Students learn life skills in enrichment program

MANISTEE — It has often been said that for a child to succeed in life they need a well rounded education.

Bear Lake Schools seventh grade class members from Amanda Harthun's enrichment class proudly show off the colorful pillow cases they created in class. Students requested learning more about sewing and cooking skills. (Courtesy photo)

Bear Lake Schools seventh grade class members from Amanda Harthun’s enrichment class proudly show off the colorful pillow cases they created in class. Students requested learning more about sewing and cooking skills. (Courtesy photo)

Many people in Lansing feel that means only state mandated core curriculum classes and little more. However, front line educators point out that a well rounded student is one that is also exposed to enrichment classes in a variety of subject areas.

It is something  officials at Bear Lake Schools realize, and one of the reasons they have been offering a last hour enrichment class for seventh grade students. Bear Lake principal Sarah Harless said the classes have been adding a great deal to the education of the students.

“The enrichment we do is so important because it helps us tap in to all the multiple intelligences our students have,” said Harless. “It allows them to experience new things and showcase their talents. Many times during enrichment they are using core subject skills that they don’t even realize. Enrichment offers experiences to our students that complete the circle of learning and make school more than just numbers and words.”

Seventh grade teacher Amanda Harthun said the program is extremely popular with her students and covers a vast array of topics.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” said Harthun. “The class requested sewing and cooking experiences for part of their enrichment. They are also taking the Dave Ramsey Middle School Personal Finance program, exploring art, physical education/health and science, technology, engineering and math topics.”

The enrichment hour gives the students an opportunity to step back from the pressure-packed testing and requirements that are put on students today.

School has the requirements for what they have to learn and there is a lot more work to it than in the past,” Harthun said. “When the Enrichment Hour rolls around at the end of the day the middle school concept is they should be able to explore and try different things because they are at the age where they don’t know what they like or don’t like because they haven’t tried it. It’s kind of middle school exploratory, and I like to let them dabble in a little of everything.”

Sometimes it is about setting goals in life or other times it is learning about personal finance from the Dave Ramsey program that is sponsored by the Trigenta Club of Bear Lake.

“We also do art and try to make it a community service type project with it,” said Harthun. “If we know there is an event at the school coming up they will do art specific to that program to hang in the hallways. They did things for Halloween, the Veterans Day program we had here and those type of things.

Harthun said she was a little surprised when the students said they wanted to experience sewing and cooking, but after seeing them do it she understood why they wanted experiences in those areas.

“Those were two of the things at the top of their list and we started with sewing,” said said. “I gave them a questionnaire about their interests, favorite colors and what they like and tried to pick fabric based on their answers.”

She said the class settled on making pillow cases and it took them two weeks for all of them to create one.

“We had only one sewing machine, so they had to pick out three pieces of fabric for it for the main body, end piece and trim piece,” said Harthun. “They had to think about their design and how they wanted it to look, so it took some thought.”

Harthun said it was a totally new experience for some of the students.

“We showed them how to pin it together and then sew it, but some of them had never used a sewing machine before,” she said. “So we went over everything including the safety of using a sewing machine and the harder you press the peddle the faster the machine will go.”

Besides that Harthun said it even got so basic that some kids wanted to learn how to sew a button on their shirt and things of that nature. It is simple life skills that many kids need to learn.

“They don’t always get those types of things at home anymore and classes like home economics have been gone for a long time before I was even in school,” said Harthun. “A lot of the parents of the kids I have now are my age so maybe they weren’t taught those things at home.”

Harthun said it is fun to see the reaction of the students.

“They want to be self-sufficient and a lot of them were quite proud of what they created,” she said. “Some planned to put it in their bedrooms and others gave them as Christmas presents to their mothers. I thought some did a very nice job of picking out what colors go together.”

Harthun said now that the holiday break is over the students want to learn to cook next.

“They want to make deserts and other things so I have to get creative in how to do that and still follow the school rules for food,” she said. “I have found some lessons that talk about food safety like meat should be a certain temperature and things like that.”

Harthun said she is hoping to bring in some guest speakers in that area to talk with the kids to give them some cooking and safety tips.

Overall, she said the students are really responding to the program and looks forward to working on many other things in the second semester.


Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at

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