C-Day in Action at After School Matters: Opportunities to Explore

By Rick Melcher, Principal, Melcher & Tucker Consultants

Jayden was just finishing off his preparation of Sloppy Joes in the restaurant-quality kitchen, and spoke enthusiastically about the opportunity “to explore ideas,” to learn cooking techniques and recipes that he can take home. Taking a break from her DJ class, where her fellow students were heads-down, intently focused on creating new music on their laptops or putting together mixes, Kayla talked about the ability to “express my creativity and become a very social person.”

Welcome to Intrinsic Schools’ partnership with After School Matters, the Chicago nonprofit providing thousands of teenagers with enrichment programs – typically during out-of-school time, but in this instance during the school day. For the 200 Intrinsic high-school students participating every Wednesday, the program opens minds and opportunities – exposure to experiences that students say are eye-opening, fostering new ways to collaborate and communicate. “I was very shy,” says Alex, before he joined the dance program. “This program has allowed me to step into the real world.”

The program, now finishing its first year, is a central part of Intrinsic’s weekly Choice Day (C-Day), where students design and own their learning. C-Day illustrates the Intrinsic model in action – transforming education by encouraging maximum flexibility for teaching and learning time, space and connections. On C-Days, students follow different schedules based on their needs, interests, and goals. There are academic blocks during which students can opt into silent study hall, study groups, peer tutoring, and office hours. There are enrichment blocks, such as After School Matters, for students to explore their interests, develop passions, and become student leaders.

“We believe that in order to cultivate agency, students need multiple opportunities to make choices and learn from those choices,” says Sugandhi Chugani, Intrinsic’s Director of Self-Organized Unified Learning, who designs and oversees C Day.Our partnership with ASM provides students with choices beyond what we are able to offer on campus, and it is our hope that these experiences will help them discover, develop, or deepen their interests.”

The After School Matters C-Day takes place just blocks from the Intrinsic campus In a former auto insurance facility, now the Michael & Karyn Lutz Center for After School Matters. It’s been transformed into an airy, light-filled, and brightly colored four-story collection of classrooms. For After School Matters, the new Center means greatly expanded programming opportunities on the northwest side of Chicago. “The Center has opened up a new world for us,” says Melissa Mister, ASM Chief Program Officer. “We are here to fill the needs of Intrinsic’s students. This is a great example of a true partnership.”

Groups of students spend 90 minutes each week in classes ranging from Dance and Culinary Arts to DJ and Mosaic Arts. For many students, it is the beginning of something more – paid summer sous chef jobs in the kitchen, tickets to the James Beard Awards gala, gaining experience to book DJ gigs, creating talent showcases at other schools or community events. In a very tangible way, in fact, the program is at the heart of Intrinsic’s commitment to preparing students for postsecondary success.

“Every week, I’m learning something different,” says Susana, a member of the Culinary Arts Club. “It’s fun.” Maybe someday, she says, she’ll open her own restaurant.

Student names have been changed to protect the identity of our students.