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Students Explore Subjects of Their Choosing

February 17, 2023

Plant with roots, measuring longer than 12 inchesNew this year, junior high students now have a unique opportunity to participate in a 6-week course of their choosing to explore subjects that match their interests in a deeper way, beyond what they experience in the classroom

A 30 minute class period built within the daily schedule, WINN stands for What I Need Now, and serves three primary purposes: 

  1. To provide support for students who need additional instruction in foundational skills in identified areas of need;
  2. To provide timely support to students in their current classes; and
  3. To provide the opportunity to explore a subject of their choosing at a deeper level.

Fulfilling the third component of WINN, junior high teachers are offering newly created extension courses within the subjects of math, science, reading, social studies, or social-emotional learning. Over the course of the 6-week session, students participate in their chosen extension course on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with targeted support for their regular coursework offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

One example of this is a hydroponics focused extension course taught by STEM teacher, Madison Beeler. In seventh grade, students learn about the life cycle of plants, but this goes beyond that learning to explore plant growing techniques that do not involve soil. Students in Beeler’s hydroponics extension course also learned more sustainable practices of farming, how to grow their own food, and strategies to limit  negative impacts on the environment. 

Student tending to plants in PVC filtration systemThe 22 junior high students who chose to enroll in hydroponics started with seeds, planting them in sponges and small growing cups. These cups were then placed in a student-assembled PVC pipe system that cycled water and nutrients through the seed cups. To successfully grow indoors, students attached LED lights to the filtration system, providing their crop with the amount of light needed to thrive. Throughout the growing process, students tracked their progress and made predictions about future growth.

Other extension courses being offered to students include topics such as space exploration, engineering design, anatomy, math for daily life, stress management, and leadership. Over the course of the school year, students will have had the opportunity to participate in a total of five 6-week extension courses.

By incorporating these offerings into the daily schedule, students are making the most of their learning experience by exploring something new, aligning with their individual interests, every six weeks. While exploring career fields of interest and improving upon their social-emotional skills, students are also developing important 21st century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.