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Optional Learning

Erin Fletcher
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 21/03) - Lindsay White and Roz Skimmer can't wait to see how their meal worms are doing.

They open the small glass jars filled with bran and oatmeal and dump the contents out onto a paper plate.

NNSL Photo

Grade 7 students Lindsay White, left, and Roz Skimmer hold up their prized meal worms. The worms are part of a life cycle project they are working on in their option class. - Erin Fletcher/NNSL photo

Then they begin sifting through the sawdust-textured filling with a popsicle stick to reveal meal worms in various stages of development -- from beetle to mature worm.

White and Skimmer are Grade 7 students at Ecole St. Joseph. Their meal worm project is one of many scientific experiments they've been doing in their options class.

Options is the one day a week when Grade 6, 7 and 8 students at Ecole St. Joseph put down their books and do some hands-on learning. The options run all year and include a variety of extracurricular activities.

"It's a good time for kids to get a variety of experiences," said Alain Gauthier, assistant principal at Ecole St. Joseph.

He said options also mix the students up and encourages them to socialize with students outside of their grade.

Gauthier teaches the science class White and Skimmer are in. He takes the scientific principles the students learn in class and brings them to life through interactive experiments like the meal worm life cycle and paper helicopters.

Besides science, students can also do everything from basic quilting to cooking en Francais, jazz ensemble to soccer skills.

While Gauthier has his students race their homemade paper planes down the length of the portable, up the stairs and several classrooms over Garry Dormody is instructing a group of boys about firearm safety.

"Consider a gun to be always loaded," warns Dormody as he directs the six boys through the gun handling exercises.

The Grade 7 and 8 students are using de-activated firearms to learn about safe handling, loading and movement over obstacles.

Dormody said guns are apart of living in the North and everybody should know how to safely handle them.

A few parents have expressed concern about guns in the classroom but Dormody has a prompt reply.

"This is a safety course. It's not about learning to be a commando."