Hands-On Learning Through Exploration

SMUS-MS-Exploratory-YoYo

Our Middle School Exploratory Program is a great way for students to expand their interests; where the thrill of learning something new becomes priority No. 1 in the class. Students in Grades 6-8 participate in four different Exploratory courses during the school year. They have a say in what gets added to the timetable, too, as they put forward ideas and suggestions, based on their passions.

Through further exploration of arts, athletics, games, science, technology and more, Exploratory gives students a chance to build practical skills they may not otherwise get in a typical classroom setting.

Below is a list of the Middle School’s exciting Exploratory offerings this term.

Ancient Languages
Ancient languages, such as Latin and Greek, are extremely beneficial for building language skills for modern languages. Also, 60% of all English words come from Latin or Greek roots, so one’s comprehension and understanding of the structure of the English language is also improved.

Winston Churchill once said, “I would make them all learn English: and then I would let the clever ones learn Latin as an honour, and Greek as a treat.” Students are being initiated into the world of those who have had the traditional “Classical” education.

Bananagrams
Bananagrams is a popular word game that combines elements of Boggle and Scrabble. SMUS-MS-Exploratory-BananagramsThe game is played individually yet simultaneously, as players build interlocking puzzles similar to those in Scrabble. Bananagrams can be played by students at any reading level and has been touted as both educational and creative!

Students benefit from this Exploratory offering because Bananagrams promotes literacy skills and inspires laughter and socialization. Among the skills they learn are: word recognition, visual processing, memory recall, language development, sequential thought, spelling and vocabulary building.

Card Making
During this Exploratory students research design ideas, purchase materials and then craft some beautiful greeting cards. Last term students batched their cards, sold them and donated the money to a local non-profit. This Exploratory engages students in creative work with very few restrictions, and it is a casual way to interact with students.

Comic Book Creation
The students learn and apply various drawing techniques, page layouts, and improve their creative writing, while combining their artistic talents, writing skills and sense of adventure. They also sharpen their writing skills by working through the writing process (draft, edit, repeat!), as well as character and story development. All of this done in a format – comic books – that they are already familiar with and enjoy.

This Exploratory benefits students because it allows them the opportunity to be as creative as their imaginations can take them, while, at the same time, reinforcing lessons and concepts that they have been previously taught.

SMUS-MS-Exploratory-CrossStitchCross Stitch
Students discover the basics of counted cross stitch by working through a simple project they can call their own.

In addition to simply learning how to cross stitch, this Exploratory teaches students fine motor skills, how to follow instructions, how to make a plan to complete a project and stick to it, an appreciation of fine arts, and allows them to spend some quiet time in their very busy school lives. A lot of the students really enjoy cross stitch and turn it into a hobby!

Fitness and Conditioning
This is a fun fitness and conditioning program that prepares students for sport and for life. From learning how to properly use exercise equipment to improving form in their sport of choice, this Exploratory class gives students the knowledge and skills to stay healthy and reduce the risk of injury. By learning about the importance of posture, balance, better movement and muscle endurance over strength, students have fun while staying active.

Floor Hockey Champions
Fast-paced, fun hockey. It’s Canada’s game, and it provides students with an opportunity to learn the values of teamwork, while improving their own hockey skills through drills and games.

Students in this Exploratory love it, as they play with a thick, felt puck that closely simulates the real game. They get lots of exercise, learn hockey skills and, for those students from places around the world, this is a great introduction to the game. This Exploratory is almost always full and “extra time” is always played at the end of the game. The Floor Hockey Exploratory “season” culminates in a Stanley Cup game!

It’s All Greek to Me
In this Exploratory, students find creative ways to connect, explore and have some real-time conversations with youth living on the other side of the world. Students learn about global literacy by building their global citizen profiles through the pen-pal blogging system that has been set-up between our students and students in Greece. Students gain an understanding of a different way of life through their interactions with kids living in Greece.

