Cumberland parents organize what they call “Cluster Classes.” This year all 218 students in grades 4 and 5 had 26 different classes from which to choose, covering topics from chickens to circuit designs. “Everything in between” included dry ice experiments, acting, running, dog training, cupcake decorating, designing greeting cards with chalk pastels, chess, lego robotics, etc. The classes offered each year depends on the volunteer teachers’ interests and expertise.
Cluster classes met on three Friday afternoons, May 2, 9, and 16, from 1:15 to 2:30 PM. Over the course of these three weeks, there were 61 classes offered, covering 26 different topics. Cumberland staff and teachers enthusiastically supported this parent-organized program through the use of their classrooms and help with teaching some of the classes. Eight Cumberland teachers along with more than 12 parent and community volunteers comprised the teaching staff this year.
Once the Cluster Classes chairpersons finalized the course offerings for the year, they put together a list of classes with brief course descriptions. Students were asked to rank their preferences for all the classes being offered. When a class could not accommodate everyone who had chosen it, 5th graders were given higher priority since it would be their last year at the school. Most classes met once. However, some classes met a second or third time to allow for more in-depth exploration of the topic.
Cluster Classes have been offered at Cumberland in this format since 2002, and had begun as part of an enrichment idea for GATE students. However all students in grades 4 and 5 participated, GATE students merely had first choice of classes. Anecdotally, this program might have started with one 5th grade teacher inviting parents in her class to teach life skills lessons to her students, an enrichment opportunity after State testing was completed. These life skill lessons had included sewing buttons, basics of stock market and trade, and changing tires on bicycles.
Contributor: Nina Wong-Dobkin