Written by Jonas Jeswald
Head of Middle School
Several years ago, it became important to the Middle School Admin Team to explore ways for faculty to connect with students outside of a standard classroom situation.
Using the Mini-mester model that Upper School had in place at the time, we created an elective program for interested 8th grade students. The program allowed students to participate in a semester or year-long elective centered around topics and/or projects of shared interest with the faculty members teaching them. Students had the choice of whether they wanted to participate in one of the offerings, with the only requirement being that they have a true interest in the topic. Thus our 8th Grade Elective Program was born and remains popular today.
Every year I look forward to the creative classes our faculty design. This year there are six faculty members sharing their passion projects with members of the Class of 2026. They meet once a rotation during our Flex period, a shared community time for all grades. Electives include Drama, Introductory Topics in Number Theory, Digital Art, Middle School Patriot News, Upcycled/Recycled Art, and Paleontology.
We have found that students who sign up for these courses truly enjoy being introduced to “cool stuff” that might not be fully presented within a regular curriculum. I hear from students every year during their Middle School exit interviews about how much they enjoyed their 8th Grade electives, specifically that they were able to learn something new or build on an already-realized passion. Students have reported they liked the conversations they had during class and the projects they have completed. Faculty have shared how much they enjoy introducing a passion of theirs with their students. It’s a positive and successful program and a win for everyone involved.