With around 1,700 students on a single campus, Dothan Preparatory Academy has been able to expand the menu of extracurricular clubs offered to them.

Last month, the largest middle school in Alabama rolled out 42 academic, creative and social groups for students. Principal Darius McKay said every student is signed up for one.

“I think it’s important that we give our students in middle grades an opportunity to perform well academically, but also this is a very unsure time socially for them,” he said, “and so our clubs allow them to grow and develop from a social standpoint as well.”

Students meet with their selected clubs twice a month during school hours, so every student has an equal opportunity to participate, although several clubs taking part in competitions do schedule time afterward as well.

Unlike other career technical and elective courses, club meetings give students an opportunity to learn and collaborate in a less-structured environment without assigned grades to gauge progress.

“If we’re here to help the whole child, we have to really expose them to everything. So I think this is just a wonderful opportunity for them to learn new things and collaborate with other students that they normally wouldn’t, based on their interests,” McKay said.

Many of the clubs listed are common at many schools — Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Model United Nations, chess, art, drama, photography, robotics, Future Business Leaders of America and debate team.

McKay said the variety was selected based on student interests and the ability and passions of DPA’s teachers.

One of the clubs was inspired by a skill set from special education teacher Melynda Wyatt, who wanted to teach students American Sign Language.

“Once you become an adult, acquiring a new language is extremely difficult,” she said, “and getting them interested in a new language might inspire them to go to school to be a teacher of the deaf, might inspire them to be an interpreter.”

She said some students in her group of 28 have family deaf members with whom they can’t communicate, and they are excited to learn how to speak with their hearing deficient relatives.

She said her biggest goal for her students is that a few would be proficient enough to sign the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem in front of an audience at school functions and public events.

Another bonus, she said, is that the club will prep them for taking a course in ASL when they graduate to Dothan High School.

Lauren Parker, an instructional coach, is teaching eight students part of the Future Problem Solvers Team how to effectively problem-solve using a six-step process.

“These skills will not only help them in school, but also prepare them for college, career, and life in general,” she said.

During training, she provides students with futuristic scenarios like facing problems that could arise from a phone application that calculates the carbon footprint from traveling to each country and gauging the global impact those issues could have.

Students will compete with other middle school students in Alabama and could ascend to the national and international levels if they are successful and are eligible to win scholarships.

The reception to the clubs has been positive so far, McKay said, adding that the administration is assessing to see if clubs need to be added or removed through the remainder of the year.

“It’s a huge organizational task, whether or not to let students participate in more than one club is something we’re considering,” he said.

Other clubs being offered include:

» Technology Student Association.

» Multicultural Club.

» Crafty Crafters.

» Creative Hearts (Art) Club.

» Across the Musical Spectrum.

» Survival Skills Club.

» Creative Writing.

» Board not Bored, a club dedicated to board games.

» Vocal Solo and Ensemble Club.

» Mileage Club.

» Computer Club.

» First Priority.

» Tri-M Music Honor Society.

» Students Against Destructive Decisions.

» Drop Everything and Read.

» 6 String.

» Creative Coloring clubs.

» Multicultural movie clubs.

» Tiger Pride Math Club.

» Blogging.

» Club Hope.

» Two anime clubs.

» Sew, Skilled and Crafty.

» D-Prep Steppers.

» Sankofa, a group for African American studies.

» Book Club.

» Educators Rising.

» Chick-fil-A Leader Academy.

» VERSED.

» Vocabulary Genius.

» Kiwanis Builder Club.

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