PAWS Update School Messenger
Parents and Guardians,
I recently posted a letter about the success of our GROWL program and received a lot of positive responses. I was asked to provide more information about another of our important programs for all students that we call PAWS ("People Always Willing to Share and Support), a unique CHS program that provides each student with opportunities to engage in enrichment, support, and special interests.
Initially, PAWS was our response to a concern that both students and teachers voiced: a lack of time. Years ago and still today, many schools have a traditional school schedule where six or seven classes meet each day for approximately 55 minutes. "Traditional" means that students and teachers experience the same schedule each day. Our PAWS schedule introduced valuable time twice a week for our students to receive academic support or opportunities for personalized learning during the school day rather than after school like most traditional schools. Students wanted to be able to delve deeper into some topics, to review difficult concepts/material at a slower pace, and to explore some subjects that would not fit in their schedules or that were not offered. Teachers were willing and eager to provide students with these opportunities, but the confines of a traditional schedule prevented them from doing so. And so, PAWS2 was born.
The ways PAWS works is fairly simple. Each Tuesday and Thursday, periods 1 - 7 are shortened from the typical 57 minutes to 50 minutes to allow for a 43-minute block of time at the end of the day for PAWS. Students select the PAWS courses they would like to take, with an added bonus of having the flexibility to change PAWS at any time throughout the semester should their needs change. For example, a student who begins the semester with Disney Movies in Spanish on Thursdays might start struggling with a particular concept in Algebra I. By filling out a Google form, this student can request to move to a math support PAWS. The only criteria to move to another PAWS section is that the course has space available.
Currently, students may choose from among more than 90 PAWS offerings. Some of the enrichment courses include FFA leadership, Student Council, Reading Bowl, STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), and College Essay Writing. Students who need support can sign up for a variety of courses, including Algebra 1, AP U.S. History, Economics, and Graphic Design. Those looking to explore topics outside our curriculum might enjoy offerings such as Model United Nations, Board Games, Microsoft Office Certification, African American films, and Cambridge Rock Orchestra.
To give you a closer look at our PAWS program, I've highlighted some of the success stories that I've heard from teachers and students.
For students in the Talented and Gifted (TAG) program, PAWS is an opportunity to earn TAG credit without missing any class time. TAG teachers offer a variety PAWS seminars such as Cool Science; Conspiracy Theories; Stop, Breathe, and Think; Global Studies; and Hire Me, a prerequisite to TAG internships available to juniors and seniors. Department chair Dahlia Restler says that these offerings have been very well received by TAG students and that the seminars change each semester to offer students even more choices.
The mathematics department offers numerous PAWS options as well; in fact, almost every math course in the curriculum has a corresponding PAWS course. Math teacher Christina Whyte says that her students appreciate an opportunity to get more personalized attention in her Algebra I PAWS. She is able to focus on specific questions and reinforce concepts that students previously lacked.
Social Studies teacher Lauren Hall has had similar success with her PAWS class on Gender Equality. Students have written letters to congressmen and women regarding issues on upcoming healthcare bills, the wage gap, and family health and social services. Students are learning how to get involved in issues that matter to them, extending their study of government through actual relevant, hands on learning.
The World Languages department has found PAWS courses beneficial to students interested in
building their speaking, reading, and listening skills not only in French, Latin, and Spanish, but also in English. An English Language Learner support PAWS has been very beneficial for students acquiring English skills, according to department chair Rachel Dines. One student used this PAWS course to work on rewriting several essays for his English class. His mother was so impressed with his work that she requested his sibling also be included in this PAWS class.
Of course, many students elect to spend at least one PAWS day in a study hall. Ms. Sims-Bailey notes that her students appreciate the time this gives them to ask questions and seek one-on-one help in her study hall that focuses on U.S. History. Students who do not have history-related questions use the time to study other subjects in a quiet, supervised setting.
Not all students sign up for a PAWS course at Cambridge. Seniors have the option of an early release on these days, which affords them greater flexibility to meet their diverse goals. Many seniors report that they use the time to complete online course work and participate in work-based learning or internships. Others say that the early release gives them more time to work on school assignments and still hold down an after-school job. Some seniors, however, do take advantage of PAWS offerings such as College Essay Writing. Once they finish the college application process, these seniors may elect an early release. Another PAWS offering that seniors often take advantage of is AP Statistics. Mathematics Department Chair Nancy Barker reports that she is able to give more individualized instruction in a smaller setting to her students who want extra help during the school day.
My message to you as parents is to look over the Tuesday and Thursday PAWS menu and encourage your student to make the most of these opportunities. Whether your child needs academic support, wants unique academic experiences outside of the traditional classroom, is simply looking for opportunities to engage in sports or hobbies, or needs more time for online course work or an after-school job, PAWS most likely fits the bill. A complete list of PAWS offerings is online at www.Cambridgehs.org.