When most people think of school clubs, they envision the whiz kids of the Chess Club, the future lawyers of the Debate Club or the animated students of the Drama Club. Now area schools offer students a chance to explore their talents in other ways ranging from finger puppets to comic books.
Animation and Film Club
Churchland High School (CHS), Portsmouth
What started out as an avoidance for art teacher Martin Burke is now something he cannot image his life without.
“It was a condition of my hire that I start a film club because we have the Churchland Visual Arts Scholar Program here," Burke explains. "Now, I really look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays, the days we meet after school."
The two clubs (Animation and Film) are together, yet separate. Ana King, Spanish teacher, serves as co-sponsor. She brings experience in show business from serving as an NBC page soon after graduating college.
The Animation Club is currently working on a Claymation film about the creation of space and the universe, written by CHS junior Loran Harris. “I got the concept and wrote it in one day," she says.
September to December is pre-production time in which all members participate in storyboard design, set and costume creation—even original music. That takes patience, and only the committed stay, Burke notes.
Once the film is complete, it will be entered in the Virginia High School League Film Festival in May. “Last year was the first time it was offered," Burke says. "They got second place (out of six teams), so they got the competitive bug. They want first place."
Down the hall is the Film Club, consisting of film fans, with many considering a career in film. One such member, sophomore Madison Novak, wants to be a director and screen writer. “I’ve learned a lot about camera angle and lighting, which will come in handy later when I go on to my career,” she says.
Finger Puppet Club
Corporate Landing Middle School, Virginia Beach
In its inaugural year, the Finger Puppet Club was started by sixth grader Xavier Reyes. He got the idea from a book—Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger—about a group of middle schoolers, who, among their adventures, creates finger puppets by folding paper and index cards.
“It is really amazing what the students do, even making hats and clothes for the puppets,” says Dawn "De" Garvey, club sponsor.
While some students laugh at the idea of the club, Reyes says their attitudes quickly change when they are given a handmade finger puppet. “People are really happy about getting one, especially if they are having a bad day,” he adds.
Rube Goldberg Club
Corporate Landing Middle School, Virginia Beach
Named for the late Rube Goldberg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist known for his zany invention cartoons during the first half of the 1900s, this club meets twice a week for six weeks to create a project that is a National Rube Goldberg Club challenge.
Brian Miller, science teacher and sponsor of the club, describes the art form as “a machine built and designed to accomplish a simple task in a complicated way.”
Members of the club (which has been active at Corporate Landing Middle for five years) work in teams of three, first creating designs and developing models prior to testing their ideas.
This year they will attempt to open an umbrella with various mechanisms. Past challenges range from watering a plant to erasing a white board, a task that third-year club member James Hebert says was more difficult than he imagined. “We finally figured out we needed to add a weight to make it work,” the eighth grader tells.
While it is obvious the club emphasizes critical thinking and problem-solving skills, Miller says students learn resilience. “Many times kids are not learning what it is like to fail. When it doesn’t work, they learn that," he says. They also get the great feeling when it finally does work."
Comic Book Club
Gildersleeve Middle School, Newport News
When eighth grade English teacher Michael Mitzel encountered a student who showed no interest in reading, he introduced him to comic books. “Soon afterward, he began checking them out from my classroom collection often," Mitzel recalls.
Mitzel started the Comic Book Club at his school to promote literacy.
He, along with Pat Schell, reading specialist, asked the school’s PTA to purchase comic books to start the club, which sells snacks during after-school activities to earn money for new comic books. Mitzel selects new comic books with help from Richard Trinkle, owner of Heroes and Villains comic book store in Hampton.
Each Tuesday, about a dozen boys and girls gather in the library. “We start by reading," Mitzel says. "Then students have their choice to continue reading, draw or work on the comic book we are creating as a group." Their book, Seahawk, is named after the school mascot. Using local landmarks, such as The Mariners' Museum, members are developing the character and the story line.
“[Seahawk] lives in the pond outside school," eighth grader Josiah Hughes explains. "We are coming up with his powers and all that he can do."