Our Stories

Building Communities of Curiosity, Discovery, Connection, and Deep Learning

December 12, 2019 by Lisa Schopf (Faculty and Staff)

Middle school students created communities of curiosity, discovery, and deep learning during our Immersive Learning Week. Students in Grades 6 to 8 engaged in deep dive learning in a number of different fields, including art, Judaic text study, coding, law, nature, and flight. These experiences helped students bond with peers across grade levels in the middle school, explore subjects of interest, expand their horizons, and dig deep to understand more. On their final day, students reflected on their experiences, shared their learning with their peers, and created presentations that they will share with parents at our Parents Showcase for Immersive Learning Week later this winter.

Journeys of Justice with Fani Bettmann
Middle School students in the Journeys of Justice group began with an overview of our legal system, examining differences between criminal and civil court proceedings as well as state and federal courts. We were fortunate to welcome several guest speakers from our parent community – David Kurtzer-Ellenbogen provided background information on the Supreme Court case Intel Corp. Investment Policy Committee v. Sulyma, Daniel Silverberg spoke about lawyers’ roles in drafting legislation, Jen Sultan spoke about how the federal government enforces laws, with a focus on civil rights legislation, Jonathan Frenkel helped us consider what law enforcement should be able to do in the course of investigating crimes while also regaling us with FBI sting stories, and Sig Libowitz spoke about intellectual property law, engaging students with examples in popular culture from Marvel to zombies and from Marvin Gaye to Pharell. Students observed a criminal sentencing in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, and were graciously welcomed by Judge Eric Johnson, who entertained many questions from students. We gathered before sunrise at the Supreme Court and obtained seats for oral argument, and then grappled with the issues as the attorneys argued their cases and fielded questions from the Justices. We learned about the pro bono work of attorneys from TzedekDC who help DC residents resolve debt disputes, and together toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Passion and Purpose with Liz Savopoulos and Adina Witztum
Students in the “Art: Passion and Purpose” Immersive Learning program explored the ways in which art can be used to express personal passion, as well as a tool for political and social change. We analyzed various works of art, ranging from presidential portraiture to Mark Bradford’s large-scale painting Pickett’s Charge to discuss elements used by the artist to create mood, tone, and message. Students visited exhibits at the Renwick Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Hirshhorn Museum. Some, such as Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence at the Portrait Gallery, explicitly chronicled art’s role in activism. Others like David Best’s Temple, an installation piece intended to create a space for grief and memory, were much more personal in nature. Ultimately, students used their sketches and field notes from the week to choose a passion or a purpose of their own. They each created a work of art on canvas and wrote a statement describing the passion or purpose behind their work.

Wonder of Flight with Elana Cohen and Melinda Viteri
Middle schoolers in the Wonders of Flight group spent their immersive learning week exploring, experimenting, and building their knowledge base about the science of flight. Highlights include getting Bravo Flight Training lessons, using a flight simulator, mapping out flight routes from the airport, and learning about the parts and mechanics of a Piper airplane, along with fascinating aviation history at the Frederick Airport with Steve VanKirk of the Aviation Heritage Museum. At the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum, students went on a special guided tour and watched for airplanes taking off and landing from their control tower. We toured the Air Force wing of the Pentagon and learned about the role the Air Force plays (thank you to MILTON parent Dan Blumenthal) Students learned about Bernoulli’s Law and conducted experiments with straws and ping pong balls to better understand that important phenomenon. They learned about the four forces of flight, and to test their knowledge, designed model airplanes adjusting variables to increase flight distances. Finally, we created a wind tube so that students could test their own flying machines this week and it can now be used by other students in the Design Lab. Thank you to Elana Cohen and Melinda Viteri for a week that left our students soaring!

Digital Game Design with Sara Short and Dan Berger
In Digital Game Design, students learned about the history of video games and did a deep dive into the process of coding. On a trip to the National Museum of American History, they explored the history of computers and innovation. Our guest speakers included a software engineer and a computer science major who talked about their process and the real-world applications of coding. Each student planned, designed, debugged, and created several video games. Further, they exemplified the spirit of experimentation, innovation, perseverance, and collaboration that leads to success in the world of digital design and technological innovation. Students discovered new coding techniques and immediately shared their new know-how with each other. Having the time to engage deeply with the process of coding allowed the students to reach farther and extend their capabilities in remarkable ways.

Adventures in Nature with Rabbi Moses, Rabbi Tonti, Etan Weiss, and Shelby Allen
Through miles of trekking and exploring within Rock Creek Park, Great Falls Park, and Sugarloaf Mountain, we worked on immersing ourselves in nature to learn important life skills. We honed our abilities to observe, assess risk, listen to each other, see the big picture, find our way, support each other, build fires and shelter, discover, wonder, work as a team, adapt to changing circumstances, compromise, find beauty in simple things, and endure. As science affirms the restorative and cognitively healing value of spending time in and learning from nature, we actively engaged in this task through total immersion in the outdoors through the week. Through the students’ reflections and daily debriefing, it was clear that we emerged feeling stronger, more in tune with ourselves, connected with the earth, and connected with each other.

Biblical Art with Devora Hornstein
In the Biblical Art group, we studied texts related to Biblical stories we wanted to explore more deeply and then created original sculptures to illuminate the biblical narrative. Our week included a trip to the Ratner Museum to see the sculptures Philip Ratner created based on different episodes from the Bible. He taught us how to make art with a supportive structure and plaster and spoke about his inspiration from the biblical narratives. Early in the week, we sketched our plans for our art and then we began transforming those designs into physical structures. On Wednesday and Thursday, Rena Fruchter, a sculpture artist, came into MILTON to work with us on creating wire frames and plaster sculptures to depict the scenes we wished to convey through our art. We then painted our sculptures and wrote what we call “captigraphs”- a mix between a caption and a paragraph- to explain the meaning behind our artwork. We look forward to sharing our art with you!

We are incredibly grateful to all the parents and community members who shared their knowledge and expertise, and helped us access exciting places to extend our learning. Thank you as well to our dedicated and creative teachers who led the different programs of our Immersive Learning Week, as well as Shifra Chelst, Tirza Kramer, and Lori Seifter who supported our students on trips and served as resources.