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Students SOAR, celebrate the year with service
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Alexandra Frusima paints a canvas as a part of the Day at the Museum event at Chestatee Academy on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017.

BY KAYLA ELDER

kelder@gainesvilletimes.com

Chestatee Academy students showed off their varied interests Friday during their Day at the Museum event.

Schoolwide, students showcased their fall work and did community service activities.

As a part of their Seeking Out Authentic Relationships program, or SOAR, the students explore different subjects that interest them that might otherwise be left out of the traditional school day.

“The SOAR Program was created so that we could try to tap into our kid’s talents and interests,” said Janelle Bowker, SOAR coordinator. “It is what makes us a magnet school in Hall County, which gives us a little bit of flexibility.”

Between first and second period the kids go to the SOAR classes. They get an hour on Tuesday and Friday, and 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday in these classes.

“They are really, truly just supposed to be tapping into their interests and trying to find different pathways and careers — something they can use for the future,” Bowker said. “We have crazy things going on in our building during that time, which is so much fun for our kids. We have classes such as GLEE, wildlife biology and sketch.”

The students select their top five classes they are most interested in and the school schedules them accordingly.

“It is a class they get to pick so we get a lot of student buy-in because they are interested in that topic,” Bowker said. “They truly do find some passions along the way, which is so hard to do. To see the big picture coming out of middle school, it is a great opportunity for them.”

The school puts on the Day at the Museum event twice annually, and this is its seventh year.

“It started because we had some down time during the day and we found service learning for our kids to do,” Bowker said. “Last year we did it with our sixth-graders, sending them out into the community and it was very successful. Our kids came back with great stories and they enjoyed it so much that we spread it to our seventh and eighth grade.”

Bowker said one of the Board of Education’s goals is to have more service learning hours for the students and this event was a “natural fit” for Chestatee Academy students. All sixth-grade classes, made up of about 300 students, got on buses and went out into the community to do a range of community service activities.

“If they couldn’t find something to do outside in the community, they are creating random acts of kindness here,” Bowker said. “In different classroom we have them doing different activities. Eighth-graders making placemats for the nursing homes, ESL students making book marks for the library, and one class is even making cookies for other teachers and school employees.”

The GLEE and Jazz Band performed early in the morning, followed by community service inside and outside of the school. The students ended the day touring their museum exhibits.

“It has been a great experience so we made it bigger this year,” Bowker said.

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