Can you imagine how you would have felt about school if you had been given class time to learn and explore a particular passion you had when you were in middle school?
To learn about photography, code your own computer game, build a go-cart and engine, or develop an athletic training program? This is just a sampling of the type of learning opportunities Southgate teachers gave their students as part of their recent eight week SWITCH initiative.
This pilot project allowed students from six grade 6 and grade 7 classes to choose one focus area from an offering of six workshops that students had voted on as the most popular choices.
They then pursued an independent or group inquiry related to the topic with the support of a teacher mentor and community experts.
“At Southgate, we are always striving to connect adolescents to the community,” said teacher Aaron O’Shannessy. “During SWITCH, we connected kids to community mentors. They got to see what working in certain fields can look like and to speak with real life experts.”
Students chose from photography/videography, computer science, nature, ocean and physical activity. For example, in Born to Move students looked at how nutrition, sports psychology and recovery affect sports performance.
Some of the questions students explored were: what is the optimal way to fuel performance, what are the best methods for improving a vertical leap, and how do you structure a running program to prepare for the 1,500 m race in athletics?
During Image-ination, students explored the world of photography and videography. They learned basic photography techniques from local photographers, as well as their own research.
Students were also able to explore the world of videography with the help of Shaw TV and were able to film multi and single camera interviews, and learn how to operate the cameras and control room in order to direct their classmates who were on stage and behind the camera.
Lights Camera Action was a performance and theatre driven class where students had the opportunity to improve their communication and their creative thinking.
They worked in random groups to write and perform short skits, built characters during improv games and even learned some stage blocking and tableaux games.
Students took trips to local theatres and had a chance to perform, film and produce a set of skits while at Shaw TV. Students’ picked or wrote a skit of their choice, or created music videos to demonstrate their understanding of creative thinking, performance arts, cooperative group work and their ability as editors using iMovie.
Through the eight week process, students developed core competencies of communication, critical and creative thinking, and personal and social values that culminated in a final presentation of their learning to a packed gym on March 20.
Student projects ranged from topics on photography, film, coding, gardening, farming, environmental projects, nutrition, fitness, and more.
“It was really fun to learn something that everyone was interested in in SWITCH,” said Grade 7 student Charlie Nichols, whose project was on the benefits of local farming and what it takes to start your own farm. “It (SWITCH) opened up my perspective and made me want to learn more about other things that I hadn’t thought about learning before.”
According to many of the students, they became more engaged, even in subjects and classes outside of SWITCH, an opinion shared by their teachers.
For Josiah Couture and Dylan Hewitt, SWITCH was an opportunity to expand on some of their outside experience of working on dirt bikes and carburetors as they worked to build a go-cart engine and its frame.
This interest in mechanics has already got them thinking about possibly pursuing a career in this area when they get older.
Daryen Beauchamp said that SWITCH was a new way of learning. “It was engaging, fun and relatable. I had a really good time.”
Now isn’t that something all teachers and parents want to hear their child say about their school day?