Afternoons at the Ecole

Mittwoch, 27. November 2013

by Daniel Davis Wood

Afternoons at the Ecole give students time for extracurricular activities. Although some students with important academic responsibilities may use some of this time for further study — to prepare for the Swiss Matura or for AP exams — most Ecolianers spend their afternoons engaged in their choice of sports, arts and crafts, and musical and theatrical activities. So what sorts of afternoon activities have been on offer throughout this Fall Term?

Sports classes ranged from hit-and-giggle games of table tennis and hockey to the more disciplined training exercises of the basketball team and the football team. And for students who prefer to keep fit without following the rules of a game, there were many other options including jogging, mountain walking, swimming, strength training, yoga, and step aerobics. “My step aerobics class is a large group of about fifteen people,” says Laïs Bürki, a student in the Swiss Program. “We spend about half an hour doing step aerobics, then another half hour stretching (turnen) and a few minutes jogging. For me, step aerobics is very enjoyable!”

Sue teaches Sofya and Lea the principles of decoupage.

The Ecole's resident art teachers, Maria and Cora, have been leading afternoon courses in a variety of artistic fields including drawing, painting, and ceramics. “We learned so many techniques in Maria’s ceramics class,” says Hallie Scarbrough, a student in the American Program. “The first technique we learned was 'slabs,' and we used this technique made cups. I made a tea cup with a cute saying on the outside. Then we made candle holders and sculptures out of recycled clay.” Students were also able to take art courses in decoupage, printing, 'street art' stencilling, bead-making, and candle-making. Photography is always on offer as well, including both digital photography using computer software like Adobe Photoshop and darkroom photography using film, chemicals, enlargers, and manual photograph development techniques.

Melissa (left) directs Michael (seated) and Yannick (standing) in a performance to be staged next year.

Ecole students play an incredible range of instruments — piano, guitar, drums, flute, saxophone, trumpet, djembe, and more — and they receive instruction in all of these as well as singing, both solo and in various choral arrangements. For students who don’t play instruments, theater performances and theater sports may be more to their liking. “We act, we sing, we scream, we laugh, we dance, and we move around a lot,” says Laïs of her improv theater class. “We’re a group of eight people and we are improving our acting skills with different exercises. There are some really good actors in our class, including some who have played in almost every Shakespeare play since they’ve been in the Ecole, and it’s really fun for me because I can learn from my teacher, Melissa, and from the others in the class who are experienced actors and actresses.” And, of course, many students have been spending the Fall Term in preparation for the French Theater performance and the annual Christmas Play, both to be staged in December, as well as a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to be performed in March next year.

What about classes for those who enjoy using their hands to build and shape new objects? There are the more physically demanding handwork activities like woodworking, blacksmithing, silversmithing, and stonemasonry, as well as some more comfortable handwork like weaving, sewing, knitting, and crocheting. There’s also lots of work to do in the school kitchen, including using fresh produce from the school gardens to make delicious meals. “First of all,” says Hallie of her Garden-to-Table class, “we find a recipe we’d like to use: for example, a recipe for zucchini bread. Then we go to the gardens outside Haus Sandra and Haus Blatti and we pick the zucchinis. Finally, we take the fresh produce down to the school kitchen in Geheeb Haus and we follow the recipe to make the bread. This helps us to really understand how to use fresh vegetables and how yummy they can be. The class has a very relaxed atmosphere and it’s incredibly fun to make entire meals from scratch.”

Merle shows off her printing process.

Last but not least, there are some afternoon activities that aren’t quite sports, aren’t quite arts or crafts, and aren’t quite music or drama, and there’s plenty of time for students to fit them into their afternoon schedules as well. Student-led activities like Mahjong fall into this category, as do fishing and meditation. Meditation, in particular, is a student favorite. “In meditation class with Alain,” says Hallie, “we do a variety of things. We start class with a purpose, we try to think of a goal that we would like to reach and we really try to focus on it. Then we get into our most comfortable position, whether lying down or sitting with our legs crossed, and we close our eyes and try to sift out unimportant thoughts and really focus on that one goal. Finally, we proceed to act as if that goal has already been achieved. This gives us an extremely positive outlook on that goal. Meditation class on Mondays with Alain are some of the most peaceful moments of my week.”

Best of all, the courses and activities mentioned above don’t cover even half of what’s on offer at the Ecole. Aikido, boxing, folkdancing, gardening, gloving, martial arts, slacklining, tango, and tennis are just some of the other things that take place during Ecole afternoons — plus all of the activities offered through the Outdoor Program — and, on top of that, this selection of afternoon courses will be renewed and refreshed when different activities are offered at the beginning of the Winter Term.