Carsten F. will have all sorts of great memories of Ann Arbor Open by the time he moves on to high school.
High on the list: Focus Studies.
Forcus Studies are hour-long daily classes offered for a week at a time twice a year that allow students to concentrate on topics that might not be covered in regular classroom curriculum.
Focus Studies are taught by teachers and by parents with a particular area of interest or expertise.
Carsten, an eighth grader, said he has enjoyed getting to focus on something completely different for that hour.
“Some of my favorites were Imaginary Lands with Rick—that was a blast,” said Carsten, who recently wrapped up the year’s first week of Focus Studies. “I would say Look to the Rainbow in Kindergarten too. That’s the first one I remember. One of my friends came with me, and it was really fun. I also remember yearbook fondly. I guess I liked being part of it because it represents the end of the year. There’s a special quality or magic to the yearbook and it was exciting to be part of that.”
Principal Kit Flynn came up with the idea 17 years ago as a way to learn something new that might not be covered in the regular classroom curriculum.
Students and the adult leader might, for example, learn about opera, study the flora and fauna around the school, take up knitting, improve their basketball skills, write poetry about Harry Potter, or distribute awards for the best picture book published in the past year, she explained.
Focus Studies typically fall into one of two categories: either they provide an integrated study of a topic of high interest (perhaps a class about horses that combines math, art, science, reading, and writing), or they focus on a specific skill such as a foreign language.
The staff makes every effort to see that students are placed in a class that they are most interested in.
Focus Studies have academic and social/emotional benefits, Flynn said.
“We build community across the grades, and over time, more and more adults get to know more and more students,” she said. “Middle school students are greeting primary grade friends in the hallways and on the playground.”
She said Focus Studies are popular because students and adults get to
really immerse themselves in learning that may look and feel different from “regular school.”
“The chance to work in a small group with others that are equally excited about a topic is inspiring,” said Flynn.