by Kristi Combs
Giving high school students a "free" hour during each day can increase their productivity, improve their emotional health, and also provide better support for clubs and other activities that promote a positive school culture.
Our school, James Clemens High
in Madison City, has added a daily Refuel Hour to our schedule this year. Modeled after the Power Hour
idea developed by 2015 National Principal of the Year Jayne Ellspermann at West Port HS in Ocala FL, our program releases all JCHS students from 11:20-12:20, Monday through Friday, for "refueling."
During this schoolwide break, students eat lunch, attend club meetings, participate in tutoring and study groups, meet with advisors and mentors, form student-led interest groups, and generally recharge their learning batteries. To keep an eye on things as we launch this Big Idea, we have several teachers on Refuel duty to monitor students throughout the building.
Can we really feed everyone in an hour?
Even though the JCHS Jets lunchroom holds 500 and we have 1600 students, lunch during Refuel Hour has not been a problem. Students know the lunchroom and lunch counters are open for 60 minutes. They have time to grab lunch and eat with friends anywhere they choose in the school, often while they take part in other activities.
Our food court style lunchroom – with a courtyard and a lunch counter outside of the lunchroom – has been a big help. A few weeks into the school year, our administration reported that:
"We had our highest lunch count of the year the past two days: 722 and 738 respectively, which is in line with the percentages from last year. Hopefully we can grow. The students are understanding that the lines are not swamped, and they do have times and spaces to eat."
What happens during Refuel Hour
There's plenty for students to do throughout the Refuel Hour. One daily opportunity is our new Maker Spaces in the media center
. Maker Spaces – sometimes referred to as hackerspaces, hackspaces, and fablabs – are creative, DIY zones where people can gather to create, invent, and learn. Our students
are building code, flying drones, creating crafts and making connections with each other. Maker Spaces are monitored by our media specialist Nikki Robertson.
(See the JCHS Refuel Calendar for Faculty
Club meetings are also running during the Refuel Hour. On a recent Friday we held our first Club Showcase. Operating in a way very similar to professional learning "EdCamps," our students read club offerings from our large screens in the lunchroom and hallways, or they used a provided paper schedule. They had the opportunity to tour the school during the Refuel Hour learning about various clubs and signing up for activities. We had 51 club offerings.
During every Refuel Hour, screens continue to scroll the club offerings. Daily tweets are sent to remind students of Refuel options for the day. But students may choose to just relax, study with their friends, or catch up on homework. We encourage freedom.
Detention is also held during Refuel. We've had a drop in detentions since we decided to hold them during this time. Students want to be with their friends.
There's also ZAPS and Jet Advisory
We also offer interventions and ACT ZAPs time during Refuel. Core teachers rotate a weekly schedule through a designated room. Four days a week, students can receive tutoring in the cores. Every Thursday, we require all students to attend Jet Advisory
during half of the Refuel time.
Jet Advisory is a time for students to receive guidance, make connections, build relationships and feel like they have an advocate. The Jet Advisory classes are created alphabetically by cohort. Advisors can follow Jet lesson plans provided as a script, or they can develop their own activities that focus on the weekly topic.
So far, our Refuel Hour experiment is going great!
Check out this Flipagram: A Week of Refuel
Kristi Combs (@kristicombs15) is the Instructional Partner at James Clemens High School in the Madison City school system. Prior to her appointment in December 2014, Kristi taught English Language Arts at Liberty Middle School for 10 years and at Bob Jones High School for three years. She also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Spaulding University. Learn more.
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