Middle School students just completed mini-courses, a whirlwind week of taking classes that speak to their passions and interests or that provide them with an introduction to new topics of study.
A group of students and teachers met daily to read and discuss Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, last year's nonfiction National Book Award winner. Framed as a letter to the author's teenaged son, the book is part memoir and part meditation on the origins, political purposes, and ongoing effects of racism in the United States.
We are two days into Fall mini-courses in the Middle School. For a week in November and a week in March, the Middle School sets aside its regular schedule. Students choose from dozens of classes – they try new things and pursue interests and passions. Here are some photos from just some of the mini-courses offered in the two afternoon slots - Salsa, Strategies in Monopoly, Improv (taught by alumna Carlin Adelson '01, who came down from NYC just to teach her passion!), Cool Creatures, Real-World Game Design, Magic Draft Tournament, For the Love of Logos, Humor in Theatre, and Muay Thai Kickboxing: The Art of 8 Limbs.
Middle School spring mini-courses arrive this month (a week before it's actually spring - maybe it will encourage the arrival of springlike weather!).
During the week of March 16, the Middle School is tossing aside its usual curriculum and replacing it with a wide selection of courses. One student might choose to take Einstein's Relativity, the Roots of Hip Hop, Coding, Juggling, and Broadway Basics. Another might opt for Space in Poetry and the Arts, Case Studies in Public Health, the TPS Survival Book, Video & Audio Recording, and Handball. There are dozens of courses to choose from.
Mini-courses are one of the many hallmarks of a student's TPS middle school experience. For one week in the fall and one week in the spring, students in grades 6-8 break from the regular academic program and pursue topics of study that are new to them, that speak to a particular interest or passion, or that expand upon concepts and content introduced to them in coursework earlier in the year. Several this spring relate to the all-school Cosmos theme. Courses are taught by TPS teachers or "guest instructors" (primarily TPS parents and students).
From our student blogger, 7th grader Sophie B.:
"Today I had another great day of Hogwarts 101, the mini-course I wrote about on the first day. Today focused on potions, and it was awesome! Eighth graders Emory and Jane, who are teaching the course, printed out a 7-potion puzzle, and we had to figure out which potion was poison, which was nettle wine, and which was "Wendy’s special creation." After that, we made potions. We were given homemade ingredients to make them, and they were all edible! It was really good. I had Polyjuice Potion, which was actually this amazing hot chocolate, and then I had Newt’s Eyes, which were homemade tapioca balls. It was great. We shared our variations on the end of the 7th book, and then it was time for snack. Hogwarts 101 is one of my favorite mini-courses, and I’m so glad I’m in it."
Seventh grade student blogger Sophie B. shares highlights from the third day of Middle School mini-courses.
"Today I had a double period of Shakespeare in Film taught by 8th grade teacher Emily Marston. Yesterday we had spent an hour watching and taking notes on The Tempest, and over the next two days we will spend three hours watching and taking notes on Much Ado About Nothing. There are so many good movies to watch and understand! Today we watched the Kenneth Branagh version of Much Ado. We had to answer several questions: 'What is the setting?' 'What cinematic effects are used?' 'How do these cinematic effects help convey foreshadowing or backstory?' 'Did this interpretation help enhance your understanding of the text?' I thought it was a very good movie, as well as another great day of the mini-course."
Philly Ghost Tours
Students in the Philly Ghost Tours mini-course have been reading famous ghost stories and spooky legends from Philadelphia. Today the group walked to Rittenhouse Square and read aloud spooky local tales.