Bored of traditional classes? Looking to get more experience in a particular field? Want to get a head start on college courses? If you can dream it, you can probably get credit for it.
Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) allow students, primarily juniors and seniors, to gain experience in a field of interest, take classes offered outside of the high school, or get credit for non-traditional learning experiences. The program was created in the 2017-18 school year, and Sean Peschel was hired to help students find and get credit for opportunities beyond the classroom. Before Peschel, students were able to do independent studies, internships, online classes, and classes outside of ORHS, but since then, Peschel has been working on making these opportunities more widely available and more extensive, as well as giving more control to the student.
ELOs include advanced, parent structured, or independent coursework, internships, apprenticeships, classes at UNH or Great Bay Community College, online classwork, and classes through the career technical program at other high schools. According to Peschel, there were 26 ELOs completed at the end of last school year including independent studies, internships, and other non-class-based learning. At this point in the school year there are 41 ELOs in process.
Peschel also remarked that he’d seen a shift in the objectives of the students who were seeking ELOs. “Last year, [students] wanted to expand what they’re doing,” meaning that most students doing ELOs wanted “to go above and beyond and do extra.” Whereas, “this year students [that seek ELOs] want to enhance what they’re doing,” or they want to go more in depth in a specific area of interest.
Among those who are focusing on their particular area of interest is Ryan Donovan (’19). Donovan is an apprentice for the Coolidge Company, a Dover-based construction company. He stated, “I’m looking to get into the trade so working in construction is very helpful. It gives me that advantage that I wouldn’t have. I’m getting an extra six months before I have to get into the field as a full-time employee.”
He also said, “they’re basically educating me on kind of how they do things there and how that company is run, and then the opportunity is there to kind of roll into them full time into the summer. So, it’s great for a student like me who’s not necessarily looking to go to college but looking to get more into the trade industry.” This apprenticeship also gives him the opportunity to build a relationship with the people at the company and get on-the-job experience.
Additionally, Donovan said that as someone who knows what they want to do, and isn’t planning on attending college, “it would be difficult for me to sit in a classroom all day when I know I could be doing something that’s going to educate me further in what I’m interested in.”
Similar to Donovan’s experience, 12 students at Oyster River are working to gain knowledge through real world application with the pilot program for ACE (Architecture – Construction – Engineering) NH. The students are working on the renovation at Moharimet Elementary School. For more information about the program, see Owen Tonkin’s article about the ACE NH program on the MOR website.
Although career-track learning is one useful outcome of the ELO program, others are using it to follow their interests or get credit for doing something they care about. Several members of the Sustainability Club started an ELO after they attended a two-day retreat called the Youth Climate Leadership Academy in November of 2018, where they learned about tools to help with their mission for sustainability. For more information about the retreat check out Alana Ervin’s article on the website.
According to Jackson Deely, a member of the Sustainability Club and participant in the ELO, their goal is to, “get rid of single-use plastics in the cafeteria [including] e water-bottles, the cups for smoothies, all the utensils, [and] containers they use for sandwiches. We just want to basically, replace all of that with sustainable stuff, because everyday there’s just a bunch of waste coming from that and it’s kind of unnecessary.”
Deely explained, while this may not become a career, “I’m really interested in this kind of thing, and I really like having the option to do something related to it that’s also through the school, cause it is really hard to do stuff outside of school. And it’s nice to have a group of people that are also like-minded in doing this.”
Before Peschel took the job as the ELO Coordinator, opportunities like the one Deely is a part of may have been difficult or impossible to get credit for or find out about. Charlie Haskell (‘19) was enrolled in an online American Sign Language class before the ELO program and wanted to get school credit for it. “Before the ELO department, it was really difficult to get anything done,” she explained. Because counseling had so many other jobs, it was difficult to dedicate time and resources to helping students find and get credit for non-traditional classes.
Because Haskell wasn’t allowed to go to the library every day during her study hall to do class work due to a school rule limiting the number of times students can go to the school library during study hall in a week, she had to be dismissed from school to walk to the Durham Public Library, missing advisory, her study hall, and lunch. Haskell remarked, “I think it would’ve gone a lot better had the ELO department been established back then.”
Ian Moore (‘19) has taken and is in the process of taking several first year level classes at UNH through the Challenging Academically Talented Students (CATS) program. While the CATS program has long been an option for ORHS students, it’s still good for students looking to pursue interests or get ahead. Like Donovan, Moore found the ELO program helpful for transitioning out of high school. He explained he chose to take classes at UNH because he could’ve graduated at the end of his junior year but decided not to because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. “This year for me is kind of like a transition […] from high school into college.” He explained, “[it feels like] I’m not really in high school. […] and I know what to expect when I get into college.”
Moore said that he would recommend the CATS program because, “you get a ton of free periods from it, so you kind of lack some school. Also, if you’re looking to go to college after high school, it’s super affordable to get some credits out of the way and to feel out the college environment without actually diving full into it.”
Haskell, who also took a Spanish class at UNH, stated, “I would [recommend UNH classes] as long as it’s something you’re genuinely passionate about and you’ve already exhausted all your opportunities at the school.” She explained, “I would utilize your at-school opportunities, because it’s really hard with your schedule and just generally physically and emotionally exhausting to have to leave school […] and have to walk across UNH campus and miss a lot of your day.”
Kaycie Kustra (‘20) is taking Auto Collision 1 at Dover High School because she hopes to follow in her father’s footsteps in joining the autobody world. This class will help her recieve her ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) Certification.
She said that if someone were considering taking classes at Dover they should “just go for it. The worst that happens is that you drop out of it at any point.” She explained, “it gets you a lot of the certifications you need, and it really puts your name out there in the industry. […] We spend a lot of time talking to the local dealerships, and they eventually learn your name, so it’s kind of helpful when you want to go get a job, more people know you.”
Kustra explained, “I get to spend half the day doing what I want to do and doing something that I actually love to do, rather than just sitting behind a desk.”