Enrichment Menus Bring Fun Options for Students


Students participate in crocheting during the Enrichment period. Photo credit: Jamie Bristol

Anna Bouchard, Writer

If you are a student at Bellows Free Academy like me, you may have noticed that there have been some recent changes to the Wednesday Enrichment block. While this 90-minute period was reserved for homework and getting assistance from teachers, there has recently been an increase in alternative activities for students to participate in during this long Enrichment period. 

The new “Enrichment Menus” and the activities that they highlight are the perfect way for students to explore their interests and relax when they don’t have homework to complete. 

How It Started

To find out more about the creation of these activities, The Mercury spoke with Leah Fitzgerald (‘24), a member of the Student Voice Committee.

The Committee had been given a $10,000 grant and the freedom to dictate how it was spent, but they were unsure of how they would use it. Fitzgerald and the Student Voice Committee released a survey to get student feedback about how to use the funds, but Fitzgerald said that the two most popular responses, an increase in student parking and air conditioning in the gym, were not possible because of the budget. 

It was when Jamie Bristol, BFA’s Engagement and Communication Coordinator approached the group that they found a solution. 

“It was really a coincidence that the Student Voice Committee and I joined efforts to improve Enrichment,” Bristol said. “Unbeknownst to me, the Student Voice Committee was in the midst of writing a grant proposal that had the same goal. Once we found out about each other, we began to work together.”

New Beginnings

According to Fitzgerald, with the help of Bristol, the Committee began to outline a diverse selection of weekly activities that would take place during the Wednesday Enrichment. Those who enjoy physical activities can take the Complex bus to play badminton and pickleball or visit the Open Weight room, and those who want a more relaxing Enrichment can join the Book or Crochet Club or visit the art studio. Students can also visit the NCTC salon, career connections or any of the unique weekly events that are held such as a local scholarship event or the Warren Miller Ski Film showing. 

Fitzgerald explained that “We wanted students who don’t have a gym class or who didn’t get to take a certain class to have the opportunity to go to these activities.” Based on my own experience, these activities are the perfect opportunity for this.

While some of these activities may be a club, there is no pressure to commit or consistently attend the meetings, so students who want to try a variety of activities or explore their interests without commitment can do so. 

The New Enrichment

That’s not to say that students should go to these activities instead of doing their homework. One study found that a mandatory study hall caused “students’ overall GPA [to rise] by about half a point” while “honors students increased from 32% to 50%.”

These study halls are vital for students who have homework, need to make up work or seek help from a teacher, especially if they are unable to do this work at home or have after-school activities, but students won’t always have enough homework to fill the 90-minute block. 

In a survey sent to all BFA students by The Mercury, 43% of respondents said that they have work to complete half of the time or less during these long Enrichment blocks, and only 22% said that they always have work to complete. 

An anonymous student also pointed out that having Enrichment focused entirely on schoolwork leads to “there [being] too many students wandering the halls, crowding bathrooms and being really loud during Enrichment.”

Bristol also mentioned that the School Safety Officers here at BFA have “reported that hallway wandering during [the Wednesday Enrichment] has become concerning.” By having more engaging options for students during this time, there is a chance that this behavior will decrease as those who won’t have work to complete will have another way to spend their time. 

While having these activities may not be how Enrichment was originally intended to function, I am hopeful that students will benefit from these changes and find more enjoyment from their Wednesday Enrichments. Based on the survey responses, students agree. Despite 22% of survey respondents having no interest in attending an Enrichment activity, all of the students who answered whether or not they believed that these activities should be offered gave their support for them. 

“I think having these activities is good for students who wish to partake in them. They are a great way to branch out, meet new people and try new things,” Hannah Branon (‘23) said.

Another student anonymously said that these will hopefully “keep people off of their phones,” something that 59% of respondents, myself included, admit to doing during their study hall.

Hopes for the Future

Fitzgerald explained that in order for these programs to succeed, they “have to become a part of the school’s culture.”

“It’s a change,” she said. “[The activities] run if students get excited every month that there’s going to be new choices.“

The Student Voice Committee is certainly planning on surprising students. Fitzgerald outlined her hopes to get speakers to come in, have a local cooking class and host yoga classes. In addition to starting new activities, she also hopes to improve the already existing ones with better materials. 

“One of the original purposes of Enrichment was to provide enriching activities,” Bristol said.  I am excited that BFA has shifted how Wednesday Enrichments function to include these new enriching activities. 

If you haven’t attended one of the Enrichment activities, I highly recommend trying one out. They’re a great way to meet new people and explore your interests without commitment, and I’m excited to see what they will bring in the future.