JERSEY SHORE - Through a new program, students at Jersey Shore Area Middle School who are ahead on studies still are given the opportunity to challenge themselves, but it's not in math or science.
Music enrichment classes are offered to eighth-grade students who scored advanced on their state System of School Assessments for the first time this past school year. Laura Milarch, school principal, explained that students are able to take the classes during an enrichment period, when students who need extra help in other courses get the help needed.
The courses allow students to learn new skills and challenge them.
"I just wanted to make sure that they have that enrichment," Milarch said.
The school's music teachers, Andrea Miller and Jeff Dent, teach the courses. Miller teaches keyboarding and Dent teaches guitar.
"It's awesome. It's so wonderful, it really is. The class kind of morphs organically so the class has gone in directions that I never expected," Miller said.
Students are able to take the courses for each quarter, if they choose. Miller said she has had many students stick with the class the entire school year. Students are not graded in the class.
And although students now can play the instruments, Miller said that most entered the course at the beginning of the school year with very little experience, only ever taking the school's general music class that all students are required to take.
But now Miller sees students now have a genuine interest in the subject.
"I see them being life-long piano players just for pleasure, which makes me excited," she said of her students.
Miller is most excited about the fact that students not only want to be in the class but learn and grow. She added that the classes use both traditional and non-traditional types of music.
"They just all want to work," she said. "They're so hungry. They keep wanting me to give them more and more."
But she also gives students the ability to explore the material.
"I challenge them but then I give them time to do what they want, as well," Miller explained.
Miller added that it's important for students to develop a love of the arts through education.
"I just think it's important. It makes you a well-rounded person and it gives you an appreciation (of the arts)," she said. " Art education, in general, is important to make well-rounded individuals in society."