Last updated: February 19. 2013 2:53PM - 572 Views

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Kickball. Geocaching. Yoga. Newspapers. American Sign Language. Drama. TV Studio.

If it's a topic of interest to the students at Abington Heights Middle School, there's a good chance it's on the list of after school clubs and activities, which take place Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for three separate six-week sessions throughout the school year.

According to Assistant Principal Eduardo Antonetti, the after school program has been in place for many years, but has expanded a lot in the past five. He said the school, which currently has about 1,100 students enrolled, offers 40 different after school activities in which about 400 students participate.

Antonetti said the program connects the interests of the students with the talents of the faculty members. He said he feels it is a very important part of the middle school experience.

One way the program benefits the students, he said, is they get to see their teachers in a new light. He said it also helps the students meet new friends they may not have gotten to know outside the clubs and gives them a chance to participate in a fun supervised activity during a time of day when many would otherwise be home alone waiting for parents to return from work.

An after-school activities program also can provide students with improved self-esteem, motivation and socialization skills, said Antonetti in a letter sent home to parents, Our programs are designed to be fun, interactive, and educational.

Antonetti said his goal for the program is to keep it going strong and keep refining it. He often receives requests from students about new clubs and activities they would like to see during the next session and he said if enough students show an interest in the same topic, those requests are often obliged.

For example, he said one student recently requested a Minecraft computer game club and collected several student signatures on a petition saying they would sign up for such an activity. He said there's a good chance he will now open a Minecraft club in a future session.

One club currently offered is the Mural Club, which Antonetti said creates colorful murals on the walls in the school hallways.

Another is the juggling club, led by seventh grade reading teacher Rob Smith, who started the club 10 years ago when he first started teaching at the school.

Eric Spencer, and eighth grade student, said he began attending the juggling club about three years ago and has fun juggling and performing what he's learned for his family members at home.

Another current after-school activity is the Glee Club, led by music teacher Deano Noto, who started it last year. Noto said the club is designed for children who want to sing.

I have such a group of highly spirited kids who all want to be stars, he said.

Noto allows the students to come up with their own ideas and encourages them to create routines to accompany their songs. The students work on their own and together, and he guides them along when needed.

Another is the Ping-Pong Club, led by teacher Michael Boylan, who originated it this past year and also has led a debate club for the past four or five years.

One member of the Ping-Pong Club, Jasmine McDuffie, said she enjoys the competition of the game and joined because she just thought it would be fun. Boylan said he believes participating in the activities is important for the students because it helps them establish new friendships and gives them another outlet to express themselves.

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