About 90 students participated in the Delaware City School District's Summer Enrichment Academy last week, which teacher Kevin West called "learning for the sake of learning."
"It's a great opportunity to learn something that doesn't fit into our curriculum," he said. "There's no test at the end. ... It's something a lot of teachers wish we could do more of."
During the school year, West teaches U.S. history to 10th-graders and Advanced Placement students at Hayes High School.
At the enrichment academy, held at Dempsey Middle School, 599 Pennsylvania Ave., he led the "Board, Not Bored" class about board games.
What can student learn from board games?
"They can learn how to fail, how to lose graciously," West said. "They learn from mistakes and how to win gracefully. They learn not to be a jerk when you're lucky enough to be victorious."
Board games also hone social skills, he said.
"They learn to be considerate of others' time by not taking too much time to make their move," he said. "It involves strategy and probability. All these things can come up in a good board game."
Other enrichment academy courses are scrapbooking, yoga, art, film/video, Spanish and "Edible Science."
The goal is "to explore a passion we don't cover in school," said district spokeswoman Jennifer Ruhe. "They're very relaxed classes meant to be fun. It's very flexible."
The classes, each with five to 12 students, ran June 11-15 with sessions from 8 to 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Students could bring a sack lunch.
The cost of the self-sustaining program was covered by a $65 fee paid by each student. Participating teachers received a stipend.
West said he works part time at a board-game cafe in Columbus.
"I love board games and teaching games," he said.
The academy class exposes students to some "out-of-the-ordinary board games," he said, including one called Pandemic. It challenges players to "work to find a cure for four different diseases to try to save the world," West said.
"The kids are always really good at taking wins and losses in stride. I get three hours to work with them. If they lose, they get another chance. They know it's for fun," West said.
At the end of the week, the students created their own board game.
Ruhe said the courses at the academy were selected based on the number of students signing up from a possible course list.
If a student selected a course that failed to draw the minimum of five students, they were invited to select a different course, she said.
This is the 10th year for the program, which didn't always use teachers exclusively.
In its early years, some administrative district personnel led classes.
"I used to teach a class for three or four years, about cooking around the world," Ruhe said. "That was a lot of fun. The kids always really enjoy it, as do the teachers. The teachers are passionate about their topic. It's fun to watch both teachers and kids."
West said he has participated in the program for about six years.
"I'm passionate about it. It's the same with the other teachers. It's great to find kids who want to go with them on that journey."