Middle School Mini-Courses Offer Something for Everyone

Did you know that for the past 25 years, our Middle School students embark on exciting three-day adventures during the week before spring break for the much beloved annual mini-courses? Students choose from a variety of fun, focused, and in-depth courses that combine hands-on field trips and classroom discussions. Courses give students the opportunity to delve deep and learn about their topic in a unique, unforgettable way.

Each year, the mini-courses evolve to fit current trends and students' interests. Our teachers offer something for everyone, reflecting their own skills and interests in art, technology, global cultures, music, science, the outdoors, sustainability, service learning, and more. See what's in store for 2019 MS mini-courses.

Spring into STEMRube Goldberg machine building
Let your ingenuity flow as you construct your own Rube Goldberg machine, a machine that intentionally (and humorously) completes a simple task in an overly complicated way. Build a bridge of popsicle sticks that can hold a cookie, your math textbook, or even you! Do you think your team will claim gold in this bridge challenge? Be inspired by the award-winning Upper School robotics team, and dip your toes into the powerful world of programming. Marvel at and experience cool engineering feats as you navigate unique climbing structures and intricate obstacle courses at a nearby sports complex. 

Stewards of the EarthStewards of the Earth
Curious about how we take better care of the world? How do we become better stewards of our resources? How do we ensure that future generations have clean water to drink, strive for greener buildings, and comprehensive recycling? Join us on the journey. Let's get a hands-on experience by touring three organizations dedicated to these ideals. On Tuesday, we visit, Montgomery County Recycling Center in Maryland. On Wednesday, we visit Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant in DC which is the largest of its kind in the world. We wrap up our week with a visit to Arlington Mill Community Center in Virginia.

3D Drag Racing
Feel the need for speed? Think you have what it takes to design a winning race car? In this course your skills will be put to the test as you design an aerodynamic miniature car. You use a computer aided design (CAD) program to create your car, and when you are sure you have a winning design, we use the 3D printers to make your dream car a reality. After printing your car body, we'll add some power with CO2 cartridges. All of your work will be put to test in a drag race competition. You'll compete against other members of the course to determine who has created the most aerodynamic design and achieves the fastest time down the race track! On your mark, get set, go!

Custom Art CreationsCustom Creations: Put Your Mark On It
Like to design, draw, or have an appreciation for monogramming and personalization? Have you ever wanted to enhance or customize your own accessories or clothing? In Custom Creations, you have the opportunity to do just that! Step one is creating your own original design. We share inspiration and techniques, but what you design is up to you! With the help of the laser cutter, Cricut cutting machine, and other tools, you have the opportunity to transfer your design onto a variety of objects. The possibilities are endless: wallets, jewelry, keychains, t-shirts, bowties, bags, coasters, stickers, and so much more! We are looking forward to creating with you!

Theater in a DayThe Countdown!
Ten minute plays produced in 24 hours! Over the course of three days (adding up to 24 hours) you create a theater show from scratch. Each team writes, acts, and directs. You also get to create sound, costumes, props, and set for your own original production! So, get ready and join us for the 24-hour Theater Countdown!

Diving Into Deaf Culture
Are you interested in learning more about American Sign Language and the Deaf Culture? Then this is the mini-course for you! We'll learn about the history of the Deaf community, learn basic sign, and participate in activities that help students experience what it might be like to step into the shoes of a person with hearing loss. This mini-course includes a visit to Gallaudet University, the only Deaf liberal arts university in the world. Additionally, we'll attend a sporting event at Gallaudet University and visit the first Starbucks completely run by Deaf employees.

Expedition ChesapeakeExpedition: Chesapeake
Have a spirit for adventure and want to learn more about the Bay, then you are ready for Expedition: Chesapeake! This is a 4-day/3-night environmental science trip designed for students who want to explore and learn more about the Chesapeake Bay. We catch observe aquatic wildlife, meet local watermen, go beach-combing, hike and canoe through marshes, perform service projects, and relax in the beauty of nature. While living in simple but comfortable lodging on Smith Island, we set forth daily on different excursions with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation educators to explore and learn. Participants should have an interest in the outdoors and a teamwork mindset. This mini-course begins one day early to accommodate for travel and to maximize our time outdoors. Put on your boots and hop on the boat for an exciting island adventure you will remember forever!

Explore Africa
Explore the rich diversity of the continent of Africa. Participants learn about countries such as Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo through music, art, films, and food traditions. Students visit museums, take a West African drumming class, enjoy an Ethiopian meal, visit an embassy, and observe African animals at the National Zoo. Get ready for a fantastic adventure!

Happy TrailsHappy Trails
Get outdoors for some exercise, learn to appreciate nature, breathe some fresh air, relax, and make new friends. As students learn about and experience the natural world, we hope to foster an appreciation for our outdoor spaces and why it is important to protect them. Students have an opportunity to reflect on their experiences by writing down their thoughts and/or sketching what they see. We travel to three different parks in Virginia and Maryland where we spend a few hours each day hiking in the great outdoors. 


