Experiential Learning opportunities
Over the course of the Middle School years, students participate in several interdisciplinary experiential learning opportunities that are connected to the curriculum but take place outside of the classroom. Some of these opportunities take the form of off-campus retreats, such as the week-long Grade 7 trip to Camp Widjiwagan in northern Minnesota; others take place at school but in different spaces and formats than the regular school day. All experiential learning involves a high level of hands-on learning in the form of activities, projects, experiments, exploration, performances, or public events.
These experiential learning opportunities are an important part of student life in the Middle School. They are often the moments that students remember the most from Grades 6-8 because the experiences involve intensive, hands-on learning and engaging interactions with teachers and peers. Learn more about these opportunities below.
The focus of the week-long work with Heart of the Beast is on identity: exploration of one's own identity and better understanding of the identities of others. Students worked with the HOTB artists to understand how to portray character and create emotion through the use of movement and masks. Students created their own paper mache masks starting from a photograph of their own image. Over the course of the week, students also explored assumptions and stereotypes through advisory activities, encouraging others to see beyond these generalizations and to better understand their classmates.
Every January and February, Grade 7 students travel to Camp Widjiwagan in Ely, Minnesota for a five-day overnight retreat. The Widji trip is an experiential program of outdoor education and community building that marks the mid-point of students' Middle School experience. Older students and SPA graduates frequently cite their time at Widji with their class as one of the most memorable events during their SPA experience.
During the five days at Widji, we have two main goals: academically, we want the students to experience the northern coniferous forest they have learned about in science class. The Widji staff and Grade 7 faculty lead the students through learning activities in the woods, teaching about the plants, animals, geology, and ecology of the area. Socially, we are providing the opportunity for students to develop positive and supportive relationships with each other and with their teachers.
Widji week is the first of a two-week experiential program. The second week of the program takes place at SPA and is taught by educational staff at Penumbra Theatre (see below).
In the week following their retreat at Camp Widjiwagan, Grade 7 students work with the educational staff at Minneapolis' Penumbra Theatre in a week-long immersion program exploring identity, authenticity, and inclusivity. The week includes facilitated discussion, theater exercises, and performances.
In late January and early February, Grade 8 students take part in "Winterupt," an two-week academic experience designed to immerse students in World Language and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning, based on the Design Thinking curricula pioneered at the Stanford University Design Institute.
During the first part of Winterupt, students take part in a week-long world language immersion experience where they spend four hours of each morning fully immersed in their language of study: Chinese, French, German or Spanish. Middle School world language teachers are often joined by native speaker teachers and volunteers from countries around the world to guide the students during the week.
In November, students in Grade 8 plan and host a United States Naturalization Ceremony as part of their Social Studies unit on immigration in Minnesota. In a typical year, about two dozen individuals become United States citizens during the ceremony, which is held on the Randolph Campus and attended by all Grade 8 students and teachers, in addition to the families of the new citizens.
Grade 8 has hosted a naturalization ceremony every year since 2010, and the 2013 ceremony was the subject of a "What's Cool in School" feature on KARE-11.