By Julia Gilman

In a school where kids have been playing soccer since they could walk and winning their first gymnastics medals before they could write their name, taking on new activities can be daunting. To make jumping into a new interest less intimidating, the PTA Stressbusters committee brought in Flex Academies to make engaging extracurriculars accessible to even the most reluctant of students.

Flex, a private organization, started offering eight-week sessions of Gourmet Cooking and Digital Photography in January. The programs, which require no prior experience, are designed to encourage students to experiment with new activities, make friends and relax in a low-pressure and low-commitment setting.

Flex coordinates qualified vendors to teach their classes in schools. Although Flex works with many schools in the area, including Pyle, Bannockburn and Bradley Hills, Whitman is the first high school to offer their courses. “Because there are so many things students have to do these days, doing something they want to do can feel both relaxing and empowering,” said Stressbusters committee chair Robin Rosenblum, who worked with Flex.

The PTA and Flex to gauged interest to determine which classes to offer. Five classes were originally available to students, but three classes — Academic Support, Board Game Empire and Yoga — were canceled due to low enrollment. “The program is new to Whitman, [so] it may take time for more students to give it a try, but we are confident it will be fun and worthwhile for them,” Rosenblum said.  The cooking class, which has five students enrolled, gives students the opportunity to learn essential cooking skills and techniques while making dishes like stuffed mushrooms with crab cake, raspberry cheesecake, and potstickers. The class costs $200.

Smile Future Chefs, who runs the class, brings in their own cooking supplies and holds the class in the staff lounge. The photography class, taught by the Washington School of Photography, focuses less on technical aspects of photography and more on creative vision and expression, teacher Adam Lowe said. “Until you get out there and you practice and you try a lot of different things, you don’t know what you enjoy doing,” Lowe said.  Freshman Aaron Witkin, one of about eight students enrolled, signed up because he enjoys photography and wants to improve his skills.“This is more digital photography and easier, quicker and less formal than the class at Whitman,” he said.

The PTA hopes to work with Flex to offer another session of classes in the spring, Rosenblum said.

 

Original source: Walt Whitman High School (Montgomery County, MD)

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