Innovative Electives

A great middle school education provides much more than a solid academic preparation for high school. It encourages students to expand their interests, knowledge and skills by exploring new topics and taking on tough challenges in a safe, respectful learning environment. Our middle school electives, known as Friday Groups, provide an in-depth, inquiry-based exploration of subjects beyond the normal middle school curriculum. 


  • Classes typically extend from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. each Friday for six-week sessions.
    • Off-campus learning
    • Guest speakers and instructors
    • Project-based learning
    • Multi-age groupings to ensure a wide range of topics and the benefit of interaction with students of different ages.
    • Homeschool students may apply to participate
  • Topics vary and may include:
    • Fine arts
    • Language arts
    • Social studies
    • STEM fields
    • Community service projects
    • Athletics

Recent Middle School Friday Group Examples

Local Hero Committee

Each year, the students of Community School honor someone who helps to make the Roanoke Valley a great place to live. In this group, students will either be a part of the Event Team or Art Team. All students will learn about Civil Rights in the United States, Roanoke history, and the work of the nominees; they then vote to select the 2022 Local Hero. The Art Team crafts the physical award for the winner, and the Event Team designs and implements the award ceremony.  

Puppeteering 101

Inspired by Sesame Street, students will create original characters and write a script geared toward younger audiences. Then they will get to build their new characters/ puppets and rehearse together before hosting a performance for younger students.

Winter Wanderings

Winter is the best time to hike! This Friday group will explore a collection of great day hikes around the Roanoke Valley, including Peaks of Otter, Apple Orchard Falls, and Roaring Run. On our hikes, we will explore various winter landscapes while practicing tree identification, birdwatching, and nature writing. Students will need to bring a good backpack, plenty of food and water, good shoes/boots, and dress appropriately for the weather. Our hikes will average around 4 miles, so only sign up if you feel comfortable with hiking that distance. Limited to 8 students.

Science Fair/Research Project

A science fair research project will give you an opportunity to extend your knowledge of a particular scientific topic or idea that you find interesting. Spend time digging deep into your favorite science topic from physics to biology, ecology or chemistry. This Friday group will give you a chance to research your favorite science topic, create hypotheses and experiments, and present your findings of your investigation in a science fair setting. 

Advertising Agency

Advertisements are everywhere!  From the catchy jingles that get stuck in your head to the sappy commercials that make you weep. In this Friday group, students will use critical thinking skills to explore what advertising is, what ads do, and who’s responsible for the messages in ads. We will look at how and why advertisers choose certain techniques to reach a certain audience. We will take a look at how research affects the way ads are created. Throughout the class, we will reflect on how understanding ads help make us smarter consumers.  Students will then create their own commercials based on the techniques learned in class. 

Ringing in the New Year

Play the hand chimes with a variety of music. We’ll use play-along videos and sheet music to make our first Community School hand chime choir. Skills include playing in an ensemble, reading pre-notational and standard music notation, along with having fun. We’ll finish the session with a hand chime concert OR an audio recording of some of our songs. Students will also help choose the music and learn how to direct the group. 

Girlhood Studies Adventures

Girlhood Studies Adventure Friday Group will be led by Karen and Gina. Together we will explore ‘What is Girlhood Studies?’ with Professor Lee Ray Costa from Hollins University and the students enrolled in her Girlhood Studies course. Karen and Gina will create a series of adventures we will do together ranging from climbing, hiking, survival camp, nutrition, yoga, and meditation. This Friday group will be packed with fun activities and thoughtful conversations. Students do not have to identify as she/her/hers to join this group but will be asked to participate fully in activities and discussions.

History of Community School

Calling historians, artists, filmmakers, and journalists. This is Community School’s 50th anniversary and our group will explore and document how our little school has evolved since its creation. We’ll look at primary sources, conduct interviews with former students and teachers, and create a final project to share with our school community. 

Science of Cooking

Become an experimental scientist in the kitchen! In this Friday group, we will spend the mornings learning scientific concepts that underlie everyday cooking and cuisine techniques. Then in the afternoons, we will apply the principles of physics, engineering, and chemistry to cooking. From fermentation to thermodynamics- find out how to think like a scientist and a chef!

