Would you like to learn to bead or maybe solve the Sunday crossword puzzle or learn the newest Bakugan strategies for the popular game or even just play chess? These are just a few of the activities Lehighton Area Middle School students have an opportunity to pursue during their bi-weekly club period this year.

"The teachers and I came up with this idea for this year's students to develop the whole child," said Middle School Prinicipal Mark McGalla. While the idea is not new in middle school education, McGalla said this was the first year it has been attempted at Lehighton and so far, teachers and students have been pleased with the results.

McGalla said there is a wide range of activities students can select including sports, interests and activities. Each student selects one club for the year and they meet during their last period on alternate Fridays. To provide the time during the day, McGalla said classes on those Fridays are slightly shorter.

While the school had a few organizations prior to this year, McGalla said they were the typical ones including student council, athletic teams, band and chorus. Now, all students can participate in a much wider variety although some clubs by nature such as band have some basic requirements.

"The clubs were developed from ideas presented by the teachers who wrote descriptions of them for the students to select from. We needed to balance interests with athletics to include everyone," he said.

Next, the club summaries were presented to the students in October during a school wide assembly and they made a choice of two or three clubs in which they wanted to participate and prioritized them. The teachers then met and decided where to place the children based on ages and grade levels.

"Some clubs were more appropriate for older children while others worked better for the younger ones," McGalla said. Some of the clubs for the older children included the golf club, the guitar club and the paranormal club. Younger students also had clubs including the Yu-Gi-Oh and Bakugan club.

McGalla said they strived to limit club sizes to 25 students or less so that they would be more manageable, but in the end the size depended on the type of club.

"I'm happy with the progress of the clubs and our attendance is phenomenal on club days," McGalla said. "It breaks up the weeks for them and gives them something to look forward to doing."

One of the more popular clubs appeared to be the scrapbooking club. Eight grade learning support teacher Courtney Schleicher helped run this group and was quite enthusiastic at student participation.

"It's a way for kids to create memories of moments in time to carry forward so they can remember their middle school years," she said. "I think it's a wonderful idea to see kids outside an academic situation socializing with their friends and doing something they like to do."

Science teacher Joe Yescavage oversees the Environmental Center School Beautification Club which maintains an outdoor space including a pond and picnic tables. "The area was developed to bring the 'Go Green' concept home and encourage taking care of the environment and recycling," he said. The club explores life sciences and environmental sciences as well as taking care of the pond and outdoor area.

During the tour of the activities and clubs, we found students exercising and practicing aerobics in the foyer. Mrs. Micheletti was leading a group of students in doing mosaic tile work on the wall under the trophy case. Down the hall, the younger students were paired up and duelling in intense Yu-Gi-Oh and Bakugan battles. As we walked the hall, melodies from guitars could be heard and we found Mr. Ebbert's club "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" making cookies from a Peruvian recipe while in the library a special guest of the Project Paranormal club, Bob Schaeffer of the Blue Mountain Paranormal Society. In the cafeteria alongside the scrapbooking club, the model building club was busy assembling and painting scale models. Everyone seemed to be engrossed in their favorite activities and enjoying this special time together.

McGalla said the club concept has been quite successful this year and expects to see it continue.