On Friday afternoon, the chimes of the 1:00 p.m. bell send Shipley’s Middle School students spilling into the hallways with smiles on their faces so big one would think it’s the final bell on the last day of school. But, it’s a typical Friday in January and school doesn’t end until 3:20 p.m. anyway. What’s so special about Friday’s one o’clock bell?
We do mini courses to allow kids to explore their interests, and empower them to make their own choices. These are moments to enrich their lives, and maybe come out of school knowing more about themselves. It’s great.
~ Stu Malcolm, Assistant Head of Middle School
“Let’s go! Let’s go,” one student says to another. The boys rush upstairs to Ms. Boreanaz’s room to get a good spot to dance. That’s right – dance. Ms. Boreanaz offers a “mini course” called Just Dance, named after the popular video game, and students pack into her classroom to follow the choreographer on the screen and dance to hit songs.What’s a Mini Course?
Just Dance is one of the many mini courses offered to Middle School students. Mini courses are very organic in nature, in that the teachers offer a variety of programs based on their own interests or what they feel the students would like. The courses change seasonally, giving teachers and students the chance to evolve, try something new, or stay with the same course. About 18-20 mini courses are offered in any given season, and include meditation, engineering, watercolor painting, fishing, beach ball volleyball, and a taste of Spanish, to name a few.Exploring Interests
“We do mini courses to allow kids to explore their interests,” explains Stu Malcolm, Assistant Head of Middle School, “and empower them to make their own choices. These are moments to enrich their lives, and maybe come out of school knowing more about themselves. It’s great.”
Malcolm says mini courses give back to the nature of doing something for the fun of it, something that feeds an interest and provides social time. He says part of the philosophy of the middle school structure is to provide students with a curve of academic time and some down time to support what they need as young adults.Freedom to Grow
“For us to have the flexibility to allow kids to do this exploration, we are very lucky,” says Malcolm. Without government regulations and high-stakes testing, Shipley’s mission statement of engagement and participation in the world, has a direct impact on students and allows them to choose and explore without adult interference. “Mini courses provide important time for kids to get to know each other and be exposed to students from different grades,” explains Malcolm.
“I think the more opportunities you can offer kids to explore, in small ways and in big ways, makes a difference,” says Malcolm. “Shipley has athletics, arts, theatre, music, and many areas of academic excellence. We’re focusing on the confidence to explore and deeply-rooted learning. Mini courses are a small facet of that bigger picture.”