NORTH READING — It was the Middle School’s turn for students and staff to share the highlights of their clubs, activities and accomplishments at Monday night’s School Committee meeting.

The spotlight was on the school’s Computer Science Club, the Community Circles Restorative Practices, and the new a cappella group, NR’Monics.

The Computer Club was actually started, or restarted, by a High School student, Bhagy Bandara. “When I was in Middle School there was a club,” she explained. “I’d heard it disbanded and thought ‘why not start a club for students learning to code and to learn things outside the school curriculum?’”

Middle School Principal Dr. Catherine O’Connell called Bandara’s initiative a good example of mentoring by a High School student. “We don’t do enough of that,” she believes.

James Burke, a computer science and technology teacher at the school, serves as the faculty advisor for the club, but he said Bandara does most of the work running it. “We do a lot of cool stuff,” Burke said. “I give some input, but she runs it. We do a lot of things required for coding, computing and games. It’s very exploratory in nature. We want to foster a sense of exploration in the kids.”

Seventh-graders Brendan Dandaneau and Stephan Fanikos confirmed Burke’s assertions. “We don’t just do programming on one computer,” Dandaneau reported. “We also take apart old computers.” His comment led to a request from Burke: “If anyone has an old PC, drop them off! If I can figure out a way to use it, I will. If I can’t, I’ll dispose of it.”

Students take computer classes, starting in sixth grade, which often leads them to gain a greater interest in computers and a desire to join such a club. “Computer science classes started it for me,” Fanikos said.

“It’s great to see people interested in this and having fun,” School Committee Chair Scott Buckley told the students.

Community Circles is a part of the Restorative Practices program to enhance communication between students and to foster a sense of community. “These circles help everyone find a place and people to talk to,” explained Kathleen Kirwin, who is a computer science, technology and robotics teacher at the Middle School. “It’s about people belonging and finding their place in the school. The best things happen to children when they feel like they’re in a place they belong.”

“The structure of a circle is intentional,” added adjustment counselor Mike Hursh. “The power of doing it in a circle is everyone has the same perspective and a voice.”

Eighth-grader Norah Deninger explained to the School Committee that a subject is chosen for their discussions. “Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t,” she admitted. “It allows us to connect around a common experience. Students can pass, but are encouraged to talk. A mix of grade levels gives us a chance to hear about experiences of people in different circumstances. I wasn’t enthusiastic about the group at first, but now I’m one of the people who talks the most.”

Kirwin first encountered Community Circles while working in a juvenile detention center in New Hampshire. “It’s a modified program when you’re doing it with the general population, but in my experience it works well,” she said. “People realized this was so effective with kids with issues.”

That element of conflict resolution can be applied to Middle School. “The restorative part is recognizing you’ve done harm and making the person you’ve hurt feel you are truly sorry and not just paying lip service,” Kirwin said. “There’s nothing more powerful than students sitting in a circle and apologizing to someone, realizing actions have consequences and taking responsibility for what they did.”

It’s not all serious, however. Deninger explained their practice of “blind drawing,” an exercise in which students sit back-to-back with one describing a scene and the other trying to draw it, often with humorous results. She added she’d like to see Community Circles in High School.

“There are so many ways this can be incorporated into a school,” Hursh feels.

“Down the road I’d like to see all students benefit from this,” Kirwin added. “It’s more effective if it’s part of the system and becomes part of what we do.”

The Middle School presentation also included songs sung by the school’s a cappella group, NR’Monics. Music Director Carla Lister said the students participating in a cappella learn how different it is to sing in a chorus accompanied by musical instruments compared to using one’s voice or a group of voices as the instruments. “We work on our blend,” she said. “In a chorus you have a piano. It’s a little more forgiving!”

At Monday’s meeting, the School Committee also voted to accept the First Reading of the proposed “Animals in School” policy after informal discussions had been held on March 2 and 13.