Highland Oaks Elementary's Unique Club Program Helps Connect Students with Interests and Friends

By AUSD Digital Communications Intern Claire Li


Highland Oaks Creative Writing Club

Students part of the Creative Writing Club smile for a picture

Photo courtesy of the Highland Oaks Elementary School staff


Baton Twirling Club, Coding Club, Food Crafts Club, and Hawks Nest Community Building Club are just a sampling of the over 20 clubs offered to elementary school students at Arcadia Unified School District’s Highland Oaks Elementary School. After a two-year pause due to the pandemic, Highland Oaks Elementary is looking to reinstate its club program this school year.


Patricia Mattera, now into her seventh year as the Highland Oaks Principal, first gained inspiration for the student clubs from her experience as a teacher at a magnet school on the East Coast. 


“We taught with a lot of hands-on experiences,” Mattera said. “We had student clubs where teachers would teach something that was of interest to them or that they were passionate about.” 


Shortly after pitching the idea to the school’s leadership committee, comprised of a group of Highland Oaks teachers, the school began organizing the clubs and started this unique elementary school program during the 2018-2019 school year with students in grades 2 through 5.


Students practicing Batonm Twirling at Highland Oaks

Highland Oaks students engaged in Baton Twirling Club

Photo courtesy of the Highland Oaks’ DCI-Lite Club students


According to Mattera, a goal for the club experience for students was to bolster their learning and experience aside from core classes, such as math, English, science, and history, and allow students the opportunity to delve into three clubs of their interest each school year. Other subsequent goals for this program are to allow students to, from an early age, take on new leadership skills, step out of their comfort zones, and meet new people. It is possible that kindergarteners and first graders will also get the chance to join clubs during the second part of this school year.


Club meetings are divided into three six-week sessions throughout the school year. Each week, clubs are held on Thursday afternoons for 45 minutes. Second through fifth graders have been intermixed throughout the clubs, meaning students with different primary teachers and from different grade levels have the chance to work together, make friends with one another, and find common interests together, and when the school opens these programs to its kindergarteners and first graders, it is thinking of grouping all kindergarteners and first graders together. 


Digital Communication Club Students

Students in Highland Oaks’ Digital Communications Club, DCI-Lite, excitedly posing for a social media post


When organizing the students in each club, the staff allows students to choose their top five choices for clubs, from which choices they are placed into three. 


Due to the nature of the robust variety of club offerings being a chance for students to explore current and new interests, Mattera explained, “It is very important that it is a student selection, not what a parent wants their child to do. We do not send it [the list of club options] home; they pick their choices at school.” 


Among some of the clubs offered are Knitting Club, A Mathematicians Dream, Harmony Hawks Choir, Helping Hawks - Service club for Disability Awareness, Football, Food Crafts, and Robotics. Through the club program, students have also learned about gardening, stop motion animation, speech and debate, and created lanyards, origami, art projects, comic books, and more.


Student-made video highlighting various clubs around campus

Video created by students at Highland Oaks


With over 20 different clubs,  Highland Oaks aims to provide something for everyone so all students can look forward to Thursday afternoons. While most clubs are taught by teachers, a few retired teachers and district teaching coaches have also pitched in by volunteering to lead a few clubs. The school is also trying to find ways to bring in more community members with an interest or craft they want to share with students.


Fourth-grade teacher, Janae Williams, is one club leader who also plays an instrumental role in organizing programming for the clubs. 


Williams noted, “We have student clubs that have planned and run a school-wide Veterans Day Assembly, A Disability Awareness Day, worked on our Student Showcase, planned Spirit Days, performed in front of our school, and organized service projects, such as Treats for the Troops and Blankets for Project Linus.” 


“I think it is really beneficial for students because they get to participate in real-life learning that is different from our regular academic standards. Students are learning about their strengths and getting to use their own voice,” Williams added.


Students at Highland Oaks Elementary in Robotics Club

Two students in Highland Oaks’ Robotics Club work together for an assignment.

Photo courtesy of the Highland Oaks staff.


The clubs give students the opportunity to work with different teachers and interact with peers in other grades. 


“As a teacher, I really like getting to work with students from other classes and grade levels as well,” Williams shared. “Students work with children from other classes and grade levels and are able to create relationships across the school.” 


Apart from allowing students the opportunity to try new activities, the clubs also help students showcase their different strengths. For instance, some students who may struggle academically are able to demonstrate their talents in other areas offered by the clubs, such as sports, arts, or performing arts clubs.


Perhaps the most important attributes these clubs help develop in students are success and confidence. Mattera shared, “When students are experiencing something of their choice that is of interest to them, they are successful and gain confidence.”


For more information about Highland Oaks Elementary School, please visit ho.ausd.net. For further information on the clubs provided, please view this Google Slides presentation, https://bit.ly/HighlandOaksClubs.