“We literally got rid of our existing schedule,” exclaims Director of Middle School Amanda Welsh. “We wanted to try a whole different model with extended periods of time, two or more teachers with larger groups of students—we wanted to do things in a way we’d never done before.”
Welsh and a team of Middle School faculty did exactly that. By rethinking conventional school-day parameters of time and space, and reimagining how learning can happen, they designed a day-long initiative dubbed “Disrupting the Middle School Schedule.” The ‘disruption’ enabled an even deeper-than-usual dive into the current curriculum through an array of workshops.
All experiences were developed by teachers to augment existing curriculum, with some sparked by student interest, like the class-created novel written in French. Motivated by his students’ desire for more choices of engaging reading material suited for their level, French teacher Ben Carter structured a workshop featuring characters created in previous classes. Students developed them further, invented a storyline, collaborated on its unfolding, and designed illustrations to produce a captivating novel for themselves and future French classes.
Other workshops took interdisciplinary learning to another level, such as the Escape Room, a physical puzzle in which students followed clues to advance through a maze. The problem-solving project, a collaboration between English teacher Betsy Lamitina and science teacher Tracy Valenty, required students to write clues telling a story, then figure out the components of the space and build it.
“Middle School students need to be active and hands-on in what they do, and these workshops absolutely let that happen,” says Welsh. “It also speaks to their desire to do something that really has purpose.”