Ecuador Studies

In this Friday group, we will explore the diverse culture and scientific discoveries of Ecuador. Our cultural topics will include Ecuadorian foods, indigenous arts/crafts, and traditional dances. In our activities, students will get to make various crafts, cook Ecuadorian dishes, and learn an indigenous-style dance. We will even get to video chat with a Kichwa community from the Ecuadorian Amazon to learn firsthand from our indigenous brothers! On the topic of scientific discoveries, we will learn about the famous expeditions of scientists like Alexander von Humboldt, Richard Spruce, and more. We will explore how scientific discoveries are made and formalized using examples of recent expeditions and new species found by Alex Bentley and colleagues. At the end of our course, we will hold an “Ecuador Night,” when students will prepare a traditional meal for their families in addition to presenting their Ecuadorian creations and traditional dance.

Adventure Club

Activities are weather dependent and gear dependent.  Suggested activities may include but are not limited to.  

  • Hike- Check out the areas best hiking trails
  • Survival Skills
  • Creek- We will go on a mission to find rock slides and waterfalls 
  • Greenway- let’s explore the greenway on bikes or scooters.  
  • Stand up paddle board 
  • Rock climbing 

Lead teacher is Wilderness First Aid and CPR certified. 

Rock Band for the Stars!

In this full day Friday Group, you will experience creating your own rock band. You will explore playing the guitar, bass, ukulele, keys and drums, along with learning how to use sound equipment. You will form a band, with a name and t-shirt design, and you’ll work together to learn a cover song. You’ll also explore a diverse group of rock stars, write a short presentation on some of them, and, as a group, we’ll make a slideshow presentation to share with younger students. 

Plants vs Humans 

Plants are an irreplaceable component of life on Earth, but how much do we understand about them? This group will explore the complexities of plant life, from the lowest root systems to the highest leaves. We will 

apply these skills by growing and caring for plants of our own, learning the characteristics of each chosen species, and helping to expand and cultivate the gardens here at Community School. This group will certainly be unbeLEAFable.

Football Friday 

Get your game on with Coach D! This Friday Group will be all about 

football. You will learn skills such as passing, kicking, throwing, and running the ball. The final session will culminate in Community School’s first football tournament! There will be no tackling or excessive contact. Please wear clothing/shoes you are willing to get dirty and bring a change of clothing/shoes for later. Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks.

Inspirational Sports Stories 

We know that sports are good for our bodies, but playing a sport, competing, being on a team– they’re good for your brain and heart, too! In this short session, we’ll learn about players when they’re off the field. We’ll explore challenges they’ve overcome and what keeps them coming back to the game or sport they love. You will need your device, as you will do some research and create presentations on a favorite athlete. Available as in-person or virtual.

Financial Literacy

In this Friday group you will explore money math and delve into lessons for life. From budgeting to taxes and everything in between and we may even explore the secret to becoming a millionaire.   

Fridays on the Farm

Each week in this Friday Group, we will take a trip to Emilie’s farm for a day of outdoor adventuring. We will learn about the various species that live in this space, recording observations on their behavior, and assisting with their care and nourishment. Students will also participate in stream walks, bird watching, and other fun outdoor activities. 

Model UN

Interested in international news? Love to research and debate? Welcome to the world of Model UN! In this introduction class, students will learn the basics of MUN, including parliamentary procedure, flow of committee, writing position papers and presenting speeches. We will focus on one SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) as students practice reading and breaking down background guides.

Making Short Films


The Crooked Road: Music

Wilderness Survival Skills

Stories of the World’s Religions

Acting Shakespeare

Refugee Crises: Historical and Contemporary

Beauty in the Bark: Hawaiian Kapa Art

In the Kitchen

Vogue Like a Painting

Sound and Music


Creative Writing


HomeBears: A Service Project on Homelessness

Rock Band

Natural History Museum




Classroom City Simulation

The Battle of Troy: Drama

History Unfolded: Primary Source Research

The Middle Ages