Our Stories

Adventures in Learning: Middle School Immersive Learning Week

January 8, 2021 by Ronit Greenstein (Faculty and Staff)

As part of MILTON’s middle school program, students participate in Immersive Learning Weeks in which they engage in deep-dive explorations of subjects that can spark their passions, deepen their understanding of the world, and expand their perspectives. This week, we ran a Virtual Immersive Learning Week, offering a wide range of experiences. Students learned with experts including a Broadway costume designer, a ballet dancer, an art history expert, a data scientist, an animal welfare advocate, a museum development professional, a projection artist, a producer/actor, an expert in spy craft, and a sculpture artist, among others. Thank you to all our guest speakers for these exciting learning opportunities and to the MILTON educators who brought their ingenuity, creativity, and passion to these unique programs. Below are a few highlights from the week:

Spy School: MILTON teachers joined with the International Spy Museum to train our new MILTON spy recruits in cryptology, evidence analysis, creating a cover and disguise, and designing spy gadgets as we worked on solving our very own spy saga which involved saving an operative in Washington, DC – while uncovering a mole in our operation! Students also explored the stories and intrigue of spies in history, including Eli Cohen and women who worked as spies during the American Civil War. The students conducted research into the Ethel and Julius Rosenberg case of 1951 and drafted oral arguments for a posthumous trial of their case. The International Spy Museum educator, Lucy Stirn, taught us about the lives of spies and the lessons about mind games she shared helped us hone our observation, analysis, and memory skills!

Page to Stage: Students explored how to take a play from script to stage. They learned about the culture of theater companies through slang (and a great video by Lin-Manuel Miranda), read articles about “ghost lights,” saw how costumes are made for Broadway productions – including a theatrical pattern designed by Paul Tazewell (the Tony award winning costume designer of Broadway’s Hamilton), and examined the artistic vision and decision-making process of directors by focusing on three productions. Special guests included Miriam Lewis, costume designer and theater design professor at San Francisco State University; Cynthia Settje, owner and operator of Redthreaded, a corset making and theatrical costuming shop; Zachary Borovay (MILTON parent to Leo and Solly), projection artist; and a Yuval David, producer/director/actor/voice over artist.
Service in the Time of COVID: Student examined the root causes of systemic struggles and began the process of designing service learning projects based on areas of interest including alleviating hunger, increasing animal welfare, examining racial disparities in education, reforming the criminal justice system, remedying joblessness, removing litter from our streets, and comforting elderly members of our community. In addition, our students donated hundreds of homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to help clients of Martha’s Tables; donated food, towels, and blankets to help animals served by the Humane Rescue Alliance; and picked up trash in our neighborhoods.

Dance and Choreography: Students explored different ways of moving through space and how different styles of dance or cultures utilize movement. Students first explored the five elements of dance — body, action, space, time, and energy — by improvising and playing dance games. Over the course of the week, guest speakers came to teach flamenco dancing, the history of dancers in 19th century art, basic ballet choreography, an Israeli dance, and about the evolution of dance technique from classical to contemporary. Throughout, students worked in groups to choreograph original pieces to music of their choosing. They worked cooperatively and found ways to incorporate elements of dance we were learning into their choreography. Other students chose to research styles of dance and famous choreographers to share with the group.

Biblical Art: As part of the hands-on course on biblical art, students worked on a sculpture scene that recreates a biblical moment of their choice. They began by making foil armatures covered with “sculpey;” made the cardboard scene; painted their main characters, props and scenery with acrylic painting; and put the pieces together to share their final works of art with students and their parents.
Museums Around the World: Middle schoolers explored museums from the perspectives of visitors and insiders. They learned about curation with Talia Lieber, a PhD student at UCLA studying Art History and specializing in African Art. Eran Gasko, Deputy Chief Development Officer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, taught students about the various funding sources for museums, including government, donations, investment income, and earned income – and had students apply their learning by pretending to ask for grants or fund raise for specific pieces of art or causes. Eran also shared back stories of some of the USHMM artifacts. Students were amazed that the flag that flew on the ship Exodus was purchased at an auction and donated to the Museum. Students also got creative by taking the Getty Museum Challenge in which people recreate pieces of art by using commonplace materials that they have in their homes.

Sports Analytics: Students learned how new technology, science, math, and advanced statistics are pushing sports into a new realm. Daniel Schopf guided students through the differences between data collection and information we can gain from data, and reviewed examples of sports teams using statistical trends to predict how players would perform in specific situations and times. The class also looked at how tracking technology helps players rethink and develop their skills even as they grow older, enabling them to continue playing longer. Students got hands-on experience by using Google sheets to create and calculate their own evaluative statistic to sort and rate players they selected to form a roster. Andrew Seifter led an in-depth discussion about how new advanced statistics help him predict players’ fantasy performance. We also had chances to look ‘beyond the numbers’ in sports with G’veret Sandalon and hear stories of how sports mirror values of society and are vehicles for advancing inclusion, integration, and spokesmanship. Students also looked at how applying specific training, commitment to an implementable plan, and having a growth mindset can help all of us develop athletically.