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Grades 6-8 Explorations: New Creative Worlds to Realize

March 31, 2022

Learning isn’t a linear journey. Sometimes it’s best to have a steady stream of a subject matter over a longer period of time, but some subjects are better as a concentrated deep dive. That’s what students do in Explorations, a course for Grade 6-8 students where they learn and engage in one rotating subject every day over a 10 week period. That means that students spend two and a half months of the year focusing on Art, Applied Design, Skills and Technologies (or ADST), Entrepreneurship, and Drama. The course is graded by a proficiency scale, heavy on participation, meaning students are able to fully explore areas they are unfamiliar with without worrying too much about a letter grade.

“It is providing an avenue for kids to work on different kinds of skills that they don’t necessarily get to practice in traditional subjects,” said Ms. Dhaliwal, who teaches Entrepreneurship as part of Explorations. “This is a lot more creative and about exploring one’s identity and interests.” The idea of learning new content daily plays a huge part in the advantage of the every-day format. “They’re more engaged with the subject,” Ms. Dhaliwal continued. “The momentum really builds which allows the Entrepreneurship class to plan something like a school-wide Valentine’s Day Fair or business plan and pitch in a Lion’s Den Competition in a significantly shorter amount of time because of the every-day format.

A key feature of the Explorations program is its recurring nature for students; not only do they get to explore these topic matters in depth each year, but the program changes so they get to explore a different area of the subjects each time they return to it. “This year we’re doing comedy and social issue plays, and next year we’re doing improvisation and monologue,” says Ms. Brooke, who teaches Drama as part of their rotation. “What I want to do is expose them to different genres of Drama so they find what they’re most interested in without the burden of chasing a grade.”  This gives students not just an in-depth look at one particular area of the subject fields, but a broad foundation to draw from by completing all three years.

Mr. McCully-Hayden described how, after doing the ADST portion of explorations, students have been able to find their groove within the larger program, especially students who haven’t felt drawn to robotics in the past. “In the last quarter, we had a student who was very disengaged at first. I couldn’t get them to program anything, and I couldn’t get them to try anything. Eventually, they created a program for a robot, and it did something. After that day, they were the most engaged student in the whole class. That is the point of the program, to get students excited about things they really didn’t know much about before starting.”

As Explorations in this format is new this year, it is being solidified into each year’s 10 week module that includes one established signature activity that students can get excited about. These rotations also utilize the dedicated space for students to work on their subjects with rooms like the Makerspace, the Art room, and the Cheryle Beaumont Theatre.

“A lot of them didn’t have a lot of art in the year or so before, and it’s really nice having a designated space for them to come to. Having a specialist art teacher is also exciting for them,” said Ms. McEwan, UA’s Art Specialist who teaches the Arts module of the class. This rotation is a nice balance of allowing students to be creative, but also teaching them a significant amount of technique. “Because it rotates through the groups, they’ve seen the kinds of student works that have been displayed in the lobby or that they’ve heard other students talk about in previous rotations. It builds up the anticipation and feeling of ‘oh, I can’t wait to get to do art Explorations so I can create works of art such as these!”

With weeks to truly dive into a topic and experience it inside out, the experience of Explorations leaves kids enriched, empowered, and knowing significantly more about the possibilities available to them. It also speaks to the growing middle and senior school programs at Urban Academy. The future is indeed bright!

📸: Ms: Jean

Posted on: March 31, 2022