Our Stories

Middle School Immersive Learning Week

December 6, 2018 by Lisa Schopf (Faculty and Staff)

Unleashing curiosity, inspiring challenge, and facilitating discovery is the key to our teaching at Milton. That process of discovery guided our five immersive learning week experiences: Journeys of Justice, Flight and Space, Digital Game Design, Biblical Art, and Adventures in Nature.

Middle school coders delved into the world of programming, creating their own original digital games as they also considered the ways digital technology can be used to develop interactive art. Our young flight and space engineers studied the physics of flight, engaged in hands-on aerospace engineering, and learned from those who are pioneering the future of flight. Students in Biblical Art explored Jewish texts and created sculptures to illuminate and elucidate the text’s meaning. Those who embarked on the Journeys of Justice learned about range of justice-related concepts, including Supreme Court history, state v. federal courts, civil v. criminal law, philosophies of punishment, and civil disobedience; throughout, they examined the complex and varied perspectives around the understanding and application of justice. Through 27.5 miles of treks and explorations, our hardy Adventurers in Nature spent their days connecting with nature physically, emotionally, and intellectually, all the while honing their abilities to observe small details and see the big picture, assess risk and adapt to changing circumstances, listen to each other and overcome challenges, work as a team and connect.

Over the course of Immersive Learning Week, all our students engaged in deep-dive studies in which they expanded their horizons, discovered passions, connected with each other and their teachers, embraced new experiences, faced challenges, and learned more about themselves and their world.

Adventures in Nature

The Adventures in Nature group spent their days connecting with nature physically, emotionally, and intellectually. The students observed plants and trees in different stages of their life cycles, climbed rocks, built a fire, discovered the tracks of various forms of wildlife, named trees, and identified animals through studying their droppings and remains. Through 27.5 miles of treks and explorations within Rock Creek Park, Great Falls Park, and Sugarloaf Mountain, the students honed their abilities to observe, assess risk, listen to each other, find their way, see the big picture, overcome challenges, work as a team, adapt to changing circumstances, and find beauty and awe in simple things.

As new science affirms the restorative and cognitive healing value of spending time in and learning from nature, the students emerged from their week of adventures feeling whole, validated in their humanity and spirituality, and innately connected with the earth – and with each other.

Digital Game Design

In the Digital Game Design group, students delved into the world of programming, learning not only how to think strategically and problem-solve creatively, but also experiencing the value of collaboration, the power of perseverance, and the exhilaration of working through a challenge.

After studying the basic programming for early formats of game design, including pong, scroller, and maze games, they storyboarded games of their own, incorporating the four C’s of game design: Change, Challenge, Chance, and Choice. Their games had different levels, increasing challenge, multiple play options, and a balance of skill and chance. Over the course of the week, the children shifted from being students to being teachers, helping each other to code their games and work through challenges. The students also explored the ways digital technology can be used to develop interactive art with a visit to ARTECHOUSE.

Flight and Space

Young engineers in the Flight and Space group studied the physics of flight, engaged in hands-on aerospace engineering, and learned from individuals who are pioneering the future of flight. The students visited a retired Air Force One plane that has been turned into a museum, and got to experience flight through a flight simulator at the Washington International Flight Academy. The students also gained access to Aurora Flight Sciences at the Manassas Airfield, which is not usually open to the public. There they met with engineers who showed them some of the designs and prototypes the company has been working on for Boeing and talked about the ways Aurora have changed the science of flight since they opened in the late 1980s. One of the engineers even invited our students to come back as interns when they are in high school!

The students also engaged in hands-on learning as they applied what they learned about airplane design and the forces of flight to construct, tweak, and refine model airplanes. At the end of their Immersive Learning week program, the students sent their models into flight in a demonstration for their peers.

Biblical Art

The Biblical Art group explored Jewish texts and created wire-frame plaster sculptures to illuminate and elucidate the text’s meaning. The students visited the Ratner Museum, where they learned the process behind Phillip Ratner’s sculptures and gained inspiration for their own pieces. After brainstorming moments in Jewish literature that they wanted to depict in sculpture, the students sketched their ideas and received feedback from their peers. The students also received help and advice from alumni grandparent Rena Fruchter, a skilled sculpture artist, who helped the students build their armatures (structures made of wire and tin foil that are the sculptures’ foundation) and design their sculptures’ characters and lines of action. The next step was to cover the armatures in plaster gauze to help them take shape, then add clay to sculpt faces and other features. Finally, the students painted their sculptures with acrylic paints before signing their work and creating titles and descriptions for their finished sculptures.

Through this deep dive into the world of Biblical literature and art, the students had fun, got messy, and came away with new skills in sculpture and painting, new perspectives on Biblical stories, and new ideas about how we learn, present, and appreciate those stories – not to mention their beautiful and unique pieces of art!

Journeys of Justice

The Journeys of Justice group took a deep dive into the complexities and perspectives around the understanding and application of justice. The students visited the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, MD, where they observed a sentencing and had the opportunity to meet the judge and ask her questions, grappling with the same circumstances the judge herself had to weigh when handing down the sentence.

The students also visited the Supreme Court, first studying the legal issues in Timbs v. Indiana, a civil asset forfeiture case, and then observing portions of oral arguments at the Court. While there, the students met with one of the lawyers who worked on the brief, who was impressed with the students’ knowledge of the issues at play. The students also visited the Trail of Tears exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian, where they gained a deeper understanding of this historical injustice.

Throughout the week, the students also learned from guest experts. These included MILTON parent and professor of copyright law Sig Libowitz, who taught the group about intellectual property law; Ariel Levinson-Waldman and Reuben Seigman of Tzedek DC, who shared with students about the pro bono legal assistance they provide to clients facing debts; and Milton parents Larry Rothenberg of the Department of Justice and Jonathan Frenkel of the FBI, who challenged the students to think deeply about crime and punishment in their exploration of criminal law.

Students pose on the steps of a retired Air Force One plane, which has been turned into a museum.

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Middle school students pose together on the rocks overlooking the Potomac River at Great Falls National Park.

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A student in the Digital Game Design group experiments with an interactive, technology-driven art exhibit at ARTECHOUSE.

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A student displays his completed wire-frame sculpture, which depicts the Biblical story of Aaron’s rod becoming a serpent and swallowing the rods of Pharaoh’s magicians.

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Students in the Flight and Space group carefully paint a section of engine.

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Students pose outside of the Supreme Court as they wait to be admitted to hear oral arguments in the case of Timbs v. Indiana.

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