Mini-courses Announced

It's probably the most exciting time of the year in the Middle School: choosing spring mini-courses! Each student selects five mini-courses, which take place the week of March 13 to 17.

Here are just of few of the middle school mini-courses being offered this spring by teachers, students, and outside experts:

Evolution of Hip-hop. A brief overview of the history and progression of hip-hop culture. We will sample artists and songs from 1970 to the early 2000s.

Problems of Democracy: This course will explore issues affecting American democracy, the understanding of which is imperative to an educated citizenry. Who is a citizen? How do we collect votes, count votes, eliminate votes? What is the electoral college? How do we deal with conflicts between various governments in the United States? How does propaganda, fake news, “alternative facts,” political humor, religious beliefs affect the electorate?

Rubik's Cube: The mystery of the Rubik’s Cube will be revealed as we delve into the art of the turn. As you and your classmates improve your skill, we will work to solve this puzzling cube more quickly.  

Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity: We will read a biography of Albert Einstein by Robert Cwiklik and discuss Einstein’s contributions to our modern understanding of physics (made simple for novices), how he changed our understanding of the universe, and his impact on the times he lived in.

Basketball with the Pros: We’ll teach you some of these things and put them into action in a Three-Point Contest, a Three-On-Three tournament, and competitive Five-on-Five games! You’ll have the best basketball experience of your life!

Breakfast Foods – The Fundamentals: Have you ever been home alone and hungry but didn’t know how to cook anything in the pantry? Well, this mini-course will teach the fundamentals of cooking breakfast. We will accommodate any food allergies and sensitivities.  

Parliamo Italiano: Let’s learn to speak Italian together! You’re welcome to sign up whether you took the class before or you’re new to the language. We’ll learn conversational basics and then focus on the language and culture of young people in Italy. 

Ancient Mayan Mathematics:  Explore Mayan culture and learn how it influenced the style of their math system. Compare the Mayan system to those of other ancient cultures, such as Egyptian, Roman, and Babylonian.  On the final day, visit the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology to see Mayan artifacts and to learn about the role Penn played in cracking the Mayan code!  

African American History – The Harlem Renaissance: A brief study of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s to mid-1930s and the ideas born out of the movement. We will examine what it was and why it was important. We will also examine the culture during that time, including literature, music, art, and fashion.

Jam Band: If you play any of the following instruments, this mini-course will give you the opportunity to play in an ensemble situation: vocals, guitar, ukulele, bass, drums/percussion, keyboards/piano, strings (or some other instrument). We will be jamming on a variety of music styles, learning how to read chord charts and learning some basic arranging skills.

Robinson Crusoe, book and film:  Robinson Crusoe is considered the first English novel. It is also one of the most popular and influential adventure stories ever written. Although it deals with Crusoe's struggles to survive after a shipwreck, it also speaks to how we view strangers and people who are different from us, a topic that it is utterly relevant to today's world.  

Book Group – Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile:  Charley Bordelon, an African American single mother, unexpectedly inherits 800 acres of sugarcane land in Louisiana. We will examine time and place and make sense of family, loss, and legacies passed down to us. We will also watch clips from the acclaimed television series based on the book and produced by Oprah Winfrey and directed by Ava DuVernay.

Reclamation Art for Earth Day: Turn junk into beauty and beauty into hope in this course. We will be transforming old magazines into useful and beautiful objects - baskets, beads, picture frames, paper mache, and more. Finished crafts will be sold at TPS’s Earth Day celebration to benefit an endangered animal of our choice.  

The Art of the Protest: Examine art made to protest or persuade. Students will see art from the past to the present and have a chance to create their own well-crafted and intelligently engaging protest flyer or sign. Creativity and presentation are vital partners to the message. Hand lettering, photocopying, and computers can be used to create a powerful statement.

The Cardboard Arcade: The carnival games of the 1920s in places like Coney Island evolved into coin-operated arcade games that enjoyed their heyday in the 1970s. We will harken back to the early days of gaming, when no electronics or coins were needed. Through imagining, planning, and tinkering, each student will create an arcade game out of cardboard, tape, and hot glue.