The day starts with a wonderful mixed feeling of confusion and anticipation. "What will the day hold?" is on the minds of our students; and, of course, because we are in middle school, "where are we supposed to go?"
The Non-Cycle Day is one of the great aspects of our new schedule. It is a purposeful commitment to learning for the sake of learning and, in a wonderful way epitomizes Mark Twain’s sentiment, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.”
School in the 21st century must extend learning beyond the classroom walls, allowing children to build, debate, and even traipse through the woods, and while we include this type of learning by experience in much of our education at Randolph, it is the focus of our Non-Cycle Days.
Last Friday our Middle School students enjoyed the first Non-Cycle Day of the year. The 5th and 6th grades traveled to Chattanooga to extend their work in science and social studies on the historic Chickamauga Civil War battlefield and in the Creative Discovery Science museum.
Meanwhile, the 7th and 8th graders enjoyed digging deeper into topics they’ve been exploring in class and connecting it to their own lives.
Eighth grade students continued working on their year’s theme of leadership. They watched the film Invictus and followed it up with a thinking routine comparing and contrasting leadership styles of the characters. Mrs. Harriman reports that more than one student remarked on the leader’s lessons of perseverance and the importance of teamwork. Students shared who and what inspires them to be their very best each day as they reflected on the necessity to inspire those around them.
On the heels of studying Girl Rising, the 7th grade began the day meeting with Michael Treadwell, our new 9/10 dean and his wife, Emily, who spoke to the students about their work in Ethiopia over the past several years. The Treadwells helped our students understand first-hand the challenges, hopes, and dreams of people in developing countries. By exposing students to situations and environments that differ from ours, we help them empathize by making connections between character traits and experiences and wondering beyond the facts.
Our new Middle School Athletic Director, Mr. Thomas, Arts Director Adam Bernick, and I were lucky to play a part in the seventh grade day as well. Splitting the students into smaller all-boy and -girl groups we took a look at our own culture in America and the challenges that young boys and girls face balancing the advice they get from teachers and parents with what they are constantly getting from the media.
“I hate that Hardee’s is so demeaning to girls,” one student remarked. Watching clips from commercials, news, and sports coverage, the girls agreed that it seems women are looked at before they are listened to in our world, and they would like to find ways to change that.
What evidence do we have that our Non-Cycle days truly represent learning for the sake of learning? The proof is in the little things for sure, as rarely do we hear, “Will this be on the test?” Yet, we also find that the learning curve is not as steep.
Building in relevance and problem-solving to school days makes forming relationships with our students even easier, and the better we know one another, the more invested the students are in their learning.
Photos: David Brown, Shelly Harriman, Trish King, Rebecca Moore