Every year in mid-February, daily course work is set aside in the Middle School for a special one-week, interdisciplinary experience. Students spend the week engaging in experiential study on a topic they select from a range of cultural, scientific and historical courses. They journey to museums, farms and historical parks to learn firsthand about their subjects. This approach encourages them to make connections across disciplines and grapple with complex, real-world issues.
The Middle School faculty put a tremendous amount of thought and planning into each and every Mini-Course offering. They often enhance previous Mini-Course favorites, such as exploring the history and legacy of Gettysburg and taking on the Cape Cod Challenge, which entails "roughing it" while exploring the habitats and character of the Cape. They also continually search for opportunities to bring in fresh themes, topics and experiences.
This year, the New York Mini-Course has been refocused to center on the events surrounding 9/11 and their lasting impact on American society. Middle School Art teacher Deva Watson, who will be leading the trip, was inspired to develop the opportunity after reading a U.S. News article entitled, “How To Teach 9/11 To Students With No Memory Of It.” As she explains, "I was a sophomore in high school when 9/11 happened. We had to evacuate school because there was fear of an additional attack in Philadelphia.”
The impact of 9/11 on the Muslim community in the U.S. was also an aspect Watson wanted to explore. "In order to overcome islamophobia, we must be able to relate to each other on a personal level," Watson observes. Today the students met with 9/11 first responder Jon Feal and they will also have lunch at the Mercer County Mosque and Islamic Center. Her hope is that these experiences "will break down the barriers that seem to separate people and remind ourselves that these horrific acts do not represent an entire religion.”
Later in the week, the class will enjoy three day-trips into New York City. The students will visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum in NYC and meet the Muslim Action Network to learn how to ask informed questions about groups and people that do not look or sound like us. They will also enjoy the bright lights as they take in the Broadway musical Come From Away, which explores what happens when random strangers are stuck in an airport during 9/11. Middle School Theater Director Jonathan Martin called the show “a comedy about how a tragic event can bring all types of people together.” Following the play, the students will have the unique opportunity to participate in a broadway workshop with actors from the play!
The remainder of their explorations provide a broad sense of all New York has to offer. The students will also travel to Harlem for an African dance class, lunch at Sylvia’s for some soul food and a hip hop music class. With such a rich mix of experiences, the students are sure to come away with significant new learning and perspective, while also thoroughly enjoying the week.
View our recent homepage news story for a full recap of this year's Mini-Course Week, complete with photo highlights!