It's More Than Just A Game
More than a gameThere's more to sports than playing the game. In this course, students have a chance to learn about the business of sports, how teams prepare for game day, and look at how past performance might predict future results. Students go behind the scenes at Nationals Park to see the kinds of facilities that help professional athletes perform at their best and keep fans coming back year after year. After, we draft our own fantasy baseball teams using statistics to pick the best players - and then play in a fantasy baseball tournament. Later, students learn how coaches get their teams ready to compete as Coach Jones runs students through a basketball film session. When it’s over, students decide which plays were the most successful and should be included in the game plan. Of course, no March mini-course would be complete without completing a March Madness bracket. We look at past brackets to predict how this year’s tournament will play out and then watch a few games together!

Movie Music Madness and MoreMusic in Movies
Do you enjoy music? Do you enjoy movies? Have you ever wondered how music is created for movies? This mini-course explores all aspects of the movie music genre, including a special focus on vocal music in movies. Students also get to compose their own music for a film! On Tuesday, after an introductory lesson about movie soundtracks, we head to the local theatre to experience firsthand the wonders of movie music. On Wednesday, students work on their composition using various software programs and instruments. Finally, after taking part in the Artstravaganza on Thursday at the Lower School, students get to showcase their final product. 

New York City Theater Trip: Aaron Sorkin's To Kill a Mockingbird
Travel to New York City to see Aaron Sorkin's Broadway production of To Kill a Mockingbird. Tuesday is spent on campus doing a deep-dive into the play and the process of turning a classic novel into a modern stage production. On Wednesday, we travel by chartered bus to New York City, arriving in time for an afternoon walking tour of Central Park. After a pizza dinner, we see the show at the Shubert Theatre on W. 44th Street. We spend the night in a hotel in Times Square, have breakfast in New York, and return to school around 3:00 on Thursday afternoon.

Puerto Rico Service TripPuerto Rico Service Trip
Students will explore Puerto Rican culture and the impact of recent devastating hurricanes while engaging in service work with local puertorriqueños to rebuild their rural community in Vega Baja. Global Works, an experienced international travel education company, will serve as our program guide. Students will work alongside family and community members as we mix concrete, build floors, walls, and shelter for the community. In preparation for the trip, students attend three to four after-school classes. During these sessions, students explore Puerto Rican history, culture, and climate, focusing on the impact of hurricanes on the island. 

Saints ServingTeamwork, Cooperation, Adventure: Saints Serving and Succeeding
Experience new ways to make a positive impact for both the greater good and your soul. Helping a variety of groups such as animals, the environment, and children, you spend your mornings serving our community. Working as a group, we will be exposed to opportunities where middle schoolers can help others in the Greater Washington DC area. Examples of activities include reading to preschoolers, learning how to help a local animal shelter, and participating in the newest fitness trend which combines exercise and community service. After helping others, our afternoons challenge you to try something out of the ordinary and maybe even inspire a new passion! Exciting adventures such as aerial silks, rock climbing, and a scavenger hunt await and test your ability to cooperate and succeed. These activities will challenge you to try new things while working together as a team. Get ready to expand your horizons, collaborate, and adventure!

Tool Time40899924131_0786d32921_k
Have you ever looked at something and thought, “How is that built?” In this mini-course, not only do you find out, but you are able to build it yourself. Over three days you learn the basics of woodworking, get your hands dirty designing and building a project, and go home with something you have built. You even get to play with power tools! (Actually, you cannot play with the power tools, but you will learn to use them safely and responsibly).


Wild About Animals33738004685_312c7d2bb8_o
Students become an expert on an animal of their choice through guided research and the creating and presenting of a unique project. We take two exciting field trips. Our first field trip is to Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington where we have a hands-on interactive program featuring snakes, snapping turtles, raptors, and owls. This is followed by a visit to the nature center and a walk through the nature trail where we may spot more animals in their natural habitat. Finally, we visit the Smithsonian's National Zoo. In addition to exploring the zoo and visiting some favorite animals, students may choose to watch either the elephant training demonstration or the seal or sea lion training demonstration. In the afternoon, students may choose to meet the alpacas, donkeys, and goats, or watch the orangutan research demonstration.

WILD Women in Leadership Development
Women in Leadership Development (WILD) is a crash course in female empowerment for motivated young women. We explore personal passions with examples from pop culture, literature, Internet expression, and cinema to better discover your unique voices. We visit local women-run businesses and museums to prepare us to take on the world!

Topics: Insider, St. Stephens and St. Agnes, Teachers as experts, become ready, Environmental Stewardship, Recreational Activities, service, Goodness as Well as Knowledge, Academics, Middle School

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