College Preparatory School for Girls Grades 3-12

Middle School Blog

Throughout the year, I enjoyed experiencing all of the wonderful programs that make our Middle School a unique, developmentally-targeted, and joyful place to be. I loved climbing towers and cooking in the rain on both the seventh and eighth grade Outdoor Ed trips, judging unique jack-o-lantern creations at Halloween, observing a Suffragette protest in the front of our school, and participating in many exciting Outside-The-Box days where I witnessed students deepening their knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement, Latin America, problem-solving, and the American political system (to name a few). However, one of the absolute highlights of my year was Minimester week!

Our Minimesters are designed to capitalize on the unique developmental stage and interests of Middle School students. The goals of the Mini-Mester program are as follows:

1) To offer students a hands-on, interdisciplinary learning experience;

2) To encourage students to forge meaningful connections with the larger community (through field trips, guest speakers, etc.);

3) To promote a spirit of collaboration – amongst students as they work on various projects and amongst teachers as they plan courses comprised of multiple disciplines;

4) To introduce a program unique to the Middle School, one that younger students will look forward to and older students will long remember.

This year, we had a wide range of offerings including Dogs, Mapheads, CSI: Holton, Food for Thought, Cryptography, Belize, DC: Off the Beaten Path, The Clothes We Wear, the Lion King Experience, Cup of Humanity, and MindFind. In each experience, girls delved deeply into a topic that interested them and experienced nontraditional methods of learning. Over the course of the week, students built a tea house, trained dogs, used neuroscience to better understand how they learn, explored little known D.C. tourist attractions, constructed two elephant puppets, sewed their own designer bags, made fantasy maps, and used their knowledge of forensics to solve a crime. We concluded the Minimester week by having students showcase their work for each other. The showcase allowed students to practice their public speaking as they shared with their teachers and peers all they accomplished during their Minimester week. I was amazed to see the range of activities, experiences, and learning that occurred throughout the week.

At the end of the week, the girls reflected on their Minimester experiences. I enjoyed reading these reflections and appreciated hearing from our students what they took away from Minimester, both in the content they learned and the knowledge they gained about themselves. I hope you enjoy reading a few of the highlights I pulled from these reflections:

  • "The thing I appreciated the most about this Minimester is how much I learned about myself and my abilities. I had more stamina than I thought. I also learned how adventurous I am through leading my group geocaching through the woods and navigating DC without worrying about getting lost."
  • "Apart from just learning cryptography, we also learned math, history, problem-solving, and working together in a group."
  • "I discovered a lot of things during the Belize Minimester. I am really interested in the UN Sustainable Development Goals and have already started thinking of what I want my senior project to be. I learned that I really want to be a person who makes a huge change in the world. I really had to use my listening skills, research, team work, and a lot more."
  • "My top highlight, which is also what I will remember the most, was the investigation in the study hall. It was really interactive and I enjoyed being able to solve the murder."
  • "Going to the shelter was definitely the highlight of the mini-mester experience. Playing with animals that were previously abandoned or abused really put light to the treatment of some dogs and what I can do to help."
  • "I liked how peaceful the Japanese Tea Ceremony demonstration was and seeing the differences between Chinese and Japanese ceremonies."
  • "I appreciated how supportive everyone was and how we all worked together. I loved that we go to build and having no homework was great!"
  • "During this minimester, I discovered how I learn best. I was surprised that I did better when I was moving around, more independent, and not in a classroom setting. I didn't retain as much information when I was just listening to someone, but I did well at the museums when we were filling out scavenger hunt sheets."

I feel so fortunate to have led Holton's Middle School this year. It has been an amazing experience to work with our dedicated faculty who "get" middle schoolers and care deeply about girls. I have appreciated the opportunity to get to know so many of you over the course of the year, and thank you for all that you do to support your daughters and our community. And lastly, your daughters. They are amazing young women who have inspired me throughout the year with their confidence, bravery, intelligence, sense of humor, willingness to take risks, resilience, and concern for others. There is no doubt in my mind that each of these girls will make a significant contribution to her community and our world. I wish you all a safe, relaxing, and wonderful summer.

Take care,
Christy Diefenderfer

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