“Husky Time Excursions” Change Study Hall at Hoover

Student working on a laptop computer

Two years ago Hoover High School dreamed of a better way to use their study hall period. Now the 30 minute period is used for 12 day “Excursion” classes designed to spark student interest and support different programs throughout the school.

Husky Time at Hoover High School is only half an hour out of each school day. That doesn’t sound like enough time for much of an excursion. But it is – without leaving the campus. It’s enough, in fact, for a wide range of more than 50, everything from basic financial literacy to nuances of the stock market.

Two years ago, district high schools were required to carve an enrichment slice out of their daily schedules as part of the district’s adoption of the Multi-Tiered System of Supports model. The vision was a more meaningful version of what used to be commonly known as study hall. The objectives of M.T.S.S. are positive change in the grades, culture, and climate of a school.

According to Hoover principal Cindy Flesch, last year’s maiden voyage was okay but unimaginative. Students were grouped at Husky Time according to the usual labels; ELLs, AP students, special education, etc. She wanted more and sent her staff home for the summer with orders to come back with ideas for “Excursions” in not necessarily academic or traditional areas of particular interest or expertise for them.

Eric Hall, Hoover’s IB Coordinator, and School Improvement Leader Maureen Griffin are members of Flesch’s School-based Leadership Team (SBLT) and they organized the wide range of ideas into the system of 12-day rotations that’s caught on in a big way.

The latest round of Excursions began on Monday with a wrinkle unique to this time of the year. Since all of the district’s juniors will be taking the ACT college readiness exam next month, there are 14 sections of ACT prep on the menu just for them.

Excursions at Hoover aren’t exactly classes. They’re more like crash courses that rotate every dozen school days. Over the course of this year the program has turned what-to-do into woo-hoo! Husky Time used to kill time. Now it makes the most of it. Rising attendance rates indicate that students now consider it can’t-miss. So much so that the template for it is scheduled for scale-up next year at some of the other district high schools.

“Other schools have visited to see how it works,” said Flesch.

It works by building time into the daily schedule for focused interventions with students who need academic “skill-building” and also offering informative diversions of interest that enhance the school’s climate and culture. Most students sign up for mini-electives like cribbage or birdhouse building or self-empowerment (led by volunteers from the Young Women’s Resource Center).

“Equity and access are critical,” said Flesch while guiding a whirlwind tour of Excursions on Tuesday morning that dropped in on a section of ACT Prep, Hoover 101 (basic assimilation skills for students not only new to Hoover, but America, led by student mentors), Movement 515 spoken word poetry workshop and math skill-building. “We use Husky Time now to include interventions and extra-curriculars during the regular school day so students who have no choice but to go straight to work after school can get extra help or attach themselves to activity groups they couldn’t be a part of before.”

Senior Nicholas Lockin is part of Hoover’s Best Buddies group, a program that establishes friendships between mainstream students and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). He thought it would make for a good Excursion.

“We used to meet twice a month after school,” he said. “Now we can get together throughout the week and build relationships quicker and stronger.”

If students find a particular Excursion that suits them they can stay there instead of rotating. Or they can switch it up. Sophomore Adam Jackson started a math skill-builder this week because he needs time for extra work in that area. But earlier in the year he sampled a variety of non-academic options.

“I’ve been in Young Men of Color, fantasy football, and board games too,” he said. “It just depends on what you need or want to do most.”

“Call me crazy, but giving all students access and equity to all teachers and all opportunities is priceless,” said Griffin. But nobody is calling her crazy. As mentioned above, she’s called a School Improvement Leader.

For more on the new and improved Husky Time check out this student-produced video, a recent Excursion project:

Photos of Hoover’s Husky Excursion Time

Published on