Flex Time flexes students’ intellectual abilities

Taking innovative scheduling to a new level, Rappahannock County High School added this semester Panther Flex Time, an additional multi-grade level course offered to all students.

Flex classes allow students to benefit from small group remediation and to explore enrichment opportunities beyond the scope of traditional curriculum. Following a project-based learning format, the Flex period allows students to extend learning in new and exciting ways while strengthening skills in reading, writing, research and math. The Flex period also gives students the opportunity to earn a high school credit upon satisfactory attendance and completion of the course.

Freshman Heather Pearson approximates where an interior wall will be in her group’s tiny house.
Freshman Heather Pearson approximates where an interior wall will be in her group’s tiny house. Courtesy photo

In addition, many students have designed and developed course content and goals that have resulted in projects more usually associated with a college class than what one would find in a typical high school. Among the many creative and useful topics that have been explored are filmmaking, local research and history, self-defense, yoga, first-aid basics, basic home maintenance, electricity generation, dining etiquette, basic car maintenance, investing in stocks and bonds and interview skills.

Two especially creative Flex programs are those sponsored by art teacher Joy Richardson and history teacher Eva Payne. Richardson’s flex class has researched local folklore, written a script, designed costumes, and is preparing to film and produce a uniquely Rappahannock horror movie. With indie films and YouTube videos becoming more a part of mainstream culture, Richardson may well be guiding the development of future stars of the five-inch screen.

In Payne’s flex class the focus has been on design and engineering research about building tiny houses. Tapping into a growing trend which takes a minimalist approach at living, freeing personal funds to be spent in other ways, the class developed a list of criteria including minimum square footage for two people (300 square feet) with working electrical and plumbing. They created floor plans after doing research on multiple designs and then made drawings of all four sides of their tiny homes.

Each group in Payne’s class will compete in a “build-off,” making scaled versions of their tiny houses using foam board, balsa wood, hot glue guns and hobby tools. Completed with decorations and miniature furniture, the finished houses will be accurate replicas of habitable homes, perhaps the 21st-century version of the starter home. The knowledge gained includes how plumbing, water and electricity are hooked up and installed through a home as well as the basics of efficient design.