Each year between Thanksgiving and Winter Break, DCD’s Middle School students engage in Mini-Term: a fun and intensive three-week period of exploration, discussion, research and hands-on projects! With schedules shifting to allow for extended blocks of focused time, students in grades 6-8 are able to indulge their creativity, innovation, and collaborative spirits with large scale projects and interactive discovery!

In Grade 6 Humanities, students explored activism, conducting in-depth explorations of their own personal values in order to craft their own mission statements. Next, students researched various social movements and causes, ranging from pollution to gun control, and then chose a cause they felt strongly about, to include Black Lives Matter, climate change, protecting the bees, animal cruelty and homelessness, which then formed the basis of their own artistic postcard project. Students’ postcards are intended to raise awareness and advocate for change, and students are able to send their postcards out to organizations supporting their cause. As the course’s grand finale, students present their postcards to their peers and teachers in a gallery-walk!

In Grade 6 Science, students shaped their learning around a deep investigation of the brain. They participated in a hands-on anatomical dissection of a sheep’s brain, conducted reaction time experiments and discovery labs, and constructed their own clay models of the brain to build their understanding. Next, students broke into small groups to pursue independent research on brain-related topics, including dreams, reaction time, concussions, Neurodiversity, Allzheimers, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, and Synesthesia. These impressive projects showcase students’ knowledge of their own amazing grey matter, and reveal a long-suspected truth about the brain— it takes one to know one!

Grade 7 Humanities students took an in-depth look at the early years of the US Civil Rights movement, and were introduced to key moments and influential individuals, such as Emmitt Till, Rosa Parks, the Nashville sit-ins, and the Little Rock HS integration, while exploring episodes from “The Eyes on the Prize” documentary. This inquiry and exploration helped students to understand the events of the movement, as well as to recognize perspectives they might not otherwise understand, while exploring the proximate and ultimate causes of these events, and what it was like to experience living in the US during this time. As their capstone project, students were each assigned a different paragraph of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech; they then created a visual accompaniment to the language in the speech, highlighting Dr. King’s powerful use of figurative language and devices of language.

In Grade 7’s Science Mini-Term, aka “The Wonder Workshop”, students were granted the freedom to choose a topic of their own personal interest and craft an independent, self-directed project around it. Among the diverse topics, all projects included methods of collecting, analyzing and presenting data from their explorations and discoveries, as they worked to create a product or achieve a goal. The focal points of their projects ranged far and wide, including, among others: writing a bilingual children’s book in Arabic and English, creating a 2022 World Cup Final stop-motion video, building and testing water filtration systems, the construction of elaborate vending machines, designing a box car, a solar oven to roast marshmallows for s’mores, crafting a heat-lamp oven to cook pizza bagels, building a basketball rebounder, hydraulic claw machines, a free standing video game with a trackpad and joystick, and much more! Students worked independently and collaboratively with their peers, guided by the presence and direction of their instructors, to create one-of-a-kind projects expressing the work of their own hearts and minds!

In Grade 8 Mini Term Humanities, students focused on the topic of Women’s Rights in the United States from the 1920s to the Present. Students divided into ten groups, with each group delving into one decade. Focusing on the experiences of women, students studied women in education, employment, and high political office, fashion, sports and even popular toys! Each group researched advertisements and images from magazines and newspapers, and analyzed pop culture by studying music, movies, and TV shows, to determine what might be inferred from the cultural messages about women’s and men’s relative status and roles in society. Student work culminated with an interactive presentation of each groups’ decade, where teams expounded upon compelling events, individuals, and themes to illustrate the steps forward and backward regarding equal rights for women.

For Grade 8 Science Mini-Term, students imagined and built their own inventive contraptions to demonstrate their understanding of simple and complex machines! Students started by sketching out the inspired designs of their creations, then began measuring and building. With hammers and saws, tape measures, rulers, and glue guns, these creative minds worked on their inventions with much testing and refinement, to make their chain of events fall together smoothly! Finally, students were able to present their amazing contraptions, which included a sprinklefier to sprinkle sugar on cupcakes, a plant watering machine, cocoa toppers, a creative contraption that launches a lucky duck into its pond, a fish diving into its tank, and so many others! With exploration, testing, failing, and trying again until victory, students are left with not only a clearer understanding of complex machines, but a familiarity with the process of building, refining, and perfecting their work!