Expanding opportunities for students though non-traditional clubs

Pausing to share about the different clubs they sponsor at Maryville Middle School are, from left, Kevin Myers, Karen Dunn, Alicia Luttrell and David Clark.

Photo by Leslie Karnowski

Pausing to share about the different clubs they sponsor at Maryville Middle School are, from left, Kevin Myers, Karen Dunn, Alicia Luttrell and David Clark.

There was a time when the only extracurricular activities most students had the opportunity to enjoy or explore were athletics.

At Maryville Middle School students have the chance to participate in several non-traditional clubs and organizations that appeal to a wide variety of interests. At the school, clubs encompass such variety as film-making and production, bass fishing, community leadership and service, Japanese culture and science competitions.

Principal Lisa McGinley said it’s important to offer things that keep students interested in education and school. “Anything we can do to excite their interest is a good thing,” McGinley said.

McGinley said offering a variety of clubs and activities gives students positive groups where they can spend time to ensure they don’t gravitate toward negative influences. The groups are very eclectic in the interests they promote.

Every club has to have a sponsor. Karen Dunn teaches 7th grade algebra and is the Builders Club sponsor. Builders Club is connected with the Maryville Kiwanis Club.

“We’ve had Builders Club here for five or six years,” said Dunn. “This is my first year as sponsor. It’s a feeder program to the Key Club at the high school. We are trying to build good leaders and give support to the community.”

The Builders Club meets once a month, and members help out in different ways around the school. “They cleaned all the white boards and help the teachers clean their rooms,” explained McGinley. “We also help with Junior Service League with Toys for Blount County.”

Any seventh or eighth grader who wants to join is welcome. Currently there are about 40 students in the club. They raise money through the Box Tops for Education program, Dunn said.

Another of the MMS clubs is called Anime Club, and Alicia Luttrell, librarian, is the sponsor.

“We’re here to promote Japanese culture, from clothing to sushi to speaking the language,” she said. Anime in Japan is an abbreviated form of “animation,” but Anime Clubs promote all of Japanese culture. Part of the club is based on characters from Japanese graphic novels.

“The kids are drawn into the culture, and I’m here to provide an outlet for them to talk about their favorite characters. They make up their own stories and they play ‘Go,’ a Japanese game. We’ve also established an Asian garden,” Luttrell said.

As a fundraiser, they also use Box Tops for Education, which helped fund the Asian garden. There are about 30 students in the group.

David Clark, a physical education teacher, leads the BASS club. “We started this in September of this year. I’ve got 28 members and they’re BASS-federated members in partnership with FLW Outdoors, the largest BASS circuit in the country,” he said.

Several different activities had been added to the PE curriculum. “Not everyone enjoys team sports. We have archery and target fishing,” Clark explained.

Clark’s own personal passion drew him to the target fishing. “I’m an avid fisherman,” he said.

Clark contacted Academy Sports and Outdoors, an online sporting good store in Franklin. Ott DeFoe, an area FLW pro fisherman in Knoxville, came out and did a demonstration with the students. “We taught pitching and flipping. We cut the hooks off jigs and pitched them at targets for accuracy,” Clark said.

In exchange for providing targets and equipment, DeFoe asked Clark to start a youth BASS club in the school. Other states have the sport sanctioned. “In Illinois, they have it as a high school sport,” Clark said.

The students had to pay $28 each, which included their membership in BASS Federation. “We’re the only middle school in the Tennessee affiliated with BASS. As far as fundraising, we are looking for sponsors. We’re looking in the fishing industry, but it’s been tough with the economy,” Clark said.

Kevin Myers and Chris Dunkel spearhead the Broadcast Club. “Our Broadcast Club started four years ago. Chris Dunkel organized the club with a grant from the Maryville Schools Foundation to purchase green screen production equipment. Our group meets once a month, and we produce a news show based on MMS called ‘In Focus,’” Myers said.

The club teaches students about filming, “We do a lot of stuff with Windows Movie Maker to create programs,” he said.

When sixth grade students make an annual trip to learn about the school, the club edits a montage of video to show the incoming students what to expect. “Our club produces it. Also, we were the first middle school to make an entry in the Foothills Film Festival,” Myers said.

There are about 20 members in the group and have had no fundraisers.

“We pull from drama, students who are focused on the arts,” Myers said. “I guess it’s an opportunity to provide another outlet and reach to students with non-traditional clubs.”

Robin Morrell, a seventh/eighth grade teacher, sponsors the Science Olympiad club. “It’s brand new this year. Right now we’ve got 25 students vying for 15 slots. We are able to take 15 to competitions held on college campuses,” she said.

Students recently were training to compete in different categories from bridge building, model airplane making, bird identification, anatomy and writing lab reports. “There’s a huge list of areas of competition. I heard about it from a Maryville College professor. This our first year, and we’re learning a lot,” said Morrell.

There are corporate sponsors for the competitions. “They’re promoting this and hoping kids will get interested in related careers,” Morrell explained. “You compete on a state level and at a national level.”

Morrell said it is gratifying to watch the students prepare projects and improve in their areas of concentration. “These are self-motivated kids,” she said. “You start to get to know them on a more personal level when you spend time with them.”

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