How do you plan a week-long series of local and international educational experiences for more than 450 students? As those involved will tell you … very carefully.
That labor of love for faculty, staff, parents, and community members pays off starting Monday (November 12), as the biennial tradition that is Agora begins. The week-long “experience” for some students actually begins earlier if they are heading to airports to begin trips abroad.
Since its founding, Agora has evolved to cover more students, community partners, and educational opportunities. But its core remains unchanged: a belief that our students become better educated – better able to adapt and contribute to the outside world – if they see and experience that world directly.
“Agora provides our school and community an ideal opportunity to maintain our focus on academic achievement while also enriching students with new skills,” said Laurel Underwood, one of the program’s two coordinators and the gifted intervention specialist at the junior high. “Those skills include leadership, collaboration, volunteerism, and global perspectives, which are increasingly in demand in this new ‘marketplace.’”
To accomplish the program’s purpose, the traditional structure of the school day is set aside. In its place are school-based workshops, field trips, other extra-curricular activities – and for some, international travel. At this point, the workshops have been chosen, trips planned, parent and teacher chaperones selected, and fees paid. Now, it’s time to experience and learn.
Even though the program has a deep experiential component, the educational content of the workshops and off-site activities are reviewed to make sure they incorporate Ohio Academic Content Standards.
This year’s theme is “Habits of the Heart.” With that in mind, projects and activities were chosen “to connect students’ heads with their hearts, to connect with their community, and to expand their education into engagement of the world,” said Kristie Stevens, the other coordinator and the junior high social studies and English/language Arts teacher.
Assisting both is Karen Fischer, who serves as the program’s secretary. And for the first time, the program has a student intern: Drake Furey, a ninth-grader.
For 11th and 12th graders, the week is about exploring leadership opportunities through teaching others or traveling abroad with a teacher. This year’s destinations are Italy, France, Spain, Germany and Switzerland, and Costa Rica. The trips connect to their areas of study and extend learning beyond the classroom.
For ninth and 10th graders, the week is about attending and learning from intensive workshops centered around one organization or project. To offset workshop costs, fees were assessed for those activities, from $70 for “The Climb” to $10 for “Furever Home.”
In recent years, Agora broadened its original focus from just those groups (grades 9-12) to include a component for junior high students (seventh and eighth) – an initiative affectionally called “Agora Jr.” For the past six years, those younger students have participated in a structured program that includes field trips, guest speakers, and opportunities for self-reflection.
The junior high program has even adopted its own theme: “Be the Change.”
“Students will be encouraged to try new things, to learn differently, to see the interdisciplinary connections of their learning, to work with others, to encourage others, and to think about their role as an individual,” said Mrs. Stevens. “All week, students will be exploring how they can 'Be the Change.’”
For example, junior high students on Monday (November 12) will travel to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Mich.
Much like the Olympics, Agora ends with a closing ceremony, scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday in the high school auditorium.
For more information about Agora, visit Agora 2018’s website; follow them on Twitter or Instagram or contact Mrs. Stevens at email@example.com or Ms. Underwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fun facts about Agora:
- An every-other-year event that becomes the center of attention for faculty, staff, and students.
- “Agora” in Greek literally means “gathering place” or “assembly.” In ancient Greece, the agora was the center of the athletic, spiritual, and political life of the city.
- Exists to provide a forum for students to experience ideas outside the traditional classroom.
- Helps address changing state educational goals and standards.
- Has expanded beyond its original one-week programming to represent something larger: the district’s ongoing efforts to provide students an experience that is “super-curricular,” connected, and tied to bigger ideals of what it means to be “educated.”
- Focused on developing the skills of leadership, collaboration, volunteerism, and global perspectives
- Past Agora themes have been “The Rites of Passage” (2016), “The Secrets of Life” (2014), “OH1ness Project (2012), “Building a Character” (2010), “Realizing the Energy of Green” (2008), and “Lights, Camera, Action” (2006).
- Involves experts from the community to help students learn about themselves as well as a variety of subjects beyond the curriculum.