Student Features

PA Cyber offers 15 student clubs

Oct 24, 2014

Adviser Mike Makowiecki leads trail rides and offers horse training instruction for members of the PA Cyber Equestrian Club, one of 15 student clubs sponsored by the school.

Student clubs in an online school? How’s that work?

Clubs in a cyber school work better in some ways than in brick-and-mortar schools, said Jane Camp. As supervisor of student events, she oversees 13 high school clubs and two middle school clubs for students in the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School.

The most obvious advantage for an online school the size of PA Cyber, which has 11,000 students statewide, is a large pool of students with similar interests, Camp said. Through clubs, cyber students make friends with shared interests all over Pennsylvania.

Other advantages are continuous contact through online forums and the ability to meet anytime virtually outside of normal school hours.

PA Cyber offers French, Spanish, German, Art, Photography, Equestrian, Book, DECA, History, Newspaper and Science clubs for high school students – plus two new ones this year, Chess and Student Council – along with Book and Science clubs for those in middle school.

Robert Pulcini, adviser to the high school Book of the Month Club, said the immediacy of club chat forums has allowed members to stay engaged and excited about the books they are reading.

“Being online, they can post comments about a book anytime, at any point in the day, without waiting for the next meeting,” he said.

PA Cyber’s German Club had more than 100 members last year and chartered a chapter of the German National Honor Society – believed to be the first-ever chapter of that honor society in a cyber school.

Members of the Equestrian Club share tips for training their horses, meet for trail rides and attend the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo in Harrisburg.

Art Club members share art techniques and interests, show their work and attend exhibits.

Members of French and Spanish clubs practice language skills and learn cultures through virtual and live field trips, including dining-out field trips to French and Mexican restaurants.

The PA Cyber DECA Club teaches interviewing skills, organization, entrepreneurship and money management, and allows members to sharpen their business skills through regional, state and national competitions.

“I joined DECA because I want to go into business. It has helped me quite a bit,” said club Vice President Melanie Rao, a junior from Upper Darby, Pa. She was one of four DECA members who qualified for state competition in Hershey last year.

Adviser Amy Nyeholt said putting together the monthly PA Cyber student newspaper online is not that different from having student writers and editors work together in a physical newsroom.

“We meet twice a month, the first time for brainstorming,” said Nyeholt. “We have four student editors who each lead a group that meets in virtual breakout rooms. They have a lot of autonomy.  Students do interviews, write their own articles and do layouts in Microsoft Publisher. Some are members of the Photo Club and contribute pictures. Advisers do the final edits.”

“Newspaper Club is something where each member is excited to be there.  Our advisers encourage us to write about what we want and to think outside the box,” said Taylor Kalasky, a student editor.

History Club members can join field trips such as a well-attended PA Cyber annual tour of the Gettysburg battlefield, and enjoy sharing stories from the past that are not found in the history textbooks.

Science Club members learn about exciting new discoveries in fields such as epigenetics, forensics and particle physics.

Photography Club members display their photo skills in friendly theme competitions and share techniques of digital camera use and photo editing.

For middle school students in grades 6-8, there are the Science Investigators Club, in which they learn scientific process and explore exciting concepts about nature and technology, and the Adventures in Reading Club, with interesting new books to read and discuss.

Most clubs meet twice a month online, and offer primarily virtual activities along with some in-person activities throughout the school year. Eligible students may join one or two clubs. They must maintain a GPA of at least 2.5 and must stay current on their academic coursework.

About 300 students participate in PA Cyber clubs, Camp said.

About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.