Middle Schoolers Mix It Up

Carole Nickle (middle school associate principal) reflects on the middle school’s Mix-It-Up Day, a full day designated to out-of-class activities and engaging students with unique learning experiences.

What happens when we cancel classes in the middle school? Chaos? No! Incredible learning!

On Wednesday, November 9, we put class aside for our “Mix-It-Up” Day, designed to engage students in deeper, experiential learning beyond the regular curriculum. Each grade level participated in activities that connected learning goals to our ASIJ mission statement, helping to develop our middle schoolers into “compassionate, inquisitive learners prepared for global responsibility.”

mixitupgr-6-7-nickle-9-nov-11

Sixth graders addressed the heart of global responsibility by examining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals from the United Nations. In small groups, students rotated between 6th-grade teachers, who helped to promote understanding of a particular goal that they felt most passionate about. Students could see global responsibility modeled through their teachers’ concern for world issues like gender equality, climate change and clean water.

After learning about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and engaging in some preliminary thinking, each student chose a small group based on one goal. They further developed their understanding and started a discussion around what they could do as individuals, a group or a school to help implement change.

We asked the seventh graders to be inquisitive learners as they explored a design challenge based on a true-to-life situation. After hearing from Dan Tani, a former NASA astronaut and current ASIJ faculty member, the 7th-grade teachers set a challenge for students in advisory groups: work as a team to create a Mars rover using selected materials, such as plastic tubing, cardboard and duct tape.

With the challenge fresh in mind, individual students went to unique locations to learn a subset of the design requirements which they then had to communicate back to their advisory. In teams, the students exercised collaboration skills and conflict resolution as they negotiated to identify a way to accommodate all requirements in their design. Eventually, each advisory brought their completed Mars rover back to the gym to complete a simulated Mars challenge and see if their design was able to successfully maneuver the obstacle course.

Election fever caught ahold of the entire eighth grade, as Mix-It-Up Day was scheduled to coincide with the United States Presidential Election. In a learning experience crafted by our 8th-grade social studies teachers, students applied what they learned in class about the US government. In advisories, they watched election coverage and ran a class presidential election, including a full electoral college. Students crafted speeches, states voted and a class president was elected. Eighth-grader Reuben Fuchs took on his responsibilities as class president right away, giving a speech to end the middle school assembly.

While the grade levels each took on a different focus, every middle school student left campus on Wednesday having engaged with learning in a unique way. Mix-It-Up Day continues to be a memorable experience for students and offers an exciting enrichment to our regular curriculum.