Grade 8 students will have an opportunity to visit Kyparissia, Greece at the end of this school year, and will meet the kids they are speaking to, as well as participate in cultural, service and leadership opportunities.

SMUS-MS-Exploratory-JazzJazz Café
This Exploratory is for the jazz purists, hip cats and wannabes who want to play some serious and authentic jazz music. The class allows students to take their playing to the next level, and learn jazz and swing music by finding their inner jazz musician!

Jazz Café gives students the opportunity to learn how professional jazz musicians learn: identify a few standards they like, listen to seminal recordings,​ learn and imitate them by ear, and try to put together a combo to play them.

Ken-Yo-Dama?
Kendama and yo-yos are making a huge comeback around the world. Students get a firsthand chance to experience why people are trading in the video games for these traditional toys.

Kendama aids in the development of hand-eye coordination and concentration, and helps students to build self-esteem. It also creates opportunities for children to be the experts and adults to be the students, if parents ask to learn how to play. This role reversal is rarely encountered in educational settings, and is an opportunity to model positive learning behaviours, such as perseverance, deference to experts, humility and the joy of new skill acquisition.

Movie Magic
Film directors often use special effects to shape reality in their creations. In Movie Magic students learn a few of the techniques used in digital video filming and editing to create their own special effects. A number of these will be shared with the audience during the Middle School production of The Wizard of Oz.

This Exploratory is an introduction to some of the tools and skills used to create video graphics. Students learn basic aspects of video production including camera use, lighting, green screening, audio and video capture, video editing and creating digital effects. Students are being exposed to, and increasingly choosing to communicate with, video content. It can be a springboard for those who might want to go further into the world of video production.

SMUS-MS-Exploratory-MSExplorersMiddle School Explorers
Each Explorers session provides students with wilderness and outdoor training, including reading maps, GPS work, outdoor cooking, tarps, tents, packing for trips, insects, local plants, birds and animals, and survival tips and tricks.

Students learn how to tie knots, cook using small alcohol stoves made from tuna cans, lashing of poles to build structures, fire starting at camp and other camping skills. Students also learn how to work as a team to accomplish tasks at camp. These skills are helpful when camping and make one feel more prepared to go out in the woods. This, in turn, provides more of an appreciation for nature.

SciKids
Students can have fun exploring hands-on science experiments and solving mysteries! This is a fantastic exploratory for all students who love biology, chemistry, environmental science, math, physics, space science, engineering or technology.

Students work in teams to complete a range of timed challenges, from building an alien lung to creating the cheapest water filter to landing a “solar probe” safely. This Exploratory is a wonderful way to engage students in science exploration, and extend and expand their knowledge and skills. Students have an opportunity to continue on and compete at UVic in the All Science Challenge in May.

Set Painting
From planning, to sketching and painting the sets for The Wizard of Oz production, these students do it all!

Students have worked on a variety of skills, including measuring, planning, working with new materials, cutting shapes for the sets, painting, working in groups and working on large-scale projects, which is not normally available in class.

Not only do they acquire new skills and experiences, but when they see their work on display during the musical they are proud of their accomplishments. Having student artwork on display in a public space is beneficial for developing confidence, and working in groups allows them to see how much they can accomplish by working together.

WoodworkingSMUS-MS-Exploratory-Woodworking
Students work on a variety of woodworking projects over the course of the term. This Exploratory teaches basic skills using hand tools. The students learn to cut, saw, plane, sand and paint using hand tools. They start with easy wood projects, such as wood puzzles, and as their skills improve they move onto tool boxes and bird houses.

The students enjoy learning manual skills that contribute to the creation of a product. They take a lot of pride in completing a wood project and finishing it with paint or varnish.

Click here to learn more about the full Middle School program. And head back into the SMUS Review archives for a great video from 2012 that looked at the Exploratory Program. 

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Kyle Slavin
Kyle Slavin is the school's storyteller. Through words and photos, he shares with the community all the amazing things that happen on campus.

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