Mini courses take St. Paul students into community

(Editor’s Note: Also assisting with this story were St. Paul School students Cali Joing and Jaden McFarland)

SALEM – St. Paul School students learned about decorating cakes, writing stories, taking photos, milking cows and painting banners during mini courses Friday at several off-school sites.

The program takes students out of the school setting and into the field for career exploration and awesome, fun activities.

“Mini courses are a great learning experience for our students,” Principal Dave Pancurak said. “They are a long-standing tradition at St. Paul School.”

Many former students fondly remember when they attended mini courses when they were in school, he said. Students in grades four, five and six have their choice of mini courses to attend on three consecutive Fridays.

The first mini courses were held on April 25. The choices included Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Washam guiding students through a mock trial of The Case of the Big Bad Wolf, Salem Air Park flight instructor and pilot Bill Shugart teaching students about flying and the basic parts of a plane and Butech Bliss engineering manager Jim Meissner talking about careers in engineering, the tools used and the process of making machines.

On Friday, besides learning about journalism and photography from Salem News staff writer Mary Ann Greier, students also had the choice of visiting Shoemaker Dairy Farm to learn about milking cows, Day Dreamers Art Studio to learn about painting from Kathy Hill or Emmanuel Lutheran Church for the basics of cake decorating from Salem Giant Eagle’s Kim Coy.

Next Friday, the students can choose from sports training and swimming at the Salem Community Center or lessons on the properties of glass and the elements of design while creating sun catchers made from fused glass.

“I think it’s a wonderful experience for anybody at all because it teaches you about all different kinds of things,” fourth grader Cali Joing said.

Joing and sixth grader Jaden McFarland hung out at the Salem News for the afternoon, taking photographs and helping to write this story.

“It is a privilege because not every kid gets to do this. I learned how to write at a newspaper and take photographs,” McFarland said.

Joing said photography and writing for a newspaper were a lot harder than she realized. Both students visited Butech Bliss last week and learned how they make the steel and make blueprints on the computer.

Pam Murray, coordinator for the program, said the purpose was to get exposure to different careers and different activities, giving students different opportunities.

“The kids look forward to it every year,” she said.