In Middle School, learners’ curiosity drives what and how they learn. A good example of how students drive their own learning is through Middle School Electives. Rather than the Elective topics simply coming from areas which teachers know about and are comfortable with, Middle School faculty and administrators gather data from students to find out what they are interested by and passionate about. This puts students in the driver’s seat of their learning, with a teacher or other adult acting in the role of mentor.
The result of this process is that students have voice and choice in the wide array of options they have for in-depth learning. Middle School Electives have over thirty options for students at ISP to choose from, including; High Intensity Interval Training (HITT), Cardboard Art, Claymation, Creative Writing, Duke of Edinburgh Award, Fantasy Geopolitics, Introduction to Sign Language, ISP TV, Mythbusters, Stress Less and Yearbook. Students can also choose Personal Exploration to follow their own interests individually. In recent times, one student with a passion for architecture chose to design his own dream home, with the help from a parent in the community who is an architect, whereas another followed his interest in aeronautical engineering to design and build his own functional mini-aircraft.
In many cases, Electives are a learning experience for teachers as the topics are decided by students, faculty learn alongside students while playing a facilitating and mentoring role during the in-depth learning of the electives, which takes place four times every two-week cycle as well as on ‘Stretch Days’, allowing students to really take ownership of topics that they are passionate about.