exploratorium (eks plôr e tôr ë em) n., pl. -i-ums
1. an arena designed to search for truth; 2. a group of persons looking closely; examining carefully; investigating in depth; 3. Educ. A guided experience outside the classroom designed to give students a broader view of the world and themselves within it; 4. a catalyst for personal exploration; 5. an excursion (to a region previously unknown or little known) in order to learn more about its natural features, inhabitants. etc.
Exploratorium, consisting of three mini-sessions in the last three weeks of the school year, began in 1997 as a necessary solution to a space problem while the Middle School was being remodeled. When we saw the overwhelming positive response from students, staff, and parents, we took a closer look. What we discovered was that we had created something wonderful.
Exploratorium serves many of the special needs of adolescents as described by Charity James in her article, “On the Unique Needs of Adolescents.” In this article, she outlines the following needs: intensity, exploration, risk-taking, gaining expertise, personal growth, decision-making, problem solving, and information gathering.
Because of the unique format of Exploratorium, which features short, intensive courses, students are able to have a completely different, more intense school experience than they usually do. These experiences involve dabbling in new fields of study, delving deeply into topics that are of particular interest, taking risks, building groups, and exploring relationships with themselves and others.
Each year, we are excited to be able to offer a wide variety of Exploratorium options. The Middle School staff really enjoys having the opportunity to offer in-depth mini courses in subject areas with which they have experience and interest, but may not get a chance to teach during regular classes. We are very pleased to welcome back alumni, former staff, and parents as guest teachers to help expand our course offerings.
Sample Exploratorium Offerings
Animal Behavior – Karen McCall
Civil Rights Experience – Kate and Hathaway Pendergrass, Mallory Konell, Andre
Computer Game Programming—Andy Rose
Cooperative Games – Dave Donaldson
In the Kitchen – Leon Ikenberry
Law and Order – Mig Little Hayes and Rachel Anderson
Puppet Masters – Jamie Charles and Tommy Johnson
Smokies: Hiking and Poetry – Henry Walker
27 Views: Steeped in History, Literature, and Creative Writing – Ida Trisolini
Vegan Cooking and Baking – Lisa Joyner and Lisa Chansky
Where in the World Am I?—Anna Lynch and Holly Kuestner
African Music and Culture – Jim Henderson and Diali Cissokho
Baseball – Dave Donaldson
Exploring Deep Space – Jim Rose
Filmmaking 101: Write, Shoot, Edit, and Produce in 4 Days – Miles Bonsignore
Flour Power – Mary Deb Englund and Mary Ellen Englund
Gone Fishing—Alejandro Moreiras
Imaginative Transitions Together—Annie Dwyer and Emily Chamberlain
Island Discovery – Leon Ikenberry and Nancy McGilvary
Making a Difference: Tutoring at Forest View Elementary – Nancy Parsifal
Needles and Stitches, But the Gentle Kinds! – Shery Wilshire Eshelman and Sophie
Science and Science Fiction – Robert Bittle
Tour de France -- Francoise Heyden and Coleman Whittier
Yoga and Ballet Conditioning Mini-Retreat—Sherri Moore-Mott
A Craving for Chocolate – Mary Deborah Englund
Big Splash – Francoise Heyden
Fort Building – Robert Bittle
4th Year Trip – Lisa Joyner, Jamie Charles, Ida Trisolini
Glass Class – Mallory Konell
Hanging Rock State Park – Tommy Johnson
In the Garden – Nancy Parsifal
Scrapbook and Slideshow – Henry Walker
Songwriting 101- Kate Pendergrass and Erica Zurbuch
Storytelling through Mime with Music—Joseph Umstead
See pdf descriptions of Exploratorium 2014, Exploratorium 2013, and Exploratorium 2012 offerings.