Exploratory: Freedom to Try Something New Without Being Graded!


Once every couple of days in the Middle School timetable, all students in Grades 6 through 8 step outside of the traditional classroom setting and try their hand at something a little less academic and a lot less structured.

Exploratory is a program that has existed at the Middle School for nearly 10 years. It began as a way for students to step outside of their comfort zones and try their hand at new hobbies, skills, interests and games.

“It was brought in because staff had been researching innovative ideas, and we loved the idea that Exploratory was cross-graded with the 6, 7, 8 combo, it gave people a chance to try something completely outside of the curriculum,” says Ms. Dariol Haydock, Assistant Director of the Middle School. “We loved the idea that the offerings were a mix of teacher-driven interest and student interest and it was the idea of kids exploring something new and having the freedom to do it without grades or a lot of rules.”

The roots of the Exploratory program remain the same, but the program continues to grow – all Middle School students love participating and look forward to it, and there are more than a dozen different options during each Exploratory term. Over the years we’ve offered some fun and innovative Exploratory options, including bird watching, claymation, science experiments, outdoor survival skills and how to be a ninja.

Because there’s always a diverse option of artistic, athletic, academic and leadership options, Exploratory is the perfect time for students to try something they’ve never tried before.

“That concept goes beyond just Exploratory and has to be part of the school conversation and the school culture,” says Dariol. “We weave it through everything we do, telling them that taking risks is where we’re at, that failure is growth, that what we want them to do is explore.”

Here’s a list of the kinds of fun Exploratory offerings available to students this term:

Spend some time exploring the Aurasma app. Not sure what Aurasma is? Aurasma is changing the way we interact with the world. Turn everyday objects, images and places into new opportunities for engagement through striking augmented reality experiences.

Creative Writing with Storybird
Do you love to write creative stories or poems? In this Exploratory, become an amateur author and learn how to use the online Storybird platformSMUS-MS-Exploratory-0116-02 to share your art-inspired stories with an online storytelling community.

Fibre Arts
Learn the basics of sewing and create your own first sewing projects.

Free the Children
As the Middle School gears up for our school-wide Service Day in February, the Free the Children Exploratory will spend time connecting with a local organization that we aim to help. Students will get a great head start on planning for the service work they’ll do on February 26. You don’t have to be a member of the Free the Children Club to join this Exploratory.

Fun fitness
This offering is for girls and boys in Grade 7 and 8 in the fitness centre. Learn how to properly use the exercise machines and have fun being fit.

Holiday Greeting Cards
Come make your own personalized holiday cards for friends and family. Bring your own scissors, glue and markers. Fancy paper and other supplies will be provided. It’s the perfect Exploratory for creative beginners or expert crafter!

Leadership Conference Planners
On Jan. 29, SMUS hosts a student-organized Grade 8 Leadership Conference, open to students from all over. This Exploratory will provide you with dedicated time to help plan and organize the day-long event. The theme of this year’s event is “Passion to Action”, so this Exploratory is your chance to act on your passion for leadership by helping spread positive messages on how to make your school a better place.

Make Your Own Movie
Using your own device or a school iPad you will write a script, film and edit a short movie! The Exploratory will culminate in a fun viewing party to watch and share all of the completed projects.

Middle School Explorers
Each session provides students with wilderness and outdoor training that may include reading maps, GPS work, outdoor cooking, tarps and tents, packing for tripsSMUS-MS-Exploratory-0116-05, insects, local plants, birds and animals and survival tips and tricks. Because being in the wilderness sometimes means having to deal with rain or shine, this Exploratory is rain or shine, too – so come dressed for the weather!

Minor Game Medley
Do you think you have excellent minor gaming skills? We don’t mean League of Legends! We’re talking dodgeball, soccer baseball, end ball, alley ball and probably any other minor game that ends in “ball”! We could be inside or out for this marvelous mix, so get ready to partake in some of the finer minor games in all the land!

Movie Special Effects
Video special effects using a green screen and Adobe After Effects can create the most amazing illusions. Learn how to set up, film and master green-screened video. We will be making our own space adventure!

School Spirit Builders
Do you want to help plan fun-filled school spirit activities like our Halloween assembly? Come join the School Spirit Builders Exploratory where you will learn how to dream up, plan for, advertise and carry out an event. You will build your interpersonal communication skills, organizational skills and develop your leadership potential.

Stanley Cup Hockey
Fast-paced, fun, teamwork, excitement!! Floor hockey skills, drills and games. Boys and girls! Be there for the time of your life!SMUS-MS-Exploratory-0116-07

Ukulele Fun
Do you like to sing? Are you looking for new musical adventure? Then you should learn to play the ukulele! Together, we’ll learn songs that we can perform and share with others!

Watercolour Painting
Explore colour washes, including wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry, blending of colours and preventing colours from bleeding, building up rich colours, leaving highlights, adding fine details and more. Some sketching will be required.

The woodworking class teaches basic skills using hand tools. The students learn to cut, saw, plane, sand, and paint using hand tools only. Students generally start with easy wood projects such as wood puzzles and, as their skills improve, move onto tool boxes, bird houses and locker shelving.

Check out more photos from this term’s Exploratory program on the SMUS Photo Gallery.

Watch this Exploratory video from one of the first sessions in 2012!

(photos by Kyle Slavin)


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