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Middle School minimesters make learning more authentic and meaningful

When Dean of the Middle School Reem Abu Rahmeh and other faculty members were working to establish a Middle School curriculum, they agreed that one of their main goals was to achieve deep learning and instill a lifelong love of learning in their students, but they realized that an exam and grade-driven environment would hinder that goal. So they decided to develop a different method to monitor and evaluate student learning.

The Middle School minimesters, which take place for three to four days at the end of each term, replace traditional end-of-term exams and provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned in the classroom throughout the term through research, projects and presentations, explains Abu Rahmeh. Minimesters encompass projects and activities from all the disciplines taught to the students including humanities, science and math.

For the Middle School faculty, it has been inspiring to see the students expand their knowledge, develop new interests in various subjects, and apply what they’ve learned from the projects to different issues.

“Students learn how subjects such as math and science can be used in the real world. It makes learning more authentic and meaningful to them,” says Abu Rahmeh.

And students seem to agree.

“Minimesters help you gain confidence and expand your knowledge in so many different topics outside of the classroom, and you remember everything because it relates to your daily life, as opposed to traditional exams where you have to memorize specific material and then you forget it after the exam is over,” says Joud AlMbaidin ’22.

Minimester projects are extremely diverse and incorporate multiple disciplines. Last year, during the fall term, students were immersed in a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) course named “Building an Interactive Friendly Monster.” This course was inspired by King’s summer program, i2 Camp, which blends STEM subjects in a way that offers both education and recreation for children aged 11 to 14. To create their interactive monsters, students start by searching for inspiration online and create sketches on paper until they reach a final design. They learn about the science of electronics, using electrical circuits to add interactive components to their monsters. They also use high-tech technologies, such as computers and e-textiles to make the monsters interactive, and they discuss how technologies like robots can have an impact on the humans who interact with them.

“For students to be innovative and creative in the future, we need to create opportunities for them where they can design, plan, create, refine and evaluate,” says Head of the Department of Computer Science Nadim Sarhan.

This fall, the eighth grade class worked on a water scarcity project. Students visited the Azraq Wetland Reserve to test the water quality on the reserve, study how the wetlands have been affected by water extraction, and analyze how this has affected migratory birds in the region. The eighth graders also visited the historic city of Jerash to study ancient Roman irrigation systems.

“The goal of this minimester was for students to understand the urgency  of water scarcity in Jordan and to raise awareness on and off campus,” says Teaching Fellow Rubi Andres.

“We want to develop in students a love of learning and research, and a passion for advocacy,” she adds.

During this year’s winter term minimesters, students chose to participate in one of four activities focusing on crime scene investigation, surgical techniques, 3D printing, or robot battles. Some students practiced surgical and dissection techniques while others explored the scientific skills and methods needed to solve crimes. Yet others learned how to design and print 3D models, and how to conduct robotic battles. The minimesters concluded with a showcase where students shared what they learned with their parents and presented some of their fun creations.

“Minimesters help you gain confidence and expand your knowledge in so many different topics outside of the classroom,” says Yanal Hamadeh ’22.

Looking towards the future of minimesters, Abu Rahmeh hopes to expand the program by creating new, longer projects that allow students to develop outdoor experiences, as well as projects that utilize local resources and provide opportunities for students to give back to Jordan.

“Minimesters connect learning to real life situations,” says Abu Rahmeh. “The projects redefine why students are in school and these experiences tap into their passions and prepare them for the future,” she says.