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Providing Opportunities for Our Students to Explore, Expand and Discover

If you have a fifth or sixth grade student in our school district this year or if you know one, chances are you’ve heard about our new Explorations program.

Launched this school year, all district 5th and 6th grade students begin each week with a 90-minute, interest-based course that takes place on Mondays for nine weeks. Courses being offered include Printmaking Palooza, Spanish Theater, Kids that Code, Popular Sports, Golf and many more. The goal of Explorations is to amplify the curriculum and stimulate student interests.

As a parent of a fifth grader, I experienced firsthand the excitement of our students as they selected course options and kicked off the school year with these new opportunities. Cameryn and her friends look forward to Monday mornings every week. She loved honing her artistic skills creating her pet sculpture in the first quarter, and now she’s applying her knowledge of design thinking and skills in problem solving in the course “Design Squad.”

Explorations is part of our Warriors BEyond program. Since the launch of Warriors BEyond last school year, the opportunities we provide our students during and after the school day to explore, expand and discover interests beyond the traditional curriculum have really blossomed at every level. In addition to Explorations, we now have the Master Class series at the high school, a growing Expeditions program at the junior high, student travel opportunities and an even bigger list of after-school enrichment offerings.

The high school Master Class series is an opportunity for students to develop the curriculum. Students are encouraged to tell the instructor what they want to learn during the classes in this series, which, this year, include Rock Band, UTrain, Italian and Shark Tank. The Master Class series is not teacher-mandated work and it’s not graded. The direction of these classes is driven by student ideas and interest.

This year, we’ve also added 18 new courses to the Expeditions program at the junior high to accommodate ever-changing student interests, needs and passions. Students have already logged over 266,880 minutes of ungraded, hands-on experiential learning so far this year!

Additionally, hundreds of our elementary students are participating in after-school enrichment this school year. Our eighth graders will be touring Washington, D.C. in June, and over 40 of our high school students will be traveling internationally in 2017. All thanks to Warriors BEyond!

I want student learning to be enhanced through diverse curricular options and enriching experiences that drive deeper understanding and skill development and support global competency. As a school district, we have put substantial effort into recognizing the changing needs and expectations of our learners to help our students become competent, gracious and empowered global leaders of tomorrow.

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Steven Estepp