College Preparatory School for Girls Grades 3-12

MS Mini-Mester Provides Immersive Learning Experiences for Students on Indigo, Cryptography, and More
Mini-Mester 2019 Indigo Class

The Middle School's Mini-Mester program gives seventh and eighth graders a moment to step back from the daily school-day routine and enjoy a weeklong, hands-on immersion into a given topic. This year, students chose from exciting interdisciplinary courses on Belize, the brain, cryptography, dogs, indigo, lesser-known DC, stop-motion animation, and women in sports.

Mini-Mester is similar to the Middle School's "Outside-the-Box" Days, which tackle a topic in interdisciplinary fashion through some combination of engaging activities: hands-on workshops, multimedia presentations, guest speakers, field trips, creative projects, and more. But because it's a whole week long, it provides students with an even deeper dive into the material and fosters even more connections between disciplines and with peers, educators, and the community.

Middle School art teacher Ambria Archibald co-taught this year's Blue Thread: Connecting Stories Through Indigo course, which introduced students to indigo dyeing techniques from around the world and stories of women whose lives have been shaped by indigo. For their final project, girls had to work in groups to create a socially conscious business idea based around indigo, complete with product samples. These creations included home goods, jewelry, clothing, and even dog bandanas.

Because the class meets all day for a week, says Archibald, "we are able to work in ways we normally can't. We're able to bring in so many more disciplines and, for example, if a student makes a mistake on a project, she doesn't have to wait until next week to figure out how to fix it. She can address it right away. There's a real sense of mastery that comes from this kind of immersion."

Archibald says she was most impressed by how well the students worked together this year and negotiated compromises to achieve shared goals.

Librarian Joy Colburn, who co-taught the Stop Motion: Aliens & Robots course, saw the same phenomenon in her class. Throughout the week, her students learned the principles and practice of stop-motion through several projects, including creating original films using aliens and robots they'd built from scrap materials and craft supplies. Master puppeteer Honey Goodenough (who led the elephant build for the school's 2017 production of Lion King Jr.) was onsite the whole week to share her expertise.

The experience was extremely empowering for students, Colburn says. They learned how to use power tools, how to turn trash into treasure, and how to push through challenges (and time-consuming stop-motion animation has many!).

"I was so impressed by how they problem-solved to make their stories come to life," Colburn says.

Middle School Director Nichole Foster-Hinds says she was amazed to see and experience the range of activities and learning that occurred throughout the week. "Students created stop-motion videos, trained dogs, used neuroscience to better understand how they learn, explored little-known DC attractions, prepared for our summer Holton-Landon Belize Global Education Trip, made their own clothing and jewelry lines, and worked together to escape a DC escape room."

This is a program that students remember and that younger Holton girls look forward to, she says.

View photo highlights from this year's Mini-Mester courses below: