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or local volunteering. These programs allow them to further their learning and utilize their social-emotional proficiency as leaders and team members.
As part of its goal to produce conscientious leaders of tomorrow, Woodward Academy offers an extensive number of co-curriculars to its 2,568 students. Options at the pre-K through 12 school include special interest clubs such as affinity groups like Equity Alliance, private music lessons, intramural and varsity sports, broadcasting activities with WALive.TV and more both after the school day and during it.
“As students progress, co-curricular offerings expand, and while they continue to be offered after school, special activity periods are part of the rotating daily schedule in the upper school,” explains Nigel A. Traylor, Ed.D., vice president for academic and student life.
Furthermore, if learners at the school’s College Park and Johns Creek campuses prefer to participate in an offering not currently available, they’re welcome to speak with staff at the student life office about bringing it to the school. Recently, water polo and equestrian programs were added thanks to student inquiries.
The school’s diploma distinction program is also a prime example of how Woodward incorporates co-curriculars to amplify its mission. High school students can apply for the program before the end of 10th grade and choose between a Sustainability, Global Studies or Service Learning focus. In addition to taking specified courses, students participate in co-curriculars aligned for their track.
Be they part of students’ lives daily, weekly or annually, co-curriculars are seen by metro Atlanta private schools as a critical ingredient for molding successful, multifaceted young adults.