by Zofia Ciołek
“Join Cancer Awareness! National Art Honour Society! Help out Chechen refugees!”The flag hallway was lined on both sides with poster-plastered long tables, at which student leaders and participants from various clubs advertised their activities at the annual ASW club fair. On the far end, closest to the main entrance, stood a table with two clubs: the Environmental Club and Warrior News. Yours truly was at the Warrior News table, advertising the club and trying to get as many people as possible to join, focusing specifically on the 9th and 10th graders so that the club could keep on going. But as time went on, 9th and 10th graders who came to the Environmental and Newspaper Club looked at it, shrugged at the advertisements and left, seeming completely uninterested. Recently, I found out that Warrior News has only one MYP participant, which is definitely not enough to keep it going.
Turns out — it’s not only Warrior News that is struggling. MUN enthusiast Darlenne K. provided very interesting statistical data. Based on MUN’s attendance sheet, the ratio of 11th and 12th graders to 9th and 10th grade was 26:7, meaning that for every 9th or 10th grader there were close to four DP students. While looking more closely at the grade levels, there were two seniors (understandable, as they do have a lot of work and may not be able to participate as much), twenty four juniors (twenty one active), but only three freshies and four sophomores (of which only three are active).
Wanting to find out the perspective about this topic from teacher leaders of clubs, I emailed a few of them in order to find out what they think and if they see the problem as well as what they do in order to get more 9th and 10th graders involved. Mr. Josh put up an especially interesting point, saying that “If it were more tied to coursework, it would encourage extracurricular “club” involvement.” In order to encourage 9th and 10th grade to be more involved in school activities, for his 9th grade advisory he integrated the Community Garden in ASW into the curriculum. This seems like an effective way of getting the freshmen more involved, as not only are they integrated into activities, they are also learning about what type of service they might be able to participate in for their CAS experiences later on.
However, when looking at club survival, I was curious if other clubs were experiencing the same type of slow extinction as Newspaper was undergoing. The Student Council seemed to be an interesting body to investigate, as they are the main leadership club of our highschool. In order to find out specific numbers about participants, I interviewed Ms. Hansen, who was happy to give me all the numbers. Comparing it to my previous research, I was surprised to find out that looking at previous years, Ms. Hansen noticed that tenth grade involvement had increased significantly in contrast to previous years. Nevertheless, she still stated that “The grade 9s are much more of a challenge to get involved – I had to seek people out to get the few members for council. They are at a disadvantage as their voices are less represented.”
This was especially interesting for me, as the Leadership Council does lead most of the activities and student opportunities, meaning that the less freshman representation there was, the less they would be able to organise for their grade. According to Ms. Hansen’s numbers, 30% of leadership council are sophomores, 33% are juniors, 23% are seniors, but only 12.8% of are freshmen, showing the almost 16% involvement difference when comparing freshmen involvement to the mean of the rest of the grades. This could be especially worrying, because since Ms. Hansen had to seek out freshmen in order to get them to join the club, their participation in further years is not guaranteed. When asked about her opinion on why this is happening, she stated that “There is some challenge with the split lunches which make it difficult for some clubs to meet at convenient times.” This has been a problem in the previous years. However, based on the general student opinion, there seemed to be more involvement by 9th and 10th grade back in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years.
Annika J., a football player and MUN participant had an interesting view on this subject, reflecting that when she was a freshman half of the girls soccer team were freshmen too. “I think it was because we were all friends we were so successful as freshmen and that carried on to now. I think we just kept being involved and it didn’t open up space for other 9th and 10th grade.” This was interesting to hear, as the intimidation factor of being the youngest of the highschool body is definitely something that should be taken into consideration when looking at 9th and 10th grade involvement, especially freshmen. Entering highschool may seem daunting, and participating in activities with students who are two or three years older than you might be uncomfortable for some.
Ian W., an MUN participant also remarked that in his opinion the involvement “varies on the grade and the atmosphere in the grade” and that there seems to be a larger 9th and 10th grade involvement in sports than in general activities. “They are not as concerned about college yet, too,” he said, and therefore might not be as preoccupied with CAS and activity participation.
The low turnout of 9th and 10th grade is a worrisome phenomenon looking at the possible extinction of clubs such as Newspaper and the low turnout of students in the Leadership Council. Currently, we can only hope that the requirement of CAS and activity participation may save some clubs and increase the overall present 9th and 10th grade participation once they get a little bit older.