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Eighth-Graders Get New 'Cycle' Class Choices

Grant from Summit Educational Foundation makes change possible at LCJSMS.

Are your eighth-graders hooked on Glee? Or Patch? They will now get to match their interests with more elective "cycle" courses, courtesy of the Summit Educational Foundation.

Lawton C. Johnson Summit Middle School Principal Matthew Block said about three years ago it was decided that six, 30-day cycles did not provide enough time for instruction.

"It was one of our goals as a district to develop more problem-based instruction," Block said, announcing that an $84,000 grant from the Summit Educational Foundation will now allow eighth-graders to choose from a new selection of elective courses. Two of the new classes, however, will be mandatory: Digital Newsroom, a course that teachers students 21st-century news-gathering skills, and Artist as Student, where everything done in the class is generated through the lens of of the artist the student has selected to study. 

The other choices are Glee: Global Live Entertainment Experience, a course that allows students to put together their own live performance, Who Done It, a CSI-inspired, forensic science course, Today's Talk, a course where students produce a 10-minute talk show and learn how to produce and edit pieces for the show, and Innovative Design, where students can research a world problem and construct a model of their invention to solve it.

One of the keys to these courses, Block said, is the teachers act more more like facilitators, allowing the students to take control of the classroom.

"It's really outstanding," he said. "I'm really excited about it."

Erik Parks, a student in the Digital Newsroom course said he is learning a lot about the application of computers and the differences between fact and opinion.

"It's a creative outlet for students," he said.

Another creative outlet, is the Glee course. Riley Shlemaker and Zach Rissman both said they're enjoying their choice for this cycle course.

"I love to sing and I love to act," Shlemaker said, adding that she's learned a lot about the production of theater and the historical context of immigration.

Rissman said he too has learned about the context of the theater, and the war-time influences on famous shows such as "Oklahoma" and "West Side Story."

"It's been fun," he said. "I've learned  lot."

Other students in the Who Done It forensic science class are preparing themselves for possible future careers in the field.

"I've always been interested in going into the CIA," said Anna Tselevich. "My favorite shows always revolve a round this kind of stuff."

Tselevich and classmate Micaela Kaplan were doing a lab where they analyzed the difference in fake blood droplets from different heights.

"It's one of the most interesting classes," Kaplan said.

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