Middle School Mini-Courses Offer Something for Everyone

Students choose from a variety of fun, focused, and in-depth courses.

Did you know that for the past 25 years, our Middle School students embark on exciting 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. In the past couple of years, we have added both domestic and international overnight trips too. See what's in store for 2020. Take a look!

Bienvenue à Québec et à Montréal!

Travel on a picturesque visit to Quebec and Montreal where you will, among other things: see the Basilique Sainte-Anne-de Beaupré, walk across a footbridge over the Montmorency (water) Falls, enjoy an all-you-can-eat dinner at a French-Canadian cabane à sucre, take pictures outside the Chateau Frontenac, and visit the venue of the Olympic Stadium and pools from the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal. Watch this clip to learn more. 

Expedition: Chesapeake

Chesapeake Bay Exploration Trip

If you have a spirit for adventure, you are ready for Expedition: Chesapeake! This 4-day/3-night environmental science trip to Port Isobel Island is open to all interested students, even those who have attended this Mini-Course in the past. The Mini-Course is designed for students who want to explore and learn more about the Chesapeake Bay. We will catch and observe aquatic wildlife, stargaze, meet local watermen, go beachcombing, hike, and canoe through marshes, perform service projects, and relax in the beauty of nature. Put on your boots and hop on the boat for an exciting island adventure you will remember forever!


Puerto Rico Service Trip

Puerto Rico Service Trip

Students will explore Puerto Rican culture and the lasting 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. In preparation for the trip, students will attend lunch sessions to explore Puerto Rican history, culture, and climate. The sessions will also review the type of work students will complete while in Puerto Rico and discuss expectations for Saint's global travelers. Here you can see more information and itinerary.

NYC -- “To Kill a Mockingbird” 

Students will have the opportunity to travel to New York City to see Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Day 1 of the Mini-Course will be devoted to on-campus exploration of the play and theater and writing monologues from the perspective of an under-represented character of the novel; Day 2 students will travel to New York City, explore the city, and spend the night to be ready on Day 3 to see a matinee production and do a Broadway master class on the history of Broadway and the training for Broadway actors. Students will return to Alexandria that evening, and Day 4 will be devoted to reading and writing reviews and processing the play. Prior to the Mini-Course, all students will be expected to read the novel as a “book club” choice in English.  

We Can Act -- Civil Rights and Social Justice in Montgomery, Alabama: During this Mini-Course, students will take a deep dive into the deep South, where they will examine historical and modern-day civil rights and social justice issues. After spending some time on campus learning about the history of American race relations and discussing the current state of mass incarceration and social justice, we will fly down to Montgomery, AL. There, we will visit important historical landmarks like the Rosa Parks Museum and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. We will also visit the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which is the first national memorial for the victims of lynching. Together, students will decide on an action they can take to stand up for justice in our community, which they will implement upon our return to Alexandria. On this trip, your child can expect to have fun, deepen their social consciousness, and tackle some difficult issues. 

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. 

IMG_2223Stewards 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.

Saints Serving

Teamwork, 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!

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!

The 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!


happy trails mini courseHappy 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!

Tool Timewoodworking mini course
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 AnimalsWild about animals
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.

Bottomline is that mini-courses offer amazing learning opportunity for our Middle School students. Ask about their experience next time you speak with a Saint!

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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