Middle Schoolers take on water scarcity and coding in fall minimester

During the Middle School’s fall minimester last week, eighth graders put on their environmental thinking caps as they tried to find solutions to water issues in Jordan, while seventh graders learned to code, program and design friendly interactive monsters.

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 through research, projects and presentations.

“Exams are meant to be an assessment of learning but they cause stress and can be counterproductive so we use a different way for students to showcase their learning,” said Dean of the Middle School Reem Abu Rahmeh.

As part of their water scarcity project, eighth graders visited 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. Students also visited the historic city of Jerash to study ancient Roman irrigation systems.

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

“We want to develop in the students a love of learning and research, and a passion for advocacy,” Andres added. “I believe students at this young age have the potential to be involved in a project that matters to them and continue that passion throughout their academic careers.”

Students presented their research and suggested solutions at a showcase to faculty, parents and guests on November 15, also engaging in a question-and-answer session with audience members.

“This year’s minimester exposed me to new places and issues in Jordan,” said Raina Maraqa ’22. “I had never heard of the Azraq Wetland Reserve, so visiting it for the first time and seeing how much the water has declined over the years was so informative and surprising.”

While the eighth graders worked on addressing Jordan’s water crisis, the seventh graders were immersed in a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) course named “Building an Interactive Friendly Monster.” To create their interactive monsters, students started by searching for inspiration online and created sketches on paper until they were satisfied with a final design. They learned about the science of electronics, using electrical circuits to add interactive components to their monsters. They also used high-tech technologies, such as computers and e-textiles to make the monsters interactive, and discussed how technologies like robots can have an impact on the humans who interact with them.

“Students acted as engineers iterating code to program their monsters, designing circuits that correctly powered their projects, cutting out geometric shapes to create their monsters, and applying mathematical concepts in their programming,” said Abu Rahmeh.

“Coding was my favorite part of the minimester because it was completely new to me; I learned things that I wouldn’t usually learn in class,” said Ali Khair ’23.

“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,” said Head of the Department of Computer Science Nadim Sarhan.