August 28, 2023
Middle School Skills Incubator Builds Future-Based Skills
The Skills Incubator is an opportunity for students to learn for learning’s sake: to explore, to be curious, to fail, and to succeed. Each micro-course, running in a 75-minute eight-class cycle, emphasizes authentic learning using future-focused skills: empathy, collaboration, research communication, creative problem-solving, reflection/innovation/iteration, tech and media literacy, and engaged citizenship.
Students own their learning and learn to think about a problem in a new way. At the end of the cycle, the students present a final project of their choice, ranging from a journal with sketches and research, a model or diorama, a digital portfolio, or a presentation. They “grade themselves” with a common rubric.
The topics, which are not necessarily part of the curriculum, are infused with hands-on, authentic experiences:
The Influence of Hip-Hop on the English Language
Entrepreneurship with Nexgeninnovators
How are Science and Art Connected
How does Geography Impact Culture and Dance
Make it Work: Simple Machines
MySpace to ChatGPT: How to Live in this Evolving World of Social Media
Social Causes and Protest through Music
The Happiness Lab: Strategies and Behaviors that Make You Happy
You Are What You Eat: The Relationship Between Food and Overall Well-Being
The Hunger Gap: The Gaps in Food and Housing Insecurity
Sola: Creating Peace through the Education of Afghan Girls
Wedding Planning 101: Mastering the Art of Event Planning from Concept to Execution
Head of the Middle School Anne Sciglimpaglia is thrilled that the new Middle School schedule allows for time for these future-based skills. “These are an iteration of 21st-century skills,” she said. “Our goal is not to think exclusively about the 21st century but what’s next. Our focus with these skills incubators is to lead with skills that we think are important for a student’s future and to match them with content areas not necessary in our curriculum.”
She explained that the faculty researched and gathered data to create this initiative to allow students to understand the world they are living in and make good decisions for themselves. “With the advent of AI, we need students to decipher what’s real and what’s not. Is this something that makes sense? We are giving them the tools to understand these complex questions.”
In one micro-course, students will explore the concept of food insecurity and learn about food deserts. They will visit the local food pantry, speak to experts on the subject, and research through a Connecticut state map the distance of various towns to their nearest grocery stores. Through this course, students will build skills of empathy and engaged citizenship.
By the end of the year, each student will be exposed to building each skill. Students will choose which interdisciplinary course they would like to take each quarter. The courses are team-taught so that our students can see collaboration in action. The goal is to expose each 6 and 7 graders to each course so they can determine what they want to work on in eighth grade. By eighth grade, the students will develop their own course and inquiry and have a faculty sponsor. Although this initiative is in its beta stage, Sciglimpaglia is excited to see what skill the students want to hone, allowing them to choose what they want to